On Thursday, Royal Caribbean was forced to divert a ship from its planned stops in Aruba and Curacao after identifying dozens of cases of the virus in passengers. The cruise line's Odyssey of the Seas vessel reported that there were 55 confirmed positives among guests and crew members, which accounted for 1.1 percent of the total number of individuals on board.
All of the cases were detected among people who were fully vaccinated. Royal Caribbean requires passengers to get tested for the virus prior to boarding the ship, which departed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
One frustrated cruise ship passenger tweeted: "I'm stuck on a Covid ridden cruise ship….hearing about it on the news rather than from the captain."
She added that they will only be receiving two days of reimbursement for their troubles.
A different Royal Caribbean ship arrived in Miami recently after an outbreak as the company decided together with the destination islands that the cruise should not proceed “out of an abundance of caution."
Forty-eight people on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, which is the biggest cruise ship in the world, tested positive last Saturday upon returning from a week-long cruise. A statement from the company said that each person who tested positive quickly went into quarantine, and all were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.
A health policy put in place by Royal Caribbean requires every adult on their ships to be vaccinated with at least two doses of Moderna or Pfizer or one shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Royal Caribbean isn't the only cruise line seeing COVID-19 outbreaks. On Carnival's Carnival Freedom cruise ship, an undisclosed number of passengers have been isolating after testing positive for the virus. The outbreak prompted health ministries in Aruba and Bonaire to deny the ships entry to their ports.
One passenger reported that a letter that was distributed from the ship's captain apologized for skipping the pair of planned stops and said the passengers would get $100 per room in on-board credit as well as refunds for any excursions they had planned at the islands.
Although the cruise line has maintained that there is just a “small number” of positive cases, passengers on board the ship begged to differ. One passenger, Ashley Peterson, tweeted a photo of a hallway of the isolated passengers' rooms and said that she believes more than 100 people have already tested positive and more will likely do so in the days to come.
Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway detected an outbreak on board despite being a fully vaccinated ship. In a similar incident, passengers on board the Seven Seas Mariner were not permitted to disembark on a stop in Cartagena, Colombia, after one passenger and six crew members tested positive for the virus.
Cruise ships have been considered one of the safest types of vacations these days by many because of a strict health policy by most lines that only permit fully vaccinated adults to cruise. However, we now know that vaccine efficacy is waning dramatically much sooner than expected, and with the omicron variant now spreading quickly throughout the world, it is easy to see how cruise ships could become "super spreaders" of the virus due to their close quarters.
Some cruise ship operators have been doubling down on mask measures as the virus surges in the U.S., but as infections continue to climb, it’s likely that more and more ports will be denying these ships entry. That could spur mass cancellations among travelers who aren't interested in taking cruises without any stops. Once again, COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be a major disappointment and mandates are failing to stop the spread of the virus.
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