For the fourth time in the last two months, a COVID-19 outbreak has occured river cruise ship in Europe. This outbreak involved the MS Thurgau Chopin (formerly the MS Frederic Chopin) river cruise ship operated by Swiss company Thurgau Travel, according to the Italian shipping publication ShipMag. (Nicko Cruises was reportedly involved in sale of the cruise). Last Saturday (October 31th), cruise guests disembarked the river cruise ship on the Havel River in Potsdam, Germany after one of the crew members previously tested positive. The cruise company notified the local health department and assigned all 28 guests to contact level 2 (practice enhanced precautions). The health department informed the disembarking guests to contact the health departments in the their homes for further steps. So far, there are no reports that any of the guests were infected during the cruise.
Later, in a press release, Nicko Cruises states that “an infection has now been detected in 10 crew members – all of them are symptom-free and are currently in isolation on the ship. We deeply regret these circumstances and are in close contact with our partner shipping company to clarify how an infection could occur despite extensive hygiene measures.” The protocols included “antibody and antigen rapid tests on embarkation, daily fever measurements, compulsory masks for walking routes and distance rules.”
The major cruise lines have touted new health protocols in Europe but it’s widely under-reported that have been at least 195 cruise guests and crew members infected on cruise ships on the continent. There have been three other outbreaks on river cruise lines in the past sixty days where over 80 people were infected. 60 of the 92 passengers (two-thirds) who sailed on the river cruise ship MS Swiss Crystal were infected on a cruise on the Danube and Main within the last two weeks. In early September, eight guests and crew members on a CroisiEurope river cruise ship on the Douro River in Portugal tested positive for COVID-19. Two weeks ago, German newspapers reported that at least thirteen (13) people were infected on another river cruise ship, MS Vista Serenity, on the Moselle River in Germany.
In addition, 74 people were infected on Hurtigruten cruise ships including the MS Roald Amundsen (71) and MS Finnmarken (3 with 1 death). Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises also recently experienced outbreaks on their cruise ships. Eight people were infected on the Costa Diadema and eight people also tested positive on the MSC Grandiosa.
Silversea’s Silver Spirit also had one COVID-19 cases in early September duing a Red Sea cruise.
The last COVID-19 cruise-related outbreak occurred on a Ponant cruise ship, the Jacques-Cartier, where thirteen people were infected with the virus. The ship was initially delayed leaving from an Italian port. On its website, the Compagnie du Ponant boasted of exceptional cruises in “an anti-Covid bubble” with “its state-of-the-art health protocols.”
Germany’s renewed restrictions due to the recent surge in coronavirus cases have recently forced cruise lines to again pause operations for cruises departing from German ports. TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff cruises (a joint venture with Royal Caribbean), as well as Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, are all suspending cruises from Germany ports. Last week, AIDA Cruises announced that it would pause cruise operations this month due to German travel restrictions.
The Italian government, meanwhile, is ordering new COVID restrictions. However, Italy will not require a lockdown and is allowing the cruise industry to continue to operate from Italian ports despite COVID on both Costa and MSC cruise ships in the past three weeks.
Here in the U.S., cruising from U.S. ports will likely not resume until February of 2021 at the earliest.
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