Earlier this week, a passenger aboard Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas was taken from the cruise ship and hospitalized ashore in the Italian town of La Spezia after he experienced COVID-19 symptoms on the cruise ship.

The Italian newspaper Il Secolo XIX reported earlier last week that a 74 year old U.S. passenger began feeling symptoms after he embarked the cruise ship in Barcelona on August 29th.  Following a regular stop on its itinerary in  Palma de Mallorca on August 30th, the next day the ship arranged for transportation of the guest to the Sant’Andrea hospital in La Spezia where he was admitted into the infectious diseases ward. He was accompanied by his wife who remained with him as the ship sailed on to the next port.

Royal Caribbean required all guests over the age of eighteen to be vaccinated and test negative before boarding. The entire crew is vaccinated. The article states that the guests also “suffered from other important pathologies.” He tested negative for COVID-19 shortly before embarking the ship.

After disembarking the infected guest, the Harmony called on ports in Civitavecchia (Rome) and Naples, Italy. There were no other public reports of COVID-19 infection among the crew or other guests. The ship is expected t0 return to Barcelona tomorrow (Sunday).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance to recommend travelers (departing from U.S. ports) who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19  that they avoid cruise ships, regardless of their vaccination status.

The new CDC guidance applies to older adults (defined as 65 and older), people with certain medical conditions and pregnant and recently pregnant people. Prior to this announcement, the CDC recommended that only people who were not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 completely avoid cruise ships. 

As reported by USA Today, the CDC’s website says the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread easily between people in close quarters on ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is “high.”

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Image credit: Top – Harmony of the Seas – kees torn – EN AVANT 20, CC BY-SA 2.0, commons / wikipedia; bottom – Harmony of the Seas in port of La Spezia – Il Secolo XIX