Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. has asked federal health authorities to let it sail from U.S. ports starting July 4, saying its vaccination requirement for passengers and crew is a sufficient precaution against Covid-19.
The cruise operator said Monday that its Covid-19 vaccination policy matches the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance that travel poses low risks for fully vaccinated individuals. Norwegian, which has suspended sailings through the end of June, and other major cruise lines haven’t sailed in the U.S. since coronavirus outbreaks on ships brought voyages to a halt last year.
The company is requiring passengers and crew to be vaccinated at least two weeks before embarking on the ship. Norwegian said the vaccination requirement eliminates the need for the CDC’s conditional-sailing order, which requires cruise operators to conduct mock sailings and apply for a certificate at least 60 days before offering passenger cruises.
Despite the CDC’s determination that travel is a low-risk activity for people who have been vaccinated, officials still advise against it as Covid-19 cases rise in the U.S. The CDC still recommends against travel on cruise ships because of the “very high” risk of Covid-19 on such vessels.
The CDC maintains that it will follow the phased approach outlined in its conditional-sailing order, a spokesman said in a written statement. “Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult,” the statement said. “While cruising will always pose some risk of Covid-19 transmission, following the phases of the conditional sailing order will ensure cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel; particularly, with emerging Covid-19 variants of concern.”