One of the world's largest cruise lines is considering whether to make vaccination against COVID-19 a requirement for boarding.
More than 130,000 people have been vaccinated in the first week of the UK's vaccination programme, which began on December 8.
Frank Del Rio, the chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said: "It will certainly be a requirement for the crew. But it's too early to tell whether we have the legal standing to mandate that you take a vaccine to come onboard – lawyers are looking at it as we speak.
"But there is talk beginning to emerge from different corners of the travel industry, the airlines as well, of requiring some kind of immunity passport demonstrating that you've had the virus or been vaccinated, so that you are good to go."
In conversation with John Lovell, the president of Travel Leaders Group, during a Zoom call, Del Rio added: "We have to build confidence in our customers and among ourselves that it's safe to cruise."
One of many pools on the pool deck of Royal Caribbean's 374-metre long Ovation of the Seas, which was one of the largest cruise ships in Australia. Photo: Chris Hyde
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which counts Regent Seven Seas, Oceania Cruises and the eponymous line among its brands, is second only to Carnival in terms of passengers numbers. It recently announced that it is extending its suspension of sailing through February 2021.
While some cruises are on the calendar for March 2021, Del Rio admitted they were unlikely to happen.
"We hope that the pandemic will ease and we can work out our differences with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to start in mid to late March. It's a long shot, but I want to keep that possibility as long as I see a possibility," he said.
Much more likely is that it will take until July, August, and September (Q3) before "the world as we know it should be open to cruising."
According to Del Rio, cruising should be "in a good gallop" by the fourth quarter of 2021 and "the world's fleets should be all up and running and us coming out of it" by 2022.
Del Rio isn't the only cruise boss keen to see a COVID-19 vaccination as a passenger's passport to board a ship.
Speaking exclusively to The Telegraph, Michael Wilson – the managing director of Bolsover Cruise Club – hailed a COVID-19 vaccine "as a beacon of hope."
He said: "Since the pandemic began, I have strongly believed that resuming travel as we know and love it would require a vaccine."
It's a sentiment shared by Lucas Schmitter, Croisi Europe's director for e-commerce, who told The Telegraph: "We remain hopeful that this will be the beginning of getting this pandemic under control and that our lives and health will return to some similarity of pre-Covid days."
Peter Shanks, UK and Ireland managing director for Silversea Cruises, said that a COVID-19 vaccination would "definitely give confidence and hope to the two million British cruisers who have missed out on their cruise in 2020 and are so keen to return to sailing in 2021 and 2022."
The Telegraph, London