‘Considerable risk’ to older passengers as Norwegian Cruise Line lifts COVID-19 restrictions

Norwegian Cruise Line announced it will remove restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday.

The move comes as the industry is beginning to relax its rules.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped reporting COVID-19 cases on cruise ships in July. Cruise lines now set their own protocols.

Other parts of the travel industry already have eased restrictions and now some cruise lines are beginning to follow suit.

NCL announced it will eliminate testing, masking and vaccination requirements beginning Tuesday.

The cruise line cites the “significant, positive progress in the public health environment.”

Passengers still need to follow local rules for the countries they visit.

Stewart Chiron, an industry watcher known as the Cruise Guy, pointed to an industry analysis.

“The number of COVID cases reported on cruise ships were disproportionately lower than what we saw on land-based venues. The cruise lines are continuing to evolve when they feel it’s safe to make these changes. And I think we are going to see other cruise lines emulating what NCL announced today in the very near future,” Chiron said.

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Cruise lines have simplified testing requirements in recent weeks.

Canada’s travel restrictions that ended Oct. 1 had stifled cruises to Alaska for some time.

Chiron said because of that requirement, many of the ships sailing to Alaska this summer were not anywhere near full.

Despite the easing of rules, and people generally becoming much less sick from COVID-19, some public health experts continue to recommend caution.

“I do see considerable risk associated with cruise ships,” Dr. Theo Voss of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said.

He recommends older passengers and those in poor health consider the risks.

“If in your normal life you mingle with 10 people in a day, on a cruise ship you’re mingling with a thousand people,” Voss said.

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