'It's time to get back to cruising. We have a solid plan. The plan we put out to the CDC today is comprehensive. It's robust,' Del Rio said on CNBC's 'Mad Money,' noting the cornerstone is that everyone on board will be vaccinated.
Investors seemed convinced. It was a day when strong US economic data pushed the S&P 500 and Dow indexes to records. All cruise stocks rose; still, NCLH was the biggest gainer, up 7.18%, closing at $29.71.
'Mad Money' host Jim Cramer blustered it sounded like NCLH's request to sail in July was 'basically daring the CDC to turn them down.'
'I don't want to say I'm daring the CDC to do anything. But I want to hear any feedback that suggests this is not the best way to come back and cruise again,' Del Rio said. 'I challenge you to tell me of another venue, anywhere, that has this kind of ironclad health and safety protocols in place.
'Not any building, not a casino, not a hotel, not a theme park, not an airplane, not your corner drugstore not your grocery store, not anywhere. Cruise ships will de facto become the safest place on earth.'
400,000 cruisers, fewer than 50 COVID cases
The NCLH chief said industry peers have done a 'fantastic job,' with several companies sailing for the past eight months in Europe and Asia having carrying 400,000 passengers with fewer than 50 COVID cases, 'a much lower prevalence than anywhere else on land.'
According to Del Rio, these cases were 'handled beautifully.'
And nearly all this cruising occurred before vaccines. 'Imagine what a low rate, if any, there will be on board a vessel if everybody is vaccinated,' Del Rio told Cramer.
In order to reduce risk, there will be 'no loopholes — everyone on board has to be vaccinated.' So, no children initially.
But Del Rio noted that over time, even children will get vaccinated. And with the US now at 165m people having had at least one shot, and the 4m a day vaccination rate expected to go up to 5m a day, things are going to be very different in coming months.
NCLH asked the CDC to allow it to sail three months from now, starting around July 4.
'This is not permanent. We don't want to dictate that everybody has to have a vaccine. But that's the way society is going,' Del Rio said. 'Society believes that vaccination is the game-changer, and we agree.'