Ship sail

Royal Caribbean cruise ship reports dozens of coronavirus cases

Dozens of people aboard a Royal Caribbean International cruise ship tested positive for the coronavirus after leaving Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Saturday, according to the cruise line.

Fifty-five fully vaccinated passengers and crew aboard the ship, the Odyssey of the Seas, tested positive, the cruise line said in a statement on Thursday, noting that the number represented 1.1% of people on board.

The ship, which was on an eight-night cruise, will not sail to Curacao and Aruba as planned and will remain at sea until it returns to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, Royal Caribbean said.

“The decision was made with the islands out of caution due to the current trend of Covid-19 cases in destination communities as well as crew and guests testing positive on board,” the company said. Everyone on the ship who tested positive “is fully vaccinated and mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic,” the cruise line added.

The Odyssey of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s newest ships, made its maiden voyage in July. It can carry over 5,500 guests and over 1,600 crew members.

The health episode was reported shortly after a similar episode on another Royal Caribbean ship, the Symphony of the Seas. The cruise line said this week that 48 people on that ship tested positive for Covid-19 after leaving Miami on December 11. The ship returned to the Port of Miami on December 18 after a seven-night Caribbean cruise.

These cases were identified due to contact tracing after a guest tested positive, the cruise line said, adding that 95% of passengers on the Symphony of the Seas were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and 98% of people who tested positive were fully vaccinated.

Royal Caribbean requires travelers 12 and older to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and test negative before boarding. Younger children who are not vaccinated must provide a negative PCR test result before departure and a negative test at the terminal before boarding.

The company said all of its crew were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and tested weekly.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, epidemics on cruise ships made people sick and disrupted the tourism industry.

Since the cruise industry restarted operations in the United States last June, efforts to keep the coronavirus at bay have been largely successful. Most companies require full vaccination of crew members and most passengers, and they have strict health and safety protocols in place.

But as Omicron’s highly contagious variant increases coronavirus cases across much of the United States and Europe, and criticism from cruise lines has grown over the lack of transparency in reporting positive cases to passengers and crew, many companies have adjusted their masking, testing and vaccine rules.