COVID finds its way into cruise ship with fully vaxxed passengers and crew members
12/08/2021 // Mary Villareal // Views

Vaccine effectiveness comes into question once more as the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) finds its way into a fully vaxxed cruise ship. A cruise ship returning from sailing across the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean sea reported an outbreak of COVID-19, with at least one suspected to have the omicron variant.

Norwegian Breakaway, which is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., departed from the Port of New Orleans on November 28 and set sail for Belize, Honduras and Mexico, bringing over 3,200 people on board.

However, the cruise line detected 17 COVID infections among its crew and guests ahead of returning to its homeport.

According to the ship's statement, the Norwegian "has been adhering to appropriate quarantine and isolation protocols as new cases and exposures have been identified aboard this vessel."

Infected passengers and crew will either travel directly to their homes or self-isolate at an undisclosed location. Meanwhile, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, the City of New Orleans and the Port of New Orleans were notified about the incident.

The vessel-tracking website CruiseMapper noted that Norwegian Breakaway docked back in New Orleans early Sunday morning, Dec. 5, and all those on board were subjected to a COVID test before exiting the ship. The single "probable" omicron case was a crew member who was not a Louisiana resident and has since stayed in the ship.

Cruise ships were an early source of outbreaks in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic started. Some were rejected at ports, and passengers were forced into quarantine. Others even died of COVID-19 at sea, while others fell very ill to the point of having them carried out of the vessels on stretchers.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a no-sail order in March 2020, prompting a standstill that ended only in June this year as ships began to leave U.S. ports with their new health and safety requirements. The Norwegian's website, for instance, requires all passengers and crew members to already be vaccinated against the virus at least two weeks prior to departure.

Some passengers had no idea there was a COVID outbreak on the ship

Disembarking passengers told a media outlet in New Orleans that they were notified about the positive cases on the ship, but others posited they had no idea until they were asked about it by a reporter.

"We didn't hear of this until we kind of heard you talking a second ago. It would have been nice to have known. We would have taken maybe a few more precautions," a passenger from North Carolina said.

Passengers also said they were tested for COVID exposure on Saturday, Dec. 4, before they were able to disembark the following day. The cruise line also gave passengers take-home rapid tests as they left the ship. (Related: Royal Caribbean to ban unvaccinated adults from cruise ships this June, turning their cruise ships into floating super strain factories.)

There are no changes to scheduled future sailings of the Norwegian, and the ship left New Orleans on Sunday night. A spokesperson for the company said that passengers on the Sunday night voyage could have canceled their reservations without penalty. Those who chose to go on the cruise were also required to wear masks indoors if they were not actively eating or drinking, and will be tested twice during the voyage.

Despite a 100 percent vaccination rate on the ship, there was still an outbreak of COVID-19, suggesting that the effectiveness of the vaccine has been waning.

A recent study of the COVID vaccines accepted in the U.S. has shown dramatic drops in efficacy over six months. As cruise ship operators begin hitting the high seas with fully vaccinated passengers and crew members that have waning defenses against the virus, additional outbreaks on ships are likely to occur.

Read more news related to the coronavirus pandemic at

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