Today, a half-dozen passengers  on the Adventure of the Seas tested positive for COVID-19. The  ship is one of several dozens of cruise ships with either passengers or crew members who have tested positive for COVID-19.  The Miami Herald covered the story (by Taylor Dolven).  USA TODAY published an article by Morgan Hines who is aboard the ship.

On Thursday, the six passengers on the Adventure of the Seas tested positive for the virus. The positive test occurred at the end of the week-long, round-trip cruise which left Nassau last Saturday. The Herald indicated that “four of the positive passengers are vaccinated and are traveling separately. Two of the positive passengers are unvaccinated and traveling together.”

The Royal Caribbean ship stopped in Cozumel, Mexico and the cruise line’s private Bahamian island before arriving in Freeport today.

Adventure of the Seas is one of dozens of cruise ships with COVID-19 on board. As reported by the Herald, “one in three ocean cruise ships operating in U.S. waters or planning to come into U.S. waters soon have reported a COVID-19 case on board in the last seven days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nine of the 21 ships that have reported COVID-19 cases have passengers on board.”

Over a month ago, we reported that two passengers, both under the age of 16 and unvaccinated, tested positive while on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas. On June 25th, we reported that at least nineteen other people on cruise ships owed by Royal Caribbean have tested positive in the last 30 days:

  • 13 crew members on the Odyssey of the Seas on March 24th and June 10th;
  • 4 crew members on the Anthem of the Seas on June 20th; and
  • 2 passengers on the Celebrity Millennium, owned by Royal Caribbean, who tested positive on June 10th.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s color coded status system shows seven cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean, with either orange or yellow designations, indicating the presence of COVID-19, including the Allure of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, and Serenade of the Seas.

The outbreaks occurring  on the Royal Caribbean ships are mirroring COVID outbreaks ashore, including vaccinated people who have breakthrough infections. It is less than clear how many of the shipboard outbreaks involve the highly contagious Delta variant which has been permitted to mutate due to the large number of people who refuse to become vaccinated.

The Herald article point out that:

“Florida is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases as many people eligible for the vaccine have still not been vaccinated.

On Wednesday, Florida recorded its fourth highest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began 16 months ago, reporting 17,589 new cases to the CDC.”

A particularly ominous development is the fact that vaccinated people who contract the COVID-19 Delta variant can spread the virus just as easily as unvaccinated people, according to the CDC.

The optimism that vaccinations would permit cruising to return to “normal” has evaporated and replaced with the reality that selfish anti-vaxxers, aided by the likes of Florida Governor DeSantis prohibiting cruise lines from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations, have permitted the virus to mutate into the Delta variant which is now being reported as contagious as chickenpox.

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Top – Adventure of the Seas – Master0Garfield –  CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

A passenger on a Celebrity cruise to Alaska tested positive for COVID-19 last Sunday, according to Celebrity Cruises. Fox Business reports that a “fully vaccinated passenger” on the Celebrity Millennium reported to the cruise ship infirmary last weekend and complained of what is described as “cold-like symptoms.” The guest subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, the cruise line said in a statement yesterday.

The person was initially isolated in the ship’s medical facility for monitoring and then received “private air transportation” to the guest’s home state. The company said it performed contact tracing and tested the person’s close contacts, who were all negative for the virus.

The fact that the cruise guest was fully vaccinated and still contracted COIVD will be used by anti-vaxxers to suggest that there is no benefit to being vaccinated. Of course, the people who are vaccinated are unlikely to develop serious symptoms and are highly unlikely to require hospitalizations or intensive medical care involving ventilators. The vast majority of people who require hospitalization or end up dying due to COVID-19 are those who decide not to become vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Maritime Executive reports that small cruise ship operator UnCruise Adventures reported that it cancelled the upcoming cruise on the Wilderness Explorer.  During last week’s cruise, the company reported that seven people (four passengers and three crew members) tested positive for COVID-19. KRBD reports that UnCruise owner and CEO Dan Blanchard says the seven positive individuals had “mild, cold-like symptoms.”

A UnCruise representative said the operator identified the seven positive cases “starting July 23.” KRBD reported that the company “says it’s the first time a fully vaccinated guest has tested positive for the disease on its ships.”

The passengers reportedly were quarantined in a hotel in Juneau and the crew members were isolated aboard the cruise ship. KRBD reported that UnCruise suggested that positive cases involved the Delta variant.

Juneau officials reported another positive COVID-19 case on the American Constellation. That ship previously had an outbreak involving 16 passengers earlier this year.

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Image Credit: Top – Celebrity Millennium – IanKAus – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

Twelve crew members on the German cruise ship M/S Amera are now infected with COVID-19, according to an employee of the operator (Phoenix Resien) who wishes to remain anonymous. The German cruise ship remains in the port of Bremerhaven.

As we previously reported, five crew members tested positive for coronavirus on July 2oth.  The number increased on July 21, to nine, with the health department of Bremerhaven expecting additional positive cases.

The ship is still scheduled to cruise with passengers on August 3rd.

The source of the information is critical of the sanitation on the ship and the absence of health and safety protocols.  There are reportedly “dirty cups and plates in the crew corridors . . . crew members are playing table tennis on the ship without masks . . . the medical and water certificates expired since last year.”

Crew members of the Amera ship are in quarantine. There are forty-four crew members on a bus heading for Hannover. The Amera will then be disinfected. The plan, reportedly, is to bring crew members from the M/V Artania onboard the Amera.

The trend of coronavirus cases is significantly increasing in Bremen and Bremerhaven, notwithstanding  fact that the percentage of Germans vaccinated (over 60%) is higher than in the U.S. (less than 50%).

The M/S Amera previously sailed as the Prinsendam (photo, right) for Holland America Line (HAL) for nearly two decades.

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Image credits: Top – HenSti – CC BY-SA 4.0 commons / wikimedia; Bottom – Pjotr Mahhonin – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Two days ago,  five crew members on the M/S Amera cruise ship in Bremerhaven, Germany were diagnosed with coronavirus, according to the German newspaper Buten and Binnen. The delta variant has been confirmed in two of these cases.  The ship is operated by the Phoenix Reisen company, which stated that the crew members in question did not have any symptoms.

The newspaper stated that the company requires incoming crew members to present a negative coronavirus test before joining the ship. The employee is then quarantined on the ship for three days.  A second test is required after the crew member boards the ship.

An employee associated with the operator, who first alerted me to this outbreak and wishes to remain anonymous, explained that the crew is typically vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Today, the same newspaper reported that the number of positive COVID cases increased to nine. The local health department expects additional virus cases on the ship.

The head of the Bremerhaven health department stated that the “outbreak is dynamic and mainly due to the delta variant. Seven infected people came to Germany by plane. The cases were the n discovered during corona tests on the cruise ship.”  The initial contact persons for the outbreak was identified. However,  the health authorities were more concerned that the virus in the other two cases was found in crew members who have been on the ship for some time.

The Amera is currently without passengers in Bremerhaven and is currently scheduled to depart on a cruise to Denmark on August 3rd.

This ship is one of many dozens of ships with positive COVID-19 cases aboard it as the cruise industry continues to try to resume cruising during the ongoing pandemic and the emergence of the delta variant.

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Image credit: Top = HenSti – CC BY-SA 4.0 commons / wikimedia; middle -Radio Bremen via Buten and Binnen.

At least ten crew members recently tested positive for COVID-19 on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas. There are also over three dozen employees under quarantine on these two cruise ships.

Independence of the Seas – Galveston

The Galveston County Daily News (subscription only) article, by John Wayne Ferguson), reported that “four crew members aboard Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Independence of the Seas have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than two dozen other crew members are in quarantine, according to the Galveston County Health District.”

The infected crew members caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to change the status of the ship from “green” to “yellow” requiring tighter monitoring procedures.

This comes just 12 days before the Royal Caribbean cruise ship is supposed to embark on a safety-proving test cruise from the Port of Galveston.

The infected crew members all are asymptomatic, a local health representative in Galveston stated. The newspaper said that “it’s not clear whether the crew members were vaccinated.”

Royal Caribbean is scheduled to operate a safety-proving test cruise from Galveston on August 1st and announced it would soon begin selecting volunteers from the public to board the cruise. Royal Caribbean recently said that the change in status from green to yellow wouldn’t affect the August test cruise.

As of  Tuesday, the company still had permission to sail August 1st, according to the local health representative, who said “we’re just going to see how this plays out.”

The health representative in Galveston also concluded that “infections aren’t surprising because of strict monitoring of crew members, rising numbers of COVID-19 cases around the world because of the delta variant and the high number of unvaccinated people.”

The local health authorities stated that it has not confirmed whether COVID cases on the cruise ship were caused by the delta variant.

The CDC’s New Color Coded System

The newspaper explained the CDC’s new four color coded system as follows:

“Ships without any COVID cases are noted as green and have been given the go-ahead to sail with passengers or to make other preparations to begin their return. Ships listed as yellow or orange in the CDC system have reported COVID cases and are more closely monitored as they continue to make preparations. Ships with a red status aren’t allowed to sail.

. . . The CDC will begin an investigation if more than 1 percent of crew members report infections, according to the agency’s guidelines.”

The CDC’s four color coded system show that exactly half of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships in U.S. waters have orange or yellow codes. The Allure of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Odyssey of the Seas all have orange codes. The Freedom of the Seas and the Serenade of the Seas both have yellow codes and are under investigation by the CDC.

The Jewel of the Seas – Cyprus

Six crew members tested positive  for COVI-19 this week on the Jewel of the Seas, which is sailing from the island of Cyprus on  seven-night cruises calling at Piraeus, Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Santorini until October of this year. At least 13 crew members are under quarantine.  Additional testing, using the PCR testing procedures, are taking place today.

This information is provided by a crew member on the ship who wishes to remain anonymous.

All crew members onboard (more then 800) are reportedly fully vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Two guests on the Jewel of the Seas recently tested positive, which we reported on July 17, 2021.

This cruise ship is currently operating outside of U.S. waters and the CDC’s jurisdiction. The CDC’s color coding system doe not apply in European waters, otherwise the Jewel of the Seas would be coded orange or perhaps yellow.

There is an absence of reporting outside of the U.S. so it is not unusual for there to be no local newspapers reporting on the COVID status of the Jewel of the Seas, unlike the Galveston newspaper’s excellent coverage of the COVID situation aboard the Independence of the Seas in Galveston. Royal Caribbean has contracts with the Port of Galveston and Galveston County Health District which are far more likely to confirm basic health information to a local reporter than a cruise company operating outside of U.S. waters without media inquiry.

If you are interested in monitoring the status of COVID on cruise ships operating in U.S. waters, check the CDC’s website on a frequent basis. Today, the CDC website showed that the Carnival Breeze, which sailed from Galveston, was under a orange code reflecting at least one positive COVID-19 case on the ship. The Carnival Miracle is also coded orange. Notably, the Carnival Conquest, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Horizon are all coded yellow and remain under investigation for COVID-19 cases.

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Image Credit: Independence of the Seas – kees torn –  CC BY-SA 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

Very early this morning, “Politico’s senior legal-affairs reporter Josh Gerstein tweeted that the 11th Circuit panel had voted 2-1 to stay a judge’s decision blocking U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules as they applied to cruise-ship COVID regulations.” (via Sun Sentinel’s article titled: Eleventh Circuit panel stays lower court’s decision to block CDC cruise-ship regulations, handing setback to DeSantis).

“Following a lower-court decision on June 18 which had ruled for Florida in a lawsuit challenging the CDC’s regulation of cruise ships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunday was set to be the day when whatever CDC rules remained would become only a non-binding ‘consideration,’ ‘recommendation’ or ‘guideline’ — the same tools the court said the CDC has used for industries such as airlines, railroads, hotels, casinos, sports venues, buses, subways and others.”

The stay by the Eleventh Circuit comes at a time when approximately 20% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are in the state of Florida, yet the state has no health and safety protocols which apply to cruise ships. The Hill reported that “Florida is seeing some of the highest coronavirus hospitalizations, new infections and deaths per capita in the country.”

The state law prohibiting businesses from requiring COVID vaccination technically remains on the books and continues to apply to cruise lines.

Politico reported the following relevant information:

“While DeSantis has portrayed the lawsuit as an effort to rescue the cruise industry from the impact of the rules the CDC has imposed, cruise operators have not rushed to back the challenge to the federal rules.

Indeed, just last week, Norwegian Cruise Lines filed a suit aimed at blocking DeSantis’ policy forbidding Florida businesses — including cruise ships sailing from the state — from insisting that patrons be vaccinated. The cruise line said it wants to impose such rules in order to address travelers’ safety concerns. (Our article is here).

The cruise company filed that suit in federal court in South Florida, but lawyers for the state asked Friday that the suit be moved to Merryday’s court, where the state had already received a sympathetic ruling.

The 11th Circuit ruling was issued by Judge Charles Wilson, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, Judge Jill Pryor, an appointee of President Barack Obama, and Judge Elizabeth Branch, an appointee of President Donald Trump. The court did not specify the dissenting judge.”

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Image Credit: Norwegian Joy – Spaceaero2 – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas finally started its inaugural cruise and revenue sailing from Limassol, Cyprus this past week.  The Jewel of the Seas will be sailing from Limassol until late October 2021, on  seven-night cruises calling at Piraeus, Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Santorini.

According to the Financial Mirror, on Saturday the agency which operates the cruise terminal in Limassol “safely welcomed the crew and passengers” who boarded the Royal Caribbean cruse ship, “ensuring that personal protective measures and social distancing were strictly followed.”

Unfortunately, two guests tested positive for COIVD-19, according to crew members on the ship who wish to remain anonymous. The guests were reportedly isolated, and the cruise line is in the process of testing over a dozen people who were in close contact with the two infected guests who were assigned the same cabin. Eight crew members are reportedly in isolation, including the guests’ stateroom attendant and seven dining room employees as well.

There has not been a general announcement regarding the cases over the intercom on the ship yet. This is the typical method that cruise ships notify their guests of COVID cases. Yesterday, we reported that in the last week, there have been positive coronavirus cases on the Viking Sky, Viking Jupiter (Northern Europe), World Dream (Singapore), MSC Grandiosa (from Spain) and the American Constellation small cruise ship (Alaska). The World Cruise ended its cruise and returned to Singapore due to the single positive case. The America Constellation initially had three cases but contact tracing and additional testing revealed a total of ten infected guests and crew members.

Here in the U.S., COVID-19 cases are on the increase in all fifty states as the Delta variant continues to emerge. Virtually all hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. caused by COVID-19 now involve people who decided not to be vaccinated. The Delta variant continues to pose a problem outside of the U.S. as well. There will be a steady stream of accounts of positive COVID-19 cases like this as more and more cruise line resume operations.

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July 18 2021 Update:

A.M. Post: Many people have asked whether the infected guests were vaccinated. I will try and see if this information is available.

The local media says that this inaugural cruise from Limassol was supposed to be for “for fully vaccinated crew and guests,” but the same article says “authorities in the Republic of Cyprus further require that non-vaccinated passengers aged 12-18 who are traveling with their families on the Jewel must show a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of arrival on the island.”

P.M. Post: I received this information from a crew member on the ship: “All the guests are vaccinated, those 2 individuals are from Israel, so they should have a good dose of Pfizer.”

Image Credit: Dave Souza – CC BY-SA 2.5, commons / wikimedia.

July 21 2021 Update: Today, a newspaper in Cyprus covered this article.

In the last week, there have been at least a dozen positive COVID-19 cases reported by the international media.

Three days ago, three people, including  an unvaccinated crew member, tested positive for coranavirus aboard the American Constellation cruise ship during a 10-night cruise from Juneau, Alaska which left July 4, 2021. The other people infected included two vaccinated passengers. We reported on this outbreak on July 12, 2021.

Yesterday, Anchorage Daily News reported that an additional seven (7) people on the small cruise (carrying 162 guests) tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of associated cases to ten (10). The Alaskan newspaper said that “it wasn’t immediately clear whether any of the individuals associated with the seven new cases were also fully vaccinated.”

Two days ago, we learned that a 40-year-old passenger on the Dream Cruises ship World Dream underwent polymerase chain reaction *PCR) tests on board and  tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Straits Times. The guest was tested after it was determined that he was a close of a confirmed Covid-19 case on Tuesday and was immediately isolated as part of onboard health protocols.

Yesterday, a vaccinated guest sailing on Viking Sky‘s current cruise around Iceland tested positive for COVID-19, according to Travel Agent Central. The cruise ship in question was on an “Iceland’s Natural Beauty” cruise which departed roundtrip from Reykjavik, Iceland on July 10th. The positive case surfaced while the ship was in Seydisfjordur on a scheduled port call. The ship’s captain informed guests about the positive case over over the intercom system and reportedly said that local authorities would not permit the ship to remain in port.

Viking Cruises has what appears to be comprehensive health and safety protocols, as you can read in this Cruise Critic review.

Earlier this month, three passengers aboard the MSC Grandiosa tested positive for the virus. The test results were announced when the cruise ship returned to port in Spain.

A “small number” of crew members aboard the Queen Elizabeth cruise liner tested positive according to Cunard, which BBC News reported on July 6, 2021. The Cunard ship had “about 800” crew members aboard at the time of the test said the British cruise company. Exactly what a “small number” means is anyone’s guess. Cunard refused to disclose the actual number of positive cases.

Yesterday the Miami Herald reported that of 63 cruise ships operating or planning to operate ships in US waters, 16 have reported COVID-19 cases on board in the last 7 days according to data maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There have not been media reports regarding many of these positive COVID-19 cases referred to in the CDC data.

The positive COVID cases resulted in the cruises in question on the Ameterican Constellation and World Dream ending early with the Queen Elizabeth cancelling the re-start of cruising for a month. The Viking Sky missed three scheduled ports and had to return to Reykjavik early.

The twelve cases reported by the media involving the American Constellation, World Dream, Viking Sky, and MSC Grandiosa bring the total number of COVID cases on cruise ships since cruising was shut down in the U.S. in March of 2020 to at least two hundred and fifty-two (252), plus the cases from the Queen Elizabeth, based on media accounts.

As more and more cruise ships begin to resume operations with passengers, there will be a steady number of positive COVID cases reported by the media. There will be a couple of positive COVID cases on one ship, a few on another ship, five to eight cases on another – this will be the pattern as long as cruise lines continue to resume operations during a pandemic. The news accounts will mention the positive cases but will invariably stop short of explaining whether the symptomatic guests require medical treatment, or how they respond to medical intervention and/or whether they fully recover, unlike an officer of Carnival Cruise Line who died of COVID last month.

COVID-19 cases are on the increase in all fifty states in the U.S. as the Delta variant continues to emerge. Virtually all hospitalizations and deaths caused by COVID-19 now involve people who decided not to be vaccinated.

Complicating matters is the state of Florida’s law which prohibits businesses from requiring vaccinations against COVID. This week Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) initiated litigation against this irresponsible law promoted by Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.

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July 16 2021 Update: I was notified that the Viking Jupiter also experienced a positive COVID-19 case involving a guest today, per Cruise Critic comments.

Image credit: Top – Viking Sky – Pjotr Mahhonin –  CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

The public dispute over requiring vaccinations for cruise travel took a serious turn yesterday. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (HCLH), the parent company for NCL, Oceania and Regent Cruises, sued Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees (as head of the Florida Department of Health), alleging that the state of Florida is preventing it from resuming sailing in a “safe, sound and consistent with governing law” by prohibiting businesses in the state from requiring customers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The lawsuit papers say the state of Florida “cannot lawfully or sensibly tie NCLH’s hands in this pivotal fight” against COVID-19.

NCL – 100% Fully Vaccinated Guests and Crew Members

On April 5, 2021, HCLH announced that it would require its crew and passengers to be vaccinated as a prerequisite to cruising.  NCLH stated that it will follow its own “Sail Safe” protocols and “Healthy Sail” protocols which it developed with experts who it hired with Royal Caribbean. NCLH’s policy of “Mandatory Vaccinations on Initial Voyages” stated that:

“All guests and crew must be fully vaccinated, at least 2 weeks prior to departure, in order to board. Guest vaccination requirements are currently for all sailings embarking through October 31, 2021– we will follow the science to make determinations on requirements for all other future sailings.”

Frustrated by what the company perceived as unnecessary and inconsistent health protocols and delays by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NCL also unilaterally announced last April that it would resume cruising with fully vaccinated guests and crew members in July.

The Governor Throws A Curve Ball

But, in early May, Florida Governor DeSantis threw the cruise industry a curve ball. The Republican Governor, with Trump-like presidential aspirations for 2024, signed a bill into law which prohibits businesses in Florida from asking people for proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. As Forbes explained, the legislation was passed without a carve-out for the cruise industry.  Cruise lines could be fined $5,000 each time they require vaccination proof from a passenger.

Florida Has No Cruise Ship Health and Safety Protocols With a Governor With No Regard For Public Health

In my view, this is reckless, irresponsible, and utterly selfish conduct by Governor DeSantis. Florida has no health and safety protocols which apply to cruise passenger health issues, which have traditionally been overseen by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

DeSantis is a politician who has demonstrated his disregard for matters of public health and the authority of the CDC. Seven months ago, I wrote this about DeSantis:

“Governor DeSantis has always been an open-the-economy-up advocate who often appears in the public without wearing a mask.  Two weeks ago, he attended a political rally in Florida where he was filmed not wearing a mask, ‘high-fiving’ others without masks in the crowed and then rubbing his nose.”

For the past six weeks, the public sentiment of people wanting to cruise as the industry resumes operations has favored cruise lines which responsibly require the vaccination of passengers and crew members. Forbes found that “three quarters of Floridians disagree with Gov. DeSantis’ Cruise ‘vaccine passport’ ban.”

NCL CEO Frank Del Rio’s frustration quickly shifted from the CDC to the state of Florida. Other cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, which initially joined NCL is hiring experts for its joint “healthy sail” panel, have attempted to placate Governor DeSantis while working around the unsafe Florida law. They have simultaneously praised him while adopting an “inquire-but-not-require” approach which permits unvaccinated guests to cruise on RCL ships. Unvaccinated guests are expected to be tested for COVID19 and are not permitted in certain restaurants, theaters and other locations on RCL ships. Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line also now requires unvaccinated guests to purchase insurance which will pay for medical treatment and travel home in the event that they become infected during the cruise.

NCL CEO Del Rio previously threatened to pull his cruise ships from ports in Florida. He suggested that he would sail his cruise ships from other ports like New York, Boston, New Orleans or Seattle. But most people viewed this as a bluff and were skeptical that he would pull his ships from Florida, where he has his corporate offices in the company’s headquarters here in Miami.

NCL’s Lawsuit

You can read the NCL lawsuit here.

The complaint alleges that Florida’s prohibition against requiring documentation of vaccinations from customers violates federal law in multiple, independent respects: “Florida’s prohibition:
  • (1) conflicts with federal statutes and regulations and is therefore preempted under 42 U.S.C. § 264 and CDC’s regulations thereunder;
  • (2) blocks communications between a business and its customers, in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (as applicable to the State of Florida under the Fourteenth Amendment);
  • (3) profoundly disrupts the proper flow of interstate and international commerce without advancing any substantial state interest, in violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause; and
  • (4) inexplicably precludes this business from protecting the health and safety of its employees and customers against the extraordinary backdrop of a deadly pandemic, in violation of substantive due process as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Sailing During a Deadly Pandemic is Dangerous – A Fully Vaccinated Cruise Ship is the Best and Only Reasonable Approach

NCLH states that it is filing the lawsuit “as a last resort.” The legal case is premised on the fundamental proposition that only a fully vaccinated cruise ship “will be best for all concerned —with the benefit of documentation confirming that all of its passengers and crew have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

NCLH states that its first cruise from a U.S. port since it suspended operations in March 2020 is scheduled for August 13, 2021. But Florida Statute Sec. 381,00316, which prohibits cruise lines from requiring proof of vaccination, places the cruse line in an impossible situation. The lawsuit alleges that “NCLH will find itself either on the wrong side of health and safety and the operative federal legal framework, or else on the wrong side of Florida law . . . The fight that should occupy us at present is the fight against COVID-19—and we should all be working together to win that fight. NCLH’s respectful submission here is that Florida cannot lawfully or sensibly tie NCLH’s hands in this pivotal fight, at this sensitive time.”

The lawsuit alleges that Governor DeSantis’ “es misguided intrusion threatens to spoil NCLH’s careful planning and force it to cancel or hobble upcoming cruises, thereby imperiling and impairing passengers’ experiences and inflicting irreparable harm of vast dimensions.”

Who Would Voluntarily Cruise On A Ship With Unvaccinated Guests and Crew Members?

The lawsuit makes a compelling point which I have repeatedly observed in postings by cruise fans on a regular basis, that is – most people who are now thinking of cruising have been vaccinated and want to make certain that everyone else on the cruise ship is also vaccinated.  Anything less is dangerous and unnecessarily increases the potential for exposure to a deadly virus. At paragraphs 70, the complain alleges:.

“Surveys of likely NCLH cruise passengers indicate that the vast majority of likely passengers want to sail with others who have been completely vaccinated and can prove it.”

At paragraph 86, the complaint alleges:

“A recent survey of more than 5,000 readers of Cruise Critic found that 80% of respondents preferred to sail on a ship with a vaccine requirement, and the industry is dealing with significant uncertainty as the summer sailing season proceeds.”

Florida Is Needlessly Increasing the Potential for Cruise Travelers and Crew Members to Become Infected

By prohibiting cruise lines from requiring vaccinations, Florida is now causing cruise ships to sail with unvaccinated guests (as well as some unvaccinated crew). This increases the potential for the continued spread of the virus and the continuation of the pandemic. Most importantly, it also creates an environment where the virus can mutate and more infectious and dangerous variants, like the Delta variant, can develop. This, of course, is not merely a theoretical argument as COVID-19 cases in Florida has risen substantially in the last month as the new Delta variant continues to emerge.

NCLH is acutely aware of these facts and makes it clear in its pleadings that Florida’s anti-vaccine passport law is dangerous and will increase the potential harm to passengers cruising from this state.  Paragraphs 83, 84, and 95 allege that:

“Risk of exposure to COVID-19 will invariably tick up if NCLH is denied the ability to verify through documentation that all passengers have been fully vaccinated.

The inability to verify vaccination status will hobble NCLH’s ability to attract, assure and protect passengers.

If the Florida Ban is enforced against NCLH, however, these voyages will be placed at risk of cancellation, disruption, and possible COVID-19 outbreak, resulting in a substantial loss of revenue, losses of wages for NCLH’s crew, harm to NCLH’s brand, goodwill, and reputation with past and potential passengers, as well as substantial, adverse impacts on interstate and foreign commerce. Worst of all, human life and safety would be placed at undue risk.”

A Matter of Life and Death

Perhaps most compelling allegations are located in paragraph 135 of the complaint:

“The risk of transmission of COVID-19 among the unvaccinated in the close quarters of cruise ships coupled with the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and in reducing the deaths caused by COVID-19 makes transmission of information about COVID-19 vaccines a matter of life and death. Precisely for that reason, CDC has embraced vaccination—and verification of vaccine status—as essential for cruise ships to operate safely. NCLH has followed those recommendations and prepared to resume sailing by verifying—through documentation—that 100% of its crew and passengers are fully vaccinated. Florida has no valid interest in banning NCLH from requiring that willing, desirous passengers provide it with potentially life-saving information about their vaccination status.”

The cruise line is seeking a preliminary injunction preventing the State of Florida from enforcing Florida Statute Sec. 381,00316 and ultimately holding it unconstitutional and unlawful.

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This tragic case involved an eighteen-month-old girl who fell from the arms of her grandfather through an open window on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas in July of 2019. She fell 150 feet to the pier below, resulting in her death. The toddler’s parents filed suit in Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida against the cruise line in December of 2019, alleging  negligence and failure to warn of a hazard (the open window) on the cruise ship.

We reported on the sad set of circumstances on July 7, 2019, noting that there have been relatively few situations where toddlers have fallen from upper decks on cruise ships. In 2012, a 14 month old toddler fell from deck 12 to deck 11 on the Monarch of the Seas. The toddler was injured but, fortunately, fully recovered. However, that child was not dropped nor did she fall through an open window. In our 25 years of experience with Royal Caribbean, we are not aware of any similar cases to this one.

The Court Grants Summary Judgment

In addressing the motion for summary judgment filed by Royal Caribbean, the Court reviewed video of the scene which “vividly” reveals that the grandfather leaned his upper body over the wooden railing, which was about fifteen inches in front of the window for around eight seconds. The video then shows that the grandfather squatted down to pick up the toddler and then lift her over the railing as he again leaned his upper body over the railing a second time and held the child out in front of him.

The Court also reviewed photographs which show that the window in question is surrounded by other windows which were tinted. The open window appeared to be of a different color which indicated that the other windows were closed whereas the subject window was  open. The grandfather also first placed the toddler on the wooden railing and then reached out to touch the window. He did not feel any glass but nonetheless lifted the child beyond the railing and extended her body causing her to fall to the dock below to her death,

Royal Caribbean Had No Notice of the Hazard

After extensive discovery was conducted by both parties, the Court ruled that the cruise line had “no notice of the risk-creating danger on the cruise ship,” which the Court defined as the “lifting a child up to an open window.” The cruise line submitted evidence that the U.S. Coast Guard has no prior incidents reports involving similar accidents.

The Grandfather’s Act of Lifting the Child Up to An Open Window Was a Superseding Cause of the Accident

The Court held that the grandfather’s conduct was the superseding cause of the incident which served to entirely exculpate the cruise line from liability. The Court noted that the grandfather pled guilty to the charge of negligent homicide (and was sentenced to three years probation). The Court cited caselaw for the legal proposition that “independent acts of third persons are deemed unforeseeable and therefore the sole proximate cause of the injury.”

Royal Caribbean Had No Duty to Warn of an Open and Obvious Danger

Having found that the hazard that led to the child’s death was the placing of the toddler on or through an open window, and that the grandfather either knew or should have known the window was open, the Court held that there is no duty to warn of the danger of placing a child in such a location.

A copy of the Court’s order today granting the summary judgement is attached here. A copy of the exhibits attached to the order (which are photographs of the accident scene and still images from the surveillance videos) are attached here.

Hard Fought Case

This case was hotly contested with the lawyers for both the family and the cruise line attacking one another in court filings. In February of this year, the family’s lawyers accused the cruise line of destroying evidence and “critical CCTV footage of the time leading up to the incident.” In May, the judge was so fed up with the personal animosity between the attorneys that he entered an order saying that court documents “resemble a Jerry Springer script,” and ordered the lawyers to rewrite “inflammatory” filings.

This Order Was Predictable

Almost exactly two years ago, I was quoted in a newspaper in Australia:

” . . . Miami-based maritime lawyer Jim Walker says proving negligence won’t be an easy feat for the family. ‘In order for a cruise line to be legally liable for this child’s death, the family’s lawyer must prove that the cruise line acted unreasonably and that the cruise line knew or should have known of the specific danger on its ship. This will be an exceedingly difficult burden for the lawyers to meet in this very sad and tragic set of circumstances. Without evidence (prior incidents or proof that the cruise line knew of a dangerous condition on the cruise ship) the chances are slim that the court (if suit is filed) would permit this case to proceed to a jury trial.'”

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Photo credit: Freedom of the Seas -By Beyond My Ken – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia; Royal Caribbean via theindychannel.