Three crew members on the Jewel of the Seas tested positive for COVID-19 this week.  I received this additional information from a trusted crew member who wishes to continue to remain anonymous.  The infected crew members, which include the hotel maintenance manager, a cook and one stateroom attendant, were confirmed positive for the virus after PCR  testing. They were then sent into isolation.

Royal Caribbean is taking aggressive steps to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases involving its crew members and guests after experiencing a higher than normal number of positive virus cases in the last two weeks.

The ship will be re-positioned to South Florida in mid-November where it will be sailing from Miami on a Western caribbean itinerary of cruises from five to ten days long. The ship will sail from Miami until mid-May when it will then sail from Amsterdam. The company wishes to reduce the number of positive cases before it begins sailing out of U.S. waters where it will fall within the jurisdiction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the last month, we have learned that there were two one-week cruises involving a combined total of thirty-three positive COVID-19 cases. More specifically, on September 29th, we reported that there was a total of twenty-one cases involving guests on the ship a week earlier. Most recently (October 2nd), there were twelve guests who tested positive on the Jewel.

Five guests on the Jewel of the Seas tested positive for COVID-19, as we reported on September 18th.

The local media in Cyprus reported on prior COVID-19 cases on this ship. On August 9th, KNEWS in Cyprus reported that “six passengers on a cruise had tested positive for Covid, four vaccinated – three of them asymptomatic and one with mild symptoms- while two were unvaccinated minors.” On July 21st, KNEWS also reported that “two guests tested positive for Covid-19.”

In total, based on the local press and information from knowledgeable crew members on the ship, there have been at least forty-six (46) guests and crew members who have tested positive for COVID-19 on the Jewel of the Seas in the last two months. There are likely more cases than this, as there are at least a few positive crew members and guest COVID-19 cases during each and every cruise.

Royal Caribbean, of course, is one of several cruise lines which does not voluntarily release such information to the public.

Royal Caribbean has taken the following steps to reduce the number of positive COVID-19 cases during its latest cruise on the Jewel; 

  • All crew tours and crew “shore excursion observer programs” are cancelled. (Crew observer programs involve the use of crew members as escorts to monitor guest behavior during shore excursions);
  • Crew bar is closed;
  • All meetings in interior rooms are canceled; and
  • Santorini sail away party (for guests) is cancelled.

Unfortunately, there are essentially only two ways to obtain realistic information regarding the number of COVID-19 cases on cruise ships. “Whistle-blower” crew members who release data directly to us, despite facing the the risk of being terminated from their employment, are one reliable source of information. Employees of port authorities, who also face the same risk, are an equally important source. The second source are local newspapers, which sometimes also use unnamed sources.

In a video recently posted to YouTube, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain said his company (which includes Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea) has experienced only a minimum number of positive COVID-19 cases. CEO Fain claimed: “We’ve carried over half-a-million guests, and only had 141 cases among those 500,000 people.”

Its hard to believe that such statistics are accurate when the Jewel of the Seas alone experienced at least forty-six guests who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two months alone.  Royal Caribbean has historically shown that it is far more transparent than most cruise lines, particularly companies like Carnival or MSC Cruises, but it seems that it too may be caught up in the “everything is okay” hype associated in last week’s Seatrade Cruise Global conference.

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Image credit: Jewel of the Seas – top – Jemingway CC BY SA 2.0 via Flickr ; bottom – User:Dave Souza – CC BY-SA 2.5 commons / wikimedia.