(12:43 p.m. EDT) -- Norwegian Cruise Line announced Wednesday it will extend its health and safety protocols relating to COVID-19 for all departures up to and including December 31, 2021.
Norwegian had previously announced its health and safety protocols, which include the requirement that all passengers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and participate in rapid antigen testing at the pier -- were previously set to expire on November 1 of this year.
The news follows the line's successful restart of cruise operations around the globe, with Norwegian Jade relaunching cruises in Greece; Norwegian Encore in Alaska; and Norwegian Gem in the Caribbean from Florida -- all with 100 percent testing and vaccination requirements, without exception.
“Under the guidance of globally recognized public health experts and to prioritize the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit, we have decided to extend guest vaccination requirements for all sailings through December 31, 2021," Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement. "Guests who are not old enough to be vaccinated will not be allowed on these sailings.
"However, we eagerly await an expansion of the age criteria for vaccinations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration so we can once again welcome these guests back on board. "
Other cruise lines have made similar choices in recent days. River cruise operator Avalon Waterways recently extended its mandate for passengers to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all sailings through March 2022.
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During a press conference onboard Norwegian Encore en-route to Alaska, Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Harry Sommer echoed sentiments similar to Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings top boss Frank Del Rio: that the line would not drop its 100 percent vaccination mandate as other lines have done, carrying up to five percent unvaccinated passengers.
"On a ship this size, five percent represents 200 passengers and 100 crew," Sommer told media onboard. "So that means on a ship this size, you can have under the CDC guidance 300 unvaccinated people.
"I don't want to be in a situation -- I won't be in a situation -- where as a company we have the potential to expose 300 people to COVID."