Guests and crew members on a CroisiEurope river cruise ship on the Douro River in Portugal tested positive earlier this week for COVID-19, according to a Portugese newspaper TVi24 (with video).
Two French passengers and five crew members on the Vasco da Gama river cruise ship tested positive for the virus, after a passenger began exhibiting symptoms on Monday September 7th. (The Vasco da Gama is not be confused with the cruise ship of the same name previously operated by the now defunct Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV). The cruise ship was reportedly preparing to disembark passengers at Cais da Lixa when the passenger fell ill.
According to this newspaper, the passenger was hospitalized ashore. His test for COVID-19 was confirmed to be positive. His wife checked into a hotel ashore. Although she is asymptomatic, she was also tested and diagnosed with the virus. The information in the newspaper was reportedly confirmed from a source from the Northern Regional Health Administration (ARS) in Portugal.
The other sixty-five guests departed from the ship and returned to their countries in France and Belgium before the health authority could intervene, according to another Portugese newspaper Expresso.
The crew members on the cruise ship were all tested on board the ship, according to these newspapers. Five of the crew members reportedly tested positive.
The CroisiEurope company’s COVID-19 precautions include the guests’ completion of a health questionnaire before boarding to inquire whether they are ill or have been in contact with anyone infected with coronavirus. The company also claims to perform temperature checks and “daily checks on the symptoms of passengers and crew.” There is a “continuous” process of disinfecting the spaces on the ship, the use of masks in the interior spaces of the ship, and the disinfection of all luggage on board. Social distancing must be adhered to and meals take place in two seatings with table service and assigned seating. However, there is no indication that the company requires COVID-19 tests of its guests before boarding, as required by other European cruise lines (MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises) which recently resumed cruising from Italian ports.
CroisiEurope previously announced that it would restart its cruise operations in Europe as early as mid-July. The river cruise line initially restarted its sailings in France, and resumed cruises on the River Seine, Rhône, Rhine, Danube and Elbe rivers and the Burgundy Canal, later in July and early August. Cruises restarted on the Douro on August 7th. River cruise ships in Europe were expected to “test the waters,” so to speak, before the larger cruise lines were to resume cruises out of U.S. ports, assuming the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) permit them to do so.
A spokesperson for CroisiEurope told World of Cruising two months ago that “our top priorities remain the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and crew members, as well as the smooth performance of our cruises during this unprecedented time.” The representative also claimed that “we have focused rigorously on every detail to provide safe vacations and give peace of mind to our passengers . . .” The company also refers to “strict health protocols backed up by a partnership with Bureau Veritas (which) are in effect on all our ships.”
The company previously released a video (below) promoting its new “worry-free” health and safety protocols which are conspicuous in omitting any requirement for COVID-19 testing of guests before they board the CroisiEurope ships. Temperature checks are obviously not effective when the guests or crew members are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, as this case illustrates. Expecting a guest to accurately fill out a questionaire is wishful thinking.
The next cruise abord the Vasco da Gama remains scheduled for September 14th.
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September 9. 2020 Update: The Points Guy covered the story this evening and cited post by the European press and certain travel agents:
— Gary Bembridge (@garybembridge) September 10, 2020
September 11, 2020 Update: A Belgian newspaper reports that there were 35 Belgians, 30 French (include 2 infected with COVID-19) and two Swiss guests aboard the ship. After a few days during the cruise, one passenger appeared to feel unwell. He was taken to hospital to be tested for the virus, but the test was negative. A few days later, at the end of the cruise, a second test was performed and it turned out positive. Five crew members also tested positive. They are quarantined on the boat along with fifteen other crew members. The other passengers on their way back home and need to isolate themselves and be tested.
September 14, 2020 Update: A Portuguese newspaper, the Observador, in an article titled Covid-19. Up to eight infected on cruise ship on the Douro writes that the “Regional Health Administration of the North reported that there was a sixth crew member infected with Covid-19 on the cruise ship of the company CroisiEurope that operates on the River Douro, in addition to two passengers.” The river cruise ship remains moored in Castelo de Paiva , in the Aveiro district, since September 7th.
Phto credits: Top phto and bottom video – CroisiEurope; image grab from video – TVi240.