Norwegian Cruise Line has become the first to cancel the entirety of its South African cruise season due to the travel restrictions imposed on the country due to a new variant of COVID-19.
Norwegian Cruise Line was meant to deploy its ship Norwegian Jade in Cape Town during December, 2021 and January, 2022, but has cancelled all five roundtrip and repositioning cruises from the city.
The move comes just days after South Africa announced the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation has named Omicron.
It is feared that the new variant may be more transmissible and potentially evade immune defenses provided by vaccines. The WHO is investigating, but countries around the world quickly moved to restrict travel to South Africa.
As a result, many of the major cruise markets, such as Europe, Asia and North America, have been shut off from cruise lines homeporting in South Africa.
An NCL spokesperson said that the line canceled five Norwegian Jade cruises that were scheduled to depart from or disembark in South Africa from December 3rd through January 26th.
Guests will receive full refunds and other offers to compensate for the late notice cancellation.
“As we continue to redeploy our fleet around the world, we are focused on providing the safest and very best vacation,” NCL said. “However, due to the evolving public health concerns in South Africa, we’ve made the decision to cancel voyages aboard Norwegian Jade with embarkation dates of December 3rd, 2021 through and including January 26, 2022.”
None of the other cruise lines sailing from South Africa this season, or homeporting in Cape Town, have cancelled their itineraries at the time of writing.
Azamara, which plans to cruise roundtrip from Cape Town in January, said it is monitoring the situation.
“We’re reviewing the announcement made regarding the new travel limits to South Africa,” a spokesperson told Travel Weekly. “Should anything change, we will contact booked guests and travel partners immediately.”
Crystal Cruises and Silversea, which are scheduled to cruise from South Africa in February, also said they are monitoring the situation but have not made any itinerary changes.
The WHO and national health authorities, such as the CDC in the United States, have said they need at least two weeks to test the efficacy of current vaccines against the new variant.
Cruise lines will likely make a decision on their South African deployments once the scientific community has a clearer understanding of how dangerous Omicron is.