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Carry on cruising after 48 cases on the world’s largest cruise ship shows we’ve learned to coexist with COVID

No one is cancelling. And few are surprised. Royal Caribbean announced this week that 48 cases of COVID had been detected on the world’s largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, carrying 6091 passengers and crew.

That’s 0.78 per cent of passengers and crew. And while the incident sparked a few headlines, the ship’s itineraries were unafected and she sailed on.

Symphony of the Seas had departed from Miami, Florida on December 11, stopping at Caribbean ports St. Maarten and St. Thomas, as well as the line’s private island, CocoCay. Forward itineraries were unaffected, said the line.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC)  website has some 40 cruise ships that have reported cases from all the major brands.  At the same time, Carnival announces that, as Christmas approaches, it will have sailed 1.2 million guests since September of last year.

Norwegian also had cases earlier in the month. Its sailings, too, were not affected. Norwegian, along with fellow lines, are now putting most of its fleet back in operation and numbers on board are growing.

Royal Caribbean put additional health and safety measures in place, including enhanced cleaning.  Masks are required to be worn in indoor public areas, and all passengers and crew must be vaccinated.
“Each person quickly went into quarantine,” said the line in a statement.  “Everyone who tested positive was asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, and we continuously monitored their health.”

Carnival, too, has enhanced health and safety protocols on its ships. But the numbers of those who have sailed without incident means shutdowns are unlikely

To get things in perspective, Carnival said that before the pandemic, it sailed more than 12 million guests a year. So the rebuild is gradual and sensible and ensure the comeback is not put at risk.

In Europe, where countries like Germany are tightening rules, cruises are still sailing. And in Asia, Dream and Royal Caribbean are expanding operations in Hong Kong, where demand for special themed cruises is strong.

Australia remains the standout as the last major cruise nation to single out the industry and refuse to allow a restart.

While case numbers rise, a change is unlikely.  But hopefully, as the rest of the world shows how to manage cruising with COVID, the Australian government will follow.