Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas, was refused entry for a scheduled stop at Curacao on Wednesday, December 22, due to COVID-19 cases reported on board. Instead, the ship spent a day at sea, while the next port on its itinerary – Aruba, planned for Thursday, December 23 – has already been canceled.
Odyssey of the Seas Reports 55 COVID-19 Cases
A total of 55 COVID-19 cases have been reported onboard Odyssey of the Seas, including three passengers and 52 crew members who have tested positive. This concerning number of cases led authorities in Curacao to deny the ship’s clearance at the port shortly before guests were schedule to disembark for tours.
Guests on board the ship noted that tour buses were parked and waiting at the pier as the ship arrived, but within a short period of time, the buses all left.
Shortly thereafter, the captain announced that the stop had been canceled. Guests who had booked shore excursions would be refunded those costs.
Royal Caribbean said in a statement sent to Cruise Hive: “Royal Caribbean International’s Odyssey of the Seas will not visit Curacao or Aruba as planned. The decision was made together with the islands out of an abundance of caution due to the current trend of COVID-19 cases in the destinations’ communities as well as crew and guests testing positive on board – 55 crew members and guests, representing 1.1% of the onboard community. The cruise sailed with 95% of the onboard community fully vaccinated.”
“All of whom tested positive are fully vaccinated and mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic. We continue to monitor their health. Close contacts were also identified and placed in quarantine to be monitored for 24 hours prior to testing.”
Odyssey of the Seas is currently sailing an 8-night Southern Caribbean Holiday cruise, and has already called at Royal Caribbean’s private destination in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
As typically happens when a port of call must be canceled – which can occur due to poor weather, propulsion issues, civil unrest at the port, or many other circumstances – the staff and crew onboard Odyssey of the Seas scrambled to offer additional activities throughout the day. Because many of the positive cases are crew members, however, it has proven difficult to offer as many activities due to staffing shortages.
One of the ship’s featured productions shows, “Showgirl! Past. Present. Future.” was canceled on Monday, December 20, and other activities have also been adjusted throughout the sailing.
Passenger Ignored Symptoms
According to Lyan Sierra-Caro, spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, when Odyssey of the Seas embarked passengers as usual on Saturday, December 18, one passenger failed to report COVID-19 symptoms during the standard health screening prior to boarding.
“The guest, who was symptomatic prior to boarding but did not notify us, reported to the medical center and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19,” Sierra-Caro said. “He and his close contacts were quarantined and disembarked in Ft. Lauderdale to return home.”
The ship disembarked that passenger and his traveling party in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday before setting sail once again.
In the event of medical emergencies, cruise ships may return to embarkation ports or the nearest available port to debark passengers to seek additional medical care. This can be done for illness, heart conditions, accidents, or other emergencies.
“This is a routine protocol for COVID-19 positive passengers, regardless of symptom status, on board RCI cruise ships,” the CDC said in a statement by spokesperson David Daigle.
Meanwhile, all crew members who tested positive were quickly quarantined. Contact tracing efforts continued throughout Wednesday, and the public areas of the ship underwent additional cleaning and sanitation while guests were advised to remain in their staterooms.
Odyssey of the Seas is currently listed as “yellow” status by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicating that an investigation has begun. As of this writing, 12 other Royal Caribbean vessels are also at yellow status, which means they have reported COVID-19 cases and either an investigation has begun or the ship is under observation after such an investigation.
Aruba Also Canceled
While this situation is still evolving, authorities in Aruba are taking no chances and Odyssey‘s schedule stop there on Thursday, December 23 has already been canceled.
The Aruba Ports Authority website also shows that the scheduled visit by Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom has also been canceled for Thursday. Carnival Freedom also missed its scheduled call at Bonaire on Wednesday, December 22, also due to COVID-19 cases reported on board.
Changes for Next Sailing
Guests booked on Odyssey of the Seas‘ next sailing, the 7-night Eastern Caribbean New Year’s holiday sailing departing Fort Lauderdale on December 26, have also been informed about stateroom changes.
Royal Caribbean also said in a statement, “We are sailing with a layered set of health and safety measures in place to make our cruises the safest vacations possible. Examples of these are pre-cruise testing for all guests and weekly testing of all crew members, required vaccinations for all crew and all guests age 12 and older, enhanced cleaning and sanitization standards, expanded expert medical care, 100% fresh, filtered air, and our enhanced face mask policy.”
In order to better accommodate social distancing, guest staterooms are being relocated with like-to-like changes, though all amenities remain intact and guests are being given a $100 onboard credit per stateroom as compensation.
No indication has been given if there will be any itinerary changes for that sailing, which is scheduled to call on Perfect Day at CocoCay; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Nassau, Bahamas, before returning to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, January 2, 2022.