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Ten passengers on the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship recently tested positive for Covid-19 on the sailing that departed November 28, 2021. The ship had 3200 people on board. Before arriving back in New Orleans, the CDC and local government required that all passengers be tested for Covid. The additional testing revealed seven more Covid cases, bringing the total number of infected passengers to 17. At least one case is the Omicron variant. According to this article on CNN, infected passengers were asymptomatic.
Passengers who tested positive were required to go home immediately (if local) or quarantine in a local hotel. All disembarking passengers were given at-home test kits to self-administer in the next few days.
Norwegian Cruise Line requires all passengers and crew members to be vaccinated. The on-board protocols are a bit more relaxed than other cruise lines. NCL does not require masks, physical distancing or capacity limits on board.
However, before letting the waiting group of passengers board for the next cruise, NCL changed the protocols for this ship. Masks are now required indoors and in crowded outdoor areas. Passengers had to sign an additional waiver before boarding. NCL has not announced if these revised protocols will be extended to more ships.
While NCL and the CDC (presumably) met about these changes, passengers were left standing in lines at the port for hours. Photos of the long lines circulated on social media. Hungry and tired, the passengers were finally allowed to board. The ship departed around 11:30 p.m. last night.
To compensate for the inconvenience, NCL gave passengers a $200 on-board credit and a discount to use toward a future cruise. The itinerary was revised to skip Cozumel and shorten the port time at Roatan.
Certainly, these are not the first Covid cases on board cruise ships since cruising resumed. Earlier this month, the CDC provided numbers of positive cases on board since the summer. As a percentage, the number is quite low.
So why is this small outbreak causing such a stir? Is it because Omicron is such a trending news story, or is it because the city of New Orleans is more cautious about returning cruise ships than other port cities? I’m not sure.
Reactions from Cruisers
Current and future cruisers are responding to this news in various ways. Some are cancelling upcoming cruises out of caution. Others are cancelling future cruises because they dislike the tighter on-board restrictions that are the result of these cases.
It’s likely we will never really know how many people on board this sailing of the Norwegian Breakaway caught Covid. People are not required to do the at-home test kit or report their results.
My family has a cruise on Royal Caribbean scheduled for spring break. Our final payment date was moved to 30 days prior to sailing. We are holding off on the final payment to see how things play out in the next few months.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.