Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings could commence trial cruises in January, CEO Frank Del Rio said in an earnings call with analysts.
“We think those sailings could start as early as early January,” Del Rio said in response to a question on the timeframe of the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which replaced its No-Sail Order in late October.
However, Del Rio said the company, the world’s third-largest, which operates Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and the Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands with a combined fleet of 28 ships, would not be rushing back into operation.
This is not a race for us. We want to get this 100 percent right. We’re stressing flawless execution. There’s still a lot to learn about the order,” Del Rio said.
Trial Cruises in December
“Don’t pin me down to an exact date,” he continued, “but I would tell you that there’s a chance that maybe some companies can start these trial cruises in December. We don’t forecast that we will be wanting to do so until probably sometime in January.”
The Conditional Sailing Order calls for simulated voyages to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk, certification for ships that meet specific requirements, and a phased return to cruise ship passenger voyages.
As for when the return of actual revenue sailings, Del Rio said: “We simply don’t know at this early stage when that is.”
The CDC order calls for 30 day trials for simulated voyages and then 60 days for revenue sailing, but Del Rio said that in Norwegian’s interpretation the periods were not sequential but concurrent and that they would be discussing this with the CDC in coming weeks.
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Norwegian Cruise CEO Del Rio encouraged by success of European cruises
Del Rio said Norwegian was encouraged by the success of European cruise operators which have now conducted cruises over the past couple of months with a very low incidence rate of infection thanks to 100 percent pre-board screenings and testing, as well as other mitigation measures.
“As cruising gradually resumes in other areas of the world, we continue to be encouraged by the success our peers have experienced, and we congratulate them for leading the way and demonstrating that the cruise industry can indeed safely operate in a pandemic environment,” Del Rio said. “We know it is impossible to fully eliminate all risks pertaining to COVID-19 anywhere in society, including on cruise ships. But with the appropriate science-backed protocols in place and now with the prospects of an effective vaccine and therapeutics, we have witnessed relaunched cruise ships dramatically reduce, control and manage these risks and even successfully contain and mitigate COVID-19 cases onboard.”