Cruise ships are facing disruption due to Covid-19

(CNN) – At least four cruise ships were rejected from ports of call or banned from letting passengers ashore in America this week due to Covid-19 cases on board.

Although other cruises have had cases since US-based ships resumed service this summer with vaccine requirements and other measures aimed at minimizing outbreaks, it appears that the number of cruises forced to change their itineraries has increased.
The disturbances are still far from March 2020, when the pandemic closed the industry and led to weeks of efforts to get already boarded passengers and crew members home as ports are closed to virus-affected vessels.
Nevertheless, this week̵[ads1]7;s disruptions were due to global concern about the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, and as the number of cases of Covid-19 increased in the United States and elsewhere.

The latest interruptions on cruise ships include:

• Mexican officials prevented Holland America Line the king’s dam from letting passengers land in Puerto Vallarta on Thursday after 21 crew members tested positive for Covid-19, Jalisco’s health department said.

A “small number of fully vaccinated crews” tested positive and all showed either mild or no symptoms, Holland America Line told CNN.



Alfredo Martinez / Getty Images

Jalisco’s health authorities were originally supposed to allow people who tested negative to go ashore. However, they changed their minds, citing an “exponential growth of confirmed cases in the crew” by Thursday, the department said. Only one crew member had tested positive less than a week earlier, the department said.

The ship, which left San Diego on December 19 with more than 1,000 passengers and more than 870 crew members, visited Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlán before arriving in Puerto Vallarta. It was to return to San Diego as planned Sunday.

Holland America Line, like the other cruise companies in this story, requires that passengers and crew be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with some exceptions for children.

• Ports in the Caribbean islands of Bonaire and Aruba declined Carnival freedom ships on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, after “a small number” of people on board tested positive for Covid-19, the cruise line said.

However, the company filed a compensation freeze on Friday in the Dominican Republic.

It was stopped on Curacao on Tuesday. Dr. Izzy Gerstenbluth, the national epidemiologist for Curacao, said the ship alerted him before it arrived that crew members had tested positive. After he visited the ship and determined that the cases were contained among the crew, Curacao allowed the ship’s passengers to leave the ship, while the crew remained on board, he said.

The ship returned to Miami as planned on Sunday, the cruise line said.

Passenger Jim Storupski told CNN-affiliated WPLG that his experience on board was positive, adding that the company was “very accommodating”. His wife, Connie, praised the company for their Covid-19 security protocols, saying they were “doing well.” The couple said they plan to sail with the company again in two weeks.

Other passengers reported a different experience. “It was horrible,” Leah Murray told the WPLG about her frustration with the Covid-19 cases on board. “They hardly informed us of anything. They let everyone start their cases.” She said she felt the line was “very irresponsible” with Covid-19 protocols.
The Royal Caribbean Odyssey of The Seas.

The Royal Caribbean Odyssey of The Seas.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

• Officials in Curacao and Aruba rejected Royal Caribbean Odyssey of the Seas this week after 55 fully vaccinated crew members and passengers received Covid-19, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday.

Curacao health authorities decided that the percentage of people on board who tested positive was too high for the nation to allow the ship to dock, the Curacao Chronicle reported.

The ship will return to Florida’s Fort Lauderdale as scheduled for Sunday.

According to Royal Caribbean, the ship can accommodate up to 5,550 guests plus 1,600 crew members. It was not clear if the ship was fully occupied.

The Seven Seas Mariner.

The Seven Seas Mariner.

Manfred Segerer / ullstein bild / Getty Images

• Colombian officials prevented the Seven Seas Mariner from letting someone land in Cartagena on Wednesday, after seven positive Covid-19 cases – in six crew members and one passenger – were reported. The ship began an 18-day trip from Miami to San Francisco on December 18.

The disturbances so far have affected a small fraction of the cruise ships operating

The modified cruises represent a small fraction of dozens of cruise ships sailing in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the wider Atlantic and the Pacific at any given time this month.

Positive Covid-19 tests aboard cruise ships are not unique to this month – they have occurred a second time since the cruise resumed departures from US shores this summer.

In August, for example, 27 people tested positive aboard a Carnival cruise ship before calling at a port in Belize City.

Now the proliferation of the Omicron variant can “shape how some destination authorities view even a small number of cases, even when handled with our powerful protocols,” Carnival spokeswoman AnneMarie Mathews told CNN Friday in a prepared statement.

“Some destinations have limited medical resources and are focused on managing their own local response to the variant,” Mathews added.

“Should it be necessary to cancel a port, we will do our best to find an alternative destination,” said Mathews.

Health and safety protocols

The companies recommend booster shots for their passengers. Holland America Line says crew members receive boosters as soon as they qualify.

Cruise companies generally require passengers to test negative for Covid-19 before starting their journey, and require frequent testing of their crews.

Passengers who test positive during the journey are generally required to isolate themselves

US-based cruises also require masks in indoor public areas. This policy was recently updated to extend the use of the indoor mask to fully vaccinated passengers.

CNN’s Francesca Street, Melissa Alonso, Aya Elamroussi, Carma Hassan, Hira Humayun, Stefano Pozzebon, Valentina DiDonato and Sharif Paget contributed to this report.

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