Sky Princess, operated by Princess Cruises was not permitted to make its scheduled call on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands on March 8, but instead sailed straight to St. Maarten for a longer port stay. While few details were released, COVID-19 cases on board contributed to the itinerary change.
Sky Princess Misses St. Thomas
Sky Princess is currently sailing a 7-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary, having departed from Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, March 5. The ship first called on Princess Cruises’ private island, Princess Cays, on Sunday, then enjoyed a day at sea on Monday.
As the ship approached Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, for its scheduled visit on Tuesday, March 8, however, the captain announced that the ship was denied. The cause was an unspecified number of COVID-19 cases detected onboard, which the captain explained were all mild or asymptomatic in nature.
The statement did note that the cases were among both passengers and crew, but further details were not revealed.
The announcement was made about one hour before the scheduled docking time in the Caribbean cruise port, and instead of proceeding into the harbor, the ship continued on to St. Maarten ahead of schedule. This allowed Sky Princess to reach Philipsburg on Tuesday afternoon rather than Wednesday morning, and guests had more opportunities for exploring the port.
The ship’s cruise will continue after St. Maarten with two consecutive days at sea before returning to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, March 12.
While many cruise ships were denied at multiple ports of call earlier this year due to the surge of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, such denials have become increasingly uncommon as cases have fallen worldwide.
Sky Princess Health and Safety Protocols
Currently, Princess Cruises’ CruiseHealth protocols require pre-cruise COVID-19 testing for all passengers, and at least 95% of passengers must be fully vaccinated. The cruise line does not require booster shots at this time, but they are highly recommended for all eligible passengers.
As of March 1, 2022, masks are only recommended for passengers onboard Princess Cruises ships, but all crew members continue to wear masks. All guests and crew members must abide by local protocols in all ports of call.
When guests embarked Sky Princess, detailed letters described the necessary protocols in each port of call. In St. Maarten, guests were required to wear face coverings both indoors and in outdoor public spaces where social distancing was not possible.
According to passengers onboard Sky Princess‘s current sailing, the Royal-class ship – which has a guest capacity of 3,660 – is hosting approximately 2,200 passengers this week. Many cruise lines continue to sail with lowered capacities at this time in order to promote social distancing, though capacities have gradually been rising as cruising restarts and more travelers feel confident in the health and safety protocols onboard.
Outbreaks Continue on Cruise Ships
Sky Princess is currently classified as “Orange” status according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Cruise Ship Color Status chart, which means there are cases onboard and the CDC has begun investigating the conditions of the ship.
Of all the cruise ships that have opted-in to the CDC’s voluntary program for cruise ships, 19 vessels are classified in the “Orange” range, including ships from Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International.
For Princess Cruises, in addition to Sky Princess, Majestic Princess is also listed as orange.
There are also 44 additional ships listed as “Yellow” which indicates some cases on board, but not enough to warrant further investigation. A total of 51 ships are classified as “Green” with no COVID-19 cases on board, and no vessels are listed as “Red” which would be a severe outbreak requiring additional safety and containment measures.