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Norwegian cancels 10-day cruise halfway through sailing due to COVID-19

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Norwegian Cruise Line canceled port destinations on a 10-day cruise from New York to the Caribbean mid-sailing due to COVID-19 and continued at-sea days for the rest of the trip.

The cruise line's Gem ship canceled the port calls Thursday after the ship had embarked Sunday, passenger Aimee Focaraccio told USA Today, adding that the ship had also skipped port calls in Grand Turk, St. Thomas and Tortola, before it arrived in St. Maarten, and canceled other stops.

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"We will arrive as per schedule on the 19th in the morning," a voice said on a recording of an onboard announcement Focaraccio sent to USA Today while she was in St. Maarten Friday.

"Without the islands and ports to break up the sea days this is turning into a nightmare," Focaraccio told USA Today. "I really can't imagine four more sea days back to back without much to do."

The cancelation was due to "COVID-related circumstances," Christine Da Silva, Norwegian Cruise Line's senior vice president of branding and communication, told USA Today in a statement.

Gem passengers were given a full refund, a $100 onboard credit per stateroom, and a future cruise credit worth 50% of the voyage fare for the sailing which could be applied to a future cruise by May 31, 2023, according to USA Today and Cruise Industry News.

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Another passenger on the Gem, Anthony Bivona, who self-identified as a frequent cruiser, told USA Today he was aware of the risks traveling amid the pandemic, and he had "an absolutely amazing cruise," despite the cancelation of several port calls in the itinerary.

The majority of ships in Norwegian's fleet have faced cancellations amid the current COVID-19 wave fueled by the Omicron variant.

The Gem was among multiple ships Norwegian canceled this week and last week.

On Thursday, Norwegian Cruise Line listed 12 cruise sailings whose schedules had been modified in a travel advisory, adding that a refund would be applied.

"The global health environment continues to rapidly evolve and destinations around the world modify their travel requirements or implement new travel restrictions," the advisory noted.

Other cruise lines have also had to cancel sailings amid the Omicron variant surge.

Royal Caribbean International announced cancellations Friday on multiple ships.

Also, on Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that cautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships will become voluntary.

In late December, the CDC recommended people regardless of vaccination status avoid cruise ship travel due to increasing cases of COVID-19.

"The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 booster dose," the CDC website says.

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