NCL has no plans for UK summer sailings

Norwegian Cruise Line has no plans to operate UK sailings this summer, despite the flurry of competitors launching cruises around the British Isles.

Instead, the cruise line has chosen the popular destinations among its global markets and has announced its restart with sailings in the Mediterranean and Caribbean this summer.

Eamonn Ferrin, vice-president and managing director for the UK, Ireland, Middle East and Africa, said there would be no UK departures or domestic sailings.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, he said: “We looked at this on a global level; we are a global brand, selling from over 70 countries worldwide.

“We did consider the UK but we felt the better options in the near-term were based on Europe, out of Greece, and our two Caribbean itineraries, which we think are still very strong for our British customers.”

The line will operate seven-day Greek Isles itineraries from Piraeus onboard Norwegian Jade from July 25, with Norwegian Joy sailing from Jamaica from August 7 and Norwegian Gem operating from the Dominican Republic from August 15.

Ferrin said: “If it is a choice between getting on a plane and going somewhere like the Caribbean or Greece in the summer and sailing around the UK, we felt the international option was a better option for us and for our customers.”

Harry Sommer, NCL president and chief executive, said: “In a typical year, NCL puts eight out of its 17 ships in Europe in the summer so clearly it is our number-one destination.

“Our number-one destination within Europe is the Greek isles.”

He said the line also looked at where American customers want to go, which is why Punta Cana and Montego Bay were chosen.

Sommer said the cruise line aims to offer the safest vacation experience “bar none”.

All passengers will need to be fully vaccinated and there will be Covid-19 tests and safety measures on the cruises such as quarantine cabins, social distancing, non-self-service buffets and shore excursion bubbles.

“Our goal, simply put, is to make our cruise ships the safest place on earth,” he told the webcast.

Ferrin said NCL customers in the UK have shown “a huge appetite” for booking cruises and the 2022-23 business has been “absolutely outstanding”.

However, there has been “a little bit of reticence” about cruises in the near-term because of the restrictions, he added.

Sommer said the first cruises will operate at 60% capacity, as the crews get acclimatised to the sailings. There will be two simulated cruises beforehand, with employees and travel partners, which will operate at 25% and 50% capacity.

He also highlighted the importance of building consumer confidence about the safety of cruising. To help explain the new safety measures, NCL has announced a behind-the-scenes series called EMBARK, which will talk to executives, partners such as the ports and suppliers as well as entertainers.

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