Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) has sent a letter to the CDC outlining its plan to resume cruise operations from US ports in July.
The letter included an explanation of its SailSAFE Health and Safety Programme developed in conjunction with globally recognised experts, including the cruise industry’s Healthy Sail Panel (HSP).
NCLH said its plan was 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 said it believed it shares in the spirit and exceeds the intent of the CDC’s CSO to advance mutual public health goals and protect guests, crew and the communities it visits.
Norwegian said that 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 its vessels, allowing them to cruise from US ports from 4th July.
“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, NCLH President and CEO (pictured).
”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, 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.”
While the risk of COVID-19 cannot be eliminated in its entirety, over the past eight months the cruise industry has successfully carried nearly 400,000 passengers in more than 10 major cruise markets outside the US with only a few isolated COVID-19 cases that were effectively 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, NCLH said.
Del Rio continued, “Our robust and comprehensive SailSAFE health and safety programme extends well beyond the protocols of the travel, leisure and hospitality sectors, all of which have already reopened including hotels and resorts, casinos, restaurants, sporting venues, theme parks and airlines.
“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 US economy as the industry resumes cruise operations,” he concluded.
The SailSAFE health and safety programme, with new and enhanced protocols, creates multiple layers of protection against COVID-19, and will be informed by expert guidance, domestic and international governments and public health agencies.
These measures, including vaccination requirements, will be continuously refined as science, technology and the knowledge of COVID-19 evolves, NCLH stressed.
NCLH also unveiled its phased cruise resumption for voyages embarking outside of the US with sailings originating in Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Greece beginning in July 2021 with ‘Norwegian Joy’, ‘Jade’ and ‘Gem’.
“We are excited to unveil our initial plans for the resumption of cruise voyages embarking outside of the US with sailings to the Caribbean and Europe. In addition, we continue to plan for a resumption of cruising from US ports and await further discussion with the CDC regarding our proposal for a 4th July restart to participate in America’s national opening.
“As we prepare for our return to cruising, the health and safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our first priority, as demonstrated by the establishment of our robust, multi-layered SailSAFE health and safety program and our Company’s SailSAFE Global Health and Wellness Council,” Del Rio added. “Safe and highly effective vaccines are a game changer and to create the safest environment possible, we will require all guests and crew to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Vaccine requirements will be combined with multiple additional layers of protection against COVID-19 introduction, including universal testing, and we will continue to evaluate and modify protocols over time as the science dictates.
NCLH brands Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises will announce details on their voyage resumption plans at a future date.