NCLH Has A Plan To Return To Cruising

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. — which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands – has released details of a two-pronged plan for its long-awaited return to cruising this summer.

The cruise company unveiled a phased cruise resumption for voyages embarking outside of the U.S. with sailings originating in Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Greece beginning in July 2021 with Norwegian Joy, Jade and Gem.

In parallel, NCLH submitted a proposal to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 5, 2021, outlining its plan to restart cruising from U.S. ports starting July 4 and requesting the CDC lift the Conditional Sail Order.

To provide a uniquely safe and healthy vacation experience, all initial voyages will operate with fully vaccinated guests and crew in addition to the Company’s robust, multi-layered SailSAFE™ health and safety program, which includes universal COVID-19 testing prior to embarkation.

As well, the company announced the formation of the SailSAFE Global Health and Wellness Council (“the Council”), the Company’s expert public health council, chaired by former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Dr. Scott Gottlieb, which will complement the work of the Healthy Sail Panel (HSP).

Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., said: “We are excited to unveil our initial plans for the resumption of cruise voyages embarking outside of the U.S. with sailings to the Caribbean and Europe. In addition, we continue to plan for a resumption of cruising from U.S. ports and await further discussion with the CDC regarding our proposal for a July 4 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 continued: “Safe and highly effective vaccines are a gamechanger 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.”

And he noted that: “The return to cruising has been much-anticipated by our loyal guests, valued travel partners, the destinations we visit and our team members across the globe. We look forward to once again delivering best in class vacation experiences and also restarting our cruise ecosystem, bringing much needed economic benefit back to our homeports and the destinations we visit that have been significantly impacted by the halt in cruising.”

As part of the phased return to cruising, Norwegian Cruise Line will initially offer seven-day cruises to the Greek Isles on Norwegian Jade from Athens (Piraeus), Greece beginning July 25, 2021 and seven-day Caribbean itineraries originating in Montego Bay, Jamaica beginning on Aug. 7, 2021 on Norwegian Joy and from La Romana, Dominican Republic on Norwegian Gem beginning Aug. 15, 2021. Certain sailings outside of these newly announced voyages have been cancelled. Impacted guests on voyages that will not operate will be notified accordingly. As Norwegian Cruise Line makes its final preparations to welcome guests on board, guests have the opportunity to follow along with its new docu-series, EMBARK – The Series, premiering April 15 at and Facebook.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises will announce details on their voyage resumption plans at a future date. All voyages on these brands with embarkation dates through July 31, 2021 have been cancelled. Impacted guests on voyages that will not operate will be notified accordingly.

NCLH said that it continues to expect a phased-in approach to reintroducing additional vessels across its three brands while taking into account the public health environment, global travel restrictions and port availability, among other considerations.

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Earlier This Week

In a letter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent earlier this week, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. — which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands – has outlined its plan to resume cruise operations from U.S. ports in July that includes its multi-layered SailSAFE Health and Safety Program developed in conjunction with globally recognized experts, including the Healthy Sail Panel (“HSP”).

NCLH’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.

The company says that by requiring full and complete vaccinations of guests and crew, it 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 statement, the cruise line 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 Norwegian’s vessels, allowing them to cruise from U.S. ports starting July 4.”

NCLH also indicated that it looks forward to its continued partnership with the CDC in recommencing operations with 100% vaccinated guests and crew aboard and reduced capacity initially as part of a phased-in launch.

Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., said: “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.”

Del Rio continued: “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.”

And he added: “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 United States 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.

Said Del Rio: “Our robust and comprehensive SailSAFE health and safety program 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 U.S. economy as the industry resumes cruise operations.”

NCLH made it clear that it is committed to protecting the health and safety of its guests, crew and communities visited. The SailSAFE health and safety program, 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.