After months of urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lift its Conditional Sailing Order, which all but bans cruising from the U.S., some major cruise lines are taking matters into their own hands. This week, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) submitted a plan to the government agency, detailing its intention to resume sailing from the U.S. on or around July 4, 2021, with new safety measures in place. Among the recently added protocols is a vaccination requirement for all guests and crew.
"Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is simply taking a cue from the CDC and putting together a comprehensive, robust, scientific-based plan that allows us to operate just like airlines…casinos, resorts, theme parks, [and] ballparks are now operating," Frank Del Rio, the company's president and CEO, told USA TODAY, referencing the CDC's recent announcement that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk.
Beyond mandating vaccines for anyone boarding a cruise ship across all three brands that NCL operates — Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises — the company also points to its multilayered SailSAFE Health and Safety Program as evidence that cruising can resume.
The program was developed by the Healthy Sail Panel, which is 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. Measures in the SailSAFE Health and Safety Program include testing, wearing masks, sanitizing, and more.
"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 Del Rio in a press release, adding that he believes the company's safety measures exceed those of the CDC's Conditional Sailing Order, eliminating the need for it.
"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…we can create a safe, 'bubble-like' environment for guests and crew," Del Rio said.
NCL sent its plan to resume sailing this July in a letter to CDC director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky. The CDC has yet to respond.
Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she's always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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