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Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. president and CEO Frank Del Rio hinted that the company could potentially position its three brands, including Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, to other markets outside of Florida amid Gov. Ron DeSantis' controversial push for a new state law banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Set to go into effect on July 1, the law would ban businesses from requiring vaccinations, but it's unclear whether it would apply to cruise lines sailing out of Florida and into international waters.
"We hope that this doesn't become a legal football or a political football," Del Rio said during the company's first-quarter 2021 earnings call on Thursday, sharing that bookings for the first half of 2022 were ahead of pre-pandemic levels despite revenue plunging more than 99 percent to $3.1 million in the first three months of 2021. "But, at the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders, and God forbid we can't operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, there are other states where we do operate from. [Or] we can operate from the Caribbean...we certainly hope it doesn't come to that."
The company has previously said that it will require all passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on sailings through at least October 31, 2021. Currently, the Centers and Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising cruise lines aiming to restart operations out of U.S. ports with a rule that at least 98 percent of crew members and 95 percent of passengers are vaccinated.
"Things might be different six months from now or a year from now. But today with the pandemic still being front-and-center in everybody's mind, and we're just getting out of the worst part of it, I think everyone should be wanting to start cruising in the safest possible manner, and that's exactly what the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings plan does," he added. "Everyone wants to operate out of Florida. It's a very lucrative market. It's a close-drive market. But (the Florida law is) an issue. You can't ignore it. We hope that everyone is pushing in the same direction, which is that we want to resume cruising in a safe manner."
Del Rio also provided a business update on Thursday's call, confirming that the company continues to work with the CDC toward the safe resumption of sailings from U.S. ports.
As of early May, the cruise line is scheduled to resume operations on July 25, 2021, sailing Greek Isles itineraries out of Athens. Norwegian's Caribbean sailings are slated to pick back up on August 7. Oceania Cruises will restart cruising on August 29 while Regent Seven Seas Cruises will begin sailing from the U.K. on September 11.
A Maryland native and wanderer who has lived across the U.S. from North Carolina to SoCal, Patrick Clarke graduated from Towson...
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