When I read the news this morning that a COVID-19 outbreak involving around one-hundred passengers and crew members occurred on the Coral Princess, Princess’s sister ship to the Ruby Princess which had one of the earliest outbreaks of COVID-19 in Australia two years ago, I felt as if I were trapped in a scene in Groundhog Day. In the movie, comedian Bill Murray plays a weatherman who finds himself trapped in the small town of Puntxsutawny as he lives the same day over and over again.

ABC News – Australia reports that a COVID-19 outbreak on the Coral Princess involved “around one hundred passengers and crew members” as the Princess cruise ship arrived in Brisbane, Australia in the northeastern state of Queensland. Neither Princess Cruises nor parent company Carnival Corporation stated the actual or precise number of infected guests or crew but nonetheless released a PR statement claiming that the cruise line had been “open and transparent” with guests.

The government in Australia down-played the outbreak, saying that COVID-19 is everywhere and bound to happen on cruise ships. Inexplicably the Australian health officials said there were no plans to mandate face masks, and said it was up to individuals whether to wear one or not. Despite this relaxed attitude, the Princess spokesperson claimed that the “health and well-being of our guests and crew remain our main priority” and that the cruise line was “doing everything possible to ensure the safety of guests and crew in the face of the outbreak.” These are the usual cruise line claims and PR gobbledygook. In the same spirit, the cruise line claimed it was was “adhering to comprehensive protocols,” but there was no effort to even require masks or enforce social  distancing.

The government also claimed that “cruise ship crew and their passengers are subject to strict requirements to minimise the COVID-19 risk to Queenslanders.” But, again, the guests were not required to wear masks or socially distance.

A number of infected guests disembarked in Brisbane, which as Australian newspaper WAtoday explained, is facing its highest level of hospitalization in six months. Thousands of staff are off sick or isolating due to coronavirus infection which is placing significant pressure on the state’s hospitals. These hospitals have already started to cancel elective procedures.

The Ruby Princess, a sister ship of the Coral Princess, was the site of an early major outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia when infected passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney in 2020. At least 900 passengers and crew later tested positive for COVID-19, and 28 people died.

Crew members were forced to stay on the Princess ship as the virus spread. Some Princess crew members died and/or ended their life waiting repatriation home.

Cruise Coronavirus Crisis: Crew Members on the Ruby Princess Plea for Help

This year, the Ruby Princess again made the news when over 250 passengers were infected with COVID-19 during cruises at the end of March and mid-April.

Princess Cruises became the poster-child of how a cruise line should not to handle a COVID-19 outbreak based on its mishandling of outbreaks on the Diamond Princess, Grand Princess and Ruby Princess.

At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak on the Diamond Princess, I asked Princess Cruises whether the virus could be spread through airborne particles. In response to my inquiry in mid-February 2020 which I posted on Twitter (along with a photo of Princess crew members huddled together in a hallway in the crew area), Princess Cruises denied that the virus can be transmitted through the air. It cited to the World Health Organization that the virus is allegedly “mainly” transmitted via droplets from close person to person contact.

Cruising now without a mask requirement or strict social distancing by guests to avoid this airborne virus suggests that this Carnival Corporation brand has not learned much since the early days of the pandemic.

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July 11, 2022 Update:

Image credit: Roy Luck – Coral Princess CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.