A luxury cruise that had to leave 10 people behind in New York City due to a COVID outbreak now won't return to the city at all because of staffing pressures caused by the virus.
Meanwhile, the picture continues to worsen for the cruise industry generally, with 89 ships under some kind of CDC monitoring for COVID outbreaks -- an increase of almost 20% in one day.
The Queen Mary 2 arrived at a Brooklyn harbor Dec. 20 after sailing across the Atlantic for the holidays. On arriving, 10 passengers tested positive for COVID-19 and were removed from the ship to isolate in the city.
The ship sailed onward to Barbados and was due to loop back to New York on Jan. 3. But according to passengers, they received a letter from the ship's captain Tuesday night saying the vessel will stay there while it brings in extra crew, before heading directly back to England next week.
Cunard confirmed the delay, which it said was a precautionary measure given the long voyage back to England, and said it was working on flying passengers from Barbados to NYC next week.
"As a precautionary measure Queen Mary 2 will take on additional manning in essential roles in Barbados prior to the sail back to the UK. Given the current international travel situation the ship will remain in Barbados until January 2nd. The extended stay means that unfortunately the ship will be unable to call in New York on January 3 if it is to maintain the arrival back in Southampton on January 10, 2022," Cunard said in a statement.
All travelers on the Cunard ship, which the company bills as the "greatest ocean liner in the world," had to be fully vaccinated and tested for COVID just before they boarded in Britain's Southampton, suggesting these were breakthrough cases.
A total of 1,473 guests were aboard the ship when it reached New York City, so the infections at the time represented less than 1% of all guests onboard. The ship now has 1,575 passengers. Some of the passengers on board said they have been promised a discount towards a future cruise or a full refund.
Cruise ship COVID outbreaks
The COVID-positive guests were supposed to be able to rejoin Queen Mary 2 on Jan. 3, when it was due to return to New York City on the way back to England. It was not immediately clear how the company will handle travel for those passengers.
Queen Mary 2 is hardly the only cruise ship affected by the omicron surge. Nearly 50 people aboard Royal Caribbean's 7,000-passenger Symphony of the Seas, which requires full vaccination for passengers age 12 and up, tested positive for COVID. They had been on a seven-night Caribbean excursion.
As of Monday, the CDC said it had 38 ships under investigation due to COVID outbreaks, another 48 already investigated and still under observation, and 3 more in a monitoring status, for a total of 89 -- versus 75 just on Monday.
The Queen Mary 2 was listed as one of the ships under investigation.