COVID on cruise ships: CDC investigates Royal Caribbean, Carnival denied port entry, MSC had 28 cases on board – USA TODAY

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As omicron continues to spread across the country, COVID cases are continuing to emerge on cruise ships. 
Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and MSC Cruises are among the cruise lines currently dealing with clusters of cases on board resulting in a myriad of scenarios including protocols kicking in to mitigate spread, itinerary changes and CDC investigations. 
The CDC has been working with global public health experts and industry partners to learn about omicron, spokesperson Dave Daigle told USA TODAY Thursday. “We are still learning how easily it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and how well available vaccines and medications work against it.”
He continued that “cruise travel is not a zero-risk activity.”
The likelihood of contracting COVID-19 on cruise ships is “high because the virus spreads easily between people in close quarters aboard ships,” Daigle said.
The CDC advises people who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to avoid cruise travel and advises travelers get a booster shot if eligible.
MSC Seashore, which was scheduled to disembark passengers Thursday, sailed with 28 passengers who tested positive for COVID.
“During a routine monitoring aboard MSC Seashore, a limited number of guests and crew tested positive for COVID-19. Twenty-eight (all fully vaccinated) of the 4,714 guests and crew members – 0.59% of the onboard population – were discovered to be positive,” MSC said in a statement provided by spokesperson Stephen Schuler. 
MSC health protocols were implemented “immediately” and all who tested positive and their close contacts were isolated in balcony cabins in a separate area on the ship. The majority of those who tested positive are asymptomatic, some have mild symptoms.
The cruise line said Wednesday it would continue to monitor the health of those passengers and crew members and would offer complimentary testing for passengers who wished to have it “to feel reassured and for peace of mind.”
Carnival Freedom, which is sailing in the Caribbean according to Cruise Mapper, has a “small number” of COVID cases on board and is following protocols, spokesperson AnneMarie Mathews told USA TODAY Thursday. 
Mathews did not immediately specify the number of cases on board when asked.
“Our protocols anticipate this possibility and we implement them as necessary to protect the health and safety of our guests and crew,” she said. “This is a vaccinated cruise and all guests were also tested before embarkation.”
Aruba and Bonaire did not permit Carnival Freedom to call at their ports.
“We are working closely with the CDC and local health authorities in all ports and destinations that we visit,” Mathews said. “Unfortunately, the rapid spread of the Omicron Variant may shape how some destination authorities view even a small number of cases, even when they are being managed with our vigorous protocols. Some destinations have limited medical resources and are focused on managing their own local response to the variant.”
When port visits are canceled, she said, the cruise line will try to find an alternative destination.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas ship as it continues to sail with more than 50 cases of COVID onboard. 
“CDC is investigating the recent increase in COVID-19 cases identified on Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) Odyssey of the Seas,” CDC spokesperson David Daigle told USA TODAY Thursday. “All cases appear to be mild or asymptomatic. Additionally, there have been no COVID-19 related hospitalizations, medical evacuations, ventilator use, or deaths from this ship.”
Fifty-five passengers and crew members have tested positive for COVID-19 on Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas cruise ship, which departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday for an eight-night Caribbean trip, Royal Caribbean said in a statement shared by spokesperson Lyan Sierra-Caro.
The ship, which returned briefly to port on Sunday to disembark a passenger with COVID-19, is carrying 3,587 passengers and 1,599 crew. With vaccinations required among all crew members and guests 12 and older, 95% of those on board were fully vaccinated, according to Royal Caribbean.  
The health agency is working closely with Royal Caribbean and will “consider multiple factors” before marking the ship as “Red” status at which point it would be required to return to port.
As of Thursday afternoon, Odyssey of the Seas was classified as “Yellow” status meaning the “CDC has investigated and ship remains under observation.”
Royal Caribbean announced Wednesday that the cruise will not stop in Curacao or Aruba as planned. 
“The decision was made together with the islands and out of an abundance of caution due to the current trend of cases in the destination communities and having COVID-19 positive cases on board … representing 1.1% of the onboard community,” according to a statement shared by Sierra-Caro. 
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