Norwegian Cruise Line Removes Vaccine Mandate After More Than a Year of Strict Protocols | Travel Research Online


Norwegian Cruise Line Removes Vaccine Mandate After More Than a Year of Strict Protocols

Harry Sommer, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line

On October 4, Norwegian Cruise Line became one of the latest major cruise lines to roll back its requirement for passengers to present proof of a COVID-19 vaccination in order to sail. After more than 14 months of adhering to the protocols put forth by the company’s Sail Safe panel — which includes medical experts such as Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the USDA, and Dr. Stephen Ostroff, former acting commissioner of the FDA —Norwegian received the corporate go-ahead to waive any masking, testing, or vaccination requirements for passengers.

Other travel companies, including Disney Cruise Line, have recently rescinded vaccine requirements. Disney no longer requires proof of vaccination for guests sailing from Florida as of October 7.

At a recent press conference in Manhattan onboard the line’s newest ship, Norwegian Prima, Harry Sommer, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, told us that the panel was consulted in August 2022 about when the right time would be to loosen COVID-19-related protocols.

“Everywhere you now go in the world, from supermarkets to sports stadiums to hotels and airplanes, there are unvaccinated and untested people there with you. So at this point, we believe that the natural immunity that comes from people who are either already vaccinated or who have had a recent bout of COVID — or both — is the overwhelming majority of the population,” Sommer said. “So it’s in this environment that the risks of COVID have much diminished.

“At the same time, within the public health space, we saw some of the bigger countries close to home that [Norwegian Cruise Line] visits — the Bahamas, Canada, Bermuda, and countries in Europe —all relaxed their protocols. So, on the one hand, our experts believe it is safe for the reasons I mentioned, and on the other side, most of the countries we visit — with the exception of Japan or Australia – have relaxed protocols. We believe the combination of those two things allows cruising to be safe.”

Sommer reiterated that Norwegian still requires 100 percent of the crew to be fully vaccinated and boosted and that each crew member is tested monthly, at the minimum. “We’ve been happy with those results,” Sommer said.

As part of Norwegian’s “Great Cruise Comeback” Alaska sailing in August 2021, round trip from Seattle aboard Norwegian Encore, the ship’s limited capacity of passengers were required to be fully vaccinated; take a PCR test at the pier prior to boarding; mask in public areas of the ship; and depending on residency, some passengers tested prior to disembarkation as well. In August and October 2021, press sailings incorporated guests from the Sail Safe panel, emphasizing the importance of testing, masking, distancing, sanitation, and airflow.

It’s important to note that health and safety requirements, including proof of vaccination, still vary depending on the point of origin and destination for any cruise itinerary.

Other cruise lines under the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Inc. umbrella, including Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, may no longer require vaccination, but they might ask for a negative test result taken within 72 hours of embarkation.

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