Islands Block Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship After 55 Aboard Test Positive For COVID

The cruise line said it is not accepting new bookings on its ships until Jan. 10 to better accommodate social distancing, and it will now require masks indoors.

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship was turned away in Aruba and Curacao this week after 55 passengers and crew members tested positive for COVID-19, the Miami Herald and other media organizations reported.

The outbreak on the Odyssey of the Seas mega-ship occurred just over a week after another Royal Caribbean ship, the Symphony of the Seas, docked in Miami with at least 48 cases of COVID among passengers and crew members.

Royal Caribbean announced Thursday it will not be accepting any new bookings on its cruises until Jan. 10, Travel & Leisure and USA Today reported, to better “accommodate physical distancing.”

The company has also informed passengers it will now require masks be worn “indoors at all times, unless actively eating or drinking,” USA Today reported.

The Odyssey of the Seas, which set sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday, will remain at sea until it returns to Florida on Sunday, the Herald reported.

Everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 on the ship had been vaccinated, according to the company. All crew members and passengers 12 and older are required to be fully vaccinated, and children younger than 12 are tested before boarding, according to the Royal Caribbean website.

The Curacao Health Department barred the ship from docking Wednesday because the number of people with COVID on the Odyssey of the Seas exceeded its 1% case limit, the Curacao Chronicle reported.

The ship is carrying 3,587 passengers and 1,599 crew members.

The newspaper reported that 51 of those infected were crew members. The cases ballooned from 18 just three days earlier, according to Dr. Izzy Gerstenbluth, Curacao’s national epidemiologist.

Gerstenbluth anticipated a more extensive outbreak since “several crew members have not been quarantined.”

The outbreak was apparently triggered by a symptomatic passenger who initially didn’t inform ship officials. He and his close contracts were forced to disembark when he later tested positive.

Royal Caribbean insisted to NBC News in a statement that a decision not to dock in Curacao and Aruba “was made together with the islands out of an abundance of caution due to the current trend of Covid-19 cases in the destinations’ communities as well as crew and guests testing positive on board.”

Company officials told NBC that passengers and crew infected on the Odyssey cruise are being monitored and that close contacts have been quarantined. Those who tested positive are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, cruise line representatives said.

The sole stop during the eight-day cruise was Sunday at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, the Miami Herald reported.

In July, the maiden voyage of the Odyssey of the Seas was delayed after crew members tested positive for the coronavirus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating the Odyssey of the Seas outbreak and others on other cruise ships.

“CDC is investigating the recent increase in COVID-19 cases identified on Royal Caribbean International’s Odyssey of the Seas,” CDC spokesperson David Daigle told USA Today on Thursday. “All cases appear to be mild or asymptomatic. Additionally, there have been no COVID-19 related hospitalizations, medical evacuations, ventilator use, or deaths from this ship.”

During the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020, hundreds of cruise ship passengers and crew members contracted COVID-19, and some ships were forced to wander at sea until they could get permission to dock.


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