Norwegian Pearl is cutting its current cruise short and heading back to Miami following “several COVID-19 positive cases.”
The ship — sailing with 100% vaccinated passengers and crew — departed from Miami on January 3. The itinerary was for 11 days to the Southern and Western Caribbean with stops in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and more, according to CruiseMapper.com. Following the cases, however, the ship turned around to head back home.
A letter posted to Facebook and also shared by the Miami Herald provided some details about the situation:
“The health and safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our number one priority. Today we identified several COVID-19 positive cases within our crew onboard Norwegian Pearl, which is sailing with 100% vaccinated guests and crew; most being asymptomatic and being monitored by our medical team. All affected crew and close contacts are currently in isolation.
“As a result, Norwegian Pearl’s January 3rd, 2022 sailing has been canceled and we will be returning to Miami to disembark all guests on January 6, 2022. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, as we understand now more than ever the desire to travel and reconnect with the places and people we’ve missed the most.”
You can see the letter in full below:
Passengers on the ship will receive a full refund from the cruise line, according to the posted letter. In addition, they will also receive a future cruise credit of 100% of their cruise fare.
While specific case numbers weren’t released, one passenger told a Miami news station there was an announcement of 50 crew members testing positive.
There is no word on how many crew members are on the ship, however, NCL’s website shows a crew count of 1,072 for Norwegian Pearl. If 50 crew cases is accurate, that would represent 4.6% of a full crew complement.
As for future sailings, another letter posted on CruiseCritic showed Norwegian Pearl’s trips canceled through January 14, 2022, with a return to service date of January 17, 2022. This matches the earliest cruise aboard the ship showing on Norwegian’s website.
Rising Cases Continue to Cause Hurdles on Land and Sea
This cancellation comes as the Omicron variant continues to spike on land. The rise in cases has made its way to ships. As of the last update to the CDC’s Cruise Ship Color Status report, 98 of 110 ships had either “yellow” or “orange” status, indicating possible cases onboard.
The rise in cases on ships comes despite some of the most strict protocols in travel. For example, NCL requires 100% vaccination of both passengers and crew to board. Facemasks are required in indoor areas of the ship. Passengers also must have a negative test at the terminal before sailing.
Even so, Omicron has shown the ability to spread quickly and evade vaccines. Currently the United States is seeing its highest case numbers since the start of the pandemic, despite the availability of vaccines. Thankfully, cases also appear to be more mild overall.
Norwegian Pearl currently has “yellow” status according to the latest CDC update, using data from January 3. The ship was “green” (indicating no possible cases) until December 27.