Four dozen passengers and crew tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of a weeklong Royal Caribbean cruise aboard Symphony of the Seas that sailed into Miami yesterday, reported the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
But breakthrough cases happen so routinely on cruise ships these days, it’s become something of a trend.
A spokesperson from the cruise line told the Sun-Sentinel that all the positive cases were asymptomatic. “Future itineraries are not impacted,” she said.
All of the ship’s passengers age 12 and older were required to be fully vaccinated and to test negative to board the cruise, which left Miami on December 11. Children too young to be vaccinated were also required to test negative before sailing.
In response to rising infection rates due to the omicron variant of the coronavirus, Royal Caribbean tightened its mask policy this week to require that all passengers, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in all indoor public areas unless actively eating or drinking. Previously the cruise line had allowed fully vaccinated passengers to go maskless in designated areas. The new, stricter policy will remain in effect on all sailings through January 5, 2022.
One guest on board the same ship on the previous sailing, which departed Miami on December 4, had tested positive with the omicron variant.
Earlier this month, at least 17 out of 3,200 passengers on the all-vaccinated Norwegian Breakaway tested positive for Covid-19 as the ship returned to New Orleans.
Back in August, 27 people on the Carnival Vista tested positive for Covid-19 upon return to Galveston.
The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) keeps a color-coded list of ships on which passengers or crew have tested positive for Covid-19. The color-coding is based on both surveillance data collected over the previous 7-day period as well as the findings of any CDC investigations.
There are currently 32 ships on yellow status, which means that reported number of cases of Covid-19 have met the threshold for CDC investigation. What else do these ships have in common? They all continue to sail.
The Symphony of the Seas is one of the ships on yellow status, signifying that at least .10%, or one-tenth of one percent, of passengers tested positive for Covid-19. The 44 cases on the latest sailing represented 0.72 percent of the 6,074 guests and crew members aboard, Royal Caribbean told the Sun-Sentinel.
Before deciding to upgrade a ship to the more serious “red” status, the CDC considers multiple factors, including the percent of passengers and crew who are fully vaccinated; whether variants of concern are identified among positive cases; medical resources on board; and more.
Cruising in the U.S. came to a stand still when the CDC issued a “No Sail Order” in March 2020. This last summer, the industry relaunched with most major cruise lines now requiring that all crew members and eligible passengers be vaccinated and show negative Covid-19 tests.
But despite these tight protocols, outbreaks of Covid-19 on cruise ships happen regularly these days. In a report published last month, the CDC noted that cruise lines logged 1,359 Covid-19 confirmed cases between June 26 and October 21 of this year.