Last night, the Galveston Daily News reported that the Carnival Vista had a number of positive COVID-19 cases aboard the cruise ship which sailed from Galveston, Texas. However, Carnival Cruise Line refused to state the exact number of infected guests, admitting only that a “small number of people” on board tested positive.

The reporter who wrote the article, Keri Heath, commented that after the outbreak, Carnival made a decision to implement a policy that all guests on the cruise ship are now required to wear masks.

Carnival announced no plans to cancel or alter the cruise.

Around 100 Guests and Crew Members Have Tested Positive for COVID-19 in Last 30 Days

There have been a steady number of cruise ships recently where guests and/or crew members have tested positive for COVID-19. In the five weeks since July 1st, there have been around 100 positive COVID-19 cases on cruise ships:

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas (4 crew members), Adventure of the Seas (6 guests), Odyssey of the Seas (13 crew members), Independence of the Seas (10 crew members), Jewel of the Seas (6 crew members); Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Millennium (2 guests) and Celebrity Edge (7 guests); Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth (a “small number” of crew members); MSC Grandiosa (2 guests); Phoenix Resien’s M/S Amera (12 crew members); UnCruise Adventures’ Wilderness Explorer (four passengers and three crew members);  (1 guest and 2 crew members); Dream Cruises’ World Dream (1 guest); Viking Cruises’ Viking Sky (1 guest) and Viking Jupiter (1 guest). In addition, at least thirty-five passengers and/or crew members have tested positive on cruise ships designated as either orange or yellow on the CDC’s color tracking chart.

A small couple of positive COVID cases on one ship, a few on another ship, five to eight cases on another and as many as twelve or more cases on some ships – 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.

The Miami Herald’s Taylor Dolven recently reported that one in three cruise ships (operating or about to sail into U.S. waters) have passengers and/or crew members aboard who are infected with COVID-19.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases on cruise ships has increased since Ms. Dolven’s tweet (above)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently show that Carnival Cruise Line has seven (7) cruise ships which the CDC is monitoring (orange) or investigating (yellow). The CDC has assigned a yellow code to the Carnival Breeze, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Mardi Gras, Carnival Miracle, and Carnival Vista and is investigating all of these ships for COVID-19. The CDC assigned a orange code to the Carnival Panorama and Carnival Sunshine and is monitoring these ships for COVID.  The CDC assigned yellow codes for other cruise ships owned by Carnival Corporation, including the Coral Princess, Grand Princess and Ruby Princess operated by Princess Cruises and the Nieuw Statendam operated by Holland America Line (HAL).  The Majesty Princess operated by Princess and the Koningsdam operated by HAL both have been designated orange. In total, thirteen (13) cruise ships owned by Carnival Corporation are under monitoring or investigation for COVID-19 by the CDC.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH)’s Norwegian Encore and the Oceania Regatta are under investigation by the CDC for COVID-19 aboard these two ships.

Royal Caribbean owns ten (10) ships which are under monitoring (orange) or investigation (yellow) by the CDC. There are three Royal Caribbean owned ships operated by Celebrity Cruises under investigation for COVI by the CDC: the Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Equinox and Celebrity Millennium.   The Serenade of the Seas is under investigation for COVID. The CDC is monitoring the Explorer of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas  and Ovation of the Seas.

The CDC is Monitoring or Investigating Twenty-Five out of Sixty-Four Cruise Ships In U.S. Waters for COVID-19 

In total, the CDC is monitoring or investigating twenty-five cruise ships in U.S. waters for COVID-19, which is around 40% of the total of sixty-four cruise ship operating or about to sail into U.S. waters.  Of course, this total does not include ships outside of U.S. waters where the CDC does not have jurisdiction.  Aside from occasional coverage by non-U.S. newspapers, there is no centralized data base keeping track of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships sailing from foreign ports in international waters.

On July 28th, before the Carnival Vista sailed on its current cruise, a reporter for the Galveston Daily News, commented that all three cruise ships sailing from Galveston, including the Carnival Vista were either being monitored or investigated by the CDC for COVID-19.

Assuming that those sailing on the Carnival Vista were aware of and reviewed the CDC tracking system, it should have come as no surprise that this particular cruise ship is now the subject of unwanted media attention.

The Carnival Vista – A “Small Number of People” Infected?

It is less than candid for Carnival Cruise Line to state that a “small number of people” are infected on the ship without specifying the actual number of those infected. Another Carnival brand, Cunard, also said that only a “small number” of crew members tested positive for COVID-19 last month on the Queen Elizabeth cruise liner.

Carnival is obviously trying to avoid a situation where the number or positive COVID-19 cases increases, and news accounts subsequently report the updated information and keep the story circulating. This was the situation where the German Cruise Ship M/s Amera initially had an outbreak which was initially reported to involve five cases, then nine cases and eventually twelve cases.

In order for consumers to have a reasonable and accurate sense of which cruise ships have active COVID-19 cases aboard them, families deciding to cruise during a deadly pandemic should, at a minimum, consult with the CDC and see if their ship has been designated either orange or yellow.   But additional information is needed on the CDC’s website, including whether those infected had been vaccinated, whether they were asymptomatic when tested, whether they recovered or ended up hospitalized or died due to their infection.

In my experience, it is too much to ever expect a cruise line to be forthcoming with relevant shipboard disease information that might affect their business interests, especially when some cruise companies are being coy with basic information such as the number of infected guests and crew. My suggestion is to stay current with news coverage from leading newspapers which routinely cover the cruise industry like the Miami Herald, USA Today, or the Washington Post.

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Image Credit: Top – Carnival VistaGordon Leggett / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia;  bottom – Carnival Vista stern – ABC-13 Eyewitness News Carnival managing ‘small number’ of positive COVID cases on board cruise ship.