NCLH boss slams ‘sensationalist’ media reporting of Omicron surge

The boss of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has hit out at recent media coverage of how surging Omicron cases numbers are affecting the cruise sector.

Speaking on a virtual talk on Thursday with Dr Scott Gottlieb, the chairman of the cruise firm’s SailSAFE Global Health and Wellness Council, Frank Del Rio accused the press of “sensationalising” news for a “cheap headline”.

The president and chief executive reiterated how the three-brand cruise company had made health and safety its “number one priority” and that cruise is the only travel sector that reports cases to health authorities.

Del Rio (pictured) said: “That important public safety [data] hurts our industry in uncountable ways. The media takes this news and sensationalises it for a cheap headline.

“It’s something that we have to live with, but it’s something we do not like. I want to stress to you that health and safety will always be our number one priority.”

Clia Europe highlighted this week how media reports of Covid-19 outbreaks on ships might be creating a misleading impression of the current situation in the sector.

The trade association reported that number of itineraries postponed or cancelled since the restart of operations represented just 14% of overall activity.

Norwegian Cruise Line announced the cancellation of a number of cruises this month due to Covid-related issues.

Del Rio admitted the decision had been “difficult” but urged the cruise sector to prepare for the next stage of the pandemic.

“I believe [Covid] will not impact the cruise industry or our three brands and our three fleets will be operating in full by the spring,” he added.

Dr Gottlieb said Covid was going to “fade” into people’s consciousness this summer. “We’re going to see customers’ confidence shift,” he said. “[Covid] prevalence is going to decline.

“Pandemics do not last forever. Historically they last two to five years and we’re two years into this. I would expect this to be the final year.”

The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention earlier confirmed that its current Conditional Sail Order (CSO) will not be renewed once it expires on Saturday (January 15).

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