Norwegian Cruise Lines Extends Suspension Through November

Despite the CDC recently announcing an extension of their “No Sail Order” until October 31 — which matches up with the cruise industry’s own voluntary suspension date — Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. announced today that it is halting cruises across all lines through November 30.

The company released the following statement:

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (“Norwegian” or “the Company”) (NYSE: NCLH), a leading global cruise company which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, today announced an extension of its previously announced suspension of global cruise voyages to include all voyages embarking between November 1 through November 30, 2020 for its three cruise brands. The Company will continue to work in tandem with global government and public health authorities and its Healthy Sail Panel expert advisors to take all necessary measures to protect its guests, crew and the communities visited. Guests who are currently booked on cancelled voyages on Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises or Regent Seven Seas Cruises are asked to contact their travel advisor or the cruise line for more information.

Previously, Norwegian had canceled cruises through the end of October — in line with major competitors like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and the industry as a whole. This extension adds another 30 days to its return to sailing.

Since the company’s last announcement, however, the health crisis has continued. Cases and deaths continue to be high, and the recent announcement of many members of the Trump Administration falling ill has put the headlines squarely back on COVID.

What’s notable is not so much that Norwegian announced another suspension, but the fact that the company is part of the force behind “Healthy Sail Panel.” This panel of experts is a joint force between Norwegian and Royal Caribbean aimed to come up with plans to return to sailing safely.

The panel recently released an exhaustive 74-point report outlining recommendations to keep passengers healthy during their cruise. Included in this report were recommendations like facemasks, social distancing, reduced capacity onboard with cabin spaces to quarantine sick passengers and crew, and much more.

Since Norwegian was a driving force behind this panel and still wants more time before sailing again points to the challenges of returning to cruising from the United States.

Challenges to Returning to Sail

Norwegian Cruise Lines funnel

First and foremost is the task of implementing dozens of new policies and procedures to keep passengers as safe as possible during the cruise. This includes drastic new measures about how cruises are organized and revamping the onboard — and onshore — experience. But that’s also just one part of the return.

There is also working with the United States government to get the green light to sail. And since cruises must visit foreign ports, cruise lines also have to work with foreign governments to get approval to sail and debark passengers.

Beyond that, there are challenges of bringing crew back to the ship from around the world, and the time needed to prepare ships from their extended layups.

In short, there are an amazing number of hurdles to overcome to get back to sailing. Meanwhile, at this point it’s not even certain the industry as a whole will restart at the end of October following the end of the current CDC “No Sail Order.” (That order could be extended.)

With the CDC’s extension of just 30 days, it has left only a few short weeks for cruise lines to prepare for a sailing that may or may not happen. That definitely appears to be a challenge.

With that in mind, Norwegian announcing the extension isn’t so surprising. It could be that other lines announce their own modifications to allow more time to prepare. For instance, Carnival said they will only sail from two ports beginning in November.

Should Norwegian get back to sailing at the beginning of December, it would mark eight-and-a-half months since it suspended cruises back in March.

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