It’s still not clear exactly when cruising will return, but when it does, the “phased in” approach seems to be gaining steam.
Norwegian Cruise Lines is the latest to announce they have plans to implement a gradual approach to return to sailing.
Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., gave some commentary on the plan in the company’s quarterly earnings call:
“With new protocols in place, coordination with ports and demand engines churning, what follows will be a phased relaunch of voyages. We expect sailings to restart with a handful of vessels, phasing in others over a period of 5 to 6 months before we have our full fleet back in operation.
“As I said earlier, as with many new endeavors, there will be fits and starts that will require the quick implementation of new protocols, which we will continue to adapt as we learn what works and as newer, more efficient and more cost-effective technologies evolve and become readily available.”
Providing more commentary on the roll-out of plans, Del Rio said that “roughly five vessels per month is what we believe we operationally could handle in terms of bringing back the ship from cold lay-up, including re-crewing the vessels, et cetera.”
A move to restart with a handful of ships is similar to what Carnival recently announced. Carnival officials said they would like to start cruising again in August with a handful of ships sailing from three ports — Miami, Port Canaveral, and Galveston.
With a phased-in approach, a cruise line would be better able to handle any hiccups regarding new procedures during a return to sailing. As well, it allows time to get crew back and ships ready to sail again after a layup.
There was no word given during the call as to which ports or which ships might get back to sailing first under this approach. Nor was there any anticipated return date given. Currently, Norwegian has suspended sailings through June.
Of course, this return to sailing all depends on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) ending its current “No Sail Order.” Without that being done, cruise ships won’t be allowed to sail in the United States.
As Norwegian’s CEO said in the conference call:
“The number one consideration today is to get the CDC to lift a no-sail order. That’s job one. Can’t go very far without that. And so we have to introduce a series — what I would refer to as a robust and comprehensive series, — of protocols that gives the CDC confidence that the environment onboard a cruise ship is healthy.”
“This is not an exercise of optics. This is not an exercise of, let’s get away with the minimum required. I want to do everything humanly possible within the bounds of what technology offers us today to be able to look my own family in the eye and say, “You are safe to go onboard our cruise ships.” And until we do that, respective of what the CDC or anybody else might say, we’re not going to operate. “
Right now the CDC order is set to end on July 24, but could be extended. Until then, expect cruise lines to continue to hone their plans for keeping passengers safe and healthy. We’d also expect in the weeks and months ahead that cruise lines come out with more concrete plans and specifics regarding the return to sailing.