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Norwegian Cruise Line Says Test Sailings Could Begin in January; No Timeline for Cruise Restart
Norwegian Cruise Line Says Test Sailings Could Begin in January; No Timeline for Cruise Restart
Vaccine Mandate To Stay in Place "Indefinitely": Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Boss Frank Del Rio Says
Norwegian Encore (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Vaccine Mandate To Stay in Place "Indefinitely": Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Boss Frank Del Rio Says

Vaccine Mandate To Stay in Place "Indefinitely": Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Boss Frank Del Rio Says
Norwegian Encore (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

November 03, 2021

Aaron Saunders
News and Features Editor
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(2:10 p.m. EDT) -- Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and CEO Frank Del Rio told investors Wednesday that the company's sweeping mandatory vaccination policy will be extended "indefinitely" in the near future.

"We're going to announce very soon that we have indefinitely extended our 100 percent vaccination requirement," Del Rio said. "I think that continues to benefit our three brands. It's something we want to build on."

Del Rio has been unapologetic around the stringent vaccination policy, requiring all passengers sailing on the company's individual cruise lines -- which include Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania and luxury brand Regent Seven Seas -- to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, without exception.

That has meant families with unvaccinated children are, for the moment, not permitted to sail. It has also resulted in Del Rio going head-to-head with Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who has opposed organizations from requiring proof of vaccination within the state.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings won its injunction against the state in early August on requiring proof of vaccination , with Norwegian Gem becoming the first ship to set sail from the state of Florida under full vaccination mandates.

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At a media event in Seattle over the summer to celebrate the return to service of Norwegian Encore, Del Rio continued to drive home the importance of operating its cruises in a safe manner.

"It's not a tagline, it's not a slogan for us," Del Rio said in August. "As early as mid-March, we committed that we would not start cruise operations unless everyone onboard our vessels was 100 percent vaccinated."

At Wednesday's third-quarter earnings call with investors, Del Rio stated the company would continue on its full vaccination path for all three brands, even after the CDC's Conditional Sail Order expires (the current iteration is valid until January 15, 2022).

"The children's vaccination for 5-to-11 year old's were just announced and my understanding is sometime in (the first quarter of 2022), the same vaccination approval will be given for up to 4 year-olds," said Del Rio.

Asked by investors if he thought the vaccination mandate was hurting passenger load factors (the measure of how full a ship is), Del Rio did not hesitate.

"I do believe the target market that cruises is more likely than the general population to be vaccinated; we've seen time and time again where a past cruiser is significantly more likely to be vaccinated than those who don't cruise.

"We're not going to sacrifice the health and safety of anyone in order to add a point or two (to our overall load factor). We will continue to mandate vaccination for as long as the science tells us to."

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings expects to have 75 percent of its fleet back in service by the end of 2021. Del Rio indicated bookings for 2022 and 2023 were strong, and stated onboard spending was the highest in the company's history.

That echoes sentiments by Royal Caribbean Group in their own third-quarter call with investors, where record onboard revenue was reported across the company's multitude of brands.

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