Norwegian Cruise Line to Require COVID-19 Vaccinations in Restart Plan Sent to CDC
By Nivedita Balu
April 5 (Reuters) – Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd said on Monday it wrote to U.S. health authorities asking to restart trips from U.S. ports from July 4 with mandatory vaccinations, bringing new hope to the ravaged industry.
The company’s announcement follows the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest guidance last week to the cruise ship industry, including the need for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Shares of Carnival Corp, Norwegian Cruise and Royal Caribbean were up over 4% each. Last year, all three companies lost about a half of their value.
In the letter, Norwegian Cruise said it will begin trips at a reduced capacity of 60% starting July 4 and plans to gradually ramp up its fleet departing from U.S. ports and increase capacity by 20% every 30 days.
“We believe that through a combination of 100% mandatory vaccinations … we can create a safe, ‘bubble-like’ environment for guests and crew,” Norwegian Cruise’s Chief Executive Officer Frank Del Rio said.
Royal Caribbean said it was “reviewing and studying” the new guidance and believes it can responsibly resume operations in the U.S based on its experience from trips abroad.
The CDC’s initial restrictions on sailing to curb the spread of the coronavirus had limited operations for the industry, with fewer trips resulting in heavy annual losses, plunging revenue and billions of high-interest-rate debt.
The companies had pleaded for new guidance, saying earlier this year the “lack of any action by the CDC has effectively banned all sailing in the largest cruise market in the world.”
Even in its latest guidelines, the CDC did not specify a date for the resumption of operations from U.S. ports.
The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents the three companies, said the new guidance was “burdensome and ambiguous” and urged the administration to allow the sector to plan for a controlled return to service this summer.
(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Krishna Chandra Eluri)(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021.
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