COVID disrupts Norwegian Pearl, cruise returns early to Miami

Norwegian Pearl returned to Miami on Wednesday, after just a full day at sea and an outbreak of COVID-19 among crew members.

Passengers were told their cruise, an 11-day trip to the Panama Canal, would turn around on Tuesday night. They were told the ship would return to Miami on Thursday, January 6, but the ship arrived in PortMiami at noon on Wednesday.

In a letter from the cruise line to passengers and posted on a Florida travel agency’s Facebook page, cruise line NCL said that although all guests and crew aboard the Pearl were vaccinated, several members crew have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The cruise line has also canceled a nine-day Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Getaway that was scheduled to leave PortMiami on Wednesday due to “COVID-related circumstances.” While the cruise line alerted travel agents that the cruise would be canceled on Tuesday, some passengers were not told until Wednesday morning, having already traveled to Miami from other parts of the country.

Gabrielle Rodriguez, administrator of a New Jersey hospital, boarded a 6:20 am flight to Miami and only received an email informing her that the cruise had been canceled after arriving at Harbor.

“I just wish I had known the day before,” she said, sitting down on her suitcase, while scrolling through her phone trying to book an Airbnb. Norwegian has not provided any information as to whether she will be reimbursed for her accommodation while in Miami.

“Might as well stay in Miami, I’ve already taken time off,” she said.

Matt Daly, 68, left his home in Surf City, North Carolina at 3:30 a.m. to catch a flight to Miami, only to be notified at 11 a.m. that his cruise was canceled. He said they planned the trip a year in advance and that NCL would not reimburse him and his partner for their expenses.

“I will never leave North Carolina again,” he said.

Infections on NCL vessels come as the omicron variant, which has become the dominant strain of the coronavirus in America, continues to spread around the world. On December 30, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory that travelers should avoid cruise ship travel, regardless of their vaccination status, due to the resurgence of virus outbreaks on cruises since the highly contagious variant appeared in the United States in late November. . At that time, the CDC said it was monitoring more than 90 cruise ships with an unspecified number of COVID-19 cases among passengers and crew.

According to the CDC, the Norwegian Pearl has been marked as a yellow level, which means that an investigation had started.

Besides the Pearl, since December 18, at least three other cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have left the ports of Miami and Fort Lauderdale and have seen their journeys disrupted by the coronavirus.

On the second day of the 11-day trip, passengers received a letter about the virus outbreak in which Norwegian Pearl officials said: “As a result, the Norwegian Pearl’s navigation on January 3, 2022 has been canceled and we will return. in Miami to disembark all guests on January 6, 2022. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, as we now understand, more than ever the desire to travel and reconnect with the places and people that have us most lack.

Norwegian did not respond to a request for comment on why the ship docked a day earlier or for more details on the number of COVID-19 cases on board.

The cruise ship, which can hold nearly 2,400 passengers and 1,100 crew, was supposed to stop in Cartagena, Colombia; Panama Canal / Gatun Lake, Panama; Colon, Panama; Puerto Limon, Panama; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; Harvest Caye, Belize and Costa Maya, Mexico.

“We have made the difficult decision to cancel the Norwegian Pearl’s voyage on January 3, 2022 due to COVID-related circumstances,” NCL said in a written statement.

Last month, Carnival Freedom, which left Miami on December 18, was denied entry to Bonaire and Aruba due to confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Royal Caribbean had two ships that were disrupted because of the virus. The Odyssey of the Seas had 55 fully vaccinated crew and passengers infected with the pandemic disease and the Symphony of the Seas docked in Miami with at least 48 infected passengers and crew.

Miami Herald editor-in-chief Devoun Cetoute contributed to this report.

This story was originally published January 5, 2022 5:14 pm.

Carli Teproff grew up in northeast Miami-Dade and graduated from Florida International University in 2003. She became a full-time reporter for the Miami Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news.

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