Norwegian Cruise Line reported a $1.4 billion net loss for the first quarter of 2021, which comes as no surprise considering most ships have been docked since the pandemic began.
But U.S. cruise ships are one step closer to setting sail again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has laid out new guidance to allow cruise operations to begin after being on hold for more than a year. One way cruise lines can qualify to restart is by conducting “trial” voyages to test the efficacy of new safety measures before paying passengers come on board.
Passengers for the test cruises must be vaccinated or prove they don’t have any health issues. They’d be on board for at least seven days, free of charge, and then get tested for COVID at the end.
College student Gilbert Escobedo in San Antonio, Texas, said he would be more than happy to volunteer. He said he’s been yearning for a relaxing vacation, and he’s fully vaccinated. “I think that now I’m feeling pretty comfortable health-wise.”
There will likely be plenty of demand, according to Assia Georgieva, a cruise industry analyst with Infinity Research. But, she said, most lines will probably not opt to do trial voyages, and instead will require universal vaccination. That’s another way to meet CDC requirements.
“It would be horrific for the industry, not just for one brand or for one company, if there was a COVID outbreak,” Georgieva said.
After all, she said, cruise ship outbreaks made big headlines last year and the companies are eager to leave those pandemic associations in their wake.