COVID passenger forces Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas to briefly return to port

Incident comes after 48 passengers aboard cruise line's Symphony of the Seas ship tested positive

Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas is under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after the company's newest cruise ship was forced to briefly return to port due to a passenger who tested positive for COVID-19. 

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The ship, which departed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday for an eight-night voyage, was diverted on Sunday. 

"The guest, who was symptomatic prior to boarding but did not notify us, reported to the medical center and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19," a Royal Caribbean spokesperson told FOX Business. "He and his close contacts were quarantined and disembarked in Ft. Lauderdale to return home." 

Odyssey of the Seas cruise ship

Odyssey of the Seas cruise ship (Royal Caribbean International)

After the passenger and his close contacts disembarked, the ship continued its voyage. As of Tuesday morning, Odyssey of the Seas is en route to Curaçao, according to cruise ship tracking website Cruise Mapper. The ship will return to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

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A CDC spokesperson told FOX Business the agency is aware of the recent disembarkation from Odyssey of the Seas. 

The ship is listed on its website under the yellow tier, which means that an investigation has started. Yellow status is reached when a ship is reported to be at or above the threshold for crew or passenger COVID-19 cases or when a state or local health department notifies the agency of a passenger COVID-19 case within five days of disembarkation. 

"This is a routine protocol for COVID-19 positive passengers, regardless of symptom status, on board RCI cruise ships," the agency said.

The CDC's technical instructions for mitigation of COVID-19 require cruise ship operators to have clear protocols that avoid medical evacuations at sea to the extent possible for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19-related medical reasons. Unavoidable medical evacuations at sea must rely on commercial resources and be designed to minimize the burden on federal, state, and local government resources, including the U.S. Coast Guard. 

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The investigation into Odyssey of the Seas comes after 48 passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas ship tested positive for the virus on Saturday. The ship departed Dec. 11 and visited St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Royal Caribbean's private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, before returning to Miami on Dec. 18. 

Per Royal Caribbean's policy, anyone who is at least 12 years old must be fully vaccinated and the final dose of their vaccine must be administered at least two weeks before sailing. The cruise line also "strongly" recommends that fully vaccinated guests receive a booster shot as well "when they become eligible to do so," although it's not required. Any traveler under 12 years old must provide a negative PCR test prior to sailing and another negative at the terminal prior to boarding. 

Royal Caribbean's entire cruise ship staff are fully vaccinated and undergo weekly testing.  

The coronavirus' omicron variant accounts for around 73% of cases, according to a tweet by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday. More than 241.8 million Americans ages 5 and older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, while more than 204 million have been fully vaccinated. Over 60.6 million fully vaccinated American adults have also received a booster dose. 

FOX Business' Daniella Genovese contributed to this report