When the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest in the United States in early 2020, few industries were more impacted than the travel industry. Cruise operators, in particular, struggled as they faced a shutdown that last over a year while fulfilling the requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).
Now, however, all major cruise lines — including Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line — have met the necessary CDC health and safety requirements and returned to sailing. Recently, though, it has become apparent that not everything is going swimmingly on board certain ships.
Per CBS, a Royal Caribbean vessel — the Symphony of the Seas — has seen a COVID-19 outbreak:
Royal Caribbean said Monday that 48 guests and crew members on the Symphony of the Seas — the world’s biggest cruise ship — have tested positive for COVID-19. According to Royal Caribbean, 48 people out of 6,091 on the ship during the Dec. 11 sailing came back positive for the coronavirus after contact tracing.
Six guests were disembarked earlier in the cruise and were transported home, the cruise line said. Four of the 48 were close contacts who tested positive at the end of the voyage.
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The article went on to note that all those who tested positive were quarantined on the ship. Furthermore, 98% of those who contracted the virus were fully vaccinated, while 95% of the total crew and passenger manifest had received the COVID-19 vaccine.
An Orlando Sentinel report also shared details about the recent rash of novel coronavirus cases on cruise vessels:
With the rise of the omicron variant throughout the U.S., more than half of ships currently sailing from U.S. waters have within the last week have documented enough onboard cases to merit follow-up investigations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite this, the Florida news source reported that “Port Canaveral CEO John Murray said despite the rise in omicron, the measures that have been in place since business ramped up this past summer remain the same.”
He noted that the measures that are currently in place are “working” and are keeping ships safe.
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Nonetheless, the recent surge in cruise ship cases might be enough to keep many families from traveling on the high seas right now, particularly as fears about travel in general once again mount around the globe amid the spread of the Omicron variant.
At this time, Disney Cruise Line offers the following health and safety notice on its official website:
Currently, Disney Cruise Line continues to require all vaccine-eligible Guests (based on US eligibility requirements) to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at the time of sailing. This will be a requirement for all Guests (US and international) ages 5 and up for sailings beginning on or after January 13, 2022. Guests who are not vaccine-eligible because of age must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result (paid for by the Guest) taken between 3 days and 24 hours before their sail date. Guests ages 5 through 11 may complete this testing requirement in lieu of being fully vaccinated for sailings that depart before January 13, 2022. Guests 4 years of age and under must complete the testing requirements. The test should be a NAAT test, rapid PCR test or lab-based PCR test. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted.
It is important to note that The Walt Disney Company currently has a “Green” rating on the CDC’s new color-coded scale for cruise ship safety.
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Although 2021 cruises may look quite different due to the ongoing pandemic, Disney is planning a huge return to sailing in 2022. The fleet’s first Triton Class cruise ship, the Disney Wish, will take her maiden voyage in June 2022.