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COVID-19: cruises again facing disruption

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COVID-19: cruises again facing disruption

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At least four ocean-going cruise ships have been turned away from ports of call or have been banned from letting passengers disembark in the Americas this week due to cases of COVID-19 on board.

Although other cruises have had cases since US-based ships resumed service this summer with requirements for vaccines and other measures to minimize outbreaks, the rate of cruises forced to change their routes seem to have increased.

The disruptions are still a long way from March 2020, when the pandemic shut down the industry and led to weeks of efforts to bring passengers and crew already on board home as ports were closed to affected ships. the virus.

Yet this week’s disruption came amid global concern over the highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus Omicron, and as rates of COVID-19 cases increased in the United States and elsewhere.

Recent disruptions to cruise ships include:

• The Mexican authorities prevented the Holland America Line Koningsdam to let its passengers disembark in Puerto Vallarta on Thursday after 21 crew members tested positive for Covid-19, the Jalisco state health department said.

A “small number of fully vaccinated crews” tested positive and all exhibited mild or no symptoms, Holland America Line told CNN.

Jalisco health authorities were initially going to allow people who tested negative to disembark. However, they changed their minds, citing an “exponential growth in confirmed cases in the crew” by Thursday, the department said. Only one crew member had tested positive less than a week earlier, the department said.

The ship, which left San Diego on December 19 with more than 1,000 passengers and more than 870 crew, visited Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlán before arriving in Puerto Vallarta. He was due to return to San Diego as scheduled on Sunday.

Holland America Line, like other cruise lines in this history, requires passengers and crew to be fully immunized against COVID-19, with a few exceptions for children.

• The ports of the Caribbean islands of Bonaire and Aruba have refused Carnival Liberty ship Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, after “a small number” of people on board tested positive for Covid-19, the cruise line said.

However, the company has scheduled a replacement stopover in the Dominican Republic on Friday.

He was cleared to stop in Curaçao on Tuesday. Dr Izzy Gerstenbluth, Curaçao’s national epidemiologist, said the ship alerted him before his arrival that crew members had tested positive. After visiting the ship and determining that the cases were contained among the crew, Curacao allowed the ship’s passengers to leave the ship, with the crew remaining on board, he said.

The ship returned to Miami as scheduled on Sunday, the cruise line said.

Passenger Jim Storupski told CNN affiliate WPLG that his experience on board was positive, adding that the company was “very accommodating”. His wife, Connie, praised the company for its COVID-19 security protocols and said they “had a great time.” The couple said they plan to sail with the company again in two weeks.

Other passengers reported a different experience. “It was horrible,” Leah Murray told WPLG of her frustration with the COVID-19 cases on board. “They hardly informed us. They let everyone go about their business.” She said she thought the line was “very irresponsible” with COVID-19 protocols.

• Officials in Curaçao and Aruba refused to allow Royal Caribbean Sea Odyssey this week after 55 fully vaccinated crew and passengers contracted COVID-19, the Miami Herald reported on Wednesday.

Curacao health officials have decided the percentage of people on board who have tested positive is too high for the country to allow the ship to dock, the Curacao Chronicle reported.

The ship is due to return to Fort Lauderdale, Florida as scheduled on Sunday.

According to Royal Caribbean, the ship can accommodate up to 5,550 guests and 1,600 crew members. It was not clear if the ship was fully occupied.

• Colombian authorities prevented the Mariners of the Seven Seas to let anyone disembark in Cartagena on Wednesday, after seven positive cases of COVID-19 – in six crew members and one passenger – were reported. The ship began an 18-day trip from Miami to San Francisco on December 18.

Also this month, at least 48 people who were on board the Royal Symphony of the Caribbean Seas tested positive for COVID-19, the cruise line said after the ship completed its trip to Miami on December 18. This vessel, carrying more than 6,000 passengers and crew, stopped on three islands and reported no route disruptions.

The modified cruises represent a small fraction of the dozens of cruise ships underway in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, the wider Atlantic and the Pacific at any given time this month.

Positive COVID-19 tests on cruise ships aren’t unique to this month – they’ve happened on other occasions since cruises resumed departures from U.S. shores this summer.

In August, for example, 27 people tested positive aboard a Carnival cruise ship before it called at a port in Belize City.

However, while those who tested positive were isolated on the ship, other people were allowed to disembark if they provided proof of a negative test.

Now, the spread of the Omicron variant “may shape how some destination authorities view even a small number of cases, even when handled with our rigorous protocols,” the Carnival spokesperson told CNN on Friday, AnneMarie Mathews, in a prepared statement.

“Some destinations have limited medical resources and are focused on managing their own local response to the variant,” added Mathews.

“If there is a need to cancel a port, we will do our best to find an alternative destination,” said Mathews.

HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS

Cruise lines put in place many onboard health and safety requirements – and updated them as conditions changed – to avoid a repeat of Spring 2020. This included l ‘COVID-19 vaccine requirement for crew members and passengers (except children), with vaccines offering strong protection against serious illness and death.

The companies recommend booster shots for their passengers. Holland America Line claims its crew members receive boosters as soon as they are eligible.

Cruise lines generally require their passengers to test negative for COVID-19 before starting travel, and require frequent testing of their crews.

Passengers who test positive during the trip should generally self-isolate.

US-based cruises also require masks to be worn in indoor public spaces. This policy was recently updated to extend the wearing of indoor masks to fully vaccinated passengers.


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