Royal Caribbean Cruise Reports COVID-19 Outbreak Despite High Vaccination Rate

By Jonathan Walker | December 21, 2021
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
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98 percent of people infected with COVID-19 aboard the cruise ship were fully vaccinated. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Forty-eight passengers of the Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas cruise ship have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. An additional six individuals who contracted the virus left the ship when it docked in Florida. Symphony of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world.

The cruise ship had left Port Miami on Dec. 11 with 95 percent of its passengers fully vaccinated. There were 6,091 passengers aboard. All crew members are also fully vaccinated and subjected to weekly tests. 

When some passengers began testing positive for COVID-19, they were immediately sent into quarantine. The infected people either had mild symptoms or were asymptomatic according to Royal Caribbean spokesperson Lyan Sierra-Carro.

“We were notified by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that a guest on board our (December) 4th cruise tested positive and it was identified as omicron… They asked us to notify guests on the sailing,” Sierra-Caro said to media outlets. 98 percent of the infected individuals were fully vaccinated. Despite the viral outbreak, company officials say that the ship’s itinerary was not affected.

The CDC stated that it is aware of the situation and is investigating the outbreak aboard the cruise ship. The agency is “working with RCI (Royal Caribbean) to gather more information about the cases and possible exposures, and RCI will be collecting specimens from the current voyage for genetic sequencing.”

Royal Caribbean has imposed a set of stringent COVID-19 rules for all its trips that depart from U.S. ports. Every guest who is 12 years and older must submit proof of vaccination before the trip. The final COVID-19 dose should be taken at least 14 days prior to sailing. 

Unless a guest has taken a shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they must have taken two doses of a vaccine. The company insists that no exceptions will be made in this regard even if the guest comes from a country that has allowed a single-shot regimen for a double-dose vaccine. 

“Royal Caribbean will not accept a Certificate of Recovery in lieu of a vaccination record card for guests of vaccine eligible age… Guests under age 12 who are not vaccinated will complete additional COVID-19 testing requirements depending on the length and departure port of their sailing,” says the company policy.

Some passengers of the trip countered Royal Caribbean’s claim that infected people had mild symptoms. In an interview with Miami Herald, Orlando couple Connor O’Dell and James Johnson said that they had taken the trip with 12 family members.

Their aunt became very ill, developing a strong cough. When they contacted the medical team aboard the ship, their aunt was only given a temperature check and oxygen. The staff said that they were pressed for time and could not monitor her thoroughly. The couple was also denied coronavirus tests and received conflicting information on whether they needed to be quarantined.

“We did our research and read their COVID policies, on their site they say they have excellent testing capabilities, that’s why we thought it was safe to go… They failed their own safety standards,” Johnson said.

With Omicron spreading across the country, the cruise industry is worried that its activities might once again get disrupted. In a statement to USA Today, Cruise Lines International Association, the leading trade organization for the cruise industry, stated that their “highest priority” is maintaining safety and health.

“Together with our members, we are monitoring developments related to the Omicron variant and remain closely engaged with local and national authorities in the places where cruises sail,” the association said in a statement.