Could the day be on the horizon when vaccinations — currently one of the most universal requirements in cruising — are no longer required to set sail?
To be sure, that day is not here yet, but at least in one expert’s opinion it is possible one day, possibly next spring if the situation continues to go well.
That comes from Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the FDA, a noted expert on the pandemic, and the Chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ SailSAFE Council.
During a webcast conversation between Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Dr. Gottlieb, he was asked when he thought the cruise company might no longer have to mandate vaccines to take a cruise.
“I think that it’s likely to be a requirement that is in place through this fall and winter,” Dr. Gottlieb responded. “I’m talking more about CDC and the policy environment. I think that the public health officials — CDC — is going to want to see what the epidemiology of this disease is when it gets to a quote, unquote, ‘normal’ state.
“I think CDC is going to want to see what does that looks like. We’ll hopefully get our first glimpse of that this year. This is like a transition year. Then they’ll make decisions about whether or not they continue to require vaccines in certain settings.
“The short answer to the question is, I think this is kind of a springtime thing from a CDC policy standpoint. They are going to want to make a decision around this after we get through another fall and winter with Covid and see if we are truly in an endemic phase with this.”
No longer requiring vaccines would mark a major shift in cruise policy. Currently, Norwegian has some of the strictest vaccine requirements of any cruise line.
Norwegian Cruise Line just began to allow kids under 12 to sail on its ships after loosening requirements that previously called for all passengers to be vaccinated. Other cruise lines owned by the company — Regent and Oceania — still require all passengers and crew to be vaccinated.
Future Waves “Less and Less Likely”
During the 45-minute update, Dr. Gottlieb touched on several interesting points regarding the virus situation in general, as well as its impact on cruises.
First, he pointed out that case numbers of trending much lower, citing 19 cases per 100,000 people per day in the general population. Gottlieb said that anything below 10 was “historically perceived as very low levels of prevalence.”
And while the situation isn’t quite at that mark, he also mentioned that we are in a different environment where there is a more transmissible variant and the country is doing a lot more testing.
“We’re probably going to pick up more infections and those infections are probably going to be less consequential on the whole than what it was last year, or certainly two years ago,” Dr. Gottlieb said. “Being at 19 cases per 100,000 people per day is pretty low prevalence.”
Of course, the world has seen dips in cases before before variants caused spikes. So what about the threat of a new wave that creates another hurdle, similar to what was seen with Delta and Omicron?
In his opinion, Dr. Gottlieb doesn’t see that as likely.
“I think it’s becoming less and less likely that we’re going to see these sort of successive waves of infections from new variants,” Gottlieb said.
“To sum up, I think that we’re likely to have a quiet spring and summer. It’s likely to be pretty low prevalence. I think people are going to be looking to get back to doing things they enjoy and feel relatively comfortable doing it.”
And yes, that includes cruising… even for someone like Dr. Gottlieb who has been in the middle of tracking the pandemic.
Gottlieb Himself “Looking Forward to Cruising Again”
During the call, the doctor revealed he himself has plans to cruise this summer.
“I’m going to be taking a cruise with my kids and my family and another family that we’re friends with and try to convince my parents to come as well.” Gottlieb shared.
“I feel very confident. I think that we’re going to be in an environment where prevalence will be low. Looking forward to getting back to a semblance of normalcy this summer. Looking forward to cruising again.”
“As you know, I used to take cruises. I haven’t in a while, but I’m looking forward to doing that this summer.”
Dr. Gottlieb returning to sailing may be the biggest vote of confidence imaginable for the cruise industry.