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Cruise Ships Depart US Ports for European Lay-Up

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is sending its ship to Europe
Norwegian Bliss before departing from Virgina for Sweden - courtesy David Hendrickson

By The Maritime Executive 08-06-2020 10:03:05

Since the beginning of the cruise suspension, one of the challenges for the cruise lines has been what to do with their ships. As the suspension has stretched on the cruise lines have taken different tactics, but Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is adopting a different strategy as it works to further lower costs and prepares for a longer period of lay-up.

The parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises had been very successful at finding docks for its ship while other cruise lines kept their ships at sea. This strategy led to cruise ships appearing in some unusual ports earlier in the year. Ports ranging from Eastport, Maine to Portsmouth, Virginia, Fernandina, Florida, and Oakland, California all provided locations for the cruise ships.

In recent days, however, NCLH’s cruise ships have quietly departed from most U.S. ports except for the moment Los Angeles. Currently, five of Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship, Epic, Spirit, Dawn, Encore, and Bliss, along with two from Oceania Cruises and one from Regent Seven Seas are all in the Atlantic heading to Europe.

Speaking on the company’s quarterly conference call, president and chief executive officer Frank Del Rio discussed some of the company’s considerations in laying up cruise ships. One consideration, of course, was hurricanes, which had caused the early departure of some ships to avoid hurricane Isaias as it moved towards the Bahamas and the U.S. east coast. Another consideration is lowering costs. “Our goal during the lay-up period is to reach a minimum level of manning on each of our ships, while complying with all regulations, minimizing our cash burn rate and maintaining our vessels to be ready to reenter service in class and under short notice," said Del Rio. Speaking on August 6, he said, “In terms of where we are today, all vessels not involved in repatriation efforts or undergoing dry docks or laid up in ports requiring extra crew are expected to be at minimum manning status in the next 30 to 45 days.”

Many of the cruise ships that are en route to Europe will stop in Gibraltar which has been permitting fueling and provision calls. Because the U.S. authorities were not permitting crew to go ashore Norwegian is also using these repositioning trips as an opportunity to return additional crew members to Europe and complete crew changes for those at the end of their current contracts. Two of Norwegian’s ships are currently bound for Sweden for this purpose.

It is understood that the ships will be proceeding to ports such as Marseilles and Genoa for lay-up. Some of the ships may also use the opportunity to undergo routine maintenance at the European shipyards.

By positioning the ships outside the U.S. ports, the cruise lines also have not been subjected to the restrictions place on crew and movement. Carnival Corporation took a similar strategy moving all of its ships away from U.S. ports and saying they would mostly stay outside the U.S. ports for the foreseeable future. As such, Carnival was not involved in the CDC’s color-coding system controlling crew movement on and off the ships.

Residents, such as those in Eastport, Maine, were sorry to see the ships depart and some even went to the dock to provide a final sendoff to the cruise ships.