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Norwegian becomes first cruise line to announce return of US-based voyages

Ron Hurtibise, South Florida Sun Sentinel on

Published in Business News

While Monday’s announcement signaled the company’s decision to aim for a sooner restart, it did not reveal whether the CDC has reviewed the company’s plan.

CDC approval for each company’s plan will be required, a CDC spokesman said Monday. Under the CDC guidance, each company will be required to conduct “test voyages” to demonstrate that its safety protocols are effective.

Norwegian does not sail out of Port Everglades or Port of Palm Beach. A spokeswoman for Port Miami, where Norwegian operated before the industry shutdown in March 2020, said she was unaware of Norwegian’s announcement.

Royal Caribbean last month announced a slate of summer Caribbean sailings out of Nassau and Bermuda with fully vaccinated crews and vaccination requirements for all guests 18 and older.

Norwegian’s requirement that all guests be fully vaccinated follows an executive action by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday prohibiting Florida-based businesses from requiring vaccines. The order was not clear whether it extended to cruise lines, airlines and theme parks.

A spokesperson for DeSantis did not immediately respond when asked if Norwegian’s plans would violate the governor’s executive order.

 

U.S.-based cruises have been shut down since the early days of the pandemic in March 2020, when outbreaks among passengers and crew members on numerous ships prompted the industry to suspend global operations. Since then, several cruise lines have offered limited-capacity voyages from countries that weren’t as hard hit by the pandemic as the U.S.

In late March, frustrations over the absence of specific CDC guidance for a reopening in the U.S. led the industry, through its trade group Cruise Lines Industry Association, to call for the CDC to let sailing resume by July. That was followed by more pleas from leaders of the companies during a roundtable discussion led by DeSantis, as well as a threat by the governor to sue the CDC if it didn’t heed the leaders’ requests.

Colleen McDaniel, editor in chief of the consumer-oriented website CruiseCritic.com, said it wouldn’t be surprising if other cruise lines followed Norwegian’s lead and announced plans to resume sailing in July. “This could be the tipping point for others in the industry,” she said.

At the same time, she said, “It’s difficult to say whether [Norwegian] will succeed with this request given the current standstill with the industry’'s return to sailing in the U.S.”

Yet because the CDC’s latest announcement acknowledged the low risk of international travel for vaccinated people, “there does seem to be some additional meat” to Norwegian’s announcement, “compared with what we’ve seen over the past year,” McDaniel said.

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