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How does one of Norwegian's oldest ships compare to Royal Caribbean's oldest ship

02 Nov 2023

Sailing on an older cruise ship is not everyone’s cup of tea. While some might prefer the latest and greatest cruise ships, nearly all cruise lines continue to sail vessels that are anywhere from 20 to 30 years old. 

You will not find all of the pizzaz of a mega-ship onboard these older vessels, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should dismiss a cruise simply because of its age. 

I recently returned from a 10-night sailing around the British Isles onboard one of Norwegian Cruise Line’s oldest ships, Norwegian Star. The ship was built in September 2001, making her over 22 years old during our cruise. 

Just last month, I also sailed on Royal Caribbean’s oldest ship in the cruise line’s fleet, Grandeur of the Seas.

Built in 1996, this ship - fondly referred to as “Lady G” - is nearly 27 years old. Although Royal Caribbean announced in 2019 that it would retire the vessel, the pandemic changed these plans and Grandeur of the Seas is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean ships by age — Newest to Oldest

Both of these cruise ships are 20+ years old, so I was eager to see what these older and smaller cruise ships had to offer. As always, it’s important to properly research which ship you’ll be sailing on and manage your expectations accordingly. You can’t board a cruise line’s oldest ship and expect top-of-the-line, modern amenities. 

I was pleasantly surprised by both of my experiences onboard Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line’s older ships. From the dining options to the intimate, simple onboard experiences, I found that both of these ships have a lot to offer. 

Here’s how Royal Caribbean’s oldest ship compares to one of Norwegian Cruise Line’s oldest ships. 

Ship Overview

Both Grandeur of the Seas and Norwegian Star are considerably older and smaller than most ships sailing in their respective fleets. Both ships are considered small to midsize ships by today’s standards, although both were considered large when they debuted. 

Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas clocks in at 73,000 gross tons with a maximum capacity of 2,446 guests. The ship first debuted as part of the Vision Class of ships with Royal Caribbean. In comparison, the cruise line’s newest ship, Icon of the Seas, is more than three times the size of Grandeur of the Seas.

Although built in 1996, Grandeur of the Seas received a $48 million refurbishment in 2012, which added new dining venues and updated the ship with modern amenities. The ship has also received routine dry dock maintenance.

On the other hand, Norwegian Star is slightly bigger at 91,700 gross tons. However, the ship has a lower guest capacity, sailing with 2,348 passengers at maximum capacity. In comparison to Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, Norwegian Viva, the Norwegian Star is around 50% smaller.  

(Norwegian Star pool deck)

Norwegian Star was more recently refurbished in 2018 to include a new adults-only area, updated lounges and bars and upgraded staterooms with USB charging ports. 

Expectations and First Impressions

I’ve sailed on ships of all ages and sizes, so I had somewhat realistic expectations of what to expect onboard. Truthfully, I do not mind sailing on an older and smaller ships because I can appreciate a more subdued cruising experience without the onboard thrills. This is especially true on a port-intensive itinerary where there is not much time spent onboard anyway. 

After boarding both Grandeur of the Seas and Norwegian Star, I can honestly say that both of these cruise ships exceeded my expectations. I found both ships to be in very good condition despite their age. I was most impressed by Grandeur of the Seas, as my expectations were set low based on what I had read online before sailing.

While researching both of these cruises, I found tons of negative reviews about Grandeur of the Seas. Many people complained about the ship’s age, condition and lack of amenities onboard. I was surprised to see that Grandeur of the Seas was rated the worst ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet!

Once onboard, “Lady G” quickly grew on me. I loved all of the natural light and windows throughout the ship. I looked around for overt signs of rust and deterioration, but this was minimal. I noted how the carpets, furniture and public spaces were both clean and well-kept. Of course, some areas onboard felt outdated in design and decor, but this was expected.

Comparatively, while researching Norwegian Star, I found less complaints from cruisers. Most had positive experiences onboard, and many noted that the ship’s itinerary was the highlight of their cruise. Since our 10-night sailing had only one sea, I figured we would have a similar experience onboard. 

After boarding Norwegian Star in Southampton, England, I was very impressed with the ship’s overall condition and onboard amenities. I would have never guessed the ship was more than 20 years old. Her design and decor felt more modern than Grandeur of the Seas, which is likely due to her more recent refurbishment. 

However, we struggled to navigate around Norwegian Star even after the first few days. The ship’s overall design felt confusing for some reason, as we were constantly getting lost and looking towards deck plans. Perhaps Grandeur of the Seas’s size contributed to a better flow onboard, but I found Royal Caribbean’s oldest ship to have a better ship design overall. 

Dining and Food

Indulging in all of the delicious cuisine onboard a cruise is one of my favorite parts of cruising. Let me first note that food is highly subjective, however. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to food and this is based on my own experiences. 

In addition, I sailed on Norwegian Star for 10 nights in comparison to my 4-night cruise on Grandeur of the Seas. Because of this, I had more opportunities to try the food on Norwegian compared to my cruise on Royal Caribbean. Regardless, I’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean multiple times this year, including a 12-night sailing this summer, so I do think this provides a solid foundation for comparison.

Overall, I was very impressed with the complimentary dining options on Norwegian Star. In fact, I would go as far to say the quality blew me away in comparison to Grandeur of the Seas, along with other Royal Caribbean experiences I’ve had this year. 

(Above: Versailles is one of Norwegian Star's complimentary restaurants)  

We dined in the main dining rooms most nights, although we also tried the Asian restaurant and pub. I felt the food was flavorful, fresh and high quality. The menus had diverse options each evening as well, including a ‘Classics’ section with the same nightly options. Even the food in the buffet seemed to be consistently good with everything I tried. 

Unfortunately, Grandeur of the Seas would struggle to compete with Norwegian Star. During our 4-night cruise, we dined in the main dining room most nights with the exception of one night at specialty dining. The food was decent, although we heard from many that the first night was not good. The food in the buffet was very hit or miss with some very bland options.

(French onion soup on Grandeur of the Seas)

Additionally, Norwegian Star had six complimentary dining options onboard, including two dining rooms, the buffet, Topsider’s Poolside Bar and Grill, O’Sheehan’s Pub and Ginza Asian. Grandeur of the Seas only has one main dining room, the Windjammer Buffet, Park Cafe and Cafe Latitude. 

Of course, Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its Freestyle Cruising approach. This means you can go to dinner at any restaurant at whatever time you choose. There are no set dining times. I actually liked this dining approach for our port-intensive cruise because we often had varying schedules with busy days. 

Having so many complimentary dining options onboard Norwegian Star was impressive, especially given its age. I think Royal Caribbean could take some notes from Norwegian when it comes to complimentary dining options onboard. I would love to see Royal Caribbean add more complimentary dining options onboard their older ships.


One of the biggest drawbacks of sailing on an older - and smaller - ship is having less entertainment options. Bigger ships tend to have flashy production shows; for Norwegian, this is typically full-length Broadway shows and for Royal Caribbean, ice skating spectacles and high-diving shows. 

For both of these sailings, entertainment was generally more limited and simple. Personally, I found Grandeur of the Seas to have better headliner shows and entertainment each evening. For each evening onboard, Grandeur of the Seas had at least one production show. 

During our cruise, this consisted of a comedy show, along with an impersonator and a production show called Broadway Rhythm and Rhyme. We liked all of the shows in the theatre, although nothing blew us away. It was nice to have an evening show available to attend each night of the cruise.  

(Production show on Grandeur of the Seas)

Contrary to Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Star’s entertainment was much more limited. Some evenings onboard did not even have a major theatre show. On a 10-night cruise, I anticipated having a few major productions, but this was not the case. We only attended two shows in the theatre, including a contortionist and illusionist. Both of these were excellent - and I wished that Norwegian had more entertainment to offer. This was one of the most disappointing aspects of the cruise, in my opinion. 


Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean are both considered mainstream cruise lines and aim to offer affordable fares. My cruise on Grandeur of the Seas was only four nights, so the cost was inherently cheaper overall compared to my 10-night sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line. 

In my experiences, Norwegian Cruise Line is slightly more expensive than Royal Caribbean; however, pricing is more obscure. Norwegian offers its “Free at Sea” perks which allow you to book a drink package, internet minutes, specialty dining nights and shore excursion credits. You can also add flights when booking your Norwegian cruise, which can have huge savings when promotions are happening.

We snagged a killer deal for our 10-night British Isles cruise! We booked this cruise for $1,600 each - this included the cruise fare, gratuities, port fees, taxes AND round-trip airfare to London Heathrow on Delta. We also received 150 free internet minutes and $50 shore excursion credits for each port. This comes out to $160 per day. 

For our 4-night cruise to Cozumel, we paid $466 each for the cruise fare, gratuities, port taxes and fees. This comes out to $116.50 per night to sail on the oldest ship. We also booked flights to Tampa for $250 round-trip. If you include the cost of the flight in the daily cost, this comes out to $179 per day. 

We could have added the drink package for only $220 each for our Norwegian Star cruise with the Free at Sea promotion; in hindsight, this would have probably been worthwhile for that cheap price! On the other hand, Royal Caribbean’s drink package for 4-nights was nearly $400 each - more than double the price. 

These two cruise fares are relatively similar, although I think our Norwegian Star cruise was a better value given the port-intensive itinerary to Scotland, Ireland and England. If you consider the cost of an international round-trip flight being included in the cost as well, it was irresistible!

Bars and Lounges

To start, cruises were vastly different in terms of clientele and length. Our 4-night cruise on Grandeur of the Seas was over the weekend to Mexico and filled with bachelorette parties. In contrast, the 10-night sailing had a much older, quieter demographic. 

Grandeur of the Seas only had a few bars onboard and they were always packed. With so many people onboard looking to party the weekend away, it was no surprise the bars could not keep up. Anytime we wanted a drink, we contemplated whether we wanted to wait in the long lines. The issue was only exacerbated by Grandeur of the Seas only having five bars open throughout our cruise. 

On the other hand, Norwegian Star had 10 bars available with very few lines. Also, keep in mind that one bartender told us 80% of guests onboard have a drink package with the Free at Sea perks. Even with this, the bars and lounges were never too busy and we always had quick service. We particularly loved the SugarCane Mojito Bar and the Proof Whisky Bar, which were specially themed.   


For both of these sailings, I sailed in an inside cabin guarantee - this was the cheapest cabin available. This means you cannot book your stateroom’s location beforehand; instead, you save a little money and let the cruise line decide your cabin’s fate. I almost exclusively book inside cabins because of the price, although booking guaranteed cabins have become more of a gamble with ships sailing at higher capacity.

As I anticipated, I was assigned cabins in bad locations for both of these cruises. My inside cabin on Grandeur of the Seas was located at the very front of the ship while my cabin on Norwegian Star was at the very back.

However, my cabin location on Norwegian Star was arguably worse, as it was next to a Crew Only door and right above the nightclub lounge. We could hear maintenance noises all day while listening to the DJ play party tunes until midnight each evening. 

Despite the poor location, our stateroom on Norwegian Star was comfortable and cozy. I found the stateroom to be in good condition and especially appreciated the USB plugs for charging. We each had a USB port on our individual nightlights and the cabin also had two more outlets near the small vanity. When we sailed on Grandeur of the Seas, our cabin lacked these modern amenities and instead featured two outlets to share for the cabin. 

On both cruises, we had the beds separated, which made the space feel bigger. I found both bathrooms to exceed my expectations, although Norwegian Star takes the cake for having the better bathroom of the two. 

Both cabins were approximately 140 square feet, so nearly identical in size. Based on my observations, it appears Royal Caribbean allocated more space in the cabin itself while Norwegian prioritized having a bigger bathroom and shower. 

(Inside cabin on Grandeur of the Seas)

While I appreciated having this additional area for seating on Royal Caribbean, having a larger shower on Norwegian Star felt like a luxury. Our bathroom on Grandeur of the Seas has a tiny, oddly-shaped shower with a clingy shower curtain. Alternatively, we had a big walk-in shower on Norwegian Star. Now, I don’t go on cruises to have a luxurious showering experience each night, but this was a design choice that we appreciated on Norwegian Star. 

(Walk-in shower on Norwegian Star)

The biggest downside of our cabin on Norwegian Star was the exposed bunk bed above one of the beds. Since an inside cabin is already small, having this exposed bunk bed sit atop one of the beds made the space feel more cramped. Since we only had two people in the cabin, it would be nice if these unused bunk beds came down from the ceiling only when needed.

Regardless, I found both cabins to be in better condition than expected. I would prefer staying in Norwegian Star’s inside cabin if I had to pick between the two, but each stateroom had its advantages. 

Final Thoughts

Regardless of a cruise ship’s age, it’s possible to have a fantastic vacation with the right mindset and expectations - and this was the case for me onboard Grandeur of the Seas and Norwegian Star. 

Both cruise ships impressed me for their age; both were clean and well maintained. I found the food to be better quality onboard Norwegian Star compared to Grandeur of the Seas; in addition, there were more bars and complimentary dining options onboard despite the ship being similar size and age to Grandeur. 

On the other hand, Grandeur of the Seas had better entertainment with nightly shows in comparison to Norwegian Star’s sporadic entertainment schedule. With an older and smaller ship, entertainment is limited regardless; however, both ships had plenty to do for activities, events and shows. 

Both cabins had their pros and cons when comparing the two, although Norwegian Star’s ahead-of-its-time shower and modern amenities were the selling points for me. Each inside cabin was clean, comfortable and cozy with everything needed for a comfortable stay. 

It’s hard to beat the cost of our Norwegian Star cruise, costing just $1,600 for the entire cruise, gratuities and round-trip flight to London. For the price, Norwegian Star was the better value between the two cruises. 

I wouldn’t hesitate to book another cruise onboard these ships again; however, I would definitely choose another port-intensive itinerary since both ships are limited in terms of amenities and entertainment. 

Norwegian Cruise drops Covid testing, but you'll still need a test if cruising from US

06 Jul 2022

One of the major cruise lines has dropped its Covid-19 testing requirement in practice, although the policy shift will not yet affect the majority of its sailings.

Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, which owns Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruise, announced a change in its pre-cruise covid testing policy on Wednesday.

All of its lines will drop a pre-cruise Covid-19 test requirement, unless the country the ship sails from requires it.

Essentially, there's no change to pre-cruise Covid testing for cruises from the U.S., Canada, Greece, or Bermuda. The difference is should one of those countries drop their testing mandate of cruise ships, then NCL wouldn't require it as part of their policy.

NCL logo on side of ship

The upside to this change is it will make it easier for North Americans headed to Europe for a cruise to book a cruise, since it eliminates one more hoop to jump through. North Americans make up a large percentage of people that cruise from Europe on the "big three" cruise brands.

For cruises sailing in the U.S., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a policy that requires pre-cruise Covid testing of all cruise lines that have opted into the "highly vaccinated program."

NCLH's new policy goes into effect beginning August 1, 2022.

According to the company, they believe this change puts their policy in line with other forms of travel, "the relaxation of the testing policy is in line with the rest of the travel, leisure and hospitality industry worldwide as society continues to adapt and return to a state of normalcy."

NCLH reaffirmed their strong recommendation that all passengers be up to date on vaccination protocols and test at their convenience prior to travel.

The change by Norwegian is significant since up until now only a handful of smaller cruise lines operating in Europe dropped covid testing requirements and in very limited scenarios.

When might the U.S. drop cruise ship Covid testing?

Cruise ship docked in Miami

In light of NCLH's policy change, many Americans may be wondering when the CDC will drop the testing requirement.

The same day the United States removed the requirement of international flights to require a negative covid test, the cruise industry said it wants to next move to looking at pre-cruise testing requirements.

In a statement in June 2022, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said it wants the CDC to look at pre-cruise testing.

"As the CDC monitors the improving health landscape and works with airlines to support a smooth transition with the lifting of the pre-arrival testing requirement, we believe a review of pre-embarkation testing requirements for cruise travelers is also in order."

Will Royal Caribbean change its policy too?

Just last week, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley addressed the issue of pre-cruise testing, and he didn't think the U.S. would change policy for at least a little while longer.

Speaking onboard Ovation of the Seas, Mr. Bayley said, "I think pre cruise testing is going to be around for another couple of months."

"We obviously want it to go back to normal, but we're incredibly cognizant of our responsibilities to keep our crew, the communities and our guests safe."

Carnival and NCL raised their daily gratuities

04 Apr 2022

Two major cruise lines have raised their daily gratuities this year, which could be an indicator of what Royal Caribbean may do as well.

Carnival funnel

CruiseRadio reported Carnival Cruise Line will raise its gratuity beginning on sailings that depart May 1, 2022.

The new gratuity rate for Carnival will be as follows:

  • Standard staterooms will pay $14.50 per person, per day
  • Suites will pay $16.50 per person, per day

Carnival will allow anyone with a cruise booked right now to lock in the old gratuity rate if they prepay gratuities before May 1, 2022. Cruises booked after May 1 will be subject to the new rate.

Carnival Vista restaurant

According to Carnival, 100% of gratuities are distributed to the crew members, such as stateroom attendants, dining and culinary services staff, as well as others who work behind the scenes.

Carnival's change comes just weeks after Norwegian Cruise Line announced they would increase the daily gratuities.

As of April 1st, NCL increased their gratuity amount as follows:

  • Balcony and lower cabins: $16.00 per person, per day
  • Haven and Suite guests: $20.00 per person, per day
  • Club Balcony Suite guests remains at $18.00 per person, per day

NCL says their gratuities compensate crew members in tandem with a salary for crew members such as complimentary restaurant staff, stateroom stewards and behind-the-scenes support staff.

Will Royal Caribbean do the same?

Wonder of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation | Royal Caribbean Blog

With two of Royal Caribbean's biggest competitors changing the daily gratuity amounts, Royal Caribbean cruisers may be wondering if a change is coming soon for them as well.

Royal Caribbean hasn't touched their gratuity rate since the end of 2017, when they announced a change to the gratuity to begin in 2018.

The current gratuity for Royal Caribbean is: $14.50 per guest per day in non-suites. For guests in a Grand Suite or above, the amount is $17.50.

Just like the other cruise lines, the daily gratuity is shared among dining, bar & culinary services staff, stateroom attendants and other hotel services teams who work behind the scenes.

Read moreShould you prepay gratuities for a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Royal Caribbean has not announced or said anything about changing the gratuity rates, but it's not unusual from a historical perspective for cruise lines to match each other with changes like this.

When Royal Caribbean announced a change in gratuity in 2017, they mentioned keeping up with other cruise lines, "Royal Caribbean is constantly reviewing our competitive environment and this adjustment positions us in-line with our competitors. The additional gratuity collected will be disbursed to our onboard crew".

The good news is Royal Caribbean has in the past done exactly what Carnival is doing now, by offering passengers booked with an existing reservation to lock in the old rate if they pre-pay before the new rate goes into effect.

Norwegian drops mandatory face mask rule on its cruise ships

08 Feb 2022

Norwegian Cruise Line announced it has relaxed its Covid-19 protocols beginning in March, perhaps signaling a change for the industry.

On Tuesday, Norwegian Cruise Line updated its Sail Safe Health and Safety Program for cruises sailing March 1, 2022 and beyond. In it, it changed its mask and vaccine requirements by reducing how strict they are.

Like Royal Caribbean, NCL had tightened its protocols due to the Omicron variant. 

Here's a look at the major changes NCL announced.

Face masks

Norwegian announced for cruises sailing on or after March 1st will be no longer required to wear face masks onboard.

NCL continues to recommend face mask use, but will not require it indoors.

Sailings through February 28 still require all guests to wear masks onboard while indoors, except when actively eating or drinking. This matches Royal Caribbean's current stricter protocols.

It's important to note that NCL did not require masks while indoors before Omicron because they required all of their passengers to be fully vaccinated. The CDC had a policy if 95% or more guests are vaccinated, there were different mask rules for those ships.

Covid-19 vaccines

Another change is NCL will now allow children under 5 years old to sail if they are unvaccinated, beginning on March 5.

Prior to this change, all passengers had to be fully vaccinated, including children ineligible to be vaccinated.

On NCL's site, it said the change is part of the evolution of the protocols, "As we continue to heed guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prioritize maintaining health and safety, our Sail Safe Program, which requires all guests, ages five and over, to be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before departure and show proof of vaccination at the terminal in order to board the vessel, has evolved to allow children under five to sail while unvaccinated."


In addition, NCL will require its passengers to test once at home before the cruise begins in an effort to speed up the check-in process.

Previously, NCL required passengers to be tested at home and then again at the terminal.

Tests taken at home need to be completed within two days of embarkation when sailing from U.S. ports and three days when outside the U.S.

Will Royal Caribbean do the same?

Is NCL's change a harbinger of what's to come for Royal Caribbean?


Royal Caribbean still has its stricter Omicron protocols in place through at least February 14.  If those protocols were to lapse, then Royal Caribbean's protocols would fall back to their pre-Omicron protocols that mirror NCL's new policy.

There's good reason to believe protocols are more likely to become less restrictive given the lower rate of Covid-19 cases in society, and on cruise ships.

Last week, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said cases on cruise ships were substantially down from last month, "in the last several weeks, cases on board our ships have been declining rapidly and we now have returned to exceptionally low pre-Omicron levels."

"In fact, over the last seven days, we have averaged only a handful of positive guest cases per cruise."

"With the declining cases, operational challenges are also abating. So, while the variant is not done, it appears that the worst is behind us."

Later in the call, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said the cruise line would re-evaluate its protocols, "I think what we'll see is as we get into that environment, we'll start, again, working with the CDC. We'll start removing many of the protocols that exist today, and it will become easier and simpler for our customers."

Royal Caribbean updates: Spectrum of the Seas cancellation, CDC plans and more!

05 Jan 2022

This week has barely started and already there's lots of cruise news happening.  Since so much of it overlaps, I wanted to provide a round-up of what's changed recently.

Spectrum of the Seas will restart cruises from Hong Kong on July 30 | Royal Caribbean Blog

There are smaller updates from across the fleet that I think are kind of interesting, neat, or otherwise good to know.

If you ever have a news tip, feel free to email it to [email protected] for possible inclusion in a future update!

Spectrum of the Seas sailings in Hong Kong cancelled

Spectrum of the Seas will restart cruises from Hong Kong on July 30 | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you read a headline about Royal Caribbean cancelling cruises today, don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds.

Royal Caribbean cancelled the January 6 sailing of Spectrum of the Seas from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong | Royal Caribbean Blog

There weren't any actual Covid cases onboard. Rather, nine passengers on the previous sailing that departed on January 2 were identified as close contacts to someone that tested positive on land in Hong Kong.

The contacts have tested negative but the cruise ship will return to Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong on January 5 to test all guests and crew who must take a second test on January 8th.

CDC still plans to make Conditional Sail Order voluntary

Cruise industry calls on CDC to let cruise ships sail again | Royal Caribbean Blog

Despite the Omicron variant, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the plan is still for the Conditional Sail Order (CSO) to become a voluntary program next week.

As you may recall, the CDC temporarily extended the CSO for an additional two and a half months back in October.

According to Cruise Critic, the plan is still for the CSO to expire on January 15, per the federal agency.

There actually is an update to the CSO - Royal Caribbean News and Rumors - Royal Caribbean Blog

"After the expiration of the Temporary Extension & Modification of the CSO on January 15, 2022, CDC intends to transition to a voluntary program, in coordination with cruise ship operators and other stakeholders, to assist the cruise ship industry to detect, mitigate, and control the spread of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships," a CDC spokesperson told Cruise Critic via email.

Once the Temporary Extension & Modification of the CSO expires on January 15, the CSO will shift to a voluntary basis, where cruise lines and other stakeholders will work together without a federal mandate to do so to ensure proper protocols are followed.

NCL cancels cruises on sailings on 8 ships

Norwegian Cruise Line | Royal Caribbean Blog

 Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd announced a change to scheduled sailings on 8 ships due to the impact of the Omicron variant.

The reason for the cancellation has to do with crew staffing related to Covid cases onboard.

The Norwegian cancellations announced Wednesday include:

  • Norwegian Pearl departures through January 14, 2022
  • Norwegian Sky departures through February 25, 2022
  • Pride of America departures through February 26, 2022
  • Norwegian Jade departures through March 3, 2022
  • Norwegian Star departures through March 19, 2022
  • Norwegian Sun departures through April 19, 2022
  • Norwegian Spirit departures through April 23, 2022

Royal Caribbean trademarks Royal Beach Club name

Royal Caribbean snuck in one more trademark filing before the end of 2021.

The cruise line registered a trademark for the phrase, "Royal Beach Club", which is the name of its private beach club experience it is developing in Nassau, Bahamas.

The first Royal Beach Club is set to open in Nassau, Bahamas, perhaps as early as 2023.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean looks forward to big plans in 2022 and 2023

This new project is not intended to be for all guests on a ship to do. Rather, it will supplement the Nassau offerings. The beach club will be built on 7 acres on the western end of Paradise Island.

The Royal Beach Club will be able to accommodate about 3,500 together with 250 workers. 

Florida appeals verdict in cruise ship vaccine requirement lawsuit

07 Oct 2021

The State of Florida is ready for another round of a legal fight over mandating Covid-19 vaccines.

Norwegian Cruise Line cancels May 2021 cruises | Royal Caribbean Blog

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) won a lawsuit earlier this summer against Florida over a state law that banned businesses from denying entry to customers who were not vaccinated.

Florida filed documents on October 4th with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to appeal the preliminary injunction NCLH won, and asking the appeals court to vacate the decision.

United States District Judge Kathleen M. Williams granted NCLH the preliminary injunction, but Florida wants that decision reversed.

In the 69-page filing, Florida argues the U.S. constitution gives companies no right for private companies to refuse service to prospective customers who fail to disclose private medical documentation.

NCLH argued that Florida's law violated its First Amendment rights and dormant Commerce Clause claims.

Florida says its law that was shot down by NCLH's lawsuit neither violates the First Amendment nor the Commerce Clause.

Section  381.00316  does  not  violate  the  First  Amendment  because  it  affects  what    businesses    cannot    do—condition    service    on    customers    providing    documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination—“not what they may or may not say,” Rumsfeld v. FAIR, Inc., 547 U.S. 47, 60 (2006), and thus does not implicate the First Amendment. Indeed, FAIR and Wollschlaeger v. Governor of Florida, 848 F.3d 1293 (11th Cir. 2017) (en banc), compel this result. 

Nor  does  Section  381.00316  violate  the  dormant  Commerce  Clause.  Under  the Pike  balancing  test—the  analysis  that  all  parties  agree  applies  to  the  statute—Florida’s  law  is  constitutional  because  any  indirect  effects  it  has  on  interstate  commerce  do  not  clearly  exceed  the  local  benefits  of  the  law.

In May 2021, Florida passed a new law that banned businesses, schools, and government agencies from requiring people to show documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccinations or post-infection recovery before gaining entry.

Breaches of this law would face a fine of $5,000 per violation.

Subsequently, in July 2021, NCLH sued Florida to get an injunction against the law, because the company says the law prevents them from operating their business safely.

NCLH believes the law puts them, "in an impossible dilemma" to operate sailings from Florida.  In their view, they would either have to be "on the wrong side of health and safety" or on the wrong side of Florida law.

Norwegian Cruise Line CEO says July cruises from U.S. "not possible" | Royal Caribbean Blog

Judge Williams agreed with NCLH's points, and said the law did not go far enough if it meant to protect the medical privacy of private citizens.

The Judge pointed out that businesses and employers are able to require Covid-19  test results, hospital records,other vaccination records, as well as information regarding exposure to third parties with Covid-19.  Therefore, Florida failed to explain why proof of Covid-19 vaccination documents are more medically sensitive or need more protection than these other documents.

Norwegian Cruise wins lawsuit against Florida over Covid-19 vaccine passport ban

08 Aug 2021

Florida's showdown over businesses being able to require customers to show proof of a Covid-19 vaccine has ended in a legal loss.

United States District Judge Kathleen M. Williams granted Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) a preliminary injunction which would allow a cruise line to require passengers to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19 if sailing from Florida.

Judge Williams said in the docket that the combination of trying to restore consumer confidence and the Delta variant contributed to NCLH's win.

"Businesses face unprecedented challenges, including the understandably difficult tasks of restoring consumer confidence and minimizing the spread of COVID-19. In addition, the nation is now threatened by new virus variants that are more transmissible than the initial strain."

NCLH sued Florida because it wanted to ensure every single person sailing on its ships are vaccinated, which would violate a Florida law that was passed earlier this year banning such a practice.

In May, the Florida Legislature passed and Governor DeSantis signed into law a bill stating that all business entities “may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or services from the business operations in this state,” subject to the imposition of a fine not exceeding $5,000 per violation.

The cruise line sued Florida so that it could restart sailings from Florida on the Norwegian Gem on August 15, 2021, and the company had adopted a policy requiring all passengers on its vessels to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to provide documentation confirming their vaccination status before boarding.

NCLH argued that law violated its First Amendment rights and dormant Commerce Clause claims.

Judge Williams felt the fact the law allows businesses to require proof of a Covid-19 vaccine for its employees, while at the same time cannot demand the same proof of its customers makes it known as a "content-based restriction".

The Judge pointed out that the law prevents proving a customer is vaccinated, but allows the cruise lines to limit unvaccinated passengers’ access to events, activities, and venues.

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas do not have access to certain dining venues, the casino, art auctions, the indoor pool, or the spa and during shows, they are required to sit in the back of the theater. (DE 35-1 at 22–29.) Princess and Carnival have also limited the excursions available to unvaccinated guests at ports of call.  Thus, Section 381.00316 does not prohibit businesses from treating unvaccinated passengers differently by charging them more while offering them less. 

She also pointed out that adult-only cruises, which exclude a significant amount of unvaccinated people (children), is not prohibited under the law.

In sum, if combatting discrimination were the goal, merely banning the exchange of COVID-19 vaccination documentation is an ineffective way to accomplish this objective because the Statute does not directly prohibit the treating of unvaccinated persons or those who decline to verify their vaccination status by businesses and employers differently.

In addition, the privacy of customers is not protected by this law, saying it is "far too underinclusive" to protect medical privacy, if that were a goal of it.

The Statute does not govern employers, who are free to require COVID-19 vaccination documentation from employees, and Defendant does not explain why the exchange of these documents is less intrusive on medical privacy in the employment context.

The Judge pointed out that businesses and employers are able to require Covid-19  test results, hospital records,other vaccination records, as well as information regarding exposure to third parties with Covid-19.  Therefore, Florida failed to explain why proof of Covid-19 vaccination documents are more medically sensitive or need more protection than these other documents.

During the hearing, it was divulged the law does not prohibit a business from providing their Covid-19 vaccine status orally, nor does it prevent a company from retaining, disclosing, or publishing a person’s Covid-19 vaccination status.

Cruise lines have subjected unvaccinated passengers to different policies that easily disclose their unvaccinated status.

Royal Caribbean provides unvaccinated patrons with a “hole punched in their SeaPass” to indicate their status to crewmembers and segregates these passengers to one deck of the main dining room

In addition to NCLH's First Amendment claim, Judge Williams agrees that the law imposes substantial burdens on interstate commerce that will directly affect their abilities to operate the Norwegian Gem and other vessels.

Hearing held in Norwegian Cruise lawsuit against Florida in vaccine passport ban

06 Aug 2021

Lawyers for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) and the State of Florida were in court on Friday to deliberate the merits of the lawsuit against a ban on Covid-19 vaccine passports.

The preliminary injunction hearing was held in a virtual court hearing between attorneys from both parties as Judge Kathleen M. Williams in Miami heard both sides of the case.

This court case is NCLH's claim that Florida's law that prohibits businesses from requiring proof of Covid-19 immunity in return for a service. Violations of this law come with a $5,000 penalty per violation. It went into law as of July 1.

In May, Florida signed a new law that prohibits businesses, schools, and government agencies from requiring people to show documentation certifying Covid-19 vaccinations or post-infection recovery before gaining entry.

The attorneys for NCLH argued a variety of issues, primarily focusing on company's first amendment right by restricting the flow of information with customers and interferes with interstate commerce.

NCLH sued Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees, because he is the head of Florida's Health Department.

Florida justifies the law by saying it is enacted to protect against discrimination privacy concerns.

The cruise line felt the law was passed by Florida's legislature without any proof there was an actual problem with a particular industry to substantiate concerns vaccine requirements were creating any sort of problem.

In the case of protecting against discrimination, NCLH's lawyer pointed out employers can can still require vaccine documentation for Covid-19 from employees, suppliers, or contractors.

Florida said a cruise line can ask for proof of vaccination and its customers are free to provide it, but the cruise line cannot deny entry to the ship for anyone who declines to provide documentation.

Norwegian is planning to restart cruises from Florida on August 15, but wants the Florida vaccine passport ban lifted before then so the company does not violate the law each time a passenger is asked to show vaccination proof.

At the conclusion of the nearly 2 and a half hour hearing, the Judge said she hopes to have a response "very soon".

Carnival and NCL announce summer cruise ship restart plans from United States

07 Jun 2021

Royal Caribbean is not the only cruise line to announce it will restart cruises from the U.S. this summer.

Both Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Lines announced on Monday plans to restart cruises as early as July.

Royal Caribbean lead the restart plan charge last week, when it announced cruises from the U.S. in July and August, signifying a major milestone in the cruise industry's return to service.

Here is a look at what each of the other major cruise lines announced today.

Carnival will restart in July

Carnival confirmed it will return to service with cruises out of Galveston on two ships.

Carnival Vista will sail on July 3rd from the Port of Galveston, followed by Carnival Breeze on July 15.

These cruises are available for guests who have received their final dose of a CDC-approved Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination, in accordance with current guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Carnival also has plans to restart cruises on the Carnival Horizon from PortMiami in July.  No specific date was shared, as the line is working with the State of Florida and the CDC for Carnival Horizon sailings.

Carnival also said plans to provide an update by Friday concerning protocols specific to these sailings to all booked guests.

August sailings will be announced by Carnival "over the coming days."

Norwegian will restart in August

NCL admitted its restart plans in the U.S. are contingent on obtaining a conditional sailing certificate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. said that all its initial voyages will operate with fully vaccinated guests and crew.

First, NCL said it would replace Norwegian Bliss on its Alaska cruises with the Norwegian Encore instead.

In terms of new U.S. sailings, here is what NCL announced:

  • Norwegian Gem will begin sailing 7-night cruises from PortMiami on August 15
  • Norwegian Breakaway will sail to Bermuda from New York on September 26
  • Norwegian Bliss will sail from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera on October 2
  • Norwegian Escape will sail from Port Canaveral on November 13

Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said the additional planned U.S. voyages build on earlier plans for 23 of the company's 28 ships across its three brands beginning in July and phasing in through early 2022.

Norwegian Cruise Line abandons plans to restart cruises from Dominican Republic this summer

01 Jun 2021

Norwegian Cruise Line announced it will cancel a second cruise ship that was scheduled to sail from outside the United States this summer.

NCL said scheduled cruises from the Dominican Republic on Norwegian Gem are cancelled on sailings between August 15, 2021 through October 10, 2021.

Originally, NCL was going to set sail with three ships outside of the United States:

  • Norwegian Jade from Athens, Greece
  • Norwegian Joy from Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Norwegian Gem from Punta Cana (La Romana), Dominican Republic
  • Norwegian Getaway in Rome
  • Norwegian Epic in Barcelona

Sailings on the Joy were cancelled last week, leaving just the Jade to sail from Greece.

In an email sent to guests booked on the Gem, the cruise line announced the time required to get the ship ready and the desire for Americans to cruise out of local ports drove the change.

"As you may know, we have for many months said that launching and crewing our vessels require approximately 90 days. At this time, we are doing our best to maximize our operational fleet and active crew to deliver on cruise vacations in destinations our guests value the most."

"We are so sorry your cruise has been impacted but we hope to welcome you aboard another sailing."

Joy's sailings were cancelled so that the ship could be redeployed to Alaska instead.

The new cancellations come less than a month after Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) CEO Frank Del Rio told investors customers were buying up the new sailings, "The response to our international voyage resumption has been overwhelming and even sailings from our new Caribbean home ports are performing better than expected despite the extremely condensed booking window."

Royal Caribbean also recently cancelled two scheduled sailings outside of the United States: Vision of the Seas from Bermuda and Odyssey of the Seas from Israel.

Odyssey's season was cancelled due to the cruise line's inability to get its crew members vaccinated, as well as violence in the area.  Vision's cruises appear to be cancelled due to weak demand and the anticipated return of cruises from the U.S.

Both Royal Caribbean and NCL seem to see far more demand for cruises departing from the United States, than positioning ships in new homeports.

Adventure of the Seas is still scheduled to sail from the Bahamas in less than two weeks, and NCL has three ships with cruises out of Europe planned.

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