• Officials said that the step was being taken due to COVID-19 concerns
  • All passengers on the Norwegian Gem were reportedly given a full refund or cruise credit
  • They were also given an additional cruise credit

The Norwegian Cruise Line canceled its Caribbean trip mid-voyage citing COVID-19 related issues, leaving passengers stuck at sea. A spokesperson for the cruise line said the ship will return to New York “shortly,” but did not provide a date.

“As we continue to navigate the fluid public health environment, while focusing on delivering a safe experience for all on board, we made the difficult decision to cancel Norwegian Gem’s current Caribbean sailing, due to Covid-related circumstances," Christine Da Silva, senior vice president of branding and communication for Norwegian Cruise Line, told USA Today in a prepared statement issued Friday.

The exact reason for the cancelation was not known, but officials said that the step was being taken due to COVID-19 concerns.

Passenger Aimee Focaraccio told the USA Today that the abrupt cancellation trapped her aboard the vessel for the final four days of the 10-day birthday cruise she booked. Focaraccio said that her fun celebration has now turned into a "nightmare."

"I really can’t imagine four more sea days back to back without much to do,” she said, calling it "extremely unsettling."

Anthony Bivona, another traveler, said last-minute changes to the itinerary were expected given the current pandemic situation. COVID-19 cases onboard cruise ships have been surging over the last few weeks.

“We all knew when we booked during such difficult times due to Covid that there would most likely be changes to our itinerary,” he said. “It was not the exact itinerary we signed up for but has still been an absolutely amazing cruise.”

All passengers on the Norwegian Gem were reportedly given a full refund or cruise credit. They were also given an additional cruise credit equivalent to 50 percent of the current trip fare to be applied to a future cruise, according to Cruise Industry News.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced Friday that the company’s three brands – Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises – have opted into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters.

“The health and safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our number one priority. We have demonstrated this commitment since our return to service in July of last year, with protocols that exceeded those required by regulatory agencies, including 100% vaccination of guests and crew, universal testing of all guests prior to embarkation and routine testing of all crew,” Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said, according to Cruise Industry News.

The CDC placed cruise ships on its highest warning category for travel – Level 4 “very high” risk – saying that “ 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 vaccine booster dose.”

Norwegian Cruise Line ship Dawn
The Norwegian Cruise Line ship Norwegian Dawn departs the Royal Naval Dockyard near the port of Hamilton, Bermuda, in this file photo taken on July 16, 2013. Reuters/Gary Cameron