Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which includes subsidiaries Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, will require COVID-19 vaccination of all guests and crew when the cruise lines restart trips from U.S. ports. Only passengers and crew who have been fully vaccinated at least 2 weeks prior to sailing will be permitted on board, and this will be the case for at least all sailings embarking through October 31, 2021. Cruise guests will also be required to take a COVID-19 antigen test prior to boarding and receive a negative result.
One result of Norwegian's vaccination mandate is that those who aren't yet eligible for a vaccine, such as younger teens and kids, won't be able to cruise, eliminating families with vaccine-ineligible kids. This is also the case for lines such as Crystal Cruises, which requires a COVID-19 vaccine of all guests.
Norwegian submitted a letter to the CDC with its plan to restart cruising as of July 4 with its vaccine mandate and multilayered health and safety protocols in place, which the cruise line says exceed the CDC's conditional sailing requirements.
Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio said: “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 for guests and crew.”
That said, Norwegian's SailSAFE protocols, while strong in terms of vaccinations and testing, are conspicuously silent when it comes to space for crew members. Typically cruise line crew live in dormitory style conditions that can quickly cause a virus to spread. For this reason, the CDC recommendation is to relocate all crew to single occupancy cabins with private bathrooms, and to cancel all face to face employee meetings, crew gyms, and other group settings. Financially, however, this would be disastrous for most cruise lines, which depend on an army of cruise workers, from cooks to butlers to housekeepers to entertainers, living in congregate settings, to service cruise guests. This is what the CDC is right to be concerned about, particularly given the indoor nature of these living quarters and lack of access to outdoor air. Pre-pandemic, cruise lines' inferior filtration compared to airlines' HEPA filters contributed to the Diamond Princess, where a COVID-19 outbreak led to nearly 700 infections, 7 deaths, and 3600 passengers and crew were quarantined–likely from just one infected person, in light of genetic sequencing.
Norwegian CEO Del Rio points out that NCLH has spent millions of dollars to upgrade air filtration systems to hospital-grade, and has also increased ICU and quarantine medical facilities on ships.
In the letter to the CDC, Norwegian says it plans to restart cruises at a reduced capacity of 60%, before gradually increasing capacity by 20% every 30 days.
Are you vaccinated and planning to sail with Oceania, Regent Seven Seas or Norwegian on a 2021 sailing?
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