United Kingdom

Royal Caribbean delays Odyssey of the Seas cruise over positive COVID tests

Royal Caribbean has announced it would delay the inaugural sailing of its Odyssey of the Seas cruise liner by nearly a month after eight crew members tested positive for COVID-19.

The news comes a week after two people tested positive for the virus on its Celebrity Millennium cruise ship, where the infected travelers, who were asymptomatic, were quarantined.

Odyssey of the Seas, which was scheduled to sail through Southern and Western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, will now sail on July 31 instead of July 3. 

A simulation cruise, originally scheduled for late June, will also be rescheduled.

Royal Caribbean said on Wednesday it would delay the inaugural sailing of its Odyssey of the Seas cruise by nearly a month after eight vaccinated crew members tested positive for COVID

Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley broke the news in a Facebook post on Tuesday 

Six of the eight people who tested positive were asymptomatic and two had mild symptoms and were quarantined, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley said in a Facebook post, which opened with the words: 'two steps forward and one step back!'

The positive cases were identified after the crew were vaccinated but before the vaccine became fully effective, Bayley stated. 

All 1,400 crew members on board Odyssey were vaccinated on June 4 and will be considered fully vaccinated on June 18, he added.

'To protect the remaining crew and prevent any further cases, we will have all crew quarantined for 14 days and continue with our routine testing,' Bayley wrote. 

Cruise companies were one of the worst hit during the pandemic as travel restrictions led to canceled trips and huge losses. They have been restarting their operations slowly and are preparing to sail from US ports in the coming weeks and months.

'While disappointing, this is the right decision for the health and well-being of our crew and guests,' Bayley said of the cruise's delay. 

The positive cases were identified after the mega ship's 1,400-person crew were vaccinated on June 4 but before the vaccine became fully effective, which will be on June 18

As part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's orders to restart trips, cruise companies require a majority of the passengers and crew to be vaccinated.

Royal Caribbean started sailing this month after meeting the CDC's comprehensive guidelines that included a fully vaccinated crew and requirements for everyone over 16 to present proof of vaccination against COVID-19. 

Ocean voyages were suspended in March 2020 as the pandemic cut a devastating path around the world, with hubs like Florida losing an estimated $5.6billion.

News of the cases aboard the Celebrity Millennium came as US-based cruise lines are chafing to resume voyages from Florida ports in July as the pandemic wanes - but for vaccinated passengers only - yet the state and its governor won't let them demand proof of vaccination.

Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last month he signed into law a bill barring businesses from demanding vaccination 'passports,' stopping them from requiring that employees provide proof of vaccination - and threatening fines for noncompliance that could amount, for cruise lines, to $5,000 per passenger.

With the world's three biggest cruise lines all based in Miami, the coming months offer a calendar of confusing and shifting health requirements, with conflict a near-certainty.

Last week, two people tested positive for COVID-19 on Royal Caribbean's Celebrity Millennium cruise ship (pictured) 

Carnival Cruise Line will require vaccination on cruises leaving from Texas - another Republican-led state that has been quick to drop Covid curbs - but Carnival has provided no detailed information on a cruise set to leave Miami on July 4.

Last week, Norwegian Cruise Line - which has threatened to abandon Florida ports altogether - directly defied the governor by saying it would demand proof of vaccination on all its cruises.

'We are currently in communication with his (DeSantis's) staff and legal counsel to ensure that we can offer the safest cruise experience for our passengers departing from the cruise capital of the world,' the company's CEO, Frank Del Rio, said.

The third big cruise line, the Royal Caribbean Group, meantime reversed itself.

Having initially announced that it would demand proof of vaccination, it said Friday that passengers and crew were only 'strongly recommended' to get the vaccine, and that anyone unvaccinated would face 'other protocols.' 

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