Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, spoke on Thursday morning along with Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Chairman of the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings SailSAFE Global Health and Wellness Council.
Del Rio said the company, which operates the Norwegian, Regent and Oceania brands, had spared no expense to operate safely and he still plans to have the company’s full fleet operating by late spring.
“We have made every effort (and) spared no expense to have the most stringent protocols in the hospitality and leisure space,” he said, on a webinar for media and travel partners. “We will simply not take risks with the well-being of our crew and our guests for the sake of profit.”
Commenting on close-in voyage cancellations, Del Rio said that the virus was spreading quickly, but also disappearing quickly.
“With the rapid spread of Omicron across the globe our industry has gotten a lot of press. Most of it negative press,” he continued. “And all of it has been biased to some degree … 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 said the different rules for the cruise industry for public safety had hurt the business.
“The media and even some politicians turn to this hard data that we provide and they take this news and sensationalize it for a cheap headline. We are the only industry they can pick on because of our honesty,” he continued, adding that the industry had survived two years of “this monster” and told travel advisors it was not time to quit.
Dr. Gottlieb stressed that he thought the Omicron wave was peaking in parts of the U.S. and some areas of the country would see the same in a few weeks before cases start going down. That, combined with new treatments, should paint a positive picture of the future.
Onboard, Dr. Gottlieb said the cruise industry had the ability to tightly control the environment and noted that Norwegian had invested heavily in onboard therapeutics and testing.
“The cruising environment lends itself to being able to introduce those measures.”
Del Rio admitted that the Omicron timing had a dampening effect on wave season.
Dr. Gottlieb mentioned that he felt confident there would be a low prevalence of COVID this summer, and people would be back to traveling and consumer confidence would be up.
In light of the past two years, Del Rio said: “Continue to expect the unexpected and adapt.”