NCL is the latest cruise line to get onboard with sailings as CLIA slams CDC for mixed messages
Norwegian Joy

NCL is the latest cruise line to get onboard with sailings as CLIA slams CDC for mixed messages

MIAMI — Another major cruise line has announced the re-start of cruises from non-U.S. ports as the CDC spells out additional measures for the cruise industry, and CLIA cries foul.

This morning NCL announced that it plans to restart sailings on Norwegian Jade, Joy and Gem out of the Med and the Caribbean starting July 25, 2021. All passengers will be required to show proof of vaccination.

The announcement follows restart updates in recent weeks from Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Crystal Cruises, all from non-U.S. ports as well, and all requiring proof of vaccination.

With the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) still in place, cruise lines are increasingly looking beyond U.S. ports to restart their operations, after more than a year of suspended sailings due to the pandemic.

On April 2 the CDC updated its CSO with new measures. CLIA says the new requirements are “unduly burdensome” and “largely unworkable” and has reiterated its call for the CDC to lift the CSO.

The cruise industry is also accusing the CDC of mixed messaging.

Also on April 2, the CDC updated its guidance for travel amid the pandemic. The CDC now says that fully vaccinated Americans can travel within the U.S.

 

MIXED MESSAGES

CLIA says the new CSO measures “seem to reflect a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to COVID that is the basis for every other U.S. sector of our society.”

CLIA adds: “Moreover, the instructions are at odds with the approach the CDC and governments in other parts of the world apply to all other travel and tourism segments in mitigating the risk of COVID-19. On the same day CDC issued new onerous requirements for the cruise industry, five months after the original order, CDC issued relaxed guidance for domestic and international travel due to vaccination progress and recognition of the improved public health environment.”

CLIA notes that nearly 400,000 passengers have already sailed from Europe and parts of Asia since last summer, following stringent, science-based protocols that resulted in a far lower incident rate than on land.

“The irony is that today an American can fly to any number of destinations to take a cruise, but cannot board a ship in the U.S. This deprives U.S. workers from participating in the economic recovery and does not recognize the public health advances that have been made over many months, including the ability to effectively mitigate risk on cruise ships,” says CLIA in its statement.

 

 

As more major cruise line look outside the U.S. to restart their operations, the effect will be crippling for the U.S.-based cruise industry and related businesses, adds CLIA. “With no discernable path forward or timeframe for resumption in the U.S., more sailings originating in the Caribbean and elsewhere are likely to be announced, effectively shutting American ports, closing thousands of American small businesses, and pushing an entire industry off-shore.”

Businesses that depend on the cruise industry are speaking out as well.

“For a year now, we have been working closely with our cruise partners and directly with the CDC to find a way forward for the return of cruising from Port Canaveral,” Capt John Murray, CEO of Port Canaveral, the second-busiest cruise port in the world.

“Just today CDC announced vaccinated Americans could safely travel internationally,” said Murray. “We’re disappointed that this guidance for the cruise industry appears to be nothing more than an incremental step in a far-reaching process to resume passenger sailings in the U.S. with no definitive or target start date.”

CLIA’s statement includes an urgent call for the Biden administration “to consider the ample evidence that supports lifting the CSO this month to allow for the planning of a controlled return to service this summer. If anything, the announcement last Friday is a clarion call for closer cooperation and coordination among stakeholders to achieve the President’s goal of reaching a ‘new normal’ by the Fourth of July. Working together, we can avoid the negative consequences that come when cruising, and the workers who support it, are not afforded the same opportunities as other workers in industries with far fewer practices in place to provide for public health and well-being.”

 

“THE TIME HAS FINALLY COME”

Meanwhile add NCL to the growing list of U.S-based cruise companies looking to restart their operations outside of the U.S.

NCL President and CEO Harry Sommer says the cruise line will restart operations at a reduced capacity with Norwegian Jade, Joy and Gem as the first of its 17-ship fleet to welcome passengers back on board.

Norwegian Jade’s new seven-day cruises to the Greek Isles will sail out of Athens (Piraeus) starting July 25, 2021.

And week-long Caribbean itineraries will operate from Montego Bay starting Aug. 7, 2021 on Norwegian Joy, and from La Romana, D.R. starting Aug. 15, 2021 on Norwegian Gem.

“Over a year after we initially suspended sailings, the time has finally come when we can provide our loyal guests with the news of our great cruise comeback,” says Sommer. “We have been working diligently towards our resumption of operations, focusing on the guest experience with health and safety at the forefront. The growing availability of the COVID-19 vaccine has been a game changer. 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.”

All passengers sailing aboard NCL cruises with embarkation dates through Oct. 31, 2021 will be required to be fully vaccinated and tested prior to boarding the ship. Sommer says the company will review that policy in the months ahead to determine the way forward for embarkation dates starting Nov. 1, 2021. NCL’s health and safety protocols can be found at NCL.com/sail-safe.

NCL has also extended its temporary Peace of Mind cancellation policy to passengers sailing on cruises booked by April 30, 2021 with embarkation dates through Oct. 31, 2021. These passengers have the flexibility to cancel their cruise 15 days prior to departure. Those who take advantage of the Peace of Mind policy will receive a full refund in the form of a future cruise credit which may be applied to any sailing through Dec. 31, 2022. In addition, final payment for all voyages with embarkations through Oct. 31, 2021, will require payment 60 days prior to embarkation versus the standard 120 days.

On March 19, 2021 Royal Caribbean announced new Cozumel and Bahamas itineraries starting June 12. Celebrity Cruises will sail Caribbean itineraries out of St. Maarten starting June 5. And Crystal Cruises’ all-Bahamas itineraries are set to kick off July 3.

Yesterday NCLH, parent company of NCL, Oceania and RSSC, sent a letter to the CDC stating its intentions to restart cruising from U.S. ports on July 4, and asking for the CSO to be lifted. The July 4 date is in keeping with President Biden’s statement in recent weeks that as long as the U.S.’s vaccination rollout stays on track, July 4 could be America’s Independence Day from COVID-19.

Meanwhile the Canadian travel industry is still dealing with the suspension of sun flights until April 30 and potentially longer, plus the 14-day quarantine including the 3-day hotel quarantine, PCR test requirements and PHAC’s advisory against all non-essential travel.

Kathryn Folliott