Yesterday, Japan’s Nippon Yusen subsidiary NYK Cruises Company (Nippon Yusen Kaisha) stated that a passenger on its cruise ship Asuka II tested positive for coronavirus. The passenger, who was in his 60’s, boarded the cruise ship in Yokohama with around 300 other guests last Thursday.

Media reports state that the ship had unspecified “safety measures” in place. All passengers reportedly tested negative prior to the cruise. The  cruise ship conducted another round of tests during boarding on Thursday, a NYK spokesperson explained to the Japanese press.

The Japan News reported that “the man was confirmed to be infected with the virus Friday, the day after the cruise ship left port. The man and his wife, who had close contact with him, were kept in separate rooms for quarantine, while other passengers stayed in their own rooms. The cruise was canceled, and the crew distributed bento meals to the passengers by hanging them on the doorknobs of the cabins.”

The infected passenger had “felt discomfort in his throat” after boarding. He was originally isolated in his cabin, NYK said in a statement.

The Japan Times reported that the infected man and a female family member (reportedly the only “close contact”), who tested negative, are from Tokyo. He reportedly disembarked from the cruise ship along with all other passengers and headed for Tokyo.

The ship had been scheduled to stop at two ports and return to Yokohama on May 5th. NYK canceled the remainder of the cruise.

At least one newspaper refers to this incident resembling a case of “deja vu” and “an unfortunate case of life coming full circle.” Last February, 3,700 people were quarantined on Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess cruise ship which eventually docked in Yokohama amid a coronavirus outbreak. Over 700 passengers contracted Covid-19 and 14 people died of the virus.

According to the Japan Times, Fukashi Sakamoto, president of NYK Line, apologized for the incident. “We were able to respond promptly because we had learned lessons from the Diamond Princess,” Sakamoto told reporters in Yokohama.

This positive COVID case brings the total of coronavirus cases on cruise ships outside of the U.S. to 215 since cruising was suspended from U.S. ports last year (You can read sources for this calculation here). The cases involved MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, TUI Group/Mein Schiff, AIDA, SeaDream, Hurtigruten and a number of smaller river cruise ships.

Unfortunately, the cruise industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), has persistently misrepresented the number of COVID cases outside of the U.S. CLIA claims that out of 400,000 passengers, there have been fewer than 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships which have sailed from Europe and parts of Asia since last summer. In truth, CLIA has revealed only less than 25% of the actual number of cruise-related COVID cases, although the public probably does not care that the true number is 215 and not just 50.

Consider reading Cruise Lines Continue to Misrepresent Number of Positive COVID-19 Cases During Cruises Outside of the U.S.

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Photo credit: Asuka II – top – 663highland, CC BY 2.5, commons / wikimedia; middle –  KYODO via Japan Times.