Both Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have tightened the screws on their policies regarding face masks on board ships in the wake of the newly-discovered COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Both brands will now require all passengers to wear masks while they are in indoor areas on the ship unless they are eating or drinking.
“For sailings with embarkation dates through and including December 19, 2021, all guests and crew are required to wear masks onboard while indoors, except when actively eating or drinking, or seated at a table in a dining setting, or when in their stateroom,” reads an updated statement on Norwegian Cruise Line’s website.
In November, Norwegian also extended its vaccination requirement for 100% of passengers indefinitely.
In a similar fashion, Royal Caribbean told passengers in a note Friday (Dec. 17) that it is tightening mask requirements through Jan. 5, 2022.
"With the recent uptick of COVID-19 in the world and added omicron variant concerns, we feel it prudent to temporarily tighten our onboard health protocols to require masks indoors at all times, unless actively eating or drinking," the company said. "This new update also applies to vaccinated areas and venues."
Despite strict health and safety measures that are designed to limit the spread on COVID-19, breakthrough cases of the virus are still happening on ships
Earlier this month, Norwegian Breakaway docked in New Orleans with 17 COVID-19 infections on board.
And, just this past weekend, forty-eight people on board Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas, ending a seven-day sailing in Miami on Saturday (Dec. 18), tested positive for the virus, according to multiple reports.
The Symphony of the Seas was carrying more than 6,000 passengers and crew when a guest tested positive, prompting wider contact tracing, according to a statement Royal Caribbean shared with USA Today.
All but one of those infected on Symphony of the Seas was fully vaccinated, the cruise line said in a statement, and all patients quarantined following the positive results, NBC Miami reported.
"Each person quickly went into quarantine," reads a Royal Caribbean statement on the outbreak. "Everyone who tested positive were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, and we continuously monitored their health."
All passengers 12 and older were required to be fully vaccinated and to test negative to board Symphony of the Seas.
The ship sailed with 95 per cent of the onboard community fully vaccinated on the Dec. 11 to Dec. 18 cruise, with 98 per cent of those people who tested positive being fully vaccinated, Royal Caribbean said.