It’s been an awfully long road to the return of cruising as companies have spent the past year-plus working closely with health experts and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and implement enhanced safety protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the Delta variant continues to spark concern around the globe and a great deal of uncertainty remains even in year two of the pandemic, one thing is for sure, the cruise industry’s COVID-19 protocols are working.


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Despite vaccination requirements for passengers and crew, stringent testing measures, mask mandates and social distancing guidelines in certain areas of ships and the rollout of more contactless features, there were always going to be some positive cases on board, a reality that speaks to the effectiveness of the aforementioned testing being conducted by cruise lines. Additionally, quarantine requirements and contract tracing efforts have been paramount in preventing massive outbreaks.

Royal Caribbean International’s Adventure of the Seas’ July 24 sailing is a prime example of how and why these new protocols are working to protect all on board.

“Yesterday [July 29] six guests on Adventure of the Seas tested COVID positive during routine testing required of all guests before returning home. Four of the guests are vaccinated, three are asymptomatic and one has mild symptoms. Two of the guests are kids in the same traveling party and are unvaccinated and asymptomatic,” Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley wrote in a Facebook post last week.

“They all were immediately quarantined, and all close contacts were traced and all tested negative. All of the other 1,000 plus guests tested negative. Each guest and their immediate travel parties were disembarked today and traveled home via private transportation. To sail aboard Adventure, which departed from the Bahamas on July 24, on a seven night cruise, travelers 16 and older were all fully vaccinated and tested negative before boarding. Children ineligible for the vaccine must test negative as well and all crew are fully vaccinated. And so it continues! The good news is everyone is home and doing fine. Four are vaccinated of which three are asymptomatic and the two kids are asymptomatic.”

Adventure of the Seas arrives at Nassau June 8, 2021
Adventure of the Seas arrives at Nassau June 8, 2021. (Photo via Nassau Cruise Port)

Adventure of the Seas hasn’t been the only ship to successfully handle positive COVID-19 cases. According to the CDC, roughly one in three ocean cruise ships operating in U.S. waters or planning to enter U.S. waters have reported a COVID-19 case on board in the last seven days.

Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Equinox had a fully vaccinated passenger test positive after visiting the ship’s medical center with COVID-like symptoms six days into last week’s sailing. The Celebrity Millennium also had one vaccinated passenger test positive late last month. The individual was evacuated from the ship via a private carrier, and the ship’s captain informed passengers of the incident. Close contacts with the person were also isolated and tested for COVID-19.

“I feel like they handled it so well, it wasn’t overwhelming,” passenger Gabi Green told KOMO News. “Honestly I thought their protocol was really cool,” said another passenger. “I thought that whole idea of, you know, next chance we get we can stop and send you home in a jet if we need to. That was just a cool protocol, I thought they handled it well.”

Demand in cruising remains as strong as ever, with travelers showing tremendous interest in destinations all over the world, and while positive COVID-19 cases at sea are becoming the new normal, so too are cruise lines’ protocols to quickly and safely handle them.

“Today, we have dozens of ships operating with hundreds of thousands of guests every month. There are a few cases of COVID on ships just as there are cases on land but they’re handled smoothly without disruption. That’s the goal,” says Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain. “Science has provided us a path that allows people to carry on their lives while dealing simply with a few number of cases.”

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