Offering guests a cruise vacation that is “100% in safety and 100% in enjoyment” is the guiding principle for Norwegian Cruise Lines’ resumption of sailings in Europe and the Caribbean this summer after a year-long pause in operations.
The combination of its vaccination policy and extensive health protocols will make cruising “the safest leisure activity on the planet,” said Norwegian Cruise Line president & CEO Harry Sommer during an exclusive roundtable held with APAC media following the company’s announcement to return to cruising.
The cruise line will offer seven-day itineraries visiting the Greek Isles on the Norwegian Jade departing from Athens starting 25 July. Cruises in the Caribbean will also run for one week departing from Montego Bay in Jamaica starting 7 August on Norwegian
Joy, and from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on Norwegian Gem starting 15 August.
In place for Norwegian’s first sailings are extensive safety protocols — from equipping its ships with hospital-grade air filtration and medical centre with quarantine cabins to sanitisation practices such as social distancing and contactless food service
— to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Not only are guests required to undergo double Covid testings – once before embarkation and a second one upon disembarkation – Norwegian is also the first cruise line to implement a 100% Covid vaccination policy for all guests, regardless of age, for
sailings with embarkation dates through 31 October.
Its vaccination policy will also be applied to partners ashore, which will require tour operators, drivers and guides on the ground to be fully inoculated too, he revealed.
Norwegian Cruise Line president & CEO, Harry Sommer
Unlike most other cruise lines which have resumed sailings without port calls, Norwegian
itineraries will feature ample time on shore but with voyages confined to a single country. This will enable “a simple proposition for approval and for guests – they just have to follow the requirements of Greece and they will have a wonderful vacation”,
The trio of Norwegian ships are expected to sail at 60% occupancy in the initial weeks in order to give the crew, who would be out of service for 16 months by the time of July restart, “time to warm into their roles”, before ramping up to 100% in the weeks after.
Sommer also spoke of adopting a science-based approach to cruise restart, urging governments around the world “to look at the facts together”. Some 400,000 passengers have sailed since cruise resumed in Europe last July and more recently in Singapore
late last year, but there have been only 30-40 Covid cases and no outbreaks on board cruise ships so far.
“Add the vaccine component on it and we believe the likelihood of getting Covid is not impossible but astronomically low,” he stressed.
While Sommer expects the initial wave of guests to come from the US and UK and Israel by virtue of the vaccination progress and freedom to travel in these markets, he’s hopeful the situation in Europe will vastly improve in the next couple of weeks to drive demand from Spain, Germany and Netherlands and France.
While APAC is unlikely to contribute to bookings for the cruise line’s initial summer sailings, Norwegian’s vice president and managing director for APAC Ben Angell has observed steadily increasing consumer demand since last year from the region for sailings in 2022/23. “Demand is pent up and slowly being released.”
When asked about its Asia plans in the coming months, Sommer said the line is keen for Norwegian Spirit – newly
refurbished to the tune of US$100 million – to sail to Australia and New Zealand and for Norwegian Sun to cruise in Northern Asia for the winter season “as soon as we are able to” with approval from the local governments.