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Large number of people in confined spaces on cruise ships make onboard tourists prone to infectious diseases such as the coronavirus. In 2019 alone, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported ten outbreaks on cruise ships.

In 2020, the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, is the latest threat to the cruise industry where bookings are done much in advance. At least 13 cruise ships have reported suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Cruise operators have started to either cancel or change their itineraries as countries across the world implement travel restrictions to curb the disease spread. Ports are refusing to accept cruise ships that have been either to Chinese ports or carrying Chinese passengers during the outbreak.

Cruise ships with confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus infection

Novel coronavirus cases have been either confirmed or suspected on at least four cruise ships so far, as listed below.

Coronavirus-related deaths on MS Zaandam

Holland America’s MS Zaandam has reported four deaths of elderly passengers, while another 73 passengers and 116 crew members have reported flu-like symptoms.

The cruise ship departed from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 07 March and was scheduled to arrive in Chile on but denied entry due to the lock down measures implemented in the country. The ship was also denied entry by Peru after the country closed its borders.

Holland America dispatched another cruise ship MS Rotterdam from Mexico carrying testing kits, supplies and medical personnel. MS Rotterdam docked in the Panama Canal under humanitarian grounds where the healthy passengers were transferred from MS Zaandam.

Both the ships are scheduled to return to the US.

Confirmed coronavirus cases on Artania cruise ship

Seven confirmed cases have been reported on the Artania cruise ship, which is operated by Phoenix Reisen. The ship is currently moored off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia. Approximately 800 passengers and 500 crew are reported to be on board the ship.

The passengers who tested positive for coronavirus have been shifted to various hospitals, while the healthy passengers have been allowed to fly home on chartered flights from Perth.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases on Ruby Princess

Three passengers from Australia and one crew member on board the Ruby Princess cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises have tested positive for COVID-19. The ship began its voyage from New Zealand on 11 March and arrived in Sydney, Australia on 18th March where all  2700 passengers and 1,100 crew disembarked.

The New Zealand government is carrying out contact tracing for all returned passengers and any close contacts are being followed up for symptoms of the disease.

Suspected coronavirus cases on Celebrity Solstice

A confirmed case of a 60-year-old man announced in New Zealand on 20 March was on the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship operated by Celebrity Cruises. He is reported to have boarded the ship on 10 March and disembarked in Dunedin before returning to Auckland.

All New Zealanders on board the ship are being treated as close contacts of the confirmed case and are required to be placed under self-isolation and monitored every day. The government as asked all passengers to register online and contact health authorities in case they experience any symptoms.

The New Zealand government has banned all cruise ships from entering the country until 30 June. Those cruise ships that are already in the country’s waters have been permitted to conclude their voyage.

Coronavirus cases on MS Braemar

MS Braemar cruise ship operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Line was refused entry by several ports in the Caribbean after reporting five confirmed cases of coronavirus infection.

Another 28 passengers and 27 crew members have been placed under isolation after displaying symptoms of the infection. A total of 682 passengers and 381 crew members from various countries are reported to be on board the ship.

The ship was finally allowed to dock in Cuba on 18 March. The UK government is working to evacuate all the remaining passengers and crew members onboard the ship.

Coronavirus suspected on Costa Magica

The Costa Magica cruise ship operated by Costa Cruises was turned away by ports in Tobago and West Indies after suspected cases of coronavirus infection were reported. There are 2,307 passengers on board the ship, of which 417 are Italians. The ship was finally allowed to dock in Barbados, which tested the suspected cases and declared them to be negative.

Confirmed cases on Nile river cruise ship

Egypt reported 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection on a Nile river cruise ship. A tourist from Taiwan who was on board the ship tested positive for the virus after returning home. The 12 crew members on board the ship later tested positive for the virus.

Coronavirus cases on Grand Princess

Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess cruise ship has been quarantined off the coast of San Francisco, California after a 71-year-old man who was on a previous voyage to Mexico died of coronavirus infection. Another five passengers on the previous voyage also tested positive for the virus.

The ship ended its Mexico voyage on 21 February and was on its new voyage to Hawaii before being quarantined. A total of 2,383 passengers and 1,100 crew members of 54 nationalities are on board the ship. Testing kits were delivered by the California National Guard by helicopter to the ship’s medical team to administer tests to suspected cases.

Tests were administered to 46 passengers and crew members, out of who 21 have tested positive for the virus, while 24 were negative and one was inconclusive. Other passengers showing symptoms of the infection have been advised to isolate in their rooms.

The US government initiated disembarking of the passengers on 09 March at the Port of Oakland in California. Approximately 900 US citizens who were on board have been placed under quarantine in military bases.

The UK evacuated 135 citizens on 11 March, while Canada evacuated 237 nationals who were on board the ship.

More than 340 crew members and six passengers still on board the ship and placed under quarantine for 14 days. The ship is currently moored near San Francisco.

Suspected cases on Sun Princess

Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess cruise ship was met with violent protests upon docking at Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean due to coronavirus fears. It was previously turned away by Madagascar as it had a stopover at Thailand.

The ship has more than 2,000 passengers from Australia, New Zealand and the UK on board. Protestors demanded that the passengers be temperature-tested before disembarking from the ship, although no coronavirus cases were reported on the ship.

An overnight schedule at the island was cancelled after the protests in addition to an overnight schedule at its next stop in Mauritius.

The cruise ship is now on its return journey and is scheduled to arrive in Fremantle on 10 March and conclude its voyage in Adelaide on 15 March.

Coronavirus-affected on Diamond Princess cruise ship

Diamond Princess, operated by Princess Cruises (a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation), has been quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, since 03 February after a passenger from Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus on 25 January after disembarking in Hong Kong. The ship has 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew on-board.

The Japan Ministry of Health is currently conducting a full review of the health screening records of all passengers on-board. As of 06 March, 696 confirmed coronavirus cases and seven deaths have been reported on the ship, of tourists from multiple countries including the US, India, Russia, the UK, Canada and Australia. The infected passengers have been transferred to various local hospitals.

The Japanese health ministry allowed those passengers who have not shown any symptoms of the virus since the start of the quarantine period and those who have tested negative for the virus to disembark the ship on 19 February.

The US Embassy chartered two aircraft to evacuate the 338 US citizens on board the ship on 16 February. The aircraft arrived at the Travis Air Force Base in California on 17 February. A total of 42 evacuated passengers have tested positive for the virus.

The Canadian government also evacuated 129 Canadian citizens onboard the ship through a chartered flight that arrived in the country on 21 February. The evacuees have been quarantined for two weeks at the Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario.

Approximately 200 Australians who are onboard the ship were evacuated by the government in a charter flight on 20 February. The evacuees have been placed under quarantine for a period of two weeks in a mining village near Darwin.

More than 200 Hong Kong nationals who were on board the cruise ship have been evacuated. All arriving passengers have been placed under quarantine for a period of 14 days at the Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan.

The Philippines has evacuated 445 citizens on board the ship on 25 February. India has announced its plans to evacuate Indian nationals on board the ship who have tested negative for the virus. A total of 138 passengers and crew are on board the ship, out of who 16 have tested positive for the virus.

India evacuated a total of 119 nationals on board the ship in a special flight on 27 February. Another five foreign nationals were also evacuated.

Indonesia evacuated a total of 69 citizens who were on board the ship on 01 March.

Princess Cruises announced the cancellation of the next voyage of Diamond Princess, following the developments.


Read the latest news on Diamond Princess:

Coronavirus: Confirmed cases on Diamond Princess nearly double

Coronavirus: Confirmed cases on Diamond Princess rises to 70

Holland America’s coronavirus-affected cruise ship

MS Westerdam, operated by Holland America Line, was on a 14-day voyage to Taiwan and Japan. It was scheduled to dock at the Yokohama port in Japan but turned away after travel restrictions were imposed on all cruise ships due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The ship was also denied entry by ports in Guam and Manila. It had 1,455 passengers and 802 crew on-board the vessel.

On 10 February, Holland America announced that the ship set sail to dock at Laem Chabang, Bangkok, Thailand, where the current voyage of the ship will end on 13 February. The Thailand government, however, denied entry to the vessel on 11 February, as reported by Reuters.

Holland America announced on 12 February that the Cambodia government has given permission to allow the ship to dock in Sihanoukville. The ship arrived in Cambodia during the early hours of 13 February. All passengers were temperature tested and allowed to disembark.

An 83-year-old woman who disembarked the ship and flew to Malaysia tested positive for the coronavirus infection. The passenger who travelled along with the confirmed case has tested negative for the virus.

Malaysia has since banned the entry of any person on board the ship into the country. Thailand announced similar restrictions banning all passengers except Thailand citizens who have been on the ship from entering the country.

Cambodian health authorities tested all passengers of the MS Westerdam cruise ship for coronavirus infection. On 19 February, the Cambodian Ministry of Health announced that a total of 781 passengers have tested negative for the infection and were allowed to travel to their respective home countries. The 747 crew members on the board the cruise ship also tested negative for the virus.

Holland America has cancelled four Asian cruises of MS Westerdam scheduled for March and April.

World Dream cruise ship

World Dream, operated by Dream Cruises, with more than 3,600 passengers and crew was quarantined at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong on 05 February. The ship left Hong Kong on a voyage to Taiwan, where it was turned away after revealing that it had carried passengers with confirmed coronavirus infection on a previous voyage.

On 09 February, Hong Kong lifted the quarantine and allowed all passengers to disembark from the ship after conducting extensive health screenings and temperature checks. Samples of all the 1,814 crew members have also tested negative for the virus.

The World Dream cruise ship’s operations have been temporarily suspended following the event.

Coronavirus suspected on Anthem of Seas cruise ship

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of Seas cruise ship’s scheduled voyage to the Carribean was delayed after 27 passengers were suspected to have the coronavirus infection. The ship was docked at Bayonne, New Jersey, US.

The passengers later tested negative for the infection as announced by the New Jersey Health Authority. The ship was allowed to sail on 10 February.

Costa Smeralda cruise ship quarantined for coronavirus tests

Costa Smeralda cruise ship, owned and operated by Costa Crociere, was quarantined in Civitavecchia, near Rome in Italy on 30 January after a couple from China showed symptoms of the coronavirus infection. The ship had approximately 6,000 people on-board.

Samples taken from the couple tested negative at Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases, following which the passengers were allowed to disembark.

Coronavirus precautionary measures by cruise ship operators

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents 90% of cruise operators, announced the various precautionary measures being implemented by its members.

All passengers who have travelled to or visited/transited through China, Hong Kong and Macau within 14 days before embarkation will be denied entry into cruise ships.

Any persons in close contact with either suspected or diagnosed cases of coronavirus infection will also be denied entry. Further, pre-boarding screening procedures such as temperature checks will be conducted as a preventive measure. Any person displaying symptoms of the disease will be put through enhanced screening and medical evaluations.

Princess Cruises announced similar restrictions and precautions in addition to the implementation of stringent cleaning and sanitation protocols. It also announced that crew members from China will be delayed from joining their duties.

Holland America, Cunard Line, Dream Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Crystal Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Costa Cruises are some of the other cruise operators who have implemented similar measures. Cunard coronavirus prevention measures include pre-boarding screening and restrictions on all passengers from China or those who have travelled to or transited through China.

Royal Caribbean (RCL) delivers masks to China and offers complimentary sailings

Cruise operator Royal Caribbean Criuses (RCL) delivered one million N-95 protective masks to China, for distribution by the government in coronavirus-affected areas. Royal Caribbean also announced to offer complimentary sailings to first responders and medics in China, by dedicating one of its cruise ships.

Coronavirus impact on the cruise industry

Cruise operators have either cancelled or changed the itineraries of their cruise ships as ports across the world impose travel restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak. Royal Caribbean has cancelled eight cruises until 04 March including three cruises on its Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship, which is homeported in China.

Celebrity Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean, has changed the itinerary of its ships sailing from ports in China and Hong Kong including Celebrity Millennium. Cruise and Maritime Voyages has cancelled its scheduled call on 17 March 2020 to Tianjin for its Columbus cruise ship.

Norwegian Cruise Line and Oceania Cruises have announced itinerary changes as ports in Hong Kong and China imposed travel restrictions. Norwegian Cruise Line has also announced the cancellation of all its voyages to Asia until the third quarter of 2020, while Oceania Cruises has cancelled voyages to Asia until June 2020. Costa Cruises announced the cancellation of its scheduled voyages on Costa Venezia and Costa Serena cruise ships.

Itinerary changes have been announced by Seabourn for its Seabourn Ovation cruise ship, while Princess Cruise has announced itinerary changes for several voyages of its cruise ships including Caribbean Princess, Sapphire Princess, and Diamond Princess.

Carnival Cruise, another company owned by Carnival Corporation, announced that the company’s financial performance may be impacted due to the coronavirus outbreak. The company noted that the full extent of the impact is yet to be determined. If the company has to cancel its operations in Asia, its financial performance may be impacted by $0.55 to $0.65 per share.

Royal Caribbean Cruises and its subsidiaries also warned that the coronavirus outbreak will have an impact on their financial performances.