Cruise lines will be the first to tell you that COVID-19 isn’t going away, but they have safety protocols in place to weather the storm when cases appear on board.
With the rise of the omicron variant throughout the U.S., nearly 1/3 of ships currently sailing from U.S. waters have within the last week endured enough onboard cases to merit follow-up investigations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One of the largest reports of cases occurred last weekend with Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas reporting 48 cases of COVID-19 from a seven-night sailing that returned to Miami on Saturday. A statement from the line said some of those infected were taken off the ship earlier in the sailing, but most disembarked at the end of the voyage, and the cases did not affect the ship’s turnaround for its next voyage.
The cruise line said most of the cases were asymptomatic, or showing mild symptoms.
With more than 6,000 passengers and crew, 48 cases still constitute less than 1% of people on board, although anything 0.1% or higher means the CDC will investigate, putting the ship in yellow status from among its color-coded response chart.
According to a Dec. 20 update with reported cases through Dec. 17, the CDC lists 33 vessels as yellow status, while seven have the less severe orange status (less than 0.1% passengers infected), but the CDC is monitoring. Another 69 vessels remain in green status with no reported COVID cases.
The red status would mean a cruise ship would be threatened with its onboard medical facilities being overwhelmed. No ship has merited a red status, meaning an immediate return to port or other drastic measures.
Port Canaveral CEO John Murray said despite the rise in omicron cases, the measures that have been in place since business ramped up this past summer remain the same.
“Our safety protocols and practices have not changed,” Murray said. “We continue to work closely with our cruise partners and will support them as necessary.”