Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess returned to Sydney this morning after a twelve-day cruise which left  port on October 31st. There reportedly are now over eight hundred (800) active COVID-19 cases on this ship. This is the biggest single outbreak since the Ruby Princess cruise ship arrived in Sydney in March 2020 with 900 infected passengers.

A Princess Cruises’ spokesperson claims that the infected cruise guests are “mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic and are isolating in their staterooms” and all “unimpacted guests are wearing masks and this will continue when they disembark in Sydney on 12 November.”

But at least one media outlet, 9 News in Sydney, reports that “medical evacuations are required” of sick passengers once the Princess cruise ship docks in Sydney.

There is some ambiguity regarding exactly how many cruise passengers and crew members are infected with the virus.  There is no legal mandatory requirement for owners or operators of cruise ships to publicly disclose the number of COVID-19 cases on their cruise ships.  Although Princess Cruises did in fact confirm that there is a COVID-19 outbreak on the Majestic Princess, none of the news outlets in Australia indicated that the cruise line disclosed the number of infected passengers or crew members.  Some accounts mention that around twenty-five percent of the guests were positive for the virus; 25% of the 3,300 passengers would be around 825 infected guests. None of the Australian news media commented on how many crew members of the 1,300 ship employees are infected.

New South Wales (NSW) has a three tier reporting system where it reports and ranks cruise ships calling on NSW ports according to the percentage of cruise passengers and crew who test positive for COVID-19.  NSW Health lists “% of Passengers & Crew Onboard who have Tested Positive to COVID-19 in Last 7 Days:” Tier 1 is “0.0% to <3%.” Tier 2 is “3% to <10%.” Tier 3 is “≥10%.” According to NSW Health, tier 3 likely results in a “operational compromise” of a cruise ship due to:

  • Major impact to staffing and/or resource shortages.
  • Unable to maintain critical services and/or imminent cessation of critical services. (Example: Reduction in critical staffing or resources that cannot be compensated (such as impact to healthcare workers, engineering staff, or shortages of food or PPE).

The Majestic Princess is currently designated at Tier 3 (risk level 3 of 3).

The Princess cruse ship just finished its last cruise which called on six ports in New Zealand.

There are dozens of people tweeting their concerns that the Majestic Princess has been spreading COVID-19 in all of these ports of call. Others have rhetorically asked on Twitter: “Where precisely in an overburdened health system do they have room for this?” NSW Health recently concluded that COVID-19 itself has been associated with an increase in out of hospital cardiac arrest and sudden deaths in young people.

This is not the first recent COVID-19 outbreak on the Majestic Princess which was quarantined after arriving in Tahiti last month with at least 116 cases of COVID-19, according to a local newspaper.

In the last ten days, we reported that there were at least 290 people on the Coral Princess and over 400 people infected with COVID-19 on the Quantum of the Seas when these cruise ships ported in Australia.

The over 800 people infected with COVID-19 on the Majestic Princess is the biggest single outbreak since the Ruby Princess cruise ship arrived in Sydney in March 2020 with 900 infected passengers, 28 of whom died prompting a class action case against Princess Cruises. 

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Image credit: Majestic Princess – カテキン – CC BY-SA 4.0 commons / wikimedia.