(Natural News) Two passengers who were on the first fully-vaccinated cruise in North America tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). According to Royal Caribbean Group (RCG), the two passengers shared a room on the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship. The incident occurred as other cruise ships were preparing to set sail again after being docked for more than a year due to the pandemic.
A statement by RCG’s Celebrity Cruises confirmed the two cases, saying that both contracted COVID-19 “while conducting the required end-of-cruise testing” three days before the ship returns to its home port. The statement added: “The individuals are asymptomatic and are currently in isolation – and being monitored by our medical team. We are conducting contact tracing, expediting testing for all those close contacts and closely monitoring the situation.”
The Celebrity Millennium, which departed from St. Maarten on June 5, welcomed just under 600 guests onboard. The ship stopped by Aruba and Curacao – two of its Caribbean ports of call. It returned to St. Maarten on June 12 to disembark, with the passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 kept in isolation.
Speaking to Miami TV station NBC 6, cruise expert Stewart Chiron said seven other passengers in close contact with the two who tested positive have also been quarantined to their cabins. The seven who interacted with the infected passengers while on a Barbados tour also awaited their COVID-19 test results. Chiron was among the passengers of the Celebrity Millennium during its June 5 trip.
Chiron said: “It’s been normal. You would think … if people were concerned, you’d see fewer people at dinner around the ship. [But] the show is ongoing, [alongside the] different dinners and the different restaurants. No one is wearing masks, so it appears that no one is too concerned.”
The Celebrity Millennium became the first to sail with North American guests in more than a year. All passengers were required to show proof of vaccination, alongside a negative COVID-19 test, 72 hours before the ship departed.
Infections came as cruise ships prepared for the new normal
With more passengers getting vaccinated, the cruise industry said it continues to move forward with additional ships setting sail once more. Industry bigwigs pointed to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and knowledge about controlling the virus’s spread gained in the past year for the resumption of cruises. Some of them expressed belief that their protocols are effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19, adding that these measures are open to revision if needed.
Aside from Celebrity Millennium, RCG’s Celebrity Edge cruise ship also managed to get permission to sail again. The Celebrity Edge was allowed to depart from Fort Lauderdale in Florida on June 26 for a seven-day Caribbean cruise. RCG secured a permission to resume without the need for test sailings after it committed to ensure 95 percent of passengers and crew members will be vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to RCG, anyone eligible for COVID-19 vaccination must get vaccinated if they plan on joining a cruise. Those ineligible for vaccination, such as children under the age of 12, must show a negative COVID-19 test. RCG’s competitor Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said all passengers planning to join its trips must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
However, cruise lines are facing rough waters in the state of Florida as Gov. Ron DeSantis prohibited businesses and government offices in the state from requiring vaccine passports months ago. He added that cruise lines are not exempted from the ban and announced a $5,000 fine per person if cruise ship companies require passengers to be vaccinated. (Related: Florida to fine cruise lines that require passengers to show coronavirus vaccine passports.)
This subsequently put cruise lines at odds with public health guidance for the cruise industry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that cruise lines would be allowed to sail again after more than a year provided that 98 percent of crew members and 95 percent of passengers are vaccinated against COVID-19.
Visit Pandemic.news to read more stories about how the cruise industry is adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic.