With Pfizer soon planning to ask for authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine for children under 12, at least one cruise line is hopeful that kids may be back onboard by Christmas.
Most of the major cruise ships sailing from U.S. ports either cap the number of unvaccinated children able to cruise or disallow them entirely with vaccine mandates.
Among the lines that cater heavily to families, Norwegian Cruise Line is the only one whose vaccine mandate does not allow any children under 12 onboard. Unlike Carnival Cruise Line, which adheres to the CDC’s 95% vaccination rule for its ships, and Royal Caribbean International, which mandates vaccinations only for those eligible, NCL has a fleetwide policy of 100% vaccination of crew and guests.
But NCL CEO Harry Sommer said in an interview that he is optimistic that the vaccine’s expected approval for kids as young as 5 will mean children will be back onboard by the holidays.
“Someone who wants to come on for Christmas and has their kids get their first shots — then they’re ready to go,” he said. “There’s no lack of vaccine in this country, and I now see a path for kids to come back on Christmas and New Year, which would be the next large phase, so I think we’re going to be back with that really soon — much sooner than we thought a few months ago.”
Sommer also said, however, that not having children under 12 onboard has not changed the sailing experience all that much.
“In a typical week, there are not a crazy number of 5- to 12-year-olds onboard,” he said, adding that the age group typically represents about 3-5% of the ship, and a little less this time of year when kids are in school.
He also said that there have been large number of 12- to 18-year-olds onboard. “Of course, if you’re a person that doesn’t like to travel with children, now’s a better time to come.”
“We love children,” he added, referring the many kid-friendly activities that will debut on the line’s next ship, the Norwegian Prima, and said the line is “heartened” by the optimism that the vaccine will be approved for younger children.
Sommer is also confident that NCL’s 100% vaccination policy along with its protocols are working and will continue to provide safe cruise vacations. He said the line’s protocols have worked so well that none of the very small number of Covid cases detected onboard have spread from those individual cabins.
“I’m fond of saying that this safety thing isn’t just something we talk about — it’s something we believe in,” he added. “I personally have been on two cruises, one with my wife and a second one with my wife and children. We wouldn’t ask our guests to go someplace that we weren’t prepared to go ourselves. I put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.”
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