Norwegian to require vaccinations before cruises, pitches CDC on July 4 start date

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FILE – In this May 8, 2013, file photo, people pause to look at Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship, Norwegian Breakaway, on the Hudson River, in New York. On Monday, April 5, 2021, Norwegian Cruise Line’s parent company asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for permission to resume cruises from U.S. ports on July 4 by requiring passengers and crew members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at least two weeks before the trip. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

(NEXSTAR) – The Norwegian Cruise Line is seeking permission to resume trips from U.S. ports on July 4, requiring passengers and crew members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at least two weeks before the trip.

The Miami company said its precautions go well beyond steps taken by others in the travel and leisure industry that have already reopened, including airlines, hotel, restaurants and sporting events.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. plans to begin U.S. sailings at 60% of capacity and raise that to 80% in August and 100% in September. Norwegian also operates Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Company shares jumped 6% Monday and pulled the shares of rival cruise lines hire as well. Shares Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Group gained nearly 5% and more than 3%, respectively.

CEO Frank Del Rio detailed the request in a letter to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has blocked cruise ships from U.S. ports with a no-sail order since March 2020, after outbreaks on several ships around the world.

Norwegian joins other cruise lines

Norwegian is not the first cruise line to announce that people will have to be vaccinated before taking their next vacation on the company’s ships.

On March 19, Royal Caribbean said that it planned to resume cruises in June.

The cruise line will offer 7-night cruises leaving from The Bahamas that will stop at the company’s private island, CocoCay, and Cozumel, Mexico.

“The new itineraries departing through August, which will sail with vaccinated crew, will be available to adult guests who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and those under the age of 18 with negative test results,” the company said in a news release.

In a press release four days later, Royal Caribbean announced a series of 7-night summer cruises from Bermuda, but added that “at this time” they are opening booking to vaccinated adults and that “this current health and safety measure, like others, may evolve as they are evaluated on an ongoing basis.”

Along with Royal Caribbean, Norwegian joins other lines such as Celebrity, Crystal, UnCruise Adventures, Virgin, American Queen Steamboat Company and others in announcing a vaccine requirement on at least some cruises.

CDC changes requirements

On Friday, the CDC updated its guidance to say that fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward. It also issued more technical details around its conditional plan to allow cruise ships in U.S. ports, but it did not say when cruise lines could resume sailing.

Still, Walensky urged caution and said she would “advocate against general travel overall” given the rising number of infections.

The CDC said Monday that it “is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising” following a phased approach. “Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult,” especially with concern over new variants of COVID-19, the agency added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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