Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced its return to service with three new Summer 2021 itineraries that will depart from ports outside the U.S.
- Norwegian Jade will sail from Athens on a seven-day Greek Isles cruise, starting July 25, 2021;
- Norwegian Joy will embark on a week-long Caribbean itinerary from Montego Bay, Jamaica on August 7, 2021; and
- Norwegian Gem will sail on a week-long cruise departing from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on August 15, 2021.
Each Caribbean itinerary includes stops at four distinct ports of call and two days at sea. In addition, passengers on Norwegian Joy visit Harvest Caye, the company’s private resort destination in Belize.
Passengers on Norwegian Jade will visit Olympia, and the islands of Crete, Rhodes, Mykonos, Corfu, and Santorini.
“We have been working diligently towards our resumption of operations, focusing on the guest experience with health and safety at the forefront,” said NCL President and Chief Executive Officer Harry Sommer in a press release.
“The growing availability of the COVID-19 vaccine has been a game-changer,” said Sommer. “The vaccine, combined with our science-backed health and safety protocols, will help us provide our guests with what we believe will be the healthiest and safest vacation at sea.”
Health and safety first
Some of the health and safety measures being implemented may woo cruisers who feel reluctant to return to the seas after ocean cruising was suspended more than a year ago.
Guests and crew
- Requiring all guests and crew sailing aboard cruises (with embarkation dates through 10/31/21) to be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before departure; minors who are not yet eligible for the vaccine will not be able to sail.
- Requiring COVID-19 antigen testing and a negative result prior to boarding, administered and paid for by the cruise line;
- Staggered embarkation and check-in to streamline boarding and allowing electronic signing of documents;
- Mandatory use of face coverings indoors except in cabins or when eating/drinking in restaurants, bars, lounges, and outdoors (when physical distancing isn’t possible);
- Initially reducing capacity limits to 60% to accommodate physical distancing, along with increased spacing in dining, entertainment, and other onboard spaces;
- Contactless food and beverage service ship-wide, including all restaurants and lounges;
- Enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols throughout the cruise experience, including a dedicated onboard Public Health Officer to oversee sanitation and cleanliness.
- Installation of medical-grade air filters promised to remove 99.9% of airborne pathogens, including COVID-19;
- Enhanced onboard medical capabilities with additional staffing, including ICUs and dedicated quarantine space with new and upgraded equipment;
- If a guest follows health and safety protocols and tests positive, the line coordinates and covers costs related to necessary COVID-19 related medical treatment, required land-based quarantine, and arranging travel to assure safe passage home; the same costs will also be borne for close contacts who are denied reboarding;
- Restricting all shore excursions to land-based tour operators who have agreed to partner with NCL to extend health and safety measures, creating a “bubble-like” environment;
- Requiring vaccinations of all guides and drivers;
- Commitment to ongoing monitoring of local conditions to make any necessary itinerary modifications
In a Zoom interview today, Sommer noted that NCL will continue to “follow the science” and continuously review policies and procedures.
Sommer also explained the choice of itineraries: The Greek Isles are the second most popular cruise destination overseas, and Punta Cana and Montego Bay are among the top destinations closer to home.
All cabin categories will be available on all three ships, including The Haven, a range of suites, and balcony staterooms. Although some temporary modifications and changes will be made, nearly all onboard venues and activities, including entertainment, spas, and casinos, will be available to guests.
For those travelers who still have trepidation about stepping on the gangway, the cruise line extended its temporary Peace of Mind cancellation policy to guests sailing on cruises booked by April 30 with embarkation dates prior to October 31, 2021.
A path forward
NCL has already obtained permission from the governments of Greece, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic for the three new cruise itineraries.
NCL’s parent company, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (which also operates Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises) sent an April 5th letter to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requesting permission to operate out of U.S. ports in July. If approved, this would allay concerns of cruisers who are hesitant to fly and want to depart from ports closer to home.
Optimistic about the future, CEO Sommers believes that cruising will become “the safest leisure activity on the planet.”
According to Marketwatch, investors share that enthusiasm. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) surged 3.9% after the announcement of the letter to the CDC.
Guests will be able to follow what NCL has dubbed, ‘The Great Cruise Comeback,’ on the line’s new docuseries, EMBARK – The Series, premiering April 15 at 8 p.m.