Eight Crew with COVID Causes Royal Caribbean Ship to Delay Sailing

COVID-19 Royal Caribbean Odyssey of the Seas
Odyssey of the Seas' maiden arrival in Port Everglades on June 10 (Port Everglades

Published Jun 16, 2021 3:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

The same week that Royal Caribbean International is marking its return to North American cruising, the company announced that it is also delaying the maiden voyage of its newest cruise ship for a month after crew members aboard the vessel tested positive for COVID-19. Eight crew members tested positive for the virus as part of routine testing aboard the 169,000 gross ton Odyssey of the Seas, which recently arrived in the United States.

According to the cruise line, the eight crew members, six of whom are asymptomatic and two with mild symptoms, were quarantined and are being monitored by the line’s medical team. The positive test results came as part of routine testing required by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Upon reporting the results to the CDC, the cruise ship’s status was moved to “red,” which limits the movement of crew and the ship’s ability to operate revenue cruises.

Royal Caribbean International announced that the 1,400 members of the crew aboard the Odyssey of the Seas are now in quarantine. Routine testing will continue among the crew as part of the CDC’s requirements.

The cruise ship was scheduled to begin service on July 3 from Port Everglades, Florida after conducting a simulation cruise for the CDC to demonstrate its health and safety protocols. The Odyssey of the Seas is one of several cruise ships the line has scheduled to start cruises this summer from ports around the United States. The company had announced that all crew would be vaccinated for the virus, while it is encouraging but not requiring passengers to be fully vaccinated before their cruise.

The circumstances of the current cases are fairly unique. The cruise ship was delivered by its builder, Meyer Werft, this spring and initially positioned to operate cruises from Israel. Royal Caribbean canceled those cruises and repositioned the cruise ship to the United States, where it made its first arrival on June 4 at Port Canaveral, Florida. During that port call, all the 1,400 crew onboard were vaccinated for COVID-19. The ship then repositioned to Port Everglades on June 10, and it was during that arrival that the positive test results were recorded. It was only one week after the vaccinations had been given. Medical experts believe it takes two weeks to build full immunity after being inoculated.

It is not the first reported case of COVID-19 aboard this cruise ship. After leaving Haifa in mid-May, crew members tested positive and a fifth had an inconclusive test. Royal Caribbean quarantined those crew members and made arrangements to disembark them in Palma, Spain in late May before beginning the transatlantic crossing to Florida.

Under the CDC’s color coding system, the Odyssey of the Seas was moved to red upon confirmation of the positive tests and will remain at that level until 14 days after all crew tests negative. Crew movements to shore or other ships are also now restricted. The ship needs to regain its orange or green status before it can renew its application to operate a simulated cruise. Only after the simulated cruise is completed and approved by the CDC will the ship be permitted to begin revenue cruises. Royal Caribbean said it now plans to operate the first revenue cruise aboard the Odyssey of the Seas on July 31.

Last Saturday, June 12, Royal Caribbean International’s Adventure of the Seas became the line’s first cruise ship to resume sailing in North America. The 138,000 gross ton cruise ship departed Nassau in the Bahamas with approximately 1,000 passengers for a seven-day cruise in the Bahamas and visiting Mexico. Eleven of Royal Caribbean’s ships, or nearly half its fleet, are scheduled to cruise from the U.S. and Europe beginning in July and August.