Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH), which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, has submitted a letter to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlining a plan to resume cruise operations from U.S. ports in July, the company said on Monday (Apr. 5).
The letter is said to include a multi-layered SailSAFE Health and Safety Program developed in conjunction with globally recognized experts, including the Healthy Sail Panel.
The announcement comes after the CDC, on Friday (Apr. 2), issued new guidance to the cruise ship industry, including the need for COVID-19 vaccinations.
NCLH said 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.
By requiring full and complete vaccinations of guests and crew, the company believes it “shares in the spirit and exceeds the intent” of the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) to advance mutual public health goals and protect guests, crew and the communities it visits.
In a release, NCLH said it “trusts and is optimistic” the CDC will agree that mandatory vaccination requirements eliminate the need for the CSO and therefore requests for the lifting of the order for Norwegian’s vessels, allowing them to cruise from U.S. ports starting July 4.
NCLH told the CDC that it is recommencing operations with 100% vaccinated guests and crew aboard and reduced capacity initially as part of a phased-in launch.
“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,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of NCLH. “We believe that through a combination of 100 per cent 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.”
Tried & tested
NCLH said “the risk of COVID-19 cannot be eliminated in its entirety,” but pointed out that over the past eight months, the cruise industry has “successfully carried nearly 400,000 passengers in more than 10 major cruise markets” outside the U.S. "with only a few isolated COVID-19 cases" that were identified, contained, and mitigated without impacting the health or interrupting the vacations of others.
“This was all done prior to the availability of widespread vaccinations,” the company said.
"With vaccine mandates and strict health and safety protocols in place, we believe we can provide a uniquely safe and healthy vacation experience. 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,” said Del Rio.
Details on NCLH’s SailSAFE program can be found here.