Norwegian Cruise Line will not require passengers to book shore excursions through the ship when it resumes sailings this summer, a company executive said in an interview this week.
"From our first voyage out of the gate, you are free to tour on your own in every port," Norwegian's chief sales officer, Katina Athanasiou, said on Travel Weekly's podcast. "We anticipated needing to do this shore excursion bubble for the first month of operations. We've already lifted that, because in working with our ports and the authorities and each of the local governments, they now anticipate their vaccination increase to be enough that their local communities are going to be supported, and we no longer have to do a shore excursion bubble. So guests will be free to tour on their own."
The news comes weeks after the cruise line announced it'll only allow vaccinated passengers and crew to board its ships.
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Norwegian, which has one of the strictest vaccination mandates of cruise lines resuming operations, plans to sail to the Greek islands in July, followed by trips from Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. In September, Norwegian expects to set sail from Barcelona and Italy.
The cruise line plans to require the jab for all passengers and crew for sailings through at least October 31.
The concept of a cruise bubble with controlled shore excursions became popular in Europe last summer as some ships attempted to restart cruising safely. In August 2020, one family was even denied boarding an MSC Cruises ship after they separated from their group during an officially planned excursion.
While several cruise lines are homeporting in countries around the world this summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it is "committed" to resuming cruises in the United States by the summer.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.