Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas vacation trip from Fort Lauderdale has gone badly for many passengers, after they or their family members tested positive for COVID-19.
The cruise ship departed Fort Lauderdale on December 26 and stopped in Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Costa Maya, Mexico; and CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, and returned to Fort Lauderdale on January 2.
As of December 18, Harmony of the Seas, which can accommodate 6,780 passengers, is at least the fifth ship to enter and leave ports in South Florida and to have a coronavirus outbreak on board. And it is the third Royal Caribbean ship to suffer COVID-19 infections on board as it sailed from that area during this time. The cruise line’s Symphony of the Seas had at least 48 cases of the coronavirus and the Oasis of the Seas had 55.
The Miami Herald spoke with four groups of passengers at least one of whom in their group tested positive for COVID-19 during this vacation trip from Harmony of the Seas. Royal Caribbean did not respond to multiple requests for comment on infections during this trip, including the number of infected passengers and crew.
Carnival Freedom was recently denied entry to the islands of Aruba and Bonaire due to cases of COVID-19, but cruise line Carnival Cruise Line declined to comment on the number of people infected on board. The Norwegian Pearl turned around on day two of an 11-day Caribbean cruise and returned to PortMiami on Wednesday.
With the rapid spread of the omicron variant, accompanied by a worrying number of COVID-19 cases among fully vaccinated people, on December 30, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against cruising, even for those vaccinated. The CDC reported that there were 5,013 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on cruise ships between December 15 and 29, compared to just 162 cases in the previous two weeks, from November 30 to December 14.
According to the CDC’s database for COVID-19 on cruise ships Wednesday, the 92 cruise ships currently sailing in U.S. waters had people infected with COVID-19 on board.
Seasonne Rose, 42, is an actress who lives in Austin, TX and was aboard Harmony of the Seas with her 7-year-old daughter, who tested positive on December 31 after having a fever the day before. . When her daughter tested positive, Rose requested a test herself, but said she never received one. She said Royal Caribbean’s lack of information was frustrating.
âWe figured out there could be COVID-19 on boardâ¦ but it was like facing the wild Old West from the moment you tested positive,â Rose said. âThey didn’t want to tell us what was going on. They are not transparent with passengers. â¦ There is a false sense of security.
Passengers on the Harmony of the Seas told the Miami Herald that the ship’s captain never specified the number of COVID-19 cases among the passengers or crew.
On the same vacation cruise, Michael Ratliff, 33, of Charleston, South Carolina, said his 4-year-old daughter tested positive for COVID-19 on December 31.
âIt was so frustrating,â Ratliff said. “My daughter had tested positive, we were locked in a hallway and just wanted to know what the situation was, but they didn’t want to tell anyone what was going on.”
When a reporter asked Royal Caribbean officials about the frustration of Harmony of the Seas passengers not being informed of COVID-19 infections on the ship, they declined to comment.
Brian Salerno, senior vice president of marine policy at the Cruise Lines International Association, the cruise industry’s largest trading group, said association and CDC guidelines say cruise lines must inform passengers when coronavirus cases are confirmed on board.
âIt is expected that if there are cases on board, other passengers will be informed. This is the operational directive, âsaid Salerno, explaining that he was unsure why cruise lines were not disclosing the number of COVID-19 cases on board.
âI don’t know why, I think they have a good story to tell in terms of the effectiveness of the protocols. … the (public safety) measures have worked very well overall, despite having a unique challenge with omicron. “
But as the omicron variant quickly spreads across the world, some cruise fans may start to reconsider their cruise plans.
âI love cruising,â Rose said. âI have booked several cruises on Royal Caribbean this year, but something needs to change. I will not be returning to a cruise ship until this disaster is over.
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