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Symphony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean ends free onboard debarkation tests for int’l passengers as of Jan. 5

MIAMI — Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak impacting at least four dozen passengers, however the cruise line’s protocols highlight how far the cruise industry has come in dealing with COVID cases.

The ship arrived in Miami on Saturday to disembark just over 6,000 passengers, as scheduled, wrapping up a week-long Caribbean cruise. Almost all – 95% – of those passengers were fully vaccinated. CNN reports that among the 48 positive cases, 98% were fully vaccinated. All Royal Caribbean passengers age 12 and up must be fully vaccinated.

As per Royal Caribbean’s Healthy Sail protocols, when one passenger tested positive, contact tracing turned up more positive cases, all with mild or no symptoms, according to Royal Caribbean’s statement.

“Each person quickly went into quarantine,” said the cruise line. “Everyone who tested positive were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, and we continuously monitored their health.” Six of the positive cases had disembarked earlier in the week.

Dealing with a handful of positive cases has become fairly routine for the major cruise lines, almost two years since the first cruise ship outbreaks onboard Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess and Grand Princess at the very start of the pandemic, amid much confusion and chaos, dominated international headlines for days.

Royal Caribbean’s sailings restarted this past summer with the July 2 departure of Freedom of the Seas out of Miami. In August 2021 the company said it expects to have its entire fleet sailing again by spring 2022.

NO MORE FREE TESTS FOR INTERNATIONAL PASSENGERS

In other news, as reported today on Royal Caribbean Blog, the cruise line has also updated its testing protocols.

For international passengers, including Canadians, Royal Caribbean will no longer provide free testing for home country testing requirements.

The new policy takes effect for sailings on or after Jan. 5, 2022.

“Optional onboard testing to satisfy your International Re-Entry Testing requirement will no longer be available. However, if your country requires a COVID-19 test, you have various ways to complete this testing requirement nearby upon debarking the ship,” says Royal Caribbean on its site.

Testing costs vary by location and can be paid directly to the provider, notes the cruise line. PCR testing is available at the terminal upon debarkation, at the airport or at local testing sites.