As cruises begin their return in North America, spot cases of the virus continue to pop up. In this instance, Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley announced via Facebook that two passengers under the age of 16 tested positive aboard Adventure of the Seas, sailing from Nassau.
“Today, two kids sailing on Adventure of the Seas tested positive for COVID after routine testing required before returning home. Both guests, under the age of 16 and unvaccinated, were immediately quarantined. One guest is asymptomatic, and the other guest is experiencing mild symptoms,” Bayley said.
According to the post, the rest of their travel party was tested and came back negative. Other close contacts were also tracked and tested negative. The group then disembarked in Freeport to return to Florida.
Bayley says that 92% of the passengers (and 100% of the crew) are vaccinated. The only persons without the shot were kids under 16 years old.
This news marks the third Royal Caribbean Group ship in recent weeks to see cases. Two vaccinated passengers recently tested positive aboard a Celebrity cruise, followed by eight crew members aboard Odyssey of the Seas. In that case, the crew members had received the vaccine, but it had not been the two weeks required for them to be considered fully vaccinated.
More Cases Seem Likely as Cruises Return
At this point, it’s looking clearer that despite vaccines and health protocols, there will still be cases of the virus on cruise ships. This appears to be due to a mix of several circumstances.
First, anywhere there are enough people you are bound to find virus cases at this point. With hundreds — and even thousands — of passengers on ships, cases are going to pop up. While vaccines are a “game changer” according to many cruise executives, they are not 100% effective against testing positive.
As well, many ships are sailing with high numbers of vaccinated passengers, but not everyone has the shot. In the case of Adventure of the Seas, 8% of the ship was not vaccinated.
Meanwhile, places like Florida say cruise lines can’t require passengers to be inoculated. In this case, those passengers without the vaccine must undergo testing before they arrive at the dock, on cruise day, and before disembarkation.
That brings up the next reason cases are going to be found on ships — mandatory testing. Under current rules (which could change due to recent judicial rulings), unvaccinated passengers are required to be tested multiple times, whether showing symptoms or not. Vaccinated passengers aren’t required to be tested if not showing symptoms, but still may be if they are suspected of having COVID or are a close contact to a positive test.
For passenger health, testing is a great policy. There’s little doubt that viruses can spread on the close quarters of a ship if left unchecked. For public relations, however, it means cases will continue to be found simply due to the amount of testing.
Take a Las Vegas resort, for example. Visitors are allowed to come and go, but no testing or vaccination is required. It seems likely given the crowds there will be at least a few cases among guests, but they will never be found or tied back to the hotel because testing isn’t performed. It’s not the same for cruise ships.
In other words, cruise ships face a dilemma that’s not found anywhere else in the travel industry. They must test to keep passengers safe, but that also means cases will be tied to ships.
The good news is that at least so far the cases seem to be contained thanks to new protocols and the high vaccination rate seen on sailings. Only small numbers of positive tests have returned.
Even so, that will definitely be put to the test as more ships return to sailing, along with sailing from Florida where vaccine requirements are not allowed.