In a remarkable day of firsts, on Sunday Norwegian Cruise Line marked its first ship to sail from Florida since cruises were suspended in 2020.
In addition, when Norwegian Gem welcomed guests aboard in Miami, it also marked the first time the cruise line’s new flagship Terminal B was put in use by passengers and the first 100% vaccinated cruise from Florida.
“It has been an exhilarating few weeks as we relaunch our fleet, reunite with our shipboard families and welcome our guests back for their long-awaited cruise vacations,” said NCL CEO Harry Sommer.
“Today is even more special as it is the first time we are relaunching from our hometown and from the new NCL Terminal at PortMiami.”
The cruise line already returned to sailing in Greece late last month, as well U.S. trips from Seattle aboard Norwegian Encore last weekend. Gem represents the third ship in the fleet to return. In total, NCL anticipates having 11 of its 17 ships back sailing by the end of the year.
Norwegian Gem is scheduled to sail the Caribbean and Bahamas from Miami until mid-October. At that point it will switch to sailing from New York.
Operating Out of NCL’s New Miami Terminal
The ship made history in other ways as well. First, it will forever be known as the first ship to sail from NCL’s new flagship Terminal B in Miami with passengers.
On the east end of the port near Royal Caribbean’s Terminal A, the 188,000 square-foot facility can handle up to 5,000 guests per ship. The design is inspired by a nautilus and it is the latest in a series of terminals in Miami that aim to make a prominent statement with the unique building design.
Instead of building terminals that are largely warehouses to move passengers from the ground to the ship, these new terminals are meant to be works of art themselves. Terminal B was also built to LEED Gold standards according to the company.
Sailing With a 100% Vaccination Requirement
But given everything that has happened in the past year-and-a-half, the biggest news about the sailing is that it marked the first Florida cruise to depart with all passengers and crew vaccinated.
At this point, NCL is the first and only cruise line to offer Florida cruises with everyone onboard having the shot.
Meeting this milestone has not been easy for the cruise line, and it is still in flux. Florida law says that businesses in the state can’t require proof of vaccination from customers. So far, other lines like Royal Caribbean have sailed by encouraging vaccines and implementing testing charges, travel insurance requirements, and restrictions on where unvaccinated passengers can congregate.
Norwegian, however, wants to sail fully vaccinated. To do so, they went so far as to file a suit against Florida’s Surgeon General. A judge ruled in NCL’s favor prior to the August 15 sailing, making it the lone cruise line that can require proof of vaccination from Florida at this time.
The legal process will continue to play out, so it’s not sure if the exemption from the law is permanent. For now at least, everyone sailing the cruise line from Florida — including kids — must have proof of vaccination to sail.
In addition to the vaccine requirement, Norwegian also tests all passengers before boarding, no matter their vaccination status. The cruise line has also put in place new medical procedures and improved air filtration on the ship.