Fort Lauderdale, FL

Royal Caribbean postpones inaugural sailing after 8 crew members test positive for COVID-19

Adriana Jimenez

(Fort Lauderdale) Royal Caribbean has postponed the inaugural sailing of its Odyssey of the Seas cruise ship after eight crew members tested positive for COVID-19.
Odyssey of the SeasGetty Images

Royal Caribbean's new ship, Odyssey of the Seas, was supposed to be the company's much-awaited return to business this summer. Instead, its first scheduled trips are now canceled. "While disappointing, this is the right decision for the health and well-being of our crew and guests," Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley said.

Although all of the Odyssey's 1,400 crew members received the vaccine, the positive COVID-19 tests came before the vaccines were fully effective. When voyages resume, all Royal Caribbean crew members will be vaccinated against COVID-19, and the company said guests are "strongly recommended" to be fully vaccinated. Guests who aren't vaccinated or are unable to verify that they are vaccinated will have to undergo testing and follow other protocols.

The Odyssey of the Seas had been scheduled to make the debut sail with paying passengers on July 3, more than a year after the pandemic hobbled the cruise ship industry. Instead, the voyage is now delayed until July 31. A simulation cruise that was scheduled for late June will also be rescheduled. The cruise line said it's contacting customers to discuss refunding tickets and rebooking their trips.
Guests crowd the top deck of Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas on March 9, 2020Getty Images

The news comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis faces controversy over his ban on vaccine passports. On one side, DeSantis refuses to budge from a state law that bars the cruise industry from requiring passengers to be vaccinated. Meanwhile, the cruise industry works to craft a work-around for the governor's mandate as it seeks to restore public confidence and restart cruising after a 15-month shutdown. Earlier this year, the state of Florida filed a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over its no-sail order.

The cruise industry employs about 600,000 South Floridians and has ports in seven Florida cities. Cruise trips were linked to early COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S., and outbreaks of cases on ships have been blamed for at least 41 deaths.

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Bilingual journalist reporting on all things South Florida.

Miami, FL

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