Jan. 6, 2022 -- Coronavirus cases have been reported on every cruise ship sailing with passengers in U.S. waters.
All 92 ships have met the threshold for investigation, according to the CDC, which has either started an investigation or has already investigated and is observing each ship.
The number of ships under investigation has increased rapidly in recent days,The Washington Post reported. The CDC’s update on Tuesday used data from the cruise lines submitted Monday, showing that every ship reached the threshold of .1% of passengers testing positive.
Last week, the CDC warned all travelers, including vaccinated people, to avoid cruise ships after COVID-19 cases jumped from 162 during the first 2 weeks of December to more than 5,000 cases during the last 2 weeks of December. The CDC moved cruise ship travel to Level 4, the highest level of risk.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose,” the CDC said in updated guidance.
Cruise lines are requiring all crew and most -- if not all -- passengers to be fully vaccinated to board, the newspaper reported. Passengers also need proof of a recent negative test.
In addition to the 92 ships with passengers, 18 ships with only crew members are in U.S. waters, the CDC reported Tuesday. Among those, two have met the threshold for investigation, while three have reported cases but not enough to pass the threshold.
“As part of investigating cruise ships that meet the investigation threshold, CDC will obtain additional information from the cruise ship, such as case exposure histories, details about close contacts, traveler vaccination rates, and medical capacities,” Caitlin Shockey, a CDC spokeswoman, told the newspaper in an email.
The CDC will “consider multiple factors” and work with the cruise lines before moving ships from the current “yellow” status to the more serious “red” status that requires ships to return to port or delay sailing, Shockey told the Post. To reach the red status, a ship must have ongoing COVID-19 transmission and the potential for cases to overwhelm medical resources on the ship.
Several cruise ships have been turned away from ports since late December due to passengers or crew members testing positive, the newspaper reported. Most continued their trips but skipped the stops where they were turned away.
On Wednesday, Norwegian Cruise Line announced that it would cancel Norwegian Getaway’s 9-day Caribbean trip that was scheduled to leave Miami that day, citing “COVID related circumstances.”
The cruise line gave the same reason on Tuesday for bringing the Norwegian Pearl back to Miami after it departed for an 11-night Panama Canal trip on Monday. Passengers were told that the trip was ending after many crew members tested positive, the Post reported, though the specifics weren’t disclosed. The ship is scheduled to return to Miami on Thursday.
The cruise line also announced on Wednesday that voyages will be canceled for Norwegian Pearl cruises through Jan. 14, Norwegian Sky cruises through Feb. 25, Pride of America cruises through Feb. 26, Norwegian Jade cruises through March 3, Norwegian Star cruises through March 19, Norwegian Sun cruises through April 19, and Norwegian Spirit cruises through April 23. All guests will receive an automatic full refund, the 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 company said in a statement.
Also on Wednesday, Royal Caribbean Cruises canceled its Spectrum of the Seas cruise for Thursday after nine passengers on its Jan. 2 trip were identified as close contacts of a local COVID-19 case in Hong Kong, according to Reuters. They have tested negative so far, but the cruise ship will return to Hong Kong for more testing.