Norwegian Cruise Line has restarted cruising in U.S. waters, with the company’s Norwegian Encore setting sail from Seattle on Aug. 7 on an Alaska cruise, a sailing the company fully expects will end with everyone returning home hale and hearty.
NCL is working to rebuild its program, which was shut down for over a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The cruise company says passengers can now feel safe on its ships that are again in use, thanks to vaccination requirements and safety protocols.
“We feel confident we’re going to keep you healthy,” Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Inc., said during a live-streamed panel discussion.
Those sailing with NCL must be vaccinated against coronavirus and crew members must also be vaccinated, with Del Rio summing up company employment philosophy as “no jab, no job… We believe the safest way to cruise is to have everyone vaccinated and tested at the pier.”
Crew members must be tested on a weekly basis.
“It’s been a long 500 days but we’ve really taken that time to be serious about safety,” added Harry Sommer, NCL president.
Sommer asked his own wife if she would be willing to sail on this week’s Alaska cruise, prompting her to answer that if everyone is vaccinated, “I’ll be there tomorrow.” She is on the cruise, as are three members of NCL’s SailSAFE Global Health and Wellness Council, underscoring that they feel safe, Sommer continued.
The ship set sail at 60% passenger capacity, a figure NCL plans to gradually increase as the season progresses.
Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and chairman of SailSAFE, said he’s pleased with the measures NCL has taken to safeguard people from coronavirus.
“Nothing’s 100% but I feel confident about what we’ve done here,” he said.
Vaccinated people who get coronavirus are less likely to spread it and will experience milder symptoms, he said. They will also likely have contracted it from an unvaccinated person.
NCL is now offering weekly Alaska cruises from Seattle, a city it’s been sailing from for 21 years.
Many cruise companies offered Alaska cruises that sailed from Vancouver but the federal government has banned large cruise ships from Canadian waters through the fall.
July saw NCL restart a program that offers Norwegian Jade Greek Isles cruises. Sommer said one would-be passenger on a Greece cruise tested positive for coronavirus before the ship set sail and so was denied boarding, leaving the ship to sail without interruption.
Meanwhile, NCL says it used the past year to come up with ways of enhancing the passenger experience, with steps taken including upgrading menus.