The cruise industry continues to misrepresent its experiences with COVID-19 while sailing in Europe and in Asia (primarily Singapore). The cruise industry’s trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), initially released patently false information that there have been less than fifty (50) cases of COVID-19 on sailing outside of the U.S. involving over 400,000 cruise passengers.

In truth, there have been at least two hundred and sixteen (216) cases of COVID-19 on cruise ships sailing from European ports.  We explained this in our article titled Cruise Lines Continue to Misrepresent Number of Positive COVID-19 Cases During Cruises Outside of the U.S. (there were 214 cases at this time). Since the article, there were two more COVID-19 cases involving NYK Cruises and Costa cruise ships (bringing the total to 216).

Several cruise executives have continued to perpetuate the false information started by CLIA and often add in other dubious claims (such as: a NCL cruise ship is allegedly the “safest place on earth” because of the cruise line’s “ironclad” health and safety protocols” via NCL’s CEO Frank Del Rio, right). Numerous travel agents, travel writers and cruise bloggers, in turn, have added to the misleading narrative. We have carefully documented each COVID-19 case on a ocean and river cruise sailing from a port outside of the U.S. since the U.S. cruise industry stopped sailing last March. We have documented at least 216 cases so far (and continuing), whereas the U.S. based cruise lines acknowledge only less than twenty-five percent (actually around only 23%) of this total.

Cruise Lines Have a History of Lying to U.S. Federal Agencies and the U.S. Department of Justice

Anyone who has followed the history of cruise lines knows that their propensity for honesty is suspect at best. Major cruise lines like Carnival Corporation and the Royal Caribbean Group have been convicted of felonies for not only violating national and international pollution laws and regulations but for lying to the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Justice on numerous occasions, including while on criminal probation. So the question arises, why are the cruise lines continuing to lie in face of such easily verified information to the contrary?

Are cruise lines trying to minimize the true number of infections in an effort to convince their customers that they have protocols in order to market the alleged safety of cruising and entice the average cruiser? Or is the cruise industry simply trying to bamboozle the CDC?

Declaration of CDC Captain Aimee Treffiletti

Whatever the motivation, it’s clear that the CDC is well aware of the cruise industry’s actual history of COVID-19 involved in sailing outside of the U.S. A review of the court record in the litigation filed by the state of Florida against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Health and Human Resources Department clearly leads to this conclusion. The CDC recently filed a declaration of Aimee Treffiletti, captain of the CDC’s Global Migration Task Force’s maritime unit, into the court record to be considered next week by the federal district court judge who will be deciding the issue of whether to enter a preliminary injunction against the CDC as requested by the state of Florida.

The declaration tracks the history of outbreaks which continues to plague cruise ships in Europe, both with river cruises as well as large ocean sailing ships operated by MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, TUI Group/Mein Schiff, AIDA, SeaDream, and Hurtigruten.

I am re-printing Captain Treffiletti’s relevant comments in her declaration verbatim below. She addresses the accurate number of COVID-19 cases in European sailing which total over 200 cases, which we have discussed in detail in our prior articles. She also discounts the cruise line’s alleged success in Asia, which is largely limited to sailing from the country of Singapore which has virtually no COVID-19 cases of local transmission in the first place. In light of the U.S. data of over 582,000 COVID-related cases and over 32,698,000 cases in the U.S. at this time, she writes, obviously enough, that “this is not an equivalent comparison to cruising in the United States.”

Captain Treffiletti also addresses the cruise industry’s claim to  have successfully prevented the introduction and transmission of the deadly virus and into Europe by pointing out that public health authorities in Europe also do not routinely collect laboratory testing of disembarking passengers or crew and further follow-up with there persons post-cruise.

Here are the CDC’s observations and opinions regarding the  cruise lines’ actual experiences in Europe and Asia (paragraph headings mine):

Sailings from Singapore

“While some cruise ship operators have claimed to have successfully engaged in cruising with hundreds of thousands of passengers in foreign markets, including Asia, with no or only limited transmission of COVID-19, this is not an equivalent comparison to cruising in the United States. Many of these claims are based on the country of Singapore—a small island nation with a consistently low prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection and federal authority over its travel industry. Since November 2020, Singapore has experienced only a handful of locally transmitted new cases each day (between zero and five cases/day). Its cruise voyages have been open only to Singapore residents on itineraries that only port within Singapore and at a reduced capacity . . .”

River Cruises in Europe

“Similarly, some cruise ship operators have claimed to have successfully engaged in cruising in the Europe. However, these cruises have not been without incident. From September to November 2020, media sources reported several outbreaks occurred on European river cruise ships where approximately 100 persons were infected, including 8 travelers on CroisiEurope’s Vasco da Gama cruise ship in September, 60 passengers on the MS Swiss Crystal and 13 travelers on the MS Vista Serenity in October, and 10 crew members on the MS Thurgau Chopin in November. Many other river cruise voyages in Europe were cancelled due to the threat of COVID-19.”

Ocean Cruises From Europe

“From July 2020 to February 2021, outbreaks were reported on European nonriver cruise ships with over 100 persons infected, including 71 travelers on Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen (below), 10 crew on AIDA cruise line, and 5 crew on the Mein Schiff 1 in July; three travelers on the MS Finnmarken in September; 13
travelers on the Le Jacques-Cartier, 8  on the Costa Diadema (left), and 1 on the MSC Grandiosa in October. In February of this year, four guests tested positive for COVID on the Mein Schiff 2.”

Limited COVID Data Collection in Europe

“Furthermore, while the cruise industry has claimed to have successfully prevented the introduction and transmission of COVID-19 on board and into communities in Europe, this claim cannot be substantiated without results from laboratory testing of disembarking passengers or crew and further follow-up with travelers post-cruise. Such testing and follow-up do not occur in these foreign markets. Local and national public health authorities in Europe also do not routinely collect or mandate collection of these data. Unlike in the United States, which has federally-mandated requirements on cruise ships to report illness and death to CDC staffed Quarantine Stations at major ports of entry, European countries do not have similar systems in place to track cruise ship-related cases or outbreaks. Based on this lack of testing and data collection, potential failures in cruise ship industry protocols and practices cannot be reliability recognized because cases can only be identified within a community and not linked to a cruise ship exposure.”

More Outbreaks to Come – Ready, Set & Infect?

If and when cruising resume from U.S. ports, there will many other COVID-19 outbreaks, particularly if the cruise lines continue to fight the authority and jurisdiction of the CDC.  Unlike in Europe, where there is no obligation of cruise lines to report shipboard viral outbreaks, and the public depends primarily on media reports, there is a clear obligation of cruise companies to report shipboard disease outbreaks to the CDC here in the U.S. Nonetheless, we will continue to closely follow the outbreaks and report them here when they occur.

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Photo credits: MSC Grandiosa – By kees torn – Vertrek, CC BY-SA 2.0 commons / wikimedia; Frank Del Rio – FOX NEWS’ Neil Cavuto; Costa Diadema – Z Thomas – CC BY-SA 4.0 commons / wikimedia; MS Roald Amundsen – Hurtigruten.