While many major cruise operators are idling their fleets in response to the coronavirus pandemic, some ships are still at sea or trying to find a port as they deal with fears that some passengers or crew may have become infected with COVID-19.
Some ships, such as Fred. Olsen Cruises’ Braemar, have passengers aboard who either tested positive for COVID-19 or have coronavirus-related symptoms. Others, like Celebrity Cruises’ Eclipse, have no reported cases, yet are being turned away from ports overseas out of fear the ships may harbor undiagnosed cases.
“This is a highly fluid situation, with numbers changing by the hour as cruise ships around the world are completing their voyages,” Bari Golin-Blaugrund, senior director of strategic communications at Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s leading trade organization, told USA TODAY.
As of Thursday morning, around 14% of CLIA’s 277 member ships were still at sea in the process of wrapping up current voyages.
“The vast majority of the rest are either at port, anchored or repositioning,” Golin-Blaugrund continued. “CLIA members are focused on the safe and smooth return home of those onboard cruise ships that are currently at sea.”
But the path home is increasingly murky for some ships.
Costa Cruises’ Costa Luminosa has arrived to port in Marseilles, where it will be allowed to disembark despite the fact that France is under lockdown.
On Thursday, French health authorities boarded the Italian-flagged ship to perform health checks according to protocol on the crew and passengers, who include 233 Americans. The cruise line said ship currently has five passengers and two crew members exhibiting “flu-like” symptoms.
After dropping off passengers in Marseille, “the ship is then scheduled to continue towards Italy, where Costa is working with local authorities to complete disembarkation for remaining guests,” the cruise line said.
Which guests will disembark in France and which will be scheduled to disembark in Italy, is still being determined, the cruise line said.
Complicating matters is the fact that all of Italy is in the midst of a government-enforced lockdown, including its ports, according to Cruise Critic, a news and review site. This puts into doubt the Luminosa’s ability to dock in Savona or Naples as planned.
Earlier in the week, Costa Luminosa was denied permission to disembark its more than 1,400 passengers in Spain after that country was placed in lockdown over the weekend. That includes the closure of all ports.
The company, which is owned by Carnival Corp., said that three Costa Luminosa passengers who were removed from the ship in the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico have tested positive for COVID-19, including a 68-year-old man who died last weekend. On Monday, two passengers who had problems breathing and one who had a fever were transported from the ship to the hospital when it stopped for provisions in the Canary Islands, a autonomous Spanish territory off the coast of Morocco.
On Wednesday night, all 682 guests on the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Braemar disembarked in the Port of Mariel in Havana, Cuba, and boarded charter flights back to England.
According to a Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines release provided by spokesperson Ellis Barker to USA TODAY, one plane ferried passengers who have been diagnosed with coronavirus or who have exhibited symptoms and their travel companions to MoD Boscombe Down Wiltshire, a military base in southwest England.
The other three jets were British Airways charter flights bound for London’s Heathrow Airport. Upon arrival, guests were provided with care packages including milk, tea, biscuits and fruit to help stock pantries at home.
“We know that at times this was a frustrating process, and it was not the way they, or we, had anticipated the end to their holiday,” Peter Deer, managing director of the cruise line, said in the release.
“As we have already seen in the Caribbean, the world, including the U.K., has become a very different place over the past few weeks. I hope this small gesture of a care package goes some way to showing our thanks to them all in what has become a very challenging and unprecedented time.”
On Tuesday, the line reported that there were 28 guests in isolation, including two that tested positive for COVID-19 at a port call in Willemstad, Curaçao, the week before. There had been 27 crew members in isolation too, including a doctor. Those who were too sick to travel were to receive medical treatment in Cuba.
Norwegian Jewel and Holland America’s Maasdam
The state of Hawaii, which on Tuesday asked travelers to delay their trips for at least 30 days, has turned away ships owned by Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America Line, despite a lack of positive cases of coronavirus on either vessel, officials said Wednesday.
State and cruise line officials previously said passengers from the Norwegian Jewel and MS Maasdam could disembark at Honolulu Harbor.
Former presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said during a telephone town hall Wednesday that Hawaii’s Department of Transportation “made the difficult, but correct, decision to only allow the Maasdam and Norwegian Jewel cruise vessels ... to come into port solely to take on fuel and resupply in Honolulu Harbor.”
Holland America’s MS Maasdam, which was barred from making a port call in HIlo, is set to arrive Friday to Honolulu Harbor, state officials said. It has 842 guests and 542 crew members.
Norwegian Jewel, which is carrying about 1,700 passengers, was turned away from Fiji and New Zealand. While passengers were not permitted to leave the ship in Pago Pago, American Samoa, the ship was allowed to refuel there. It is expected to arrive in Honolulu on Sunday.
Neither cruise line commented immediately on Hawaii’s reversal.