“For us, this is about ensuring that we don’t compromise on the health, on the safety, and on the vacation experience,” said Katina Athanasiou, chief sales officer at NCL. “So much so, that when we began to think about these itineraries, it was really important for us to say, we don’t just want to start a cruise just to start up a cruise, we want to start up a cruise with the best experience, and that includes port-intensive itineraries.”
The company also chose homeports that are favorites, she said.
“So many people have really not been able to experience the vacation of their choice for a very long time,” Athanasiou said. “We initially felt very comfortable that the Caribbean was going to be one of our destinations to start. And then we looked at where travelers to the Caribbean, and specifically guests from the U.S., like to go the most. And the number-one and number-two destinations were Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.”
Greece also was an easy choice, she said.
“The Greek Isles is one of the top destinations that guests globally want to visit,” she said. “We’ve had great collaboration with all of our government partners, the ports, and so many suppliers, vendors and partners to be able to really bring this to life.”
Norwegian Jade will operate seven-day Greek Isles voyages from Athens starting July 25, with prices from $650 per person. Norwegian Joy will offer week-long cruises from Montego Bay, Jamaica, starting Aug. 7, while Norwegian Gem will sail from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, beginning Aug. 15. Both Caribbean itineraries are priced from $496, according to the NCL website on April 13.
Fares include a 30 percent discount, but NCL is offering even more – free airfare for the second person in a stateroom, and “Free at Sea” offers, including open bar, free specialty dining, free excursions, and free Wi-Fi.
The promotions are set to expire April 30, although two-for-one deposits are valid through May 31, 2021, and the free second-person air offer remains open.
The cruises are open to fully vaccinated people through Oct. 31 – a mandate that will be evaluated going forward. All crew members will be vaccinated as well. In addition, guests who want to explore the ports of call will be required to take a vetted NCL shore excursion, at least initially.
“We continue to work daily with our shore excursion and tour operator partners to ensure we can provide the healthiest and safest experience,” Athanasiou said. “For our first full month of operations – so those cruises in July and August – we will require NCL shore excursions to be able to go to ashore, because, in collaboration with our partners in all of the destinations, we all felt that was the best, safest and healthiest way to start.”
For more details on NCL’s “Sail Safe” health protocols – which include a COVID-19 test before boarding as well as masks and distancing – click here.
Meanwhile, the company created “EMBARK – The Series,” a five-part docuseries, which will debut at 8 p.m. April 15, 2021, at www.ncl.com/embark and on NCL’s Facebook page. At 7:30 p.m. ET, there will be a live pre-show conversation and Q&A session with NCL executives and team members.
The first episode shows the brand’s preparations for its return to service – what it calls the “Great Cruise Comeback” – including technology to enhance the embarkation process, how the shipboard crew and entertainers have been managing over the last year, and how the pause in cruising has affected small businesses and other partners.