Norwegian, which despite its name is a US-based company, sent a letter Monday to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, notifying it of its proposal. It’s the first major American cruise line to lay out plans for a resumption of US sailings.
So on Monday, Norwegian essentially said: Enough. The company said it plans to require vaccinations for everyone on a ship at least two weeks before sailing.
“Vaccinations are the primary vehicle for Americans to get back to their everyday lives,” said Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio.”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.”
CDC issues a return-to-sea plan
The CDC’s statement was not welcomed by the industry.
The Cruise Line International Association, the industry trade group, Monday called the CDC’s statement “disappointing,” “unduly burdensome” and “largely unworkable.” It said the health agency is demanding a zero-risk approach for cruises, rather than calling for efforts to mitigate the pandemic, which it said is the CDC’s guideline for “every other US sector of our society.”
In response, the CDC said it is committed to working with the cruise industry to resume cruising following its phased approach outlined in its conditional sailing order — hopefully, by mid-summer.
But Norwegian said it shares the CDC’s view that vaccinations can help Americans return to normalcy, and it believes its plan “shares in the spirit and exceeds the intent” of the CDC’s guidelines.
The company sails under the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands. The other two major US-based cruise companies, Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean, have yet to announce their own plans for a resumption of US sailings.
“We are reviewing and studying all options to ensure the health and safety of our guests and crew,” said Royal Caribbean.
The three companies all suffered massive losses last year, totaling $6.8 billion between them. All have borrowed large amounts of money and cut staff to ride out the crisis.
But American public health officials have not signed off on a resumption of US sailings, the world’s largest cruise market. The trade group has called for the CDC to announce a definite date for the resumption of US cruises by early July.
“The lack of any action by the CDC has effectively banned all sailings in the largest cruise market in the world,” said the group’s March 24 statement. “Cruising is the only sector of the US economy that remains prohibited, even as most others have opened or continued to operate throughout the pandemic.”
The guidance from CDC that is blocking US cruises “does not reflect the industry’s proven advancements and success operating in other parts of the world, nor the advent of vaccines, and unfairly treats cruises differently,” said the group’s CEO Kelly Craighead. “Cruise lines should be treated the same as other travel, tourism, hospitality, and entertainment sectors.”