Norwegian Cruise Line cancels more sailings amid COVID-19 surge
Add Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Joy to the list of Norwegian Cruise Line ships that are pausing operations amid the surge in COVID-19 cases in North America.
Norwegian late Tuesday announced the three Florida-based vessels would halt operations through late January.
For all three ships, the next sailing now will begin on Jan. 29.
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Norwegian also extended a previously announced pause to operations for two more of its Florida-based ships: Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Getaway.
Those two vessels will return to service on Jan. 28.
The announcement came just six days after Norwegian canceled sailings as far out as April on eight ships -- nearly half its fleet.
With the new cancellations, 12 of Norwegian's 17 vessels are now out of service. That's about 70% of the Norwegian fleet.
The cancellations come as cruise lines struggle along with all other types of travel providers to deal with the surge in COVID-19 cases sweeping the world. In the U.S., nearly 800,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday -- nearly 10 times the number that were testing positive just a few weeks ago.
While cruise ships have recorded relatively few cases of COVID-19 over the past year, in part due to unusually strict health protocols, the number of passengers and crew testing positive on ships has been rising sharply in recent weeks along with the greater surge on land. The rise in cases on ships has led to disruptions to sailings as some ports have balked at allowing ships to call or tightened entry requirements to a point that has made it difficult for ships to comply.
Related: Everything you need to know about the current situation on ships
Some cruise ships also have had to contend with crew shortages that have resulted from the need to isolate crew who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The challenges to operating in such an environment has led a growing number of cruise lines to cancel soon-to-depart sailings in recent days, including Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Silversea, Atlas Ocean Voyages, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises and Oceania Cruises.
Related: Royal Caribbean pauses operations of four ships
But Norwegian has been by far the most aggressive line in shutting down operations on a temporary basis.
"The health and safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our number one priority," the line said in a notice about the changes posted late Tuesday on its website.
The wave of cancellations are the biggest since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when the entire cruise industry shut down in a matter of days. Most of the world's major cruise lines remained shut down for well more than a year afterward.
For now, there is little talk in the industry of such a widespread shutdown. Even the lines that are canceling sailings have said they expected the ships to be back in operation soon.
Passengers on the canceled Norwegian sailings will receive a full refund, the line said on Tuesday. In addition, they'll receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 10% of the fare that they had paid. The credit can be applied to any sailing through May 31, 2023.
After restarting operations around the world over the past year, cruise lines have implemented unusually strict health protocols that go far beyond what is typical at land-based resorts and on airplanes. Many lines require all passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to undergo COVID-19 testing before boarding ships.
A small but growing number of lines in recent days have added a booster shot requirement, too.
In addition, lines often require passengers to wear masks while onboard ships and keep socially distant.
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