Royal Caribbean Delays Launch Of New Megaship Due To COVID-19 Cases

Royal Caribbean has once again delayed the launch of its latest megaship, Odyssey of the Seas, after it says eight crew members tested positive for the coronavirus during routine testing, putting yet another damper on the cruise industry’s attempt to recover from the pandemic.

All 1,400 crew members on the ship, which was first slated to debut in 2020, were vaccinated on June 4 but were not yet fully protected from the virus when the eight crew members tested positive, the company said Tuesday. 

It typically takes two weeks after vaccination to develop immunity against the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Odyssey of the Seas’ maiden voyage had been slated for July 3 out of Florida, but due to the cases, it has been pushed back to July 31. A simulation cruise, which was scheduled for late June, has also been rescheduled, the company said.

“While disappointing, this is the right decision for the health and well-being of our crew and guests,” the company said in a statement.

Less than a week ago, Celebrity Cruises, which is a Royal Caribbean subsidiary, announced that two of its passengers tested positive for COVID-19 on the industry’s first North American cruise since the start of the pandemic.

The positive cases emerged despite everyone on the ship, which was sailing at one-third of its capacity, being required to get fully vaccinated prior to travel, the company said. 

Breakthrough COVID-19 cases, which are infections in fully vaccinated people, are rare yet possible since no vaccine is 100% effective. Those who do get infected after being fully vaccinated still have a better chance of being protected against serious illness, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Early data also shows that current vaccines may work against some variants of the virus but could be less effective against others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC has required cruiseliners in the U.S. to take extra safety measures in order to restart operations, including regular COVID-19 tests for crew members and certain passengers. They are also required to conduct simulated cruises, which are designed to test the ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk.

This follows the CDC issuing a “no sail order” due to the pandemic in March 2020. The CDC continues to recommend that people avoid travel on cruise ships globally, due to the high risk of virus transmission among people who are in close quarters.

Royal Caribbean has required all of its passengers ages 16 and older to be fully vaccinated if departing from a U.S. port that’s not in Florida. Florida’s exception is due to the state’s governor banning businesses and government entities last month from denying services to people who choose not to get vaccinated.

Despite this mandate, the cruiseliner has said that it still expects that 90% of its passengers in Florida will be fully vaccinated before travel. Those who don’t will be subject to testing and additional health protocols at their own expense.

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