Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) CEO Frank Del Rio said the cruise company is looking at whether or not being vaccinated can be required of cruisers.
“It will certainly be a requirement for the crew,” he told John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group during a chat today on Zoom. “But it’s too early to tell whether we have the legal standing to mandate that you take a vaccine to come onboard -- lawyers are looking at it as we speak. But there is talk beginning to emerge from different corners of the travel industry, the airlines as well, of requiring some kind of immunity passport demonstrating that you’ve had the virus or been vaccinated, so that you are good to go.
“We have to build confidence in our customers and among ourselves that it’s safe to cruise,” he said.
Although cruising is canceled through the end of February at least for other NCLH brands and only some Norwegian ships are still on the calendar in March, Del Rio called those sailings a “long shot.”
“We hope that the pandemic will ease and we can work out our differences with the CDC to start in mid to late March,” he said. “It’s a long shot, but I want to keep that possibility as long as I see a possibility.”
Del Rio said a more solid bet is the ships scheduled to sail in April in Europe, because the pandemic has always been about four to six weeks ahead there of where it’s been in the U.S.
“I think there is a good chance that Europe will be open to cruising in the April to May time frame,” he said.
Early Alaska sailings are less certain, he said, because the state falls under the jurisdiction of both the CDC and Canada. “And Canada has been a tough country to deal with,” he said.
Still, he said there “is a good chance we can begin to operate in Alaska and the Caribbean in Q2, and by Q3, based on what we know today … the world as we know it should be open to cruising.”
By the fourth quarter, Del Rio said, cruising should be “in a good gallop,” and by 2022, “the world’s fleets should be all up and running and us coming out of it.”
Del Rio’s timeline, he said, is based in part on vaccines, and as more people get vaccinated, which he said will happen in the second and third quarters of 2021, combined with the natural weakening of virus prevalence through herd immunity, “the prevalence of the virus has to drop. And it will. ”
That, combined with better drugs to treat Covid-19 and faster, cheaper and more accurate testing, will make the world “a whole lot safer for all of us, and that will help all of us in the travel business.”