In a second coronavirus outbreak in less than a week, 55 fully vaccinated crew members and passengers on Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas ship that set sail Saturday from Fort Lauderdale have contracted the pandemic disease, the cruise line confirmed late Wednesday.
The ship was denied entry to the island nations of Curacao and Aruba. It will remain at sea until its planned return Dec. 26 to Fort Lauderdale, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson said.
The ship had docked on Sunday at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas. The remaining two stops on the eight-day cruise were supposed to be Curacao and Aruba.
On Saturday, another Royal Caribbean ship, Symphony of the Seas, had docked in PortMiami with at least 48 cases of COVID-19 among passengers and crew.
The spike of cases of COVID-19 in Florida comes as the omicron variant is spreading rapidly around the world, causing a worrying number of breakthrough infections among the fully vaccinated. The latest variant, which only emerged in America on Nov. 22, is now the dominant strain.
Earlier in the worst of the pandemic that began in March 2020, outbreaks on cruise ships brought the cruise industry to a standstill for over a year. As the omicron threat looms, cruise lines based in South Florida so far are not canceling voyages.
Royal Caribbean officials said Wednesday that passengers and crew infected on the Symphony cruise and their close contacts are being monitored. The close contacts are being isolated for 24 hours before getting tested. Those infected are either asymptomatic or have mild viral symptoms, officials said Wednesday night.
Two passengers told the Miami Herald late Wednesday that an onboard announcement informed them that the outbreak involved 52 crew members and three passengers. Cruise line officials declined to break down the number of cases among passengers and crew. Also, the passengers said Royal Caribbean is offering passengers credit for things like drinks and food not included in the price of the trip plus 50% off a future voyage.
Royal Caribbean said in a statement that 95% of the passengers and crew on board the Odyssey of the Seas are fully inoculated against COVID-19. Cruise line officials said the 55 positive virus cases represent 1.1% of the people onboard, meaning there are about 5,500 passengers and crew on the ship.
Royal Caribbean requires all crew members to be fully vaccinated. And passengers 12 and over also must be inoculated, with limited exceptions for medical and religious reasons.