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Norwegian Cruise Line wants the CDC to allow vaccinated passengers to sail

Norwegian, which despite its name is an American company, sent a letter on Monday to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and informed it of its proposal. It is the first major U.S. cruise line to plan a resumption of U.S. sailings.

No industry has been decimated like the U.S. cruise ship industry, which has not been able to sail to or from a U.S. port for more than a year. Other industries, even in travel and hospitality, are showing signs of a rebound. Rising vaccination rates create hope for a return to normalcy. But the U.S. cruise industry is still stuck in limbo with no clear sign of when it will return to service.

So on Monday, Norwegian essentially said: Enough. The company said it plans to require vaccinations for everyone on a ship at least two weeks before sailing.

“Vaccinations are the primary means for Americans to get back to their everyday lives,”

; said Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio. We believe that through a combination of 100% mandatory vaccinations for guests and crew and science-supported public health measures … we can create a safe, ‘bubble-like’ environment. “

The CDC issues a return-to-sea plan

The CDC on Friday set out guidelines on how it expects to allow resumption of sailing. It said it “recommends” rather than requiring vaccinations for everyone on board a ship. The group also said they wanted to see “simulated (test) voyages that allow crew and port staff to practice new Covid-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers.” And it did not provide a date when the CDC planned to allow U.S. sailings again for the first time since March 2020.

The CDC’s statement was not welcomed by the industry.

The Cruise Line International Association, the industry trade group, on Monday called the CDC’s statement “disappointing”, “unreasonably cumbersome” and “virtually impossible.” It said the health agency requires a zero-risk approach to cruises, rather than requiring efforts to mitigate the pandemic, which it said is the CDC’s guideline for “every other American sector in our society.”

In response, the CDC said it is committed to working with the cruise industry to resume sailing following the step-by-step approach outlined in its conditional sailing order – hopefully by mid-summer.

But Norwegian said it shares the CDC’s view that vaccinations can help Americans return to normalcy and that they believe its plan “shares in spirit and exceeds intent” in the CDC’s guidelines.

The company sails under the brands Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. The other two major U.S.-based cruise companies, Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean, have not yet announced their own plans to resume U.S. sailings.

“We review and study all options to ensure the health and safety of our guests and crew,” said Royal Caribbean.

Shares of Norsk (NCLH), Carnival (CCL) and Royal Caribbean (RCL) all closed higher Monday on the proposal.

Cruise ban

The three companies all suffered huge losses last year, a total of $ 6.8 billion between them. Everyone has borrowed large sums of money and cut staff to remove the crisis.

Cruises have resumed in more than 10 major cruise markets globally, with nearly 400,000 passengers taking cruises over the past eight months in Europe, Asia and the South Pacific, according to industry association Cruise Line International Association. Further sailing is planned in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean later in the spring and summer. But Canada has extended its ban on cruises to 2022.
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But U.S. public health officials have not signed a resumption of U.S. shipping, the world’s largest cruise market. The trade group has called on the CDC to announce a specific date for the resumption of U.S. cruises in early July.

“The lack of any action by the CDC has effectively banned all sailings on the world’s largest cruise market,” the group’s statement said on March 24. “Cruise is the only sector of the U.S. economy that remains banned, even though most others have opened or continue to operate throughout the pandemic.”

The guidance from the CDC, which blocks U.S. cruises, “does not reflect the industry’s proven progress and success operating in other parts of the world, or the emergence of vaccines and unfairly treating cruises differently,” said group CEO Kelly Craighead. “Cruise ships must be treated the same as other travel, tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors.”

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