- Norwegian and its Oceania and Regent Seven Seas brands will require the COVID-19 vaccine for guests and crew.
- Norwegian hopes this mandate will push the CDC to greenlight the return of cruises from US ports by July.
- A day after this announcement, Norwegian unveiled three new cruise itineraries for 2021.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced Monday that it would require the COVID-19 vaccine for its guests and crew members, and is already planning cruises for July.
Norwegian sent a letter to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detailing its plans for the return of cruising from US ports by July 4. Part of this plan includes a sweeping vaccine mandate for the cruise company’s three brands: Norwegian, Oceania, and Regent Seven Seas.
Norwegian and Regent Seven Seas previously announced a vaccine requirement for crew members, but said the two cruise lines were still “exploring all options” regarding a similar mandate for guests, according to email statements previously sent Insider.
Now, it looks like the major cruise company has made up its mind about guest vaccinations in a bid to resume sailing before the CDC’s current cruising return timeline of November 1, as stated in the agency’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.
“Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings shares the CDC’s view that vaccinations are the primary vehicle for Americans to get back to their everyday lives,” Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said in the press release. “We believe that through a combination of 100% mandatory vaccinations for guests and crew and science-backed public health measures … we can create a safe, ‘bubble-like’ environment for guests and crew.”
Just three days before Norwegian made this announcement, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people could safely travel in the US without having to quarantine or be tested for COVID-19. That same day, the agency also issued an update to its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, a list of protocols needed for cruising to safely resume by November.
In this updated guidance, the CDC called on cruise lines to implement a timeline to vaccinate crew members and port workers.
“COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of passenger operations,” the CDC said in the press release.
Read more: COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-lifetime crisis for Carnival and Royal Caribbean, but after surviving hijackings and shipwrecks, the industry looks unsinkable
The cruise industry recently called on the CDC to allow sailings to resume from US ports by July. While some cruise lines have worked around the CDC’s requirements by announcing “fully vaccinated” summertime sailings from international ports, Norwegian has taken a more direct approach by implementing a larger vaccine mandate.
In doing so, Norwegian hopes this robust requirement will push the CDC to greenlight its return of cruising from US ports by July, therefore allowing the cruising company to bypass the current Conditional Sailing Order.
“Norwegian’s 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,” Norwegian wrote in the press release.
Norwegian is currently one of the largest cruise lines to implement such a requirement. Despite this sweeping vaccine mandate, the company’s ships will still initially operate at a 60% capacity, and both guests and crew will still have to be tested for the virus.
Norwegian Cruise Line also announced its sailing return
On Tuesday, one day after this mandatory COVID-19 vaccine announcement, Norwegian unveiled its 2021 plans to resume sailing, beginning with three new cruise series in Europe and the Caribbean starting July 25.
Norwegian’s cruising return will be aboard three ships, all sailing from different locations:
- the Norwegian Jade: seven-day cruises from Athens to the Greek Isles beginning July 25
- the Norwegian Joy: week-long Caribbean cruises from Montego Bay, Jamaica beginning August 7. The cruise will also stop Harvest Cay, the cruise line’s island in Belize.
- the Norwegian Gem: week-long Caribbean cruises from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic beginning August 15
“The growing availability of the COVID-19 vaccine has been a game-changer,” Harry Sommer, Norwegian Cruise Line’s President and CEO, said in the press release. “The vaccine, combined with our science-backed health and safety protocols, will help us provide our guests with what we believe will be the healthiest and safest vacation at sea.”
According to Sommer, all guests sailing with Norwegian through October 31 will have to be fully vaccinated and tested for the virus, echoing its parent company’s sentiments. However, this requirement could change with sailings after November 1.
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