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Sailings On Royal Caribbean's 'Odyssey Of The Seas' Postponed After Crew Members Test Positive For COVID

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Royal Caribbean announced a setback Wednesday, and that's on top of an ongoing conflict the industry has with Gov. Ron DeSantis.

"Sailing during a deadline pandemic is dangerous. I don't think there is any way to prevent the virus from going on a ship," said James Walker, a maritime attorney.

Walker says fears of what could happen when the cruising returns has become reality.

"Odyssey of the Seas, in a two-and-half week period, they had 13 crew members tested positive for COVID, which doesn't bode well for safe cruising in the future," Walker said.

Six of the crew members who tested positive are asymptomatic and two are mildly sick. And prior to the ship docking in Fort Lauderdale, five others had tested positive for the virus.

Because of the positive tests, Royal Caribbean is postponing their highly-anticipated first sailings from a U.S. since the pandemic.

However, travel industry expert Sandra McLemore says the recent positive tests are proof that COVID protocols are working.

"In this case, if no one on board was vaccinated, it would've spread like wild fire. Can you imagine eight people getting COVID on a ship back in the beginning of the height of the pandemic? This here is not a setback, this is proof of concept," she said.

CBS4 was told about 1,400 crew members aboard the Odyssey of the Seas were vaccinated on June 4. But two weeks had not passed for their bodies to build protection against the virus. And in a recent survey done by the University of South Florida, researchers found most Floridians are in support of sailing if vaccination was required.

"We found out about 43% of Floridians thought vaccine should be mandatory for a cruise ships in Florida. Another 32 to 33% said they felt that decision should be up to the cruise line. So total we saw about 76% of people indicating that they would prefer to see mandatory vaccinations for cruises," said Stephen Neely.

McLemore said that's what the cruise industry wants.

"Nobody wants to sail a ship not knowing who's on board or not knowing their vaccine status," said McLemore.

And in other areas where vaccine verification is allowed, cruising has been safe.

"Several cruise lines have been selling out of Europe. MSC, for example, had no cases the entire summer they were sailing out of Europe. Royal Caribbean had a ship in Asia, no cases on board," McLemore said. "But again, back to my point, the goal is not no cases on board. The goal is to have multiple layers of protection so that when cases do arise they can deal with them swiftly."

Some cruise lines like Norwegian have threatening to leave Florida if vaccination verifications are not allowed. Experts say that could cost the state $3.6 billion for every six months ships are not cruising.

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