In a startling announcement, Norwegian Cruise Line has updated its onboard mask wearing policies, and will no longer require masks to be worn starting March 1, 2022, though they will be recommended. All crew members will still be required to wear masks.
No Required Masks on Norwegian Cruise Line
The new policy will apply only to sailings originating from U.S. embarkation ports on or after March 1, 2022. Cruises departing from European ports will still require guests to wear masks.
Though they will no longer be required, the cruise line does acknowledge that masks may provide additional protection for guests.
The cruise line’s FAQ states that “we recognize the added protections provided when wearing a mask covering and recommend that all guests do so onboard when indoors, except when actively eating or drinking, or seated at a table in a dining setting, or when in their stateroom.”
Furthermore, masks continue to be recommended – though not required – when guests are outdoors but cannot maintain a physical distancing separation of at least 6 feet.
Ultimately, Norwegian Cruise Line wants each guest to be able to choose the precautions that make them most comfortable so they can enjoy their cruise vacation.
“The decision to wear a mask covering when onboard is at the discretion of each guest,” the website states.
Guests will also be required to adhere to all local protocols, including masks if required, when visiting different ports of call.
When Norwegian Cruise Line first restarted operations in the U.S., masks were not required. The cruise line updated its policy and first began requiring masks on December 18, however, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant became more prevalent.
What About Active Cruises on March 1?
Passengers booked on upcoming Norwegian cruises are questioning whether or not masks will be required on vessels already sailing when the mask mandate is updated. According to the website, any cruises that embark as late as February 28 will still require masks onboard for the duration of the cruise.
Guests from previous cruises where older mask mandates had been in effect, however, have reported that passengers were permitted to remove their masks for the remainder of the sailing after those mandates were lifted. This unique change occurred when ships were repositioning from one location that required masks to a new homeport where masks were not required.
How the March 1 update will be implemented remains to be seen, but it is a positive move toward relaxing restrictions and returning to more pre-pandemic cruising normalcy.
Will Other Cruises Drop Mask Mandates?
With Norwegian Cruise Line taking this bold step, it is likely that other cruise lines will follow suit in the next few weeks. How and when other lines may adjust their mask policies will vary as they adapt their own protocols, however, and additional changes are always possible should there be further developments in the pandemic that may necessitate a return to mask-wearing.
Passengers booked on any upcoming cruise with any cruise line should stay in close contact with the cruise line or their travel representative so they are aware of current health protocols and requirements before they set sail.