Blumenthal, Markey Blast Cruise Line for Spreading Coronavirus Misinformation to Boost Bookings

Senators demand Norwegian Cruise Line stop misleading customers & consider suspending operations until proper health and safety measures are in place

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent a letter to Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Frank Del Rio following reports indicating the company provided intentionally misleading scripts to its sales employees to boost bookings in light of the coronavirus. The Senators also called for the company to follow in the footsteps of other major cruise lines, including Viking and Carnival Corporation’s Princess Cruises, and consider pausing its operations until appropriate health and safety standards are implemented.

“Norwegian’s prioritization of profits over people during this pandemic is truly appalling, and we demand that the company take action to cease all such behavior immediately,” the Senators wrote. “In light of these reports, and for the sake of your passengers and crew, we also urge the company to end all operations until it implements sufficient health and safety protections and protocols.”

Leaked Norwegian Cruise Line company emails indicate management distributed talking points to sales staff filled with false information to dismiss consumer apprehensions about traveling during the coronavirus pandemic and encourage them to book their travel. The talking points include claims that COVID-19 “can only survive in cold temperatures, so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise” and that “[s]cientists and medical professionals have confirmed that the warm weather of the spring will be the end of the [c]oronavirus.”

Blumenthal is the lead sponsor of the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which he has introduced repeatedly since 2013. The legislation would build on the passenger safety measures signed into law in the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA). Among other provisions, the bill would strengthen a number of critical medical standards aboard cruise ships, including ensuring the presence of a physician to treat any passenger in the event of an emergency, the appropriate number of qualified medical staff to treat the number of passengers on board, and that the passengers are aware of the location of the vessel’s medical facilities and the appropriate steps they should follow during a medical emergency.

This bicameral, bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) in the Senate and U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and John Garamendi (D-CA) in the House.

The full text of the letter is included below and available here. The text of the legislation is available here.

Dear Mr. Del Rio:

We write to demand that Norwegian Cruise Line immediately end the dissemination of any misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.  We also strongly urge your company to consider suspending all operations until sufficient measures are in place to protect the health and safety of your passengers and crewmembers.  Norwegian Cruise Line has a moral obligation to assure robust protections for consumers and to provide accurate information to all those traveling aboard its vessels.

Yesterday, disturbing reports indicated that some members of Norwegian’s management asked sales staff to provide false information to customers regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect the company’s bookings.  One employee claimed that, “[t]hese discussions take place every day. And even during our department meetings, managers tell us that it isn't a big deal, that more people die from other things. [They're] constantly underestimating it.”[1]  More alarmingly, leaked e-mails reveal unconscionable aspects of Norwegian’s business model – management offering sales team members with suggested talking points that are wholly inaccurate in order to help “close […] guests that are on the fence.”[2]  The suggested talking points go as far as to claim that COVID-19 “can only survive in cold temperatures, so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise” and that “[s]cientists and medical professionals have confirmed that the warm weather of the spring will be the end of the [c]oronavirus.”[3]  These claims are simply untrue, and – under the circumstances – dangerous to public health as “hundreds or thousands of people on a daily basis are potentially getting this false information.”[4]  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising that U.S. travelers defer cruise ship travel altogether and has said, “COVID-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships”.[5]  Norwegian’s prioritization            of profits over people during this pandemic is truly appalling, and we demand that the company take action to cease all such behavior immediately.

In light of these reports, and for the sake of your passengers and crew, we urge the company to end all operations until it implements sufficient health and safety protections and protocols.  Other major cruise lines have suspended all global operations due to the coronavirus, including Viking and Carnival Corporation’s Princess Cruises.[6]  Travel aboard cruise ships at this time pose serious risks to passengers and crew.  We caution you not to push the cost of any operational suspension onto your passengers, and Norwegian must provide consumers with existing reservations a full cash refund.

We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your timely response.



[1] Alexi Cardona, “Leaked Emails: Norwegian Pressures Sales Team to Mislead Potential Customers About Coronavirus,” Miami New Times, 11 March 2020, https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/coronavirus-norwegian-cruise-line-leaked-emails-show-booking-strategy-11590056. 

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Drew Harwell, “Norwegian Cruise Line managers urged salespeople to spread falsehoods about coronavirus,” The Washington Post, 12 March 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/12/norwegian-cruise-line-managers-urged-salespeople-spread-falsehoods-about-coronavirus/.

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “COVID-10 and Cruise Ship Travel,” 8 March 2020, https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/covid-19-cruise-ship.

[6] Michelle Gross, “Viking, Princess Suspends All Cruises Amid Covid-19 Pandemic,” Forbes, 12 March 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/michellegross/2020/03/12/viking-princess-suspends-all-cruises-amid-covid-19-pandemic/#132a98395a38.