Norwegian Cruise Line sets sail for first time since pandemic began

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Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings on Monday announced the launch of its first voyage since the COVID-19 pandemic brought the cruise industry to a grinding halt last year.

The company said its Norwegian Jade ship set sail from Athens, Greece, with a fully vaccinated population onboard as well as additional health measures including universal testing prior to boarding.

“Our long-awaited Great Cruise Comeback has officially commenced with the return of Norwegian Jade, the first ship in our fleet to resume cruising,” Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said in a statement.

He added that the company has announced further plans to resume cruising that extends into April 2022 — for all 28 ships in its fleet.

“We continue to see incredible pent-up demand for future cruise vacations and I look forward to welcoming our loyal guests back onboard,” he said.

The first Norwegian cruise to start in the US is scheduled for Aug. 7 aboard Norwegian Encore. It will sail to Alaska from Seattle, the company said.

Shares of Norwegian rose more than 2 percent in morning trading Monday.

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The cruise industry was among the first sectors to be hit hard by the coronavirus as it spread from Asia to Europe and across the world. Some of the earliest outbreaks outside China occurred on cruise ships, leading to at-sea quarantines and the deaths of some passengers.

Ships were quickly barred from carrying passengers in US waters and many other countries, with the then-director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying that cruise ship travel exacerbated the global spread of COVID-19.

Beginning in March 2020, data from the CDC showed more than 3,600 confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 on cruise ships in US waters, and at least 41 deaths.

The CDC said it has spent 38,000 person-hours handling just the cruise response to COVID-19, including contact tracing for 11,000 passengers.

Dozens of affected passengers have filed lawsuits saying the cruise companies failed to protect them and warn them about the virus, especially after an outbreak on Carnival’s Diamond Princess off the coast of Japan with more than 700 confirmed cases and nine deaths.

But now, with authorized vaccines and practiced safety measures, cruising is returning, with the first voyage in US waters taking place last month.

The stakes are high as the industry seeks to return to normal operations. The three industry giants — Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean — have had to raise more than $40 billion in financing during the past 16 months or so without revenue.

Collectively, they’ve lost well over $20 billion during the pandemic, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

With Post wires

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