Norwegian Cruise Line plans to restart its operations in July, hitting the seas after a 15-month pause, the line announced today. The first trip will be around the Greek islands, aboard the Norwegian Jade, which will leave Athens on July 25.
Later in the summer, two more Norwegian ships will start sailing the Caribbean: The Norwegian Joy will be sailing from Montego Bay, Jamaica, and the Norwegian Gem will depart Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
"It's time for the great cruise comeback," said Norwegian CEO Harry Sommer, in an interview with Travel + Leisure. "It's been too long — for many people — since they've been able to get out on the sea and do a cruise vacation."
The week-long itineraries are the first new trips Norwegian has offered since early 2020. Of course, the line has implemented a multitude of health and safety protocols because of the pandemic. The most notable is the requirement, announced by Norwegian's parent company on Monday, that all passengers and crew be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and present negative tests for the illness before and after the trip.
"We want great itineraries and we want great safety — I don't want to say one's more important than the other," said Sommer.
While the Caribbean and Greek itineraries are new, Sommer says the onboard experience will be exactly what fans of the cruise line have come to expect.
"Everything will be open," he said. "We have no restrictions from an activity perspective — we're gonna be operating our full shows at night, all the bars and lounges will be open, the hot tubs, the pools, the spa, the virtual reality, the laser tag, the race track, the Haven area."
"We want to provide a vacation experience that's as close [as possible] to the NCL experience in the pre-COVID world," Sommer added.
The announcement comes a day after Norwegian's parent company, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said it was targeting a July resumption of service, in a letter addressed to Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The company also operates Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.)
"With vaccine mandates and strict health and safety protocols in place," wrote NCLH president and CEO Frank del Rio, "we are confident of our ability to provide a uniquely safe and healthy vacation environment."
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