Travel | June 17, 2021 2:50 pm

One of Royal Caribbean’s First Post-Pandemic Cruises Postponed by COVID Scare

We've seen this movie before

The Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of The Seas arriving at Port Everglades on June 10, in Fort Lauderdale
The Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of The Seas arriving at Port Everglades on June 10, in Fort Lauderdale

Last month, Royal Caribbean became the first cruise line to secure approval from the CDC to begin performing test sails in advance of the summer season. This week, the cruise line received less optimistic news: the brand new Odyssey of the Seas’ inaugural sail, originally slated for July 3, was postponed after eight crew members tested positive for COVID.

According to a new report from Travel and Leisure, the positive cases came following routine testing onboard prior to the Odyssey’s June simulation cruise, necessitating a crew-wide, 14-day quarantine. Of the eight that tested positive, six were reportedly asymptomatic. A new date for the simulation cruise has not been set, though the Odyssey of the Sea is now tentatively scheduled to depart on July 31.

“Two steps forward and one step back!” Royal Caribbean CEO and president Michael Bayley wrote on Facebook Tuesday evening.

“All 1,400 crew onboard Odyssey of the Seas were vaccinated on June 4th and will be considered fully vaccinated on June 18,” he continued later in the post. “The positive cases were identified after the vaccination was given and before they were fully effective.”

Maybe it’s because it wasn’t all that long ago that I was interviewing filmmaker Hannah Olson about her HBO documentary The Last Cruise — a harrowing look back at the cruiseliner-turned-global spectacle that hosted the first coronavirus outbreak outside of Wuhan — but the positive tests feel like a graver circumstance than a small “step back.” On that doomed cruise, guests were forced to quarantine in their rooms for weeks while the crew did the same in cramped, windowless cabins below deck. “The boat is the microcosm of our globalized economy, with a very clearly delineated caste system,” Olson told me.

Just as in the real world, the crew members — many of them low-income workers from developing countries like Indonesia and the Philippines — were disproportionately affected by the virus, and the groundbreaking documentary exposed the severe working and living conditions they’re routinely forced to endure. In an ideal world, the impact of the film would’ve hailed in widespread changes to ensure worker safety. Instead, a spate of positive COVID tests are being downplayed by a CEO as a minor inconvenience.

And yet Royal Caribbean is forging ahead with their plans, with several ships lined up to return to service in June and July, both domestically and internationally. As of now, guests will not be required to show proof of vaccination.