Travelers on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship in the Caribbean have been stranded at sea after the company canceled the trip in the middle of the voyage owing to COVID-19 difficulties, a new report has revealed.
According to USA Today, Aimee Focaraccio boarded the Norwegian Gem from New York for a 10-day trip last Sunday for her birthday, but the vacation turned into a "nightmare" when the cruise line canceled the cruise four days later and given no deadline for the ship to return.
The Norwegian Gem departed New York on Jan. 9 with promises of island excursions. Only one day into the roundtrip journey, passengers were informed that two stops would be eliminated, bringing the total number of days at sea to six. The passengers were informed three days later that the rest of the trip's disembarkations had been canceled, CruiseHive reports.
A Norwegian Cruise Line representative described the cancellations as a "difficult decision" brought on by "COVID-related circumstances."
"The ship will overnight in Philipsburg, St. Maarten and will return to New York shortly," a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. "We do not yet have an estimated time of arrival to New York."
According to CruiseHive, the Gem's only port of call was St. Maarten for an overnight stop. Passengers received a full refund as well as a discount on a future flight.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the cruise industry. Earlier this month, Norwegian canceled a number of voyages due to "ongoing travel restrictions," and a 12-day vacation on the Norwegian Pearl was also cut short due to circumstances relating to Covid-19, according to the cruise line.
Royal Caribbean Cruises has also canceled its Spectrum of the Seas voyage, which was scheduled to sail on Jan. 6, after nine passengers on an earlier ship were exposed to the virus.
Regardless of vaccination status, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that cruising right now involves a risk of contracting and transmitting the virus.
In the U.S., the rule currently requires all cruise ships to perform simulated test trips before allowing them to sail unless they commit to fully vaccinating 98% of the crew and 95% of passengers. The vaccine and mask regulations in place at many cruise lines have varied over the years, and they have continued to update as the pandemic has progressed.
The CDC classifies cruise ships using a color-coded system: green is safe to sail, and the scale progresses to orange, yellow, and eventually red, which indicates the need to relocate onboard crew to single-occupancy cabins, cancel face-to-face meetings, and close public facilities like as gyms. Gray is the final coding color, indicating that the agency "has not reviewed or confirmed the cruise ship's health and safety protocols."