The Carnival Panorama returned to its home port of Long Beach, California yesterday from a seven-day cruise with multiple cases of COVID-19 according to a guest who sailed on the cruise ship (and wishes to remain anonymous) who sent this message:

“The Carnival Panorama just returned to Port of Long Beach, there were multiple covid cases onboard, with a lot of passengers being disembarked on some ports of call accompanied by medical personnel.”

Last week, the Carnival cruise ship visited the Mexican ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta before returning yesterday (August 28th) from its first cruise since Carnival was forced to suspend cruise operations last year at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. The Carnival Panorama had its inaugural sailing on December 11, 2019.

The cruise ship returned to the U.S with positive COVID-19 cases notwithstanding the fact that Carnival claimed that at least 95% of its passengers were vaccinated, as it told the Mexican government last week. A local newspaper in Long Beach reported that the Carnival Panorama can accommodate approximately 4,000 passengers but is operating at about 75% capacity (3,000).

I have also heard from guests on different Carnival cruise ships who tested positive after returning home from cruises who tried to contact Carnival and had to leave a message with sales representatives that they tested positive for COVID-19. Another couple left a tweet to this effect on Twitter and commented that other guests tested positive as well.

According to a local newspaper in Long Beach, the Long Beach Post News, the Carnival Panorama experienced what it vaguely called a “technical problem” reducing the speed of the cruise ship. The newspaper referred to a Carnival Facebook private page called the CARNIVAL PANORAMA CRUISE PAGE, which shared a letter from Carnival explaining that the Panorama was “experiencing an issue that is affecting the ship’s maximum cruising speed.”

The newspaper mentioned that Carnival recently implemented HAVE FUN. BE SAFE. COVID-19 GUEST PROTOCOLS including “requiring proof of vaccination for the vast majority of guests and regular testing for others. Panorama’s entire 1,400-member crew is fully vaccinated, according to the company’s website. All passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must present a negative COVID-19 test result from within three days of embarkation. Unvaccinated guests must take another test prior to embarkation and a third test 24 hours into the voyage if the cruise is longer than four days.” AXIOS reported last week that Carnival  announced new mask guidelines, which say that all guests are required to wear masks indoors.

Carnival’s COVID protocols state that:

“Vaccinated guests are not required to maintain physical distance on board the ship.

It is recommended that unvaccinated guests maintain physical distancing as follows:

  • Outdoors – Remain at least 3 feet from others when not wearing a mask and not in your cruise companion group.”

This cruise line’s “HAVE FUN, be safe” protocols in practice have been criticized as too heavy on “HAVE FUN” and too little on “be safe.” A video posted on Carnival Senior Cruise Director John Heald Facebook page shows the cruise director on the Carnival Panorama standing in front of hundreds of guests crowded together on the (exterior) Lido deck, many without masks.

Comments left on the John Heald’s page are split between those who complained that the gathering was unsafe and negligent and those defending the reckless spectacle who essentially said “if you don’t like it, stay home.” Included in the latter category were attacks on Dr. Fauci and the usual comments typical of COVID skeptics and deniers that masks allegedly don’t work:

  • “. . . if this 5 second moment is a turn off for u, do everyone a favor and stay home.
  • . . . you do know they just proved yesterday that these masks do nothing.
  • . . . seriously stay home if you are worried. It’s your choice just as its theirs, there is absolutely no proof that the masks work . . .
  • . . . This is never going away. They will only come up with different names for this. Stop your mask bs already. Stay the heck home if your worried. IT’S NEVER GOING AWAY!
  • . . . you know you have the choice to stay home and be all safe in your bubble.
  • . . .  it just shows what a joke the mask mandate is. Nothing more than a misleading visual they have no legitimate function.
  • Let them stay home and we will just keep having a great time!!
  • Don’t like it, stay home.
  • If you don’t like it… don’t sail.
  • So glad everyone is having fun, we are back !! This is why we cruise!
  • This looks amazing!! Can’t wait until September 6 on Sunrise. So glad you all were having a great time! I see with these comments there’s a lot of jealous people trying to bring the hate to the party 😳🙄😩🤣

These comments expressing concern for the crowded space and absence of social distancing were usually met with vitriolic attacks.

  • “This looks scary and irresponsible.
  •  They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This one screams unsafe.
  •  If cruising is stunted at all. It will be because Carnival already has a death on its hands and there may be more with this kind of thing going on. This is GROSS NEGLIGENCE.”

Carnival Cruise Line failed to reveal any information regarding the number of infected guests or crew members on this ship.

When the Carnival Panorama last sailed from Long Beach in March of 2020, it kept its passengers on board the ship when it returned to Long Beach after a week-long voyage to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas because a single guest was transported off the ship to be tested for coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the decision to hold passengers on the ship pending the results of a single COVID-19 test. The test turned out to be negative. Passengers were quoted in the Long Beach Post News as saying that they were “glad the cruise line was being careful.”

Seventeen months later today, it is clear that Carnival is refusing to disclose the total number of crew and guests infected with COVID-19 on any particular cruise and is sloughing off direct responses to such inquiries from the media. It is also apparent that guests are disembarking from Carnival ships and quickly testing positive  without follow up by this cruise line.

Carnival recently demonstrated a lack of transparency in responding to media inquiries into the extent and number of COVID-19 outbreaks on several Carnival ships. Regarding the COVID-19 outbreak on the Carnival Vista, for example, at least one guest died of COVID-19, one was seriously sickened and went ashore in Belize, an unknown number of others were infected, and at least forty-two crew members tested positive for COVID-19 over a two week period.  But Carnival initially falsely characterize that it was managing only a “small number” of positive cases on the ship. Several national newspapers, such as Axios,  eventually characterized the true number of COVID-19 cases on the Carnival Vista as “the biggest outbreak of coronavirus cases since cruises resumed in the U.S. and Caribbean last June.”

After leaving one Carnival Vista passenger with COVID-19 alone in a sub-standard hospital in Belize and sailing on to the next port (Cozumel), Carnival belatedly claimed that “it was highly unlikely Ms. Tackett contracted the coronavirus aboard the ship . . . ” notwithstanding the fact that her symptoms began 4 days into the cruise which was consistent with the incubation period explained by the CDC which can begin as early as 2 days.

A common thought expressed by many Carnival fans is that “covid is everywhere” and the public needs to “just learn to live with it.” Given COVID-19 breakthrough infections, the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant, and the carefree-have-fun-nonchalant attitude of many Carnival fans, there will continue to be COVID-19 outbreaks on Carnival ships in the future.

According to the COVID-19 color code database, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that all thirteen Carnival cruise ships operating in U.S. waters, authorized to sail with passengers, had COVID-19 infections in the last seven days.

With COVID-19 now appearing on virtually every Carnival ship leaving from the U.S., don’t expect any accurate COVID-19 infection details any time soon from the likes of Carnival.

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Image credit: Carnival Panorama – Tunestoons – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.