This year’s annual Seatrade Cruise Global exposition in Miami Beach is ending today. This week, attendees listened to the cruise trade show’s keynote presentation titled “The State of the Global Cruise Industry.” The panelists who addressed the theme of the presentation – “Resilience and the Restart” –  included Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) President and CEO, Kelly Craighead, Carnival Corporation’s CEO, Arnold Donald, Royal Caribbean’s President & CEO, Jason Liberty, and Executive Chairman of the cruise division of MSC Group, Pierfrancesco Vago.

After attending dozens of Seatrade conventions over the past twenty-five years, I’m used to the cruise industry’s perennial talking points which often have little to do with reality. Usually, Seatrade is a time when the cruise executives try and manage the cruise industry’s sinking image and tatered reputation following the previous year’s invariable cruise ship disasters which filled the headlines. Cruise leaders tend to project rosy forecasts when they are dealing with the Costa Concordia sinking, the Carnival poop cruise or similar cruise disasters and mishaps.

This year was no different.

The cruise line executives spoke about the industry’s so-called “resiliency” to the COVID-19 pandemic which essentially shut the cruise industry down for the better part of the last two years. The executives went as far as to suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still infecting, sickening and sometimes killing cruise guests, was a thing of the past. The Miami Herald covered the Seatrade convention and wrote “Cruise industry leaders claimed victory over the coronavirus pandemic, praising the industry’s resilience the past two years … While industry leaders were optimistic about the future of cruising, there was little sentiment of responsibility or remorse.”

The executives’ indifference and self-praise are rather shocking given the fact that the Miami Herald  documented that there have been at least 111 guests and crew members who were infected with COVID-19 during cruises in 2020 and 2021 and later died.

The reality is that many hundreds of passengers and crew members are still becoming infected on cruise ships on a regular basis. Princess Cruises, in particular, just recently experienced COVID-19 outbreaks on at least five cruise ships. The Orange County Register explained the CDC’s conclusions that the recent COVID-19 outbreaks on Princess cruise ships were likely  caused by “a rapidly spreading variant and close, indoor quarters” in an article titled: Cruise Industry Weathers COVID-19 Holdovers As Virus Lingers.

In the past month alone, Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess was one of five Carnival Corporation-owned cruise ships which experienced large COVID-19 outbreaks and made a mockery of the cruise executives’ alleged “victory” over the virus.  “It was quite clear that there were a large percentage of passengers that were sick, but unless you self-reported, you were free to keep going and infect other passengers,” California resident Ted Vomacka told the Mercury News. “It was obvious from observing all the coughing and hacking that some form of infection was going around.” Like all other cruise brands owned by Carnival Corporation, Princess Cruises refuses to release the number of guests and crew members infected with the virus. But the San Francisco Department of Public Health reported that 143 passengers on the Ruby Princess’ (San Francisco to Hawaii round trip which ended on April 11th) tested positive; this was nearly twice as many as the 73 cruise guests reported sick after the ship returned from Panama. In all, the Ruby Princess had at least 253 infected guests on the ship over the course of the last five sailings, according to the Washington Post.

This month, Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess also experienced a significant outbreak while returning to Los Angeles from Hawaii.

The Caribbean Princess, Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess also experienced large scale COVID-19 outbreaks. Each of these ships have designated COVID-19 decks where infected passengers (as well as crew members) who tested positive are isolated during the cruise.

Unfortunately, Princess does not disclose the number of infected guests to the press or even warn boarding passengers that there has been a COVID outbreak on the prior cruise.

A guest informed the Times Colonist that Princess Cruises “has been very tight-lipped.”

“People have been at the guest services desk demanding to know how many sick people [there are] and they won’t tell you anything,” she said. “They just say ‘oh, a certain bartender or waitress you have seen all week [is] feeling under the weather’ when you see that they are gone. The captain has not made any announcements.”

“They say they are going to dry dock early, but we all know it is COVID. They have not said this but we on the ship all believe this.”

News breaking during the week long Seatrade convention also included accounts of at least one cruise passenger contracting COVID-19 on a cruise ship and dying as well as accounts of cruise passengers  being abandoned in foreign ports after becoming infected at sea.

As the Miami Herald reported, “top cruise industry leaders at the Seatrade cruise conference claimed victory over the coronavirus pandemic.” Pierfrancesco Vago, CLIA chairman, went as far as to claim that the cruise industry was leaving “the health emergency behind.” But the over-hyped rhetoric of the cruise executives is overshadowed by the reality of many hundreds of vacationers who were recently infected on just five of the Princess fleet of cruise ships, one guest dying after contracting COVID-19 during a cruise this week, and some of the cruise lines abandoning their infected guests in Europe.

As the Miami Herald further pointed out, “there was little sentiment from the industry leaders … of  responsibility or remorse for numerous superspreader virus outbreaks on cruise ships during the pandemic …”

The fact that cruise executives claim victory over COVID-19, as if they somehow were personally  involved in finding a cure for the disease, is perhaps no more outrageous than having no feelings of responsibility or remorse for the many thousand of guests and crew members who were sickened and over 100 people who died after being infected on their cruise ships in 2020 and 2021.

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Image credit: Grand Princess – Morgan Hines and Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY – 103 have tested positive for COVID-19