At least 48 passengers tested positive aboard the most recent Symphony of the Seas cruise, and the ship has returned to PortMiami as scheduled to continue sailing with no disruption to future itineraries. This news comes as Royal Caribbean has adjusted its onboard protocols to require additional face mask wearing in public indoor areas.
COVID-19 Cases on Symphony of the Seas
Symphony of the Seas was in the midst of a 7-night Caribbean itinerary that had set sail December 11, 2021, when one guest aboard tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracing measures were initiated immediately, and additional cases were detected. By the time the ship returned to Miami, the total was 48 positive cases.
Of the 6,091 passengers and crew aboard Symphony of the Seas at the time (at full operational capacity, the ship would carry 8,880 passengers and crew), 95% were fully vaccinated before the sailing. Of the 48 cases detected, 98% of those individuals were fully vaccinated.
Six passengers were medically evacuated from the vessel early. The rest of the positive cases remained in quarantine onboard and debarked the ship when it reached PortMiami on schedule on December 18, after the itinerary that included St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas.
In a statement sent to Cruise Hive, Royal Caribbean says, “Forty-eight* of the 6,091 guests and crew members on board Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas Dec. 11 sailing tested positive for COVID-19 – .78% of the onboard community. They were identified as a result of immediate contact tracing after a guest tested positive. The cruise sailed with 95% of the onboard community fully vaccinated, and 98% of those who tested positive were fully vaccinated.”
The statement continues, “Each person quickly went into quarantine. Everyone who tested positive was asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and we continuously monitored their health. Six guests were disembarked earlier in the cruise and were transported home. The additional guests received assistance upon our arrival yesterday, Dec. 18. Symphony’s future itineraries are not impacted.”
While it may seem that 48 cases is a significant outbreak, put into perspective of the ship’s population at the time, only 0.78% of everyone on board tested positive. It is not yet known whether any of the positive cases were of the Omicron variant.
This new variant, believed to be highly transmissible but possibly resulting in weaker symptoms, has been detected in Florida already, but it is not yet being tracked separately from overall COVID-19 cases.
Symphony‘s passengers who tested positive were all reported as either asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic. Typical symptoms associated with the Omicron variant include coughing, fatigue, a runny nose, headache, and congestion.
Royal Caribbean’s Health Protocols
Like all major cruise lines, Royal Caribbean has implemented a range of onboard health and safety protocols to minimize contamination and transmission of diseases, including COVID-19. Onboard precautions include enhanced cleaning and sanitation with techniques like electrostatic fogging, as well as improved HVAC and air filtration to provide fresh air to all indoor spaces.
Hand washing and sanitizer stations are widespread throughout ships, and masks are required in indoor spaces as well as outdoors in crowded areas.
All Royal Caribbean crew members are fully vaccinated and tested weekly. All guests ages 12 and older must be fully vaccinated before sailing, and all passengers departing from U.S. embarkation ports must also present negative test results no more than 2 days prior to sailing.
It is also recommended, though not yet required, that guests who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster take advantage of that added protection.
As the Omicron variant continues to spread and more is learned about how it may differ from other COVID-19 strains, all cruise lines are reviewing their health and safety protocols and making adjustments as needed.