Yesterday, Royal Caribbean announced the suspension of sailing on three of its active cruise ships, the Jewel of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas. It also announced that a fourth cruise ship, the Vision of the Seas, which is not yet sailing on revenue cruises with pasengers and which the company is using as a floating quarantine hotel / hospital, will not resume cruises with guests for another seven weeks.
Royal Caribbean announced the following:
“As a result of the ongoing COVID-related circumstances around the world, and in abundance of caution, we have made the tough decision to pause operations on the following ships:
- Jewel of the Seas sailings from Jan. 9 – Feb. 12, returning on Feb. 20, 2022;
- Serenade of the Seas sailings from Jan. 8 – March 5, resuming service after her dry dock on April 26, 2022;
- Symphony of the Seas sailings from Jan. 8 – Jan. 22, returning on Jan. 29, 2022;
- Vision of the Seas’ return to cruising is postponed until March 7, 2022.”
What Royal Caribbean did not say in its “abundance of caution” announcement (and will never publicly admit) is that it is now facing an explosion of COVID-19 cases on its ships, primarily affecting its crew members.
.@RoyalCaribbean announced suspension of #cruise operations for 4 #cruise ships: Jewel of Seas Jan 9 – Feb 12, returning Feb 20; Serenade of Seas Jan. 8 – March 5, resuming after dry dock April 26; Symphony of Seas Jan 8–22, returning Jan. 29; Vision of Seas’ until March 7. pic.twitter.com/VcnF1FqTu5
— James (Jim) Walker (@CruiseLaw) January 7, 2022
Over the last ten days, we reported that the Jewel of the Seas had 15 infected crew members shortly after Christmas, then 25 infected crew members, then 50 infected crew, then 80, then 109 as of yesterday. All the while, officers on the Jewel kept the rising COVID-19 count secret from the guests and would lie to them when questioned.
As of late last night, there were 163 infected crew members, as well as 10 infected guests. The ship initially planned to rendezvous with the Vision of the Seas and transfer its infected and/or ill crew onto that floating quarantine hotel / hospital ship where hundreds are being warehoused in order for the company to avoid quarantine and medical costs of transferring its crew ahore. With the announcement yesterday that it will suspend cruises for over a month when it reaches Miami tommorow, the cruise line will now not transfer anyone else to the Vision but will keep its many infected crew on the ship.
This information is from a reliable crew employee on this ship who I have known for years and who has provided shipboard COVID-19 statistics which I have reported on since last July when the ship was experiencing just a handful of positive cases a cruise.
Deck 3, forward has also been quarantined. No word from the bridge on status… but we all already know what’s going on.https://t.co/nm4DyD750Y
— josh person (@thejoshperson) January 7, 2022
Based on information from crew members we know on Royal Caribbean ships and statistics which have been reported by the Miami Herald, the following Royal Caribbean ships have seen an explosion of COVID-19 cases, primarily of crew members:
Jewel of the Seas – 163 crew members (first reported in this article);
Explorer of the Seas – 110 crew members (first reported in this article);
Harmony of the Seas – 110 crew members;
Oasis of the Seas – 55 guests and crew members;
Odyssey of the Seas – 52 crew members;
Rhapsody of the Seas – 48 guests and crew members.
Yes, that’s 413 crew members infected with COVID-19 from just four ships, the Jewel, Explorer, Harmony and Odyssey over the course of just one week.
Passengers on these ships tell us that the absence of ship employees is obvious around the ships. Passenger cabins not being attended to by stateroom attendants, bartenders and waiters are missing from restaurants and lounges, and entertainment is being cancelled are some of the typical comments we hear from guests.
Look like @RoyalCaribbean Explorer OTS #cruise ship near St. Maarten for transfer of infected/ill crew members to Rhapsody OTS / Question: how many infected crew on Rhapsody now & how many doctors & nurses? We know there’s 1,500 infected/ill crew on Vision OTS & just 2 doctors… https://t.co/5BqDg814u6
— James (Jim) Walker (@CruiseLaw) January 8, 2022
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean is continuing to shuttle its infected and ill crew members to one of two floating hotels / hospitals, the Vision of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas. Currently, the Vision of the Seas is housing around 1,500 infected and ill crew members from a number of cruise ships who are often transferred at night to avoid creating a public spectacle. Last week, the Harmony of the Seas transferred around 110 infected crew to the Vision in Coco Cay. Today, the Explorer of the Seas transferred a similar number to the Rhapsody of the Seas in St. Maarten.
Some of the cruise ships like the Jewel, which will suspend cruises tomorrow, will be used to quarantine infected crew members because there is simply not enough room on the two quarantine ships to accommodate additional crew members. These two ships are already stuffed with infected crew members who usually are required to share cabins in the crew quarters without balconies.
It is now past the point of debating whether the cruise industry can safely cruise. The industry continues to stumble forward with literally several thousands of infected and sick ship employees now floating around on makeshift quarantine ships and “hospitals.” These ships could more accurately be called skimpy floating “walk-in clinics” which are more likely to dispense Ibuprofen than take crew complaints seriously.
Royal Caribbean recently told USA TODAY that infected crew are quickly returned from their floating quarantine ships to work as soon as they test negative. But it’s not as simple as the public relations at Royal Caribbean are letting on. The majority of the infected crew members on the Vision of the Seas are in fact lardely symptomatic (sore throats, headaches, fever, and fatigue are the most common complaints) and there are some ship employees with shortness of breath and other serious symptoms. There is a paucity of ship doctors (just two) responsible for around 1,500 crew members on this floating walk-in clinic. This clinics is not only understaffed but under-equipped. There are no frontline therapies available, such as monoclonal antibiodies, available or adequate oxygen supplies, and certainly no ventilators or ECMO heart-lung machines on these floating clinics.
No mention # of crew or whether floating hospitals provide effective medical treatment to crew with significant symptoms. Unfortunately, few cruise fans know, understand, or care about how #cruise lines treat ship employees with #COVID-19 at sea. https://t.co/dGDLj4agS5
— James (Jim) Walker (@CruiseLaw) January 7, 2022
The last place anyone infected with COVID-19 should be is on a minimally equipped and staffed floating walk-in clinic far away from the U.S.
Although we do not have data from all of Royal Caribbean ships, it is reasonable to assume that the rest of the company’s fleet is experiencing a similar number of infected crew members and the ships are struggling to offer uninterrupted basic services.
There is no good reaaason for having a pleasant back-and-forth debate about whether there should be another no-sail order similar to that first entered in March of 2020.
Unfortuntely, as much as cruise fans and travel writer-shills for the industry bemoan that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is somehow “picking on the industry,” the fact is that the CDC does not regularly report on the daily number of COVID-19 infections on cruise ships. Incredibly, the CDC’s conditional sailing order is about to become just a suggestion for cruise lines to voluntarily follow. For that matter, the CDC is sill cluelessly designating the Vision and the Rhapsody as “orange” notwithstanding many hundreds of infected and sick crew on each ship. An “orange” designation is defined, according to the CDC, as “reported cases of COVID-19 are below the threshold for CDC investigation.”
How on earth can 1,500 crew members infected with COVID-19 be below the federal health agency’s threshold for conducting a investigation?
Seems that the recurring theme in this excellent article by @AnnaJKaiser via the @MiamiHerald is that the guests were not as concerned that they caught #COVID19 during the #cruise but that @RoyalCaribbean totally lacked honesty & transparency in responding to the disease outbreak https://t.co/Lg9TmU3hy6
— James (Jim) Walker (@CruiseLaw) January 6, 2022
As the CDC oversight seems likely to soon fade away, perhaps it does not really matter. To me, it seems that the cruise industry resembles a car which limped along with deflated tires for far too long, and is now riding on its rims. It’s just a matter of time until its wheels come off and it crashes. Any family foolish enough at this point to trust the largely dishonest cruise lines and ignore the CDC’s warning not to cruise may be in for a rude wakening when they climb aboard a cruise ship now.
Ten days ago when the CDC last announced the total of cruise ship COVID-19 cases (when it warned that the public should not travel by cruise ship even if vaccinated) the count was a little over 5,000 cases. That was around a week ago. If and when the CDC next announces the number of COVID-19 cases on cruise ship, it will likely be over 25,000. The count will continue to climb as long as the Omicron and Delta variants continue to surge and the ships keep sailing until the cruise industry comes to a grinding halt.
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Image credit: Top – Jewel of the Seas – Dave souza – CC BY-SA 2.5 commons / wikimedia.org;