By Carma Hassan and Jason Hanna, CNN
A Carnival cruise ship that departed Miami has “a small number” of people aboard who have tested positive for Covid-19, and it has been denied entry to ports at two Caribbean islands, the cruise line said.
However, the Carnival Freedom ship was granted access to visit Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic, company spokesperson AnneMarie Mathews said in a prepared statement.
“Carnival Freedom is following all protocols and has a small number on board who are in isolation due to a positive Covid test,” Mathews’ statement reads.
“Our protocols anticipate this possibility, and we implement them as necessary to protect the health and safety of our guests and crew. This is a vaccinated cruise, and all guests were also tested before embarkation,” the statement reads.
The Carnival Freedom departed Miami on December 18 and stopped in Curacao on Tuesday. Its planned stops at the Caribbean islands of Bonaire on Wednesday and Aruba on Thursday were canceled.
Those stops were replaced by Friday’s stop in the Dominican Republic, and the ship will return to Miami as planned on Sunday, the cruise line said.
The ship’s entry into Curacao was also delayed due to the Covid-19 cases detected onboard.
Dr. Izzy Gerstenbluth, the national epidemiologist for Curacao, told CNN that he was alerted by the ship prior to its docking that it had crew members who tested positive for Covid-19.
Gerstenbluth wanted to assess the situation once the ship docked, but he said he was delayed due to an emergency on the island. Once Gerstenbluth arrived on the cruise ship, he determined the cases were contained among the crew, he explained. Curacao allowed the ship’s passengers to leave the ship, but the crew remained onboard, he said.
Ashley Peterson, a passenger aboard on the cruise, told CNN the cruise line refused to inform her why the ship was delayed entry into Curacao. Later that day, she learned from a news report the delay was triggered by Covid-19 infections, she said.
Peterson said it wasn’t until the next day when the ship was denied entry into Bonaire that passengers were officially informed of the Covid-19 cases, and said she may have taken a flight back to North Carolina if she knew of the positive cases.
When asked by CNN, Carnival Cruise Line did not address specific claims by Peterson.
Carnival and many other cruise lines require passengers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with some exceptions for children.
The cruise line is working closely with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health authorities at the destination it visits, according to the statement.
“The rapid spread of the Omicron variant may shape how some destination authorities view even a small number of cases, even when they are being managed with our vigorous protocols,” Mathews’ statement reads. “Some destinations have limited medical resources and are focused on managing their own local response to the variant.
“Should it be necessary to cancel a port, we will do our best to find an alternative destination.”
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CNN’s Sharif Paget contributed to this report.