Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has firmly put the ball in the CDC’s hands today. The cruise line has asked the CDC to lift the Conditional Sailing Order for all Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ships as of July 4th, 2021.
The cruise line intends to achieve a lifting of the order for its ships by implementing 100% mandatory vaccination for all crew and guests onboard.
The company’s plan to resume cruise operations from U.S. ports in July includes its multi-layered SailSAFE Health and Safety Program developed in conjunction with the Healthy Sail Panel, cooperation between Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.
The company says its plan is consistent with the CDC’s updated guidance that international travel is safe for fully vaccinated individuals and that COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of cruise ship travel.
The cruise line plans to start sailing with an initial reduced capacity of 60%, gradually ramping up the fleet departing from U.S. ports and increasing capacity by 20% every 30 days.
Optimistic the CDC Will Agree
NCLH thinks the CDC will see the plans as positive and is optimistic the CDC will agree that mandatory vaccination requirements eliminates the need for the CSO and is therefore asking the CDC to lift the order for Norwegian vessels, allowing them to cruise from U.S. ports starting July 4.
The Company says it looks forward to its continued partnership with the CDC in recommencing operations with 100% vaccinated guests and crew aboard and reduced capacity initially as part of a phased-in launch. President and CEO Frank Del Rio said the company agrees with CDC that vaccinations are the way forward:
“We congratulate the CDC on the steps it has taken to further open travel for vaccinated Americans. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings shares the CDC’s view that vaccinations are the primary vehicle for Americans to get back to their everyday lives.
Del Rio believes employing a bubble technique with only vaccinated guests and crew is the only way to create a safe environment for everyone onboard:
We believe that through a combination of 100% mandatory vaccinations for guests and crew and science-backed public health measures as developed by the Healthy Sail Panel, led by former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt and former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Scott Gottlieb, we can create a safe, ‘bubble-like’ environment for guests and crew. We look forward to joining the rest of the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors in participating in this next phase of our recovery.”
Re-instating American Jobs
July 4, Independence Day in the United States, has been chosen with good reason by NCLH. The cruise industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States and contributes hundreds of billions of dollars to the economy. A restart on July 4th would indeed be seen as independence coming back. Frank Del Rio:
With our vessels back in operation, we will not only reinstate thousands of American jobs and meet the significant consumer demand for cruising, but also re-contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy as the industry resumes cruise operations.”
Some of the measures the company is implementing are:
- NCLH will require that all guests embarking from a U.S. port and/or disembarking to a U.S. port provide proof of having been fully vaccinated with an FDA-, EMA-, or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine no less than two weeks prior to their departure date;
- All crew on NCLH vessels will be fully vaccinated with an FDA-, EMA- or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks prior to commencement of their duties onboard their assigned vessel;
- NCLH will also incorporate and operationalize the protocols developed by the Healthy Sail Panel (“HSP”), led by former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt and former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Scott Gottlieb. These protocols, include universal testing of guests and crew, combined with required vaccines for all guests and crew, thereby creating a safe, “bubble-like” environment; and
- On or about July 4, 2021, NCLH vessels will begin cruise operations at an initial reduced capacity of 60%, gradually ramping up our fleet departing from U.S. ports and increasing capacity by 20% every 30 days.
- These stringent requirements will remain in place until public health conditions allow for the implementation of more lenient protocols.
You can read the letter from Frank Del Rio to the CDC below:
While the plans from NCLH are both admirable, and ambitious, the CDC has been reasonably steadfast in their belief their plan is the best way forward. It remains to be seen if the CDC will agree with the plans.
If the CDC does agree, it will be very interesting to see how the other cruise lines will react. It is in many ways a bold move and one where Norwegian has used the CDC’s words to force an opening.