By Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) – Citing ongoing travel restrictions, Norwegian Cruise Line has canceled voyages on eight ships.

A Norwegian Getaway cruise set to embark on a nine-day Caribbean itinerary was canceled “due to COVID related circumstances” on Wednesday, the same day it was scheduled to set sail.

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The Norwegian Pearl returned to PortMiami on Wednesday after two days at sea, cutting short a voyage that was scheduled to return to Miami on January 14. Several Covid cases among the crew prompted the move, according to the Miami Herald. Norwegian Pearl cruises with embarkation dates through January 14 are canceled.

Cancellations of cruises on Norwegian Sky, Pride of America, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Star, Norwegian Sun, and Norwegian Spirit were also announced on Wednesday.

Some of the cancellations affect sailings through dates in April.

“Our first priority is the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit,” according to a statement from the cruise line.

Guests booked on affected sailings will receive automatic full refunds plus a certificate valid for a future cruise, Norwegian said.

The cruise line has a vaccination requirement for 100% of guests and crew and requires pre-embarkation testing for everyone, it noted in its cancellation notices.

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CDC: Avoid cruising for now
On December 30, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention increased the risk level for cruise ship travel to its highest level and said it should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status.

The move “reflects increases in cases onboard cruise ships since identification of the Omicron variant,” the CDC website says.

“Since the identification of the Omicron variant, there has been an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew reported to CDC. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the Covid-19 case threshold for CDC investigation,” the agency said.

Industry group Cruise Lines International Association expressed disappointment at the CDC’s elevated risk level.

“The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard — far fewer than on land — and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore,” CLIA said in a statement last week.

Last month, at least three other cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, that left from either Miami or Fort Lauderdale, had COVID-19 outbreaks.

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