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Major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are canceling sailings amid the Omicron crisis, and it’s a signal the industry’s troubles are far from over

Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship docked in Hong Kong in October 2021.

Tyrone Siu/Reuters

  • Cruise companies are in rough waters again as COVID-19 cases continue to spike around the world.
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line recently canceled several itineraries.
  • Most cruise ships operating in the US have reported COVID-19 outbreaks in recent weeks.

Major cruise lines have begun canceling sailings amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases, and it’s a sign that the cruise industry may continue weathering rough waters amid spread of the Omicron variant.

On Wednesday, Norwegian Cruise Line canceled sailings aboard eight of its 17 ships, citing “ongoing travel restrictions.” These cancellations span from early January through late April, and include itineraries aboard the Norwegian Pearl, which recently returned to its homeport early following a COVID-19 outbreak among crew, according to a CBS Miami report.  

Norwegian’s cancellations have followed a string of bad news for the cruise industry.

Royal Caribbean Cruises has also called off its January 6 Spectrum of the Seas sailing in Hong Kong, the cruise line told Insider in a statement on Thursday. This update comes after Hong Kong’s health department detected nine guests aboard the vessel’s previous voyage who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

As a result, the agency required all guests and crew aboard the ship to stay on the vessel for coronavirus testing. All crew must undergo another round of tests on January 8, therefore postponing the January 6 cruise. The initial nine guests tested negative, but Royal Caribbean has faced outbreaks aboard several of its other cruise ships.

Almost 250 cruises were set to sail in January, but this ongoing wave of COVID-19 cases could spur further cancellations, reminiscent of when the COVID-19 pandemic first began spreading across the US.

In recent weeks, the majority of cruise ships operating in the US have reported COVID-19 outbreaks, according to data from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This rise in outbreaks has barred several cruise ships from docking at ports of calls, cut vacations short, and forced passengers to quarantine aboard ships.

Before the turn of the New Year, the CDC raised its cruise ship travel warning to the highest level, and advised all travelers to avoid cruising regardless of vaccination status. The agency is now also investigating almost 100 vessels in the wake of increased cruise ship COVID-19 outbreaks.

“It is not possible for cruising to be a zero-risk activity,” a CDC spokesperson told Insider in late December 2021, noting that COVID-19 can spread “easily” on cruises. In the last two weeks of 2021, cruise ships reported over 5,000 coronavirus cases, 31 times the cases reported in the first two weeks of December.

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