The first cruise ships are arriving in their homeport of Seattle ahead of the Alaska season; today marked the arrival of Norwegian Encore. Norwegian Cruise Line plans to start operations with its largest vessel by August 7 if all goes to plan.
The run-up to the restart for Norwegian Cruise Line has been a bumpy one. Despite efforts from the cruise line to start cruises in the Caribbean and from the United States, Encore will be the first vessel to start sailings for the Miami-based cruise line in the one place many did not expect to be featured this year.
First NCL Cruises From the U.S.
While the competition is already sailing from Texas and Florida, Norwegian Cruise Line has decided to take its first cruise post-pandemic from Seattle, Washington. Not surprising given the fact that the cruise line has been adamant it will require vaccinations from all guests onboard, while all crew members on board the ships must also be vaccinated.
Norwegian Cruise Line has developed a robust health package on board the ships. However, the vaccination mandate does enable the cruise line to have a nearly normal operating model on board. All cruises onboard will be fully mask-free, there will be no capacity restrictions, and all venues will be open fully without restrictions.
Also Read: Things to Do on a Norwegian Encore Cruise
The cruise line has also declared that all social distancing measures have been done away with, so no more closed seats or spaces. Besides this, Norwegian Cruise Line also operates the restaurants, including buffets, as they would have done before the pandemic.
The first cruise for Norwegian Encore will depart from Seattle on August 7 and call in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Icy Strait Point. Guests will be able to enjoy the ports of call by themselves or by booking a tour; there are no restrictions here either.
The Breakaway-plus class ship will be operating in Alaska until the end of October, at which point she will reposition to Miami to start operations in the Caribbean.
Worth Reading: IDEAL Things to Do in Ketchikan, Alaska
Norwegian’s Return Has Not Been Easy
The return to cruising for Norwegian Cruise Line has not been the easiest. In December of last year, the cruise line started crewing its ships when the cruise ban was lifted in favor of the Conditional Sail Order. However, the cruise line had to bring most of the crew home again when the CSO proved more challenging to sail under than expected.
When the cruise line did expect to start sailing again from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, only weeks before those cruises were supposed to start, Alaska opened up, and the cruise line had to shift crew members from the Caribbean to Alaska. The start of cruising in the US had been scheduled for July 4 with fully vaccinated guests from Miami, but the vaccine mandate the cruise line operates under made that impossible.
All in all, Norwegian Cruise Line will be happy to see Norwegian Encore in Seattle today, something that is echoed by the Port Authorities in the city who have been busy preparing in the last months for this moment.
Seattle Terminal Receives Major Health Updates
The seven major brands calling the Port of Seattle will resume cruises with eight vessels, with over 80 voyages. Thousands of passengers will be moving through the cruise terminal in Seattle in the upcoming weeks.
Not surprising then that the Seattle Port Authorities have been focusing on updating the terminal facilities towards health and safety features that will keep those passengers safe.
Steve Metrick, Executive Director for the Port of Seattle:
“The safety of our communities, passengers, and crew has been our foremost priority since the pandemic began. Since last year, we have been working with health authorities at all levels, along with cruise stakeholders and staff, to ensure that our facilities are safe for public use.”
The measures consist of several updates:
- Updated ventilation systems where needed to hospital-grade MERV 13 filtration or better
- Installation of touchless fixtures in the restrooms and water-bottle filling stations
- Barriers to limit face-to-face contact and technology implemented to provide touchless check-in and passenger processing in many cases
- Signage to limit crowding and contact
We are getting closer to another step towards a reasonably normal situation. Cruises in Alaska are ready to resume, and after the start for Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the last weeks, it will be good to see Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships sailing with passengers once again.