• Tom Drake

Hedging his bet, Del Rio sending his ships outside the U.S.

Norwegian Joy, Jade and Gem will start sailing in July and August.

One day after asking the CDC to allow their ships to sail again from the U.S., Norwegian Cruise Line announced that three of their ships will sail from outside the U.S.

The Norwegian Jade from Athens, offering seven-day Greek Isles cruises beginning July 25. The Norwegian Joy follows with weeklong cruises from Montego Bay, Jamaica, starting Aug. 7, and the Norwegian Gem will sail from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on Aug. 15.

Norwegian President Harry Sommer also offered his thoughts on the new vaccine requirement. "We're happy to start slowly, and we recognize that it's unfortunate that perhaps there'll be some families with children that can't join our cruises, but we really feel an obligation to our guests and our crew and the places we visit to do this absolutely as safe as we can and at the same time, we believe this provides a compelling argument to the CDC to allow us to start in the U.S., and we certainly wouldn't want to have different protocols for our ships starting in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. For us, safety is universal, and we want one set of protocols for our entire fleet."

Sommer also spoke to monitored tours. "Come September, as things continue to evolve and we have a really good experience on our ships, we believe that we'll be able to allow guests to go off the ships on their own," Sommer said. "Keeping in mind that everyone's going to be 100% vaccinated, part of the hesitation in July and August is we also want to make sure that the majority of the population in the places we're visiting are vaccinated, as well, and hope to know there's a path to get there in the places we're visiting by September."

Sommer also said they are starting these ships now because they can. "We're trying to start up ships in the U.S., as well, so we don't necessarily want to front-run that experience," Sommer said of the Greece and Caribbean relaunch dates. "We know we can start up these three ships because we already have the approval from the governments of Greece, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, along with all the ports that we're visiting on these ships. We don't yet have approval from the United States."

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