MIAMI BEACH -- For the past few months, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio has been saying that the company's Covid-19 vaccine mandate for 100% of passengers is a competitive edge.
In a conversation with Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann on stage at CruiseWorld here on Friday, Del Rio said he has the numbers to back it up.
Weissmann asked whether consumer surveys show that people want to sail on vaccinated cruises.
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Del Rio responded, "The best consumer survey is facts, and the fact is we -- and when I say we, I mean all three brands (Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises) -- are better booked for the second half of 2022 and throughout 2023 by a wide, wide margin and at much higher prices than at any time in 2019 or 2020 before the pandemic hit. "That is proof positive that having a 100% vaccination mandate for our vessels is a competitive advantage."
Acknowledging that the vaccine is far from universally accepted throughout the U.S., Del Rio said, "While you can't please 100% of the people 100% of the time, in this environment, the vast majority of our target market wants to be around people who are vaccinated."
The court battle with Florida
Weissmann and Del Rio also talked about the ongoing court battle between NCLH and the state of Florida. In August, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' office said it would appeal a federal judge's ruling allowing NCLH to require proof of vaccination to sail from Florida.
Del Rio said he believes that a district court of appeals won't hear the case until sometime next summer. "Hopefully, it becomes a moot point by that time because we'll have the pandemic behind us, but it might not be. This pandemic, as you know, has thrown us several curveballs."
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Weissmann asked Del Rio if NCLH would appeal a Florida court victory.
He responded, to applause from the travel advisors in the audience, "We will protect the health and safety of our guests and our crew. If that means we have to continue a legal fight to protect our guests, we will.
"It's beyond my comprehension how the leadership of this country -- whether it's at the White House level, the governor's mansion, the legislature, the judges, the mayors -- have failed to protect us," Del Rio continued.
"If they don't do it, we will."