Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has sought a response from US health authorities to its request for a return to service from American ports from July.
With the timeline for preparing ships to sail reducing, the company voiced its frustration in a reminder letter to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seeking a response to its plan to restart sailings from the US this summer.
The plan includes the group’s ‘SailSAFE’ initiative developed in conjunction with health and safety experts.
But the letter reveals that the company’s proposal was not addressed at a meeting with the CDC on Monday.
The owner of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises insists its proposal extends “well beyond” the protocols of the US travel, leisure and hospitality sectors, all of which have already reopened including hotels and resorts, casinos, restaurants, sporting venues, theme parks and airlines.
The company believes that by requiring mandatory vaccinations for passengers and crew on initial voyages, in addition to protocols including universal Covid-19 testing, the plan “shares in the spirit and exceeds the intent” of the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) to advance mutual public health goals and protect guests, crew and the communities visited.
NCLH “continues to be optimistic the CDC will agree that this plan eliminates the need for the CSO and therefore, strongly requests the lifting of the order for Norwegian’s vessels, allowing them to cruise from US ports starting July 4”.
Company president and chief executive Frenk Del Rio said: “Over the past year we have worked tirelessly and invested heavily to create a path to resume cruise operations including enlisting the guidance of the nation’s top scientific and public health experts.
“We are confident that with our science-backed SailSAFE programme, we will offer a uniquely safe and healthy vacation experience which protects our guests, crew and communities we visit.
“We strongly believe our proposal submitted to the CDC ten days ago, which includes mandatory vaccinations for all guests and crew, offers a safe and immediate solution to resume cruising and eliminates the need for the obsolete CSO, which in its current form is impossible to operationalise and more importantly ignores the advancement of vaccines.
“Our proposal goes well above and beyond the intent of the CSO and would greatly accelerate the path to resume cruising while freeing up the CDC’s valuable time and resources, allowing it to focus on its many other competing public health priorities.
“I continue to await further discussion with the CDC and I am respectfully requesting a prompt response to my written proposal to recommence cruising in July allowing us to join America’s national reopening.”
In the reminder letter to CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky, Del Rio wrote: “NCLH shares your view that vaccinations are the primary vehicle for Americans to get back to their everyday lives while containing the spread of the virus.
“As such, our robust science-backed plan combines mandatory vaccinations for all guests and crew with multiple additional layers of preventative protocols, including universal Covid-19 testing.
“The safety and security of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is our number one priority.
“We recognise that our stringent vaccination requirements will temporarily preclude certain of our key guest demographics from purchasing cruises on our brands, including families with passengers under 15 years of age, but we believe this is the safest and most effective way to cruise in the current public health environment.
“It is frustrating, that to date, we have yet to receive even an acknowledgment of this proposal.
“I do recognise that you have many important public health issues to tend to and was reticent to even write, however, we strongly believe our proposal should be the model for how the travel and hospitality industry operates in a Covid-19 environment.
“Our industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and contributes billions of dollars to this country’s economy and is certainly deserving of your time and attention.”
Del Rio’s letter added: “Going forward, we understand the industry may be having regular meetings with your office but remain concerned that such meetings produce the non-existent results they have had since last year.
“While abiding by science and data, as the CDC normally does, you lend a fresh perspective to this issue. Our sincerest hope is that you, and the entire Biden-Harris Administration, allow us to responsibly cruise again.
“Accordingly, I respectfully request a prompt response to my written proposal. Americans look forward to cruising once again and we look forward to relaunching our ships on as timely a basis as possible and restoring American jobs.”
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