Major cruise lines are moving some of their flagship vessels out of the United States after more than a year without passengers and are reconsidering new regions to resume sailing.
The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “conditional sailing order”, much like Australia’s cruise ban, is forcing major lines to rethink their summer season and plot itineraries further afield.
It’s another kick in the teeth for the Australian cruise industry when the European season resumes in May with the likes of Princess, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, Virgin Voyages and Norwegian Cruise Line sending ships to places like the United Kingdom and Greece for a reduced wave season.
Royal, Norwegian and Virgin Voyages, in a bold move, also announced sailings from the Caribbean and the Central America in an effort to salvage the Northern Hemisphere wave season.
Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., which includes Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises told USA Today that the cruise industry has been shut down long enough.
Mr Del Rio sent a letter to CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky announcing the vaccine requirement for the three brands.
“If the CDC won’t listen to reason, well, we’ll move our ships out of the U.S.,” Mr Del Rio said.
Norwegian Cruise Line, the company’s flagship brand announced it would be returning to service with sailings in Europe from Greece and in the Caribbean with sailings from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic that is not typical.
“The reason we’re doing it now is, quite frankly, we’re fed up with waiting for the CDC to allow us to cruise,” Mr Del Rio told USA TODAY.
Cruisers are keen to sail. And the proof is in the pudding – around 80 per cent of NCL’s new Greek itineraries are booked by Americans.
Virgin Voyages similarly has also shifted its itineraries to launch the line’s first ship, the Scarlet Lady in the United Kingdom this summer with sailings open to UK residents.
Royal Caribbean announced new sailings in Bermuda and the Bahamas, but the cruise line has been successfully sailing in Singapore with Quantum of the Seas since November 2020.
“At this time, we are exploring options around the world and have worked closely with government and health authorities globally to get back to what we do best: provide world-class vacations to our guests,” Jonathon Fishman, spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, told USA TODAY.
Mr Del Rio went on to say that perhaps, international ports that welcome his lines, could be permanent home ports.
“If we find it is equally as profitable if not more profitable, to operate from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica versus Miami – even when the CDC gets around to opening us up – we will keep those ships there,” Mr Del Rio said.
So far in Europe, CLIA, ocean-going cruise lines have carried out 270 cruise itineraries on 21 ships – MSC Cruises being one of the most successful lines.
“European countries that are currently operating cruise itineraries in a limited and highly-controlled fashion remain closed to American tourists at this time,” a European CLIA spokesperson told USA Today.
“We are optimistic that as circumstances continue to improve in many parts of the world, travel restrictions will begin to ease, including as it relates to cruise travel.”