Cruise lines make masks compulsory onboard in wake of Omicron spread

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian have both tightened restrictions in recent days

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas

Helen Coffey©

Cruise lines are making masks compulsory onboard their ships as the Omicron coronavirus variant spreads rapidly around the globe.

Leading companies Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line have both tightened restrictions for passengers in recent days.

Royal Caribbean now requires all guests aged two and above to wear a face covering at all times unless eating or drinking – regardless of vaccination status.

It replaces the former rules, which stipulated that fully vaccinated guests could remove their face coverings in designated areas.

The new policy will be reviewed on January 5, according to the cruise line.

Meanwhile, Norwegian has stated that passengers must mask up indoors on its ships as of December 17.

A spokesperson for the cruise company said: “Guests must now wear masks on board while indoors, except when actively eating or drinking or when in their stateroom.

“We are also asking guests to wear masks outdoors when social distancing is not possible, and to adhere to local regulations when visiting ports of call.”

Prior to the new regulations, the line operated a mask-free policy onboard.

It follows the news that a total of 48 passengers tested positive for Covid-19 on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Symphony of the Seas when it docked in Miami on December 18.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said that each person who had tested positive on arrival immediately went into quarantine, while six people who had tested positive onboard had already disembarked the ship mid-voyage.

Those who tested positive were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, said the statement.

The Symphony of the Seas had departed on December 11 with 6,091 passengers aboard, 95 per cent of whom were fully vaccinated.

It is the world’s largest passenger cruise ship, with capacity for 9,000 guests and crew.