The cruise industry has faced a public perception problem since the start of the pandemic.
Like those of Walt Disney (SAY) – Get The Walt Disney Company Report theme parks and many other travel destinations, the cruise industry ceased operations almost as soon as the covid pandemic was declared in March 2020.
Once vaccines became widely available, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) very cautiously allowed ships to start sailing again last summer, although it still called cruising a high-risk activity. 4 at the start.
While major cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean International (RLC) – Get the Royal Caribbean group reportCarnival Cruise Lines (CCA) – Get Carnival Corporation report and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) – Get the report from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Always opt for high safety standards, the CDC has always taken a very cautious approach, gradually lowering the level of risk to navigation until its removal this spring.
The major lines all have rigid protocols in place and have all spent millions during the pandemic to upgrade their ships to make them safe for guests.
But even then, the industry has a built-in public perception problem, as Daniel Kline of The Street recently explained that “cruises last anywhere from three days to seven days or even longer and that means some people will be embarked and it will be blamed on the cruise industry.
This therefore means that the industry is well aware that while we all collectively want to get back to normal and put the pandemic behind us, reality is simply not cooperating, as the highly infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants have increased lately. .
The big three cruise lines have been reluctant to be the first to make big changes. But now that the relatively small cruise line Holland America (which is owned by Carnival Corp.) has dropped pre-cruise covid testing on a handful of cruises, one of the big players has decided to follow in its footsteps with its current flagship brand. .
Which cruise line dropped its testing requirement?
Norwegian Cruise Line has now followed Holland America’s lead and announced that from August 1, all of its lines (which include Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruise) will drop the covid testing requirement before the cruise, unless the country from which the ship departs requires it.
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But that last part is key here.
The United States recently dropped covid testing requirements for international travelers. This means people no longer have to test negative before they can board a flight.
In response, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents the majority of the cruise industry, called for a review of the pre-cruise testing requirement. But so far, the CDC has not made the requested change.
Holland America still requires proof of vaccination for guests age 12 or older, a rule that is also still followed by Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian.
So what does change mean?
At this time, there are no real changes for Norwegian Cruise Line ships departing from the United States, Canada, Greece or Bermuda, which will still require a pre-cruise covid test before boarding. aboard a ship. (The CDC doesn’t technically require this, but cruise lines have opted in to optional rules that require a pre-cruise covid test).
But as the Royal Caribbean blog pointed out, the change “will make it easier for North Americans traveling to Europe to book a cruise because it eliminates one more hoop to jump through.”
It’s unclear if Royal Caribbean or Carnival will follow Norwegian’s lead, or if the CDC will choose to remove the testing requirement in the near future. But experts seem to think it will be some time before there are major changes.
Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley recently said that “I think pre-cruise testing is going to last a few more months” and “obviously we want to get it back to normal, but we’re incredibly aware of our responsibilities to keep our crew, communities and guests safe.”
Carnival has also clearly started testing the waters, so to speak, with Holland America, but hasn’t made the switch to cruises from its namesake cruise line. Royal Caribbean has not dropped testing on any of the lines it owns.