2020 was a long year for the cruise and travel industry, but the fact that the United States is currently administering more than 1 million COVID-19 vaccines per day is a giant step forward for a return to normal operation. While there’s been plenty of focus on cruise passengers getting vaccinated, many are wondering if crew members will need vaccinations as well before cruise lines can resume sailing.
Norwegian Cruise Line President & CEO Harry Sommer joined Porthole Cruise Magazine founder and Editor-in-Chief Bill Panoff to talk about their approach to vaccinations and what they’re doing to help protect their employees along with their passengers.
Will NCL Secure COVID-19 Vaccines for their Crew?
When asked if NCL would have enough vaccinations for the entire crew across their fleet, Sommer expressed confidence that despite some availability issues, the cruise line would be able to secure enough vaccines for everyone as the vaccine rollout speeds up around the world.
“We’re working very hard with government authorities, we’re working very hard with the manufacturers of vaccines to get a pipeline to allow our crew to be vaccinated. So it’s our intention to do so, but obviously everything is subject to vaccine availability. Things adjust over time but we’re pretty confident that over time, we’ll certainly be able to vaccinate all our crew,” he said.
When asked about restrictions seen on cruises in Europe like pre-planned shore excursions, Sommer was hopeful that those precautions wouldn’t be necessary, but that some elements of health and safety developed during the pandemic may continue into the future.
“It’s our hope that one day in the future, not exactly sure when that’s going to be, that this pandemic is behind us and I think at that point, it’s our hope, it’s our intention, that cruising returns back to the way it was back in 2019. I think some of the lessons we learned in terms of safety and protocol will continue. I think things like taking people’s temperature a little more often, things like making the embarkation process a bit more seamless are innovations that can continue,” he said.
Sommer was also asked about the Key West voter referendum which limited both the size of ships and daily disembarkations in port and the bill currently in the Florida Legislature that would void the referendum.
“NCL didn’t visit Key West on a very regular basis so it didn’t necessarily impact us directly, but on a more broad note, we are big fans of taking our guests to places that they want to go and to go to places that want us to be there. We want to be great partners with local places. Key West isn’t the first cruise port that has restrictions, there are restrictions in countries in the Baltics, for example, on emissions around ships and things along those lines. There are restrictions in Venice on the size of ships. We work very closely with ports around the world based on what the requirements are. We respect locals and what they want and we want to be good partners wherever we go,” he said.
Could Cruise Ships Return to Cuba?
One of the most sought-after cruise destinations in the entire world is Cuba. In 2014, the U.S. government began relaxing travel restrictions to the island nation and cruise lines jumped at the chance to bring guests to a place they most likely had never been before. However, in 2019, the country was once again closed to leisure travel. Sommer was asked if he’d like to see the new Presidential administration relax restrictions once more so cruises could sail to Cuba.
“Clearly we see new President Biden mirroring a lot of the policies of President Obama from a few years ago so there’s hope, but I think it’s too early to make any predictions on what’s going to happen,” he said.
In 2017, Norwegian Cruise Line offered four-day roundtrip cruises from Miami to Cuba on Norwegian Sky, the largest ship sailing to Cuba of any cruise line. The trip featured an overnight stay in the country’s capital of Havana and was wildly popular among cruisers.
Watch the full interview with Norwegian Cruise Line President & CEO Harry Sommer below!