Perplexed, flabbergasted and outraged.
Those were the three words Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) CEO Frank Del Rio used to describe the latest cruise guidance issued by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control, which, on Wednesday (May 5), revealed the next two phases of its framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).
What was initially thought to be a positive step forward for resuming cruises out of U.S. ports – ideally, by this summer – the CDC’s guidance, says Del Rio, won’t allow for a summer restart due to its tough requirements.
"I seriously doubt we will be able to stand up a vessel out of a U.S. port in July. August is also in jeopardy and it’s all because of the disjointed guidelines from the CDC," Del Rio told the media on Friday.
Del Rio expressed his concerns in a call with investors on Thursday (May 6).
“We’re perplexed…We’re flabbergasted. We’re outraged,” the CEO was quoted as saying, asking why the cruise industry is being singled out from airlines and other businesses.
The head of NCLH, which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, said “it appears the path forward is a bit rockier and a bit steeper than originally expected," reports say.
READ MORE: NCLH to CDC: Hey, can you get back to us?
The CDC’s updated guidelines will allow cruise companies to start simulated trips and apply for COVID-19 conditional sailing certificates with volunteer passenger voyages.
The new guidelines do not allow opportunities to launch ships in July, which NCLH was originally hoping for, because it takes 90 days to start up a ship, Del Rio Said.
When NCLH came out with its full vaccination plan and asked CDC to waive the CSO on April 6, there was time to get ships in service by July, he said.
Part of that plan was a commitment to sailing with 100% vaccinated guests and crew aboard.
One month later, and the CDC has yet to address the plan, even as previous reports have indicated that the CDC was interested in resuming U.S. cruises by mid-summer, pegging mid-July as a potential starting point.
NCLH, now, is focused on starting up its first six ships outside the U.S. in July, August and September.
"We have never seen this level of demand in the history of the company,” said Del Rio, noting the substantial bookings the company has secured for 2022.
The CEO expressed his hope that his twice-weekly calls with the CDC will help improve the situation.
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