Today, the Harmony of the Seas arrived in Roatan, Honduras with forty-nine (49) crew members who tested positive for COVID-19. There was one guest who also tested positive, for a total of fifty people on this Royal Caribbean ship (I tweeted earlier, in error, that there were fifty crew members who tested positive). The actual number in fact is forty-nine infected crew members and one guest at the moment.

This information is provided by a Royal Caribbean employee who wishes to remain anonymous and employed. The employee is one of two crew members in the fleet who I have known for years and feel compelled to provide accurate information regaring the COVID-19 virus and related health and safety issues on Royal Caribbean ships.

This is the fourth Royal Caribbean cruise ship with a significant number of people infected with COVID-19 onboard. The Symphony of the Seas had 48 people test positive for coronavirus. The Odyssey of the Seas had what the Miami Herald initially reported as  55 COVID-19 cases as which later increased the number to at least 69. We reported that the Jewel of the Seas had at least 50 cases in the last two sailings with at least 45 of that total being crew members.  There have been similar number of positive cases, primarily involving crew members on Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and Carnival owned Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship.

Regarding the Jewel of the Seas outbreaks, many of the infected crew members are exhibiting symptoms and worked while they were symptomatic.  Often, cruise lines are quick to routinely state that 30 or 40 or 50 COVID-19 cases are somehow a “small number” allegedly involving only asymptomatic employees.

Royal Caribbean is using two of its cruise ships (The Rhapsody of the Seas and Vision of the Seas) as floating hospitals/quarantine hotels for its crew members. These ships have not yet been permitted to sail with passengers again after the industry was suspended  last year following the CDC’s no-sail orders,  The motivation seems to be that this will save Royal Caribbean money by not paying shoreside doctors to provide medical treatment for the crew or hotels, although it remains questionable whether prompt and appropriate medical treatment can be provided at sea like this. Most importantly to the cruise line, by using its idle cruise ships to quaratine crew members, this it will permit the company to skirt the COVID-19 reporting requirements of Caribbean nations which are protecting the health and safety of their port residents. Many ports will not permit cruise ships to dock in the even that more than one percent of the ship’s population (guests and crew) is positive for COVID-19.  By tranferring dozens of COVID-19 positive crewmembers from an infected ship to either the Rhapsody or Vision, Royal Caribbean is able to avoid the scrutiny of port health officials who might block them from their ports.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases are continuing to surge, The CDC today released information indicating that althought infections involving the Omicron variant  continur to increase, the percentage of vases invilving this variant are not as high as initially thought, This is not necessarily good news, as it means that there is a higher percentage of cases involving the Delta variant which continues to cause more serious symptoms, hospitalizations and deaths.

According to the CDC, there ae at least 89 cruise ships currently with COVID-19 aboard. A month ago there was less than half this number. Two months ago there was less than a third of this number. Not only are the vast majority of cruise ships (which are sailing from U.S. ports and are under the CDC’s jurisdiction) under yellow or orange warnings, but the average number of positive cases per ship has increased from a few cases to an average of around 50 a ship.

Unfortunately, there are few reliable and accurate sources of information where families thinking of taking a leisure cruise during a pandemic can go to locate candid information which could affect their family’s health and safety.

The Harmony of the Seas departed from Roatan a couple of hours ago. It will now sail to Costa Maya, Mexico where it will arrive tomorrow. It is scheduled to stop in Coco Cay in the Bahanas on New Year’s Day and then sail bac to Port Canaveral on January 2, 2022.

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January 1, 2022 Update: A guest sailing on the Harmony which is now in Coco Cay this morning states that his minor daughter tested positive among others who have gone to the ship infirmary, including many children. He estimates as many as 300 other guests are infected.

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