Cruises unfairly targeted for honest Covid reporting, says CEO

US rule says all illness aboard US-docking ships must be reported

Lucy Thackray
Monday 17 January 2022 12:44 GMT
<p>NCL cruise liner Norwegian Sun</p>

NCL cruise liner Norwegian Sun

The chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Lines has said that his industry is being unfairly targeted for transparently reporting its Covid-19 cases.

Speaking at an online webinar for travel advisors on Thursday, Frank Del Rio said his industry was the target of “cheap headlines” due to cruise ships “diligently” reporting the number of passengers who had tested positive on each voyage.

Media outlets are “taking advantage of the fact that our industry offers robust testing, that we track cases and that we diligently report them to the CDC and other public health administrations,” Del Rio told Dr. Scott Gottlieb, chairman of Norwegian’s SailSAFE Global Health and Wellness Council.

“It’s something that no other industries are required to do - not hotels, resorts, theme parks, airlines or any other part of hospitality.

“So there are different rules for the cruise industry, and those rules, which help public safety, are something that hurts our industry in uncountable ways.

“They take this news and they sensationalise it for a cheap headline. We’re the only industry that they pick on because of our honesty in the way that we report cases.

“It’s something that we have to live with, but it’s something certainly none of us like,” he added.

Ships which dock in the US are required to report any instances of crew or passenger illness aboard to the CDC, including positive tests for Covid-19.

This has led to media coverage of several outbreaks onboard ships stopping in the US, including Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, which saw 48 passengers test positive in December, as well as the cruise line’s Odyssey of the Seas, which saw 55 positive cases the same month.

Meanwhile, 17 passengers aboard NCL’s Norwegian Breakaway ship were reported to have tested positive when it docked in New Orleans in early December.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said that each person who had tested positive on the Symphony immediately went into quarantine, while six people who had tested positive onboard had already disembarked the ship mid-voyage.

Those who tested positive were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, said the statement.

Royal Caribbean requires that all passengers over 12 be double jabbed, while Norwegian Cruise Lines require all passengers be fully vaccinated regardless of age.

In the same conversation, Mr Del Rio said that he expected NCL to be fully operational by spring 2022.

“While these near-term cancellations and other disruptions that Omicron is causing is disappointing and frustrating, I firmly believe that it will not impact our cruise industry and our three brands’ ability to have our full fleet operating by late spring,” he told Dr Gottlieb.

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