At least three additional crew members are infected with COVID-19 on the Norwegian Breakaway, according to a knowledgeable crew member on the cruise ship who wishes to remain anonymous. This crew member also informed us that there are nine crew members in isolation on the ship due to close contact with other infected crew members. The three additional infected crew members at this time include a recreational staff member, a stateroom attendant and and a musician.

The Norwegian Breakaway arrived in Roatan this morning during its current cruise to the Caribbean, after its was delayed leaving New Orleans this weekend.

So Far, at Least Twenty People Infected with COVID-19 

As we previouly reported, this past weekend the Norwegian Breakaway returned to New Orleans after a week-long cruise to the Caribbean with what the Louisiana Department of Health initially reported to be ten COVID-19 cases involving cruise guests and crew members. Additional testing, once the ship returned to port, revealed an additional seven coronavirus cases, for a total of seventeen cases so far (and counting), This total does not including the three infected crew members who we learned of today.

After the outbreak became public last Sunday, (after tweets by the Louisiana Board of Health), Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) issued press statements stating that there were  only a “handful” (i.e., five or so) positive cases. The infection count would undoubtedly rise as the over 3,200 guests disperse around the country and the over 1,600 crew members continue working on the cruise ship.

How Many More People Will Become Infected?

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) stated that all of the passengers would undergo testing before they disembarked the cruise ship. NCL also stated that it would provide home COVID-19 tests for the guests to take with then when they disembarked the ship. On first glance, this is a prudent (although inadequate) step because the incubation period for COVID-19 is anywhere from two to fourteen days.  It is doubtful that more than just a few guests on this cruise who return home will voluntarily begin a period of isolation, so the potential for further spread of the virus is very real.

Omicron on the NCL Cruise Ship

Included in the outbreak is one crew member who is positive with the Omicron variant, according to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).

NCL subsequently explained that this infected crew member is from South Africa and had been under quarantine during the entire cruise which began on November 28th. I suppose that information is designed to comfort the public and lead people to believe that the infected crew members did not expose guests to the Omicron variant. But it actually raises more questions than provides answers. It is less than clear when this crew member first tested positive for COVID-19 or when NCL first learned that the Omicrom variant was involved. Was this crew member a new employee who joined the ship and required to a standard ten-day quarantine like all incoming employees who join the ship or did he or she work while infected for some period of time and infect other crew members and guests?  NCL is not stating.

There are now housands of guests who have dispersed across the U.S. who will need to be tested for the next ten days or so.

A “Handful” of “Asymptomatic” Guests & Crew Members?

NCL claimed that all of those infected are allegedly asymptomatic, which remains to be seen. Of course, this is the same cruise line which falsely claimed that the outbreak intially involved only a “handful” of cases when the actual count is now at least twenty infected guests and crew members.  In any event, it is potentially dangeous for anyone suspected of COVID-19 to remain on a cruise ship given the fact that the shipboard ventilation / air conditioning systems potentially permit the airborne virus to spread and infect others – a point which  leading epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding pointed out yesterday on Twitter:

Hundreds of Guests in New Orleans Changed Their Minds and Prudently Decided Not to Board the Norwegian Breakaway

Comments left on our firm’s Facebook page on Monday indicated that as many as 400 passengers who were  booked on the last cruise changed their minds in New Orleans and elected not to cruise after they learned that there was an outbreak. One guest left the comment:

” . . . we boarded at 8:00 less about 400 who changed their minds and got the offered full refund. Understandably chaotic scene poorly managed by ncl personnel.”

A crew member also left a similar comment, confirming that many guests canceled their cruise although she estimated the number at around 150 or so.

How Many Residents of Honduras, Belize and Mexico Did the Norwegian Breakaway Infect? 

The final count of infetced crew and guests on the Norwegian Breakaway remains to be seen. Of course, the current figure of twenty people infected does not include residents of the ports which the Norwegian Breakaway visited last week and will visit again this week. Unlike some cruise lines which offer so-called “safe bubble” excursions, where passengers do not mingle and potentially infect port residents when they go ashore, NCL relies on all passengers being 100% vaccinated. There are some cruise guests who use fake vaccination cards and, of course, no  vaccinations are 100% effective in the first place. So there will always be “breakthrough infections” involving guests and employees who are vaccinated.

Of course, the vaccination rates in Honduras (39%), Belize (49%) and Mexico (50%) are less than in the U.S. (over 60%) and significantly less than what NCL represents to be a 100% vaccination rate for guests and employees on its cruise ships. The question is whether cruise guests on the ship care whether they infect people in the ship’s ports of call. It’s clear that NCL could not care less.

One resident of Roatan left comments to my post on the Norwegian Breakaway outbreak:

“She was here on Wednesday, Lord have mercy on us. Praying they didn’t leave any omicron here on Roatan.”

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Photo credit: Top – Norwgian Breeakaway – Gerard Bottino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images/ Axios; middle – Norwegian Breakaway – WWL-TV via CBS News; bottom – NCL Cruise Ship in Roatan –