Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line canceled multiple planned voyages on Wednesday due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions.
In a blog post, Royal Caribbean said that it has called off its Spectrum of the Seas cruise from Hong Kong, which was scheduled to depart on Jan. 6, after nine passengers on its Jan. 2 trip were identified as close contacts to someone that tested positive on land in Hong Kong.
“The contacts have tested negative but the cruise ship will return to Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong on January 5 to test all guests and crew who must take a second test on January 8th,” Royal Caribbean said.
Norwegian Cruise Line also canceled a string of planned voyages, citing ongoing travel restrictions.
The Miami-headquartered company pulled its Norwegian Getaway’s nine-day voyage which was set to sail from Miami on Jan. 5, to Jan. 14, 2022.
It also scrapped its Norwegian Pearl voyage which was set to sail a Panama Canal itinerary roundtrip from Miami from Jan. 3, through Jan. 14, due to “COVID related circumstances.” The ship will now be returning to Miami to conclude her voyage on Jan. 6, instead.
The cruise line also modified a string of other planned journeys. All guests who were booked on the canceled voyages will be automatically refunded, the company said.
“As always, the health and safety of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit is our highest priority,” the cruise line said.
“Our rigorous health and safety protocols include a mandatory 100 percent vaccination policy for our guests and crew coupled with universal pre-embarkation testing of guests at the terminal, mask requirements on board and numerous additional layers of protection against COVID-19,” Norwegian Cruise Line said. “We will never compromise on health and safety and we will of course, continue to take all appropriate action to ensure everyone’s well-being and to protect public health.”
The cancelations come amid a surge in the number of highly-transmissible Omicron variant cases of COVID-19 across the world which wreaked havoc with the travel industry over the festive season and caused numerous businesses to temporarily shutter their doors.
In the week ending on the first of January, Omicron accounted for 95.4 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Last week, the CDC issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for cruise ship travelers and advised them against cruise travel. The agency also advises cruise travelers to get tested for COVID-19 1–3 days before their trip and 3–5 days after their trip, regardless of their vaccination status or symptoms.
The CDC is monitoring dozens of cruise ships after COVID-19 cases were detected on board in recent days.
Despite Omicron cases surging, the CDC confirmed the plan is still for the Conditional Sail Order (CSO) to become a voluntary program next week.
The order, issued last October, mandated a series of conditions that cruise lines must meet before they may resume operations, such as testing and some additional safeguards for crew members.
A CDC spokesperson confirmed to Cruise Critic that the plan is still for the CSO to expire on Jan. 15, after which the federal agency will transition to a “voluntary program.”
“After the expiration of the Temporary Extension & Modification of the CSO on January 15, 2022, CDC intends to transition to a voluntary program, in coordination with cruise ship operators and other stakeholders, to assist the cruise ship industry to detect, mitigate, and control the spread of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships,” a CDC spokesperson told Cruise Critic via email.