Multiple Carnival, Royal Caribbean cruise ships return to Miami with COVID outbreaks on board

December 26, 2021, 7:04 PM UTC
A Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
A Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, is seen moored in the Port of Miami on Aug. 1, 2021.
DANIEL SLIM—AFP via Getty Images

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading quickly aboard cruise ships, where some of the country’s first coronavirus outbreaks took place. 

On Thursday, Royal Caribbean Cruises diverted a ship from planned stops in Curacao and Aruba after dozens of cases of COVID-19 were identified in passengers on board, Fortune reported. The Odyssey of the Seas reported 55 confirmed positive cases among guests and crew members, amounting to 1.1% of the total number of people on board, Royal Caribbean said Thursday. All cases were among fully vaccinated people. The liner requires pre-cruise testing for passengers, it said. 

Last Sunday, another Royal Caribbean ship arrived in Miami after an outbreak, a decision made “together with the [destination] islands out of an abundance of caution,” company spokesperson Lyan Sierra-Caro said Thursday.

Royal Caribbean representatives did not respond to requests for comments on Saturday.

Royal Caribbean’s competitor, Carnival, is also struggling with COVID cases. An undisclosed number of passengers and crew aboard its Carnival Freedom cruise ship are isolating after testing positive, the company said in an emailed statement. The “small number” of COVID-positive passengers led health ministries at Bonaire and Aruba to deny the ship entry to ports, the company said.

Carnival Freedom is following all protocols and has a small number on board who are in isolation due to a positive COVID test,” the statement said. “Our protocols anticipate this possibility, and we implement them as necessary to protect the health and safety of our guests and crew.”

In a Dec. 22 tweet, a Carnival Freedom passenger named Ashley Peterson shared a photo of a letter from the ship’s captain apologizing for skipping the planned stops in Aruba and Bonaire. Passengers would each get $100 per room in onboard credit and refunds for excursions they’d planned at the islands, the letter said. 

In a Dec. 26 tweet showing a hallway of isolated passengers’ rooms, Peterson called Carnival’s claim of a “small number” of positive cases a lie. “It’s likely over 100 people and counting since more will test positive in the coming days,” she wrote.

The Carnival Freedom outbreak marks the third such episode on Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships departing Miami in the past 10 days. On Friday, Florida reported a record-breaking nearly 32,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC.

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