Today, Norwegian Cruise Line announced that while it continues to wait on the U.S. CDC to return to sailing from the United States, it will start cruising this summer from ports in the Caribbean and Europe.
“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,” said Norwegian Cruise Line’s President and Chief Executive Officer Harry Sommer.
The cruises will be aboard three ships:
Norwegian Joy will sail from Montego Bay, Jamaica, heading on 7-day cruises around the western Caribbean.
Norwegian Gem will sail from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on weeklong trips around the eastern Caribbean.
Norwegian Jade will sail on 7-day cruises from Athens, Greece.
Cruises from Greece begin on July 25, with cruises from Punta Cana starting August 15, and cruises from Jamaica starting August 7.
As you’d expect, Norwegian is implementing a number of new safety procedures with these cruises.
First, all guests on the cruise line through October 31 are required to be vaccinated and will be tested prior to boarding. We’ve reached out to the cruise line regarding the vaccination policy for those under 18 and will update when we hear back.
Second, NCL will implement new safety protocols on the ship. According to the line, this includes increased sanitation, air filtration and more medical resources. Contact tracing will also be in place and masks required indoors. Distancing measures and limited capacity will also be in place.
Finally, the safety protocols will also be on shore, with only specific excursions allowed that meet the cruise line’s requirements for keeping passengers healthy.
The new policies are part of NCL’s Sail Safe program and will continue to be re-evaluated as time goes on.
In addition to announcing these new cruises, NCL also cancelled a number of other trips. All cruises for July and August aboard eight different ships — roughly half the fleet — were cancelled.
This includes trips aboard Norwegian Breakaway, Dawn, Escape, Getaway, Sky, Spirit, Star and Sun. Trips for Norwegian Epic were also cancelled through September 1 and Norwegian Pearl cruises through November 7.
Will U.S. Cruises Sail First?
The cruises from Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and Greece represent the first sailings back for Norwegian Cruise Line and mark a significant milestone. Like Royal Caribbean, the cruise line has elected to start sailing from ports outside of the United States while the CDC continues to put cruises on hold.
Just yesterday, Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCL’s parent company) sent a letter to the CDC Director requesting a return to U.S. cruising starting July 4.
In that letter, Del Rio pointed out that vaccines continue to make an impact and all the company’s cruises would sail with vaccinated passengers. As well, he explained that while hotels, theme parks, and sporting events are all allowed to operate, cruise lines — where policies like vaccine requirements and universal testing can be implemented — are not.
So will these cruises from Greece and the Caribbean beginning in late July be the first for NCL to sail? Or will the CDC heed to call to return to sailing from the United States in early July?
So far the CDC has seemed steadfast in its framework to return, despite the introduction of vaccines.
One thing is sure — if there isn’t some movement soon, then the summer sailing season from the United States will be lost. Cruise line executives have said it takes about 90 day to get a ship ready to sail. That timeline would seem to put any return in early July at best.
Trips on NCL’s new cruises are available for booking now.
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