COVID Outbreak on Cruise Ship: 'They Were So Overwhelmed'

4 dozen passengers, crew on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas tested positive
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2021 11:35 AM CST
Dozens Test Positive on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas
In this May 20, 2020, file photo, the Symphony of the Seas cruise ship is shown docked at PortMiami, in Miami.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

About four dozen passengers and crew on a Dec. 11 sailing on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas tested positive for COVID before the ship made it back to Miami on Saturday, the cruise line announced. USA Today reports the number as 44 infected, while NBC Miami puts it at 48. The infections among the 6,100 or so on board the ship happened despite the fact that guests 12 and older were required to be fully vaccinated and prove they'd tested negative before boarding; younger children were required to test negative. "Future itineraries are not impacted," Royal Caribbean spokesperson Lyan Sierra-Caro told the Sun Sentinel, via WFTV. "Everyone who tested positive was asymptomatic, and we conscientiously monitored their health."

Not so, say engaged couple Connor O'Dell and James Johnson, who note Johnson's 66-year-old aunt was one of six in their group of 12 who tested positive. O'Dell says she had a sore throat and nagging cough, that she wasn't given a thorough medical exam, and that the ship's staff didn't seem prepared to deal with such an outbreak. "They were so overwhelmed," Johnson, 36, tells USA Today, adding that he and O'Dell were initially told they didn't have to quarantine, even though they'd been hanging out with others in their group who'd tested positive. "Everything was so confusing." Royal Caribbean also announced that a guest who'd hidden their symptoms had been on Symphony of the Seas' Dec. 4 sailing and had subsequently tested positive for the omicron variant.

Passengers from those two trips, as well as from the current one that departed on Dec. 18, have been alerted. The sailing that left Miami on Dec. 11 made stops in St. Thomas and St. Maarten, as well as on a private island owned by Royal Caribbean, according to Sierra-Caro. The cruise line is urging guests who just got off the boat to get tested for COVID three to five days after disembarking. Meanwhile, it's working with the CDC and "will be collecting specimens from the current voyage for genetic sequencing," per a CDC statement. NEWS10 notes that dozens of US states have reported cases involving omicron, prompting public health officials to reassess current health and safety protocols. (More Royal Caribbean stories.)

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