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Cruise lines re-evaluate COVID-19 protocols after outbreaks onboard

Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line are making changes amidst the uptick in COVID-19 cases

MIAMI — As the omicron variant continues to spread, a few major cruise lines are re-evaluating their COVID-19 protocols.

Dozens of people, including guests and crew members, tested positive while traveling on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas cruise ship, the company told USA Today.

Out of the 6,074 passengers on board, 48 people tested positive. The ship left Miami on Dec. 11 and made stops in St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Royal Caribbean’s private island, CocoCay. Symphony of the Seas returned to the Miami port on Dec. 18.

Royal Caribbean now requires all guests over the age of 12 to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination. Your final dose has to be administered at least 14 days before sailing. Children under the age of 11 are not required to be vaccinated, but if they are, they will follow protocols for vaccinated guests. If your child is not vaccinated, they will have to participate in testing, as well as some restrictions while sailing.

All guests traveling with Royal Caribbean will have to take a COVID-19 test no more than two days before boarding day.

After Royal Caribbean saw an outbreak on the Symphony of the Seas, the cruise line said everyone who has tested positive was either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.

Through Jan. 5, Royal Caribbean will also require masks indoors at all times, except for when eating and drinking, citing the uptick in COVID-19 cases.

After an outbreak aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway ship, the cruise line has made some changes to COVID-19 protocols on their website. Effective Dec. 19, all guests and crew will also be required to wear masks while indoors, except when actively eating or drinking, seated at a table in a dining setting, or when in their stateroom.

According to their website, face masks that have two or more layers are permitted. The cruise line says that “face masks should block light when held up to a bright light source.” Masks with exhalation valves or vents, single layer masks, or masks made of thin fabric that don’t block light are not allowed.

Beginning Jan. 17, 2022, all guests will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test result within two days prior to boarding cruises leaving from U.S. ports. If you’re leaving from a non-U.S. port, you will have three days to get tested.

Additionally, all guests and crew traveling with Norwegian will need to be fully vaccinated.

The CDC keeps track of all cruise ships and labels them with a different color status depending on surveillance COVID-19 data. Currently, 32 out of 109 cruise ships have received a “yellow” status, indicating reported COVID-19 cases have met the threshold for a CDC investigation. Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is labeled as yellow.

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