“We are incredibly excited to restart cruising,” Norwegian Cruise Line’s President and Chief Executive Officer Harry Sommer tells Kim Thomson of TTN during a recent press roundtable. “We have been working diligently towards our resumption of operations, focusing on the guest experience with health and safety at the forefront.”
The cruise line will restart operations at a reduced capacity with Norwegian Jade, Joy and Gem as the first of its 17-ship fleet to welcome guests back on board. Travellers long-awaiting a return to cruise will have the opportunity to spend the summer exploring ancient ruins and sunny beaches with all new seven-day cruises to the Greek Isles on Norwegian Jade from Athens (Piraeus) beginning July 25, 2021. They can also island hop with week-long Caribbean itineraries available from Montego Bay, Jamaica as of Aug. 7, 2021 on Norwegian Joy or from Punta Cana (La Romana), Dominican Republic on Norwegian Gem beginning Aug. 15, 2021.
Sommer tells us: “The growing availability of the Covid-19 vaccine has been a game changer. The situation, specially in Israel and the UK with the rapid pace of vaccinations and the rapid decline of Covid cases, combined with our science-backed health and safety protocols, gives us the confidence to offer the healthiest and safest vacation at sea.”
“Our safely protocols are iron-clad and will keep everyone safe”
– Harry Sommer
“All guests sailing aboard cruises with embarkation dates through Oct. 31, 2021 will be required to be fully vaccinated and tested prior to boarding our ships,” says the cruise line’s President and CEO. “Our plan is that we will accept any vaccine that has been approved either by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency in Europe or the World Health Organisation. We believe, that by July 25th – though we cannot be 100 per cent sure – that every one of the vaccines, be it Indian, Chinese or all of the US ones, will have the approval of at least one of these entities.”
“We got together with one goal – how can we make cruising the safest vacation on earth?” Sommer tells us. “We started from scratch. Full vaccinations before you embark, test before you get on the ship and we test you before go home.
“We will have hospital grade filters, mask wearing will be mandatory, there will be no self-service buffet with crew serving with PPE, gloves, the whole 9 yards.
“In the first five weeks, we will mandate that you take our shore excursions. Our bus drivers and tour guides will be fully vaccinated. We will have sanitisers on the buses. This is for our guests of course, but also about keeping the communities we visit safe. Before we allow our guests to go offshore on their own, we want to make sure that most of the adults are vaccinated in these destinations. We are pretty confident that by September, the places that we visit, will be in those places. If they are not, we will revisit it."
“We are going to do this right so there are no Covid cases on our ships. That is our goal.
“Unfortunately, this will also mean that children under 12, at least for the first four months, will not be allowed on board. We are a family cruise line, we love children, but for the time being, we need to air on the side of caution, and ensure everyone is 100 per cent safe, and we can revisit this from November.”
“Our safely protocols are iron clad and will keep everyone safe. Each ship will have a dedicated Public Health Officer on board. This expert is responsible for the oversight of all outbreak prevention initiatives. They will oversee the day-to day sanitation and cleanliness of all public areas and accommodations. Each ship will also have an Infectious Disease Prevention Officer on board.
“We are going with lower occupancy to ensure a good guest experience – this is nothing to do with safety, as once we start in July, the crew would have not served a guest in 16 months. Before the first revenue cruise on each of our first three ships, we will run two simulated voyages that will primarily be populated by employees and travel agents and other vendors and partners to allow the crew time to step back into their roles.
“The first simulation cruise will operate at 25 per cent capacity and the second at 50 per cent, and the first revenue cruise will operate at 60 per cent and then slowly work up to 100 per cent. The cruise will be 100 per cent safe from the first simulated voyage, we are just allowing our staff to get back into their roles and provide the guest with a fantastic experience. This is not dissimilar to what we do when we bring out a brand-new ship. We never bring out a new ship at 100 per cent occupancy for this very same reason,” explains Sommer.
The cruise line has spent the past year further developing and refining its health and safety protocols, using the latest scientific findings and expert advice. Its parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings launched its SailSAFE Health and Safety programme.
The company also announced its SailSAFE Global Health and Wellness Council comprised of six experts at the forefront of their fields. Led by Chairman Dr Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration and Co-Chair of the Healthy Sail Panel, which was formed to guide the cruise industry’s safe resumption of operations, the council’s work will complement the Healthy Sail Panel initiative and will focus on the implementation, compliance with and continuous improvement of health and safety protocols across the company’s operations.
In conjunction with its return to service announcement, the Cruise Line cancelled all July and August itineraries aboard Norwegian Breakaway, Dawn, Escape, Getaway, Sky, Spirit, Star and Sun. In addition, voyages aboard Norwegian Epic through Sept. 1, 2021; and Norwegian Pearl through Nov. 7, 2021 have also been cancelled. Guests and Travel Partners with impacted reservations will be contacted directly. “We can’t start up all 17 ships at once. It is impossible form a staffing and logistic prospective, so that is why we chose three of our most popular sailings and itineraries.”
The Cruise Line also extended its temporary Peace of Mind cancelation policy to guests sailing on cruises booked by April 30, 2021 with embarkation dates through Oct. 31, 2021. These guests have the flexibility to cancel their cruise 15 days prior to departure. Those who take advantage of the Peace of Mind policy will receive a full refund in the form of a future cruise credit, which may be applied to any sailing through Dec. 31, 2022. In addition, final payment for all voyages with embarkations through Oct. 31, 2021, will require payment 60 days prior to embarkation versus the standard 120 days.
* With inputs from Kim Thomson
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