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NORWEGIAN Cruise Line (NCL) has announced its return to cruising with voyages in Europe and the Caribbean beginning Jul.
NCL will restart operations at a reduced capacity, slowly increasing from 60%, aboard Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jade, and Norwegian Joy.
Seven-day cruises to the Greek Isles on Jade from Athens will begin 25 Jul, while week-long island-hopping Caribbean itineraries are available from Montego Bay from 07 Aug on Joy, or from Punta Cana on Gem beginning 15 Aug.
Cruises are now open for sale, with President & Chief Executive Officer Harry Sommer telling CW all guests sailing aboard cruises embarking through to the end of Oct will be required to be fully vaccinated, and will be tested both prior to boarding and prior to disembarking at the end of the cruise.
“We believe the combination of 100% vaccinations and extensive safety protocols, not one or the other, will cause this to be the safest leisure activity on the planet,” Sommer said, adding a decision about health & safety protocols for cruises from Nov will be made at a later date.
Sommer detailed the comprehensive nature of the task of resuming operations, and how proud Norwegian was of the collaborations it has formed to help enable a restart.
The NCL President said the cruise line is happy to accept guests from all over the world, but believes early adopters will likely come from the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel, with Australia to hopefully follow later in the season.
“Those are three countries that have done well with vaccines, and also have freedom to travel,” Sommer explained.
“We’re hopeful in the next 30-45 days the situation in the rest of Europe will vastly improve…if you look at all the models, it shows COVID data rapidly coming down by the middle to end of May, so by that time, guests from places like Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Belgium, France, Spain, the places we source a lot of our guests from normally, will come back as well.
“We’re hopeful about Australia by Sep, by late summer or fall…it’s always been a really strong market for us”, Sommer said, adding Norwegian was heartened by the announcement of Australia and New Zealand’s travel bubble earlier this week (CW yesterday).
Prior to resumption, crews will be put through their paces with the new health & safety protocols on two further-capped sailings.