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Cruise Ships Are Still Sailing as Cases Rise and Criticism Mounts

Most major cruise lines do not publicly announce the number of coronavirus cases on board their ships, but they are required to submit daily figures to the C.D.C. Currently, the agency is monitoring more than 90 cruise ships, because of reported cases that have reached the agency’s threshold for an investigation. (An investigation is undertaken when a certain number of cases is reported among a percentage of passengers.)

Carnival has denied that the number of infected crew was as high as 100 on Mr. Suphan’s sailing, but has not disclosed the total number of people who tested positive. On Dec. 28, when the cruise was denied entry to port, the Jalisco state health ministry said 69 cases had been detected among the ship’s 1,450 crew members. That day, Christine Duffy, the Carnival president, called into the ship and briefed guests on the situation. Passengers said she did not give updated figures for positive cases, which many found concerning.

Chris Chiames, chief communication officer for Carnival, said the company takes its responsibility for public health “very seriously” and has implemented protocols that exceed C.D.C. guidance since restarting operations in the United States in June.

“The extreme majority of the crew who test positive are asymptomatic and detected through the random testing protocol, and they and their close contacts are put into isolation or quarantine,” Mr. Chiames said. “None have required escalated medical attention or hospitalization, and we have also moved most crew off the ship to complete their isolation or quarantine.”

Carnival declined to comment on its policies for reporting daily cases to passengers onboard its ships, but Mr. Chiames said, “the additional complications caused by the fast-spreading Omicron variant will require us to evaluate how to communicate moving forward.”

For many, the idea of testing positive for the coronavirus on a cruise ship conjures up the horrors of the major outbreaks in the early stages of the pandemic, when thousands of people were confined to their rooms for endless days while the pandemic.

The health and safety protocols that allowed U.S. cruise ships to restart operations in June have helped cruise lines contain the virus and avoid large outbreaks, and until now, many of the small percentage of guests who tested positive during sailings have been satisfied with the handling of their cases. Some even received complimentary food and champagne to their rooms and were flown home by charter plane.

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