Norwegian Cruise Line Cancels Voyages On 8 Ships Amid COVID-19 Surge
Norwegian Cruise Line has canceled upcoming voyages on eight of its ships, a move that comes after two of its ships reportedly either returned to port early this week or had to cancel travel plans at the last minute due to COVID-19.
Norwegian cited “ongoing travel restrictions” for the decision, which affect sailings scheduled in the U.S. and abroad until as late as April.
“Our first priority is the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit,” the company, which has a total of 28 ships, said in a statement Wednesday.
Norwegian did not offer further information about the cancellations and did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment Thursday.
The Norwegian Pearl — which had to return to Miami early Wednesday after completing just one full day of a planned 11-day voyage — was among the ships that has seen its upcoming travels canceled, the Miami Herald reported. A passenger, citing an announcement on the ship, told Local 10 news that the trip was cut short because 50 crew members tested positive for the coronavirus.
A second Norwegian cruise ship in Miami, the Norwegian Getaway, similarly had its nine-day voyage canceled on Wednesday “due to COVID-related circumstances,” the company told NBC Miami. This reportedly left vacationers, some of whom had traveled over 1,000 miles to catch the cruise, scrambling to make alternative plans.
“I just wish I had known the night before,” Gabrielle Rodriguez, who had flown in from New Jersey, told the Herald of her disappointment.
Internationally, Royal Caribbean was forced to cancel all local cruise operations in Hong Kong on Thursday after health officials there imposed a two-week suspension on such travel due to a rise in local COVID-19 cases. Hong Kong has also imposed a temporary ban on flights arriving from eight countries, including the U.S.
Royal Caribbean’s announcement followed roughly 3,700 passengers and staff being held on a ship in Hong Kong for coronavirus testing after local health officials said nine people on board were found to have had close contact with an infected patient. Those nine passengers went on to get negative preliminary test results, health officials said.
Another Royal Caribbean ship was reportedly turned away from docking in Aruba and Curacao late last month after 55 passengers and crew members tested positive for COVID-19. The ship had set sail from Florida.
A Royal Caribbean spokesperson told HuffPost on Thursday that no cancellations are currently planned in the U.S. but that the situation is constantly being reviewed.
The cancellations come as COVID-19 cases, fueled by the more transmittable omicron variant, continue to set new pandemic records. On Monday, the U.S. reported a record 1,171,378 new cases in a single day ― more in a day than any other country in the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
A tally by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week shows that all 92 cruise ships with passengers in U.S. waters warrant investigation by the health agency due to the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on board. A cruise ship would warrant investigation if there are positive cases among at least 0.10% of passengers ― or seven or more cases among 6,500 passengers, which is the maximum the largest ships can carry, according to the CDC’s website.
Last week, the CDC raised its COVID-19 warning for cruise ships to the highest level. The agency urged people not to go on cruises, regardless of their vaccination status, due to the high rate of virus transmission.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high,” the CDC said.
Cruise industry representatives have called the CDC’s warning extreme, however, reasoning that the number of confirmed cases is low, especially compared to the numbers being reported on land.
“No setting can be immune from this virus — however, it is also the case that cruises provide one of the highest levels of demonstrated mitigation against the virus,” the cruise industry’s trade group, Cruise Lines International Association, said in a statement.