Royal Caribbean cancels voyages on 4 ships amid COVID-19 surge

Royal Caribbean International canceled cruises on four of its ships Friday amid a global surge in COVID-19 cases.

"In abundance of caution, Royal Caribbean International is pausing operations" for a few ships, the cruise company announced in a statement obtained by The Hill. 

The affected voyages are Vision of the Seas, which is postponed until March 7; Serenade of the Seas, which is postponed until April 26; Jewel of the Seas, which is postponed until Feb. 20; and Symphony of the Seas, which is postponed until Jan. 29. 

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Although Royal Caribbean has vaccine and testing mandates for guests and crew members, the company said it would still move forward with the cancellations. Guests on the canceled trips will be able to request a full refund or choose from other compensation options.

"We regret having to cancel our guests' long-awaited vacations and appreciate their loyalty and understanding," the statement said. "Our top priority is always the well-being of our guests, our crew and the communities we visit."

The news comes as cruise ships have experienced a significant number of COVID-19 cases among guests and crew members in recent weeks. 

More than 40 passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship last month tested positive for the virus, and 2,500 guests on another of the company's cruise ships were held in Hong Kong after nine passengers tested positive for the virus this week. 

Coronavirus infections have been surging across the United States and the globe amid the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant first discovered in South Africa. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out an advisory at the end of last month urging Americans to avoid traveling on cruise ships as the omicron variant causes a global spike in coronavirus cases. 

Updated 7:40 p.m.