Royal Caribbean admits that Omicron has changed the landscape

Royal Caribbean Group has warned that “Omicron has significantly altered the Covid-19 landscape for everyone, and the Royal Caribbean Group is no exception”.

It said that “as widely reported, the Omicron variant is significantly more infectious than its predecessors and has already become the dominant form of Covid-19 in the US and elsewhere. Fortunately, Omicron also appears to cause significantly less severe symptoms than earlier variants, especially for people who are vaccinated. Cruising remains one of the few places one can vacation knowing that almost everyone you meet is fully vaccinated.”

RCG said that recent experience on its ships was consistent with these observations. “The numbers indicate an increase in people testing positive without a corresponding increase in people becoming ill. Since cruising restarted in the US in June 2021, the Royal Caribbean Group has carried 1.1m guests with 1,745 people testing positive – a positivity rate of 0.02%. Furthermore, the vast majority of those cases had no symptoms or only mild symptoms, with only 41 people needing hospitalization. None of the Omicron cases has been severe or needed to be taken to a hospital. These figures are a result of almost everyone onboard having been vaccinated and having a negative test before boarding.”

RCG chairman and CEO Richard Fain said that Omicron was “having a big short-term impact on everyone, but many observers see this as a major step towards Covid-19 becoming endemic rather than epidemic”. He added that “we don’t like to see even one case, but our experience is a fraction of the comparable statistics of virtually any other comparable location or industry. Few businesses are subject to such intense scrutiny, regulation, and disclosure requirements by so many authorities, and we welcome that scrutiny because of our commitment to safety. We intend to maintain our goal of delivering the safest vacation on land or sea and will constantly adjust our procedures to accomplish this even in the face of Omicron’s amazing transmissibility.”

Royal Caribbean Group’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Calvin Johnson said that the case count had spiked but that the level of severity was significantly milder.

The company said that, following a very strong Cyber weekend, it experienced a decline in bookings and increased cancellations for near-term sailings. However, this was to a lesser degree than that experienced with the Delta variant.

Load factors for sailings in the first half of 2022 remained below historical levels, but this had been expected. RCG said that sailings for the second half of 2022 continued to be booked “within historical ranges”, with strong demand from the US market.

Fain concluded that RCG was “constantly learning and adjusting as Omicron appears to be ushering in a new phase in the fight against Covid-19. We expect these factors to have a negative impact in the short term but are optimistic they will lead us to a more pervasive but less severe health environment. Taken together, this should enable us to produce a strong transitional year in 2022 and a very strong 2023.”