NCLH chief confident sector can avoid further shutdowns

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings chief executive Frank Del Rio is confident the sector would not face another shutdown due to the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant.

The boss of the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises said he believed the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had moved on from decisions it took during the pandemic.

Asked in an interview recorded for the Clia Convention if there was a risk similar punitive action could be taken in future, he said: “I think they [the CDC] recognise their mistakes. Of course, they’re governmental, they’ll never admit it. I think that we’re past that.”

Del Rio has been a regular and vocal critic of the CDC for “shutting down” the cruise sector during the pandemic and told Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley the health body had been “misguided” because of events that occurred on cruise vessels early in the Covid pandemic.

“[The CDC] took that to be the norm and assumed all cruise ships suffer from the same fate,” he said, adding the CDC still had protocols for the cruise industry that were “cruel” and “unusual”.

“Quite frankly, I think that the CDC has gone from being the premier public health administration in the world to being something else,” he said.

On the cruise sector’s current relationship with the CDC, he said: “To this day we have to go through hoops that no one else does. We think it’s discriminatory.

“We have proven now for almost a year that cruising is as safe or safer than any other venue on earth.”

Del Rio confirmed discussions with the CDC were ongoing as the cruise sector resumed operations and predicted “more relaxations” of measures would be announced soon.

He also said the body was now taking its cue from other countries, such as the UK, which has “lifted every protocol”.

“I think that more countries will now be following the UK lead rather than the US,” he added. “The US is a mess.”

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