Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have become the first to cancel sailings amid rising fears of Omicron-related COVID-19 infections.
The decision by the two cruise lines to cancel multiple cruises comes amid a spate of recent infections aboard cruise ships, which are believed to be linked to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
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Royal Caribbean International called off its Spectrum of the Seas cruise for January 6th after nine guests on the preceding cruise were identified as close contacts to a local Hong Kong COVID-19 case.
The contacts tested negative, but the cruise ship returned to Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong to test all guests and crew. Due to Hong Kong’s strict COVID-19 mitigation regulations, all guests will need to take a second test on Saturday.
Royal Caribbean then cancelled all upcoming cruises for Spectrum of the Seas after Hong Kong authorities banned all cruises for the next two weeks. Spectrum of the Seas is now expected to resume cruises from Hong Kong on January 21st.
Royal Caribbean has also cancelled several US cruises aboard two of its cruise ships, the Oasis-class Symphony of the Seas and the smaller Jewel of the Seas, due to COVID-19 outbreaks aboard both vessels.
Symphony of the Seas will see its January 8th cruise from Miami cancelled, as well as the following two sailings, bringing it back in service on January 29th. Jewel of the Seas, meanwhile, is scheduled to return to service on February 20th.
In addition, the resumption of cruises by two other ships, Serenade of the Seas and Vision of the Seas, have been pushed back to April and March respectively.
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Norwegian Cruise Line has also cancelled several itineraries aboard eight of its cruise ships due to COVID-19-related circumstances, mainly relating to travel restrictions introduced in response to the spread of the Omicron variant.
“Due to ongoing travel restrictions, we’ve had to modify a few sailings and unfortunately have had to cancel [others],” the cruise line said in a statement.
The announcement came as a 12-day cruise aboard Norwegian Pearl out of Miami was cut short due to COVID-19 disruption.
Norwegian Cruise said guests, who were supposed to embark on the cancelled sailings on the eight ships, will receive full refunds and bonus credits for future bookings.
The Norwegian Cruise Line ships impacted by cancellations:
Norwegian Getaway with embarkation dates through and including January 5, 2022
Norwegian Pearl cruises with embarkation dates through and including January 14, 2022
Norwegian Sky cruises with embarkation dates through and including February 25,2022
Pride of America cruises with embarkation dates through and including February 26,2022
Norwegian Jade cruises with embarkation dates through and including March 3, 2022
Norwegian Star cruises with embarkation dates through and including March 19,2022
Norwegian Sun cruises with embarkation dates through and including April 19, 2022
Norwegian Spirit cruises with embarkation dates through and including April 23, 2022
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had last week advised people to avoid cruise travel after launching investigations into onboard cases on more than 90 ships.
The cruise industry responded to the move as unfairly targeting the cruise industry, citing its robust health and safety protocols, which include vaccine mandates and COVID-19 testing, and exceed any measures implemented by other travel sectors.
The CLIA noted that COVID-19 outbreaks aboard cruise ships represent a small percentage of the passengers onboard, the CDC launches an investigation if just 0.1% of the guests test positive.
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