Norwegian Cruise Line is keeping busy this week with many itinerary changes affecting multiple ships. After the cruise line warned of upcoming changes to itineraries earlier this week, letters have been sent out to guests onboard Norwegian Gem, and now also Norwegian Escape.
Norwegian Escape, which sailed from Port Canaveral on January 8, will not be calling in St. Thomas and San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s surely a disappointment for guests booked on the cruise, which is seeing multiple changes to the itinerary. However, considering the strict health requirements both ports have implemented, the changes will not come as a surprise to many.
On the same day that Norwegian Cruise Line warned guests and travel agents about the possibility of sudden changes to itineraries, Captain Mattias Andersson sent out a letter to guests onboard Norwegian Escape that the vessel would need to change course this week.
In his letter to guests, the captain stated the following: “It is always our intention to maintain original itineraries. However, at times, unforeseen circumstances require us to make modifications. Our team has been working diligently with the local government agencies to be able to return to these great destinations. However, at this time, clearance protocols required by several of the destinations resulted in our inability to visit St Thomas and San Juan.”
The 164,998 gross ton Norwegian Escape would have visited Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic on January 10, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands on January 11, and San Juan in Puerto Rico on January 12 on the original itinerary. This has now been changed to the following itinerary:
- January 8- Port Canaveral
- January 9- At Sea
- January 10- Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
- January 11- La Romana, Dominican Republic
- January 12- At Sea
- January 13- At Sea
- January 14- Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
- January 15- Port Canaveral
While Norwegian Cruise Line offered discounts for future cruises and an onboard credit of $100 to guests onboard Norwegian Gem due to changes in the itinerary, in the letter from the Norwegian Escape captain, there is no mention of any OBC or discount for future cruises. Any shore excursions in the cancelled ports of call would be refunded to guests’ accounts.
Why is Norwegian Cruise Line Making all These Changes?
Norwegian Cruise Line sent out a letter to all travel agents, and at the same time, two ships were forced to change their itinerary. While nothing has been confirmed, it is starting to look as though NCL is pre-emptively canceling ports due to strict entry requirements implemented by local governments recently. The letter said the following:
“Destinations may suddenly modify their travel requirements and restrictions, requiring us to revise our itineraries and potentially skip scheduled ports of call. Furthermore, under certain circumstances onboard services may be impacted or limited to provide the safest environment possible. As always, we will do our very best to communicate any changes with you as soon as the information becomes available, however, many of these modifications may come at very short notice, or even during the voyage.”
This would be no surprise, of course, while both St. Thomas and Puerto Rico are allowing ships into port, both have set protocols that are either unreasonable or unfeasible. Cruise ships sailing to San Juan, Puerto Rico, need to test all guests and crew members 48 hours before arriving at the port, placing a considerable strain on the vessel.
It makes more sense for the cruise line to see if there is any room for negotiation with the port (as they have done), and if not, to cancel the call. It would be the lesser of two evils, especially if the ship had not been allowed into both ports without a backup plan.
Considering the number of ships that have had to make changes to itineraries, either because they were not allowed in after last-minute changes to local protocols or because of rising COVID cases onboard, Norwegian’s ‘policy’ is starting to make more and more sense. Whether guests onboard feel the same way remains to be seen.