Norwegian Cruise Line is putting three of its ships back in the water after a one-year pandemic hiatus, with plans to resume sailings in the Greek islands and the Caribbean in late July and August.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. announced that a bipartisan team of governors from five states and Puerto Rico signed on to a letter he forwarded to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the St. Thomas native serving as the chairwoman of President Biden’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, asking the CDC to issue updated regulations to expedite the reopening of cruise ports in the United States.
The co-signers are Governors Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico, Ralph Northam of Virginia, Larry Hogan of Maryland, John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, David Ige of Hawaii and Mike Dunleavy of Alaska.
According to a statement from Government House, Bryan asked Walensky to have the CDC issue updated guidance that will help cruise lines and ports fully resume operations and open up dialogue on how the federal government can work with states and territories to make it possible for the cruise industry to generate tourism-related dollars in the affected jurisdictions.
The cruise line expects that the limited reopenings announced Tuesday will attract many Americans, even if the ships can’t stop at U.S. ports.
The company said that all passengers and crew members will need to be fully vaccinated and tested for COVID-19 before boarding.
Norwegian on Tuesday canceled all July and August trips on 10 of its 17 ships that would normally visit Alaska, northern Europe and the Mediterranean.
The line will offer seven-day trips around the Greek Isles leaving from Athens starting in late July and sailings from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic on two other ships starting in August.
CEO Harry Sommer said Greece is the cruise line’s top European destination and he expects the Greek government to allow Americans to travel to the country as soon as May or June.
For its first Caribbean cruises, the company picked Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for departures because of plentiful airline service from the United States.
Sommer predicted that more than 90% of the passengers will be Americans.
Cruising in U.S. waters is still barred by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with no set date for a restart.
Norwegian’s Miami-based parent company pressed CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday for permission to resume sailing in U.S. waters July 4. The company has not received a response.
“It will take them a few days to study this,” Sommer said in an interview. “If we don’t hear back in a week or so, we’ll reach out to them again. We’ll be patient for now.”
Sommer said his line still hopes to launch U.S. cruises this summer, perhaps to Alaska or Hawaii or from a U.S. port to Bermuda.
“The places that we’re going to, they want us to come,” he said. “We aren’t going anywhere where the governments aren’t comfortable accepting cruise passengers.”
In his letter, Gov. Bryan said, “We know the cruise industry is poised to make a comeback. Given the central role of tourism to our local and regional economies, this would be a welcome development. This of course depends on when our ports and the cruise lines can and will be able to reopen and under what conditions.”
Bryan cited the 2018 Economic Impact Analysis, which highlights the impact the cruise industry continues to have on the global economy. In the United States, the cruise industry had an economic impact of over $52.7 billion in total contributions in 2018 and marked a notable increase of over 10% since 2016, according to Government House.
Further, the statement noted that about 13 million cruise passengers worldwide embarked from ports in the United States in 2018, and they spent a record $23.96 billion those ports — a 33% increase since 2010.
“Additionally, 2018 saw a new peak in the cruise industry’s U.S. expenditures, generating 421,711 jobs across the United States and contributing more than $23.15 billion in wages and salaries, a nearly 13% increase since 2016,” Bryan said, referencing data from the Economic Impact Analysis.