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Del Rio: NCLH's eased COVID rules 'instant catalyst' for bookings

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Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings doing away with its COVID-19 vaccination mandate and testing for vaccinated travelers was an 'instant catalyst' for bookings, CEO Frank Del Rio said.

Monday's change, including exempting kids 11 and younger from vaccination and testing, resulted in one of NCLH's top three booking days this year, Del Rio told analysts during today's earnings call.

'Gangbusters' Tuesday

'Today was also gangbusters compared to a typical Tuesday,' he added.

Del Rio noted key destinations like Canada, Greece and Bermuda still have COVID-19 rules, but NCLH's changes, where allowed, 'give us flexibilty to reach a wider cruising population, reduce friction and travel-related hassles for our guests and bring greater variety to our itineraries.' 

Interestingly, though, some of the itineraries subject to mandates were singled out as doing well. 

According to the NCLH chief, Alaska is 'very, very strong' (Alaska cruises on foreign-flag ships call at Canada and are subject to Canada's rules), 'Bermuda's doing great' and 'Europe isn't doing all that bad, considering,' however the company has relied more on European-sourced customers for Europe cruises this year. 

Follows other relaxed requirements

Del Rio said that the US eliminating its testing requirement for vaccinated air arrivals in June was 'huge,' resulting in an 'immediate and sustained boost' for future booking periods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ending its COVID-19 program for cruise ships last month was also a boost.

But Del Rio reminded analysts that with the booking curve typically seven months out from sailing, most of the lift from these changes will be manifested in 2023, not during 2022.

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