Cruise lines say no change in sailing plans after new COVID-19 cases

Royal Caribbean Group and Carnival Corporation will push ahead with a return to cruises this summer despite two guests onboard Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Millennium ship testing positive for COVID-19.

More than a year after several cruise ships were host to major coronavirus outbreaks and with large numbers of Americans now vaccinated, cruise lines have been striving to get business going.

Although some ships are already sailing again, those carrying more than 100 people are banned from coming to Canada until February 2022.  That decision was announced by Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra earlier this year, although the ban can be revoked early if the Canadian government decides it is safe to resume cruising. 

Shares in Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., which booked massive losses last year as restrictions brought cruising to a standstill, fell between one and two per cent in response to the report of positive COVID tests.

Asked by Reuters on Friday, Royal Caribbean declined to give more details on the guests who had tested positive or the circumstances of their infections, saying only that it was not changing its plans for the summer.

A source close to Carnival who declined to be named also said the company was pressing ahead as planned.

Preventative measures put to the test

Travel agencies and cruise companies, like this Ottawa outlet pictured in July 2020, are just some of the businesses hoping pent-up demand for their services pays off as COVID-19 fears ease. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Celebrity Millennium, one of the first ships in North America to restart sailing, said on Thursday the individuals were asymptomatic, in isolation and being monitored by medics. The company was also conducting contact tracing and expediting testing for all close contacts.

All guests on Celebrity Millennium were reportedly required to show proof of vaccination as well as a negative COVID-19 test before sailing from St. Maarten this past Saturday.

“I don’t believe it is that much of an issue and actually is an opportunity for Royal to show how it handles what is the biggest post-pandemic fear,” said Ivan Feinseth, chief investment officer at Tigress Financial Partners. 

Cruise lines are in discussions with Florida, from where some trips will sail, as the state’s governor pushed against people having to show proof of vaccine. Trips are scheduled to start in June and early July, sailing to the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera and Alaska.

Cruise expert Stewart Chiron, who is on board the Celebrity Millennium ship, told Reuters that life onboard on Thursday night had gone on as planned, with dinners, shows, and evening entertainment. He said no one onboard was wearing masks.

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