Yesterday, travel writer and cruise fan Dave Monk (a/k/a Shipmonk) reported that “MSC Cruises Reported 21 Positive Covid Cases on Southampton Sailing Last Month” aboard the MSC Virtuosa.

This title is entirely misleading. The article itself is disingenius. First, the data shows that the Port of Southampton received at least thrity-three, not just twenty-one, reports of COVID-19 involving guests who disembarked in that port from the cruises which embarked on September 4th and 11th.  More importantly, the true number of shipboard COVID-19 infections which occured due to exposure of guests on the MSC Virtuosa involves at least 121 cabins (with some cabins with at least two and sometime three infected guests) (plus at least an additional twenty-five crew members) for a total of well over 200 people during these cruises, according to a private Facebook page created by those infected on the MSC cruise ship.

Shipmonk’s limited data apparently comes from the Southampton City Council via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The data apparently shows only 25 infected crew members and only 8 infected guests during these cruises in Spetember. For example, the incomplete data Shipmonk wrote about does not include reports of COVID-19 involving cruise passengers who disembarked in other ports, including the port of Greenock, where at least thirty infected guests disembatked.

The data also does not include the majority of positive cases involving passengers who were sickened during the subject cruises and were tested after the cruises. Acording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Contol and Prevention (CDC), the incubation period for COVID-19 is 2 to 14 days after exposure. Considering the average cruise is only seven days, the majority of positive cases obviously did not become evident until after the infected passengers left the ship and returned home.

MSC Cruises has not made any reports or announcements to the general public as the Shipmonk article implies. In fact, the cruise line refuses to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak with the families of those infected, many of who have been admitted to hospital and are are continuing to struggle to breath.  As we have reported in prior articles, at least three people who contracted the virus on the MSC Virtuosa have died. A fourth person cruising last month also died although there is no clear indication that his death was directly related to acquiring COVID-19 during the cruises in question.

Several people pointed out on Twitter the misleading nature of the Shipmonk article, and further suggested that travel writers who are given complimentary cruises are suspectible to such type of inaccurate reporting:

If you have not followed the increasing number of COVID-19 cases on the MSC Virtuosa superspreader cruises, bring yourself up to speed by reviewing our prior articles about the largeset outbreak of cases on a cruise ship since February of 2020:

More COVID-19-Related Deaths and Major Illnesses After Super-Spreader Cruises on MSC Virtuosa

Passenger Dies After Super-Spreader COVID-19 Cruise on MSC Virtuosa

COVID-19 Aboard MSC Virtuosa

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Image credits: Top – Phil Nash Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 & GFDLViews; bottom – MSC Cruises.

Social media continues to document additional deaths and major illnesses arising from COVID-19 exposure on the MSC Virtuosa which concluded its sailing this summer from the United Kingdon. Two week ago, in articles titled COVID-19 Aboard MSC Virtuosa and Passenger Dies After Super-Spreader COVID-19 Cruise on MSC Virtuosa, we reported that there were arround 75 to 100 guests, on the MSC cruise ship, who contracted COVID-19 during a series of cruises from the U.K. We also reported, based on information from crew members on the ship, that there have been around 25 to 50 crew members who are positive for COVID-19 as well.

The number of infected guests increased initially to 165, notwithstanding MSC’s promises of social distancing and “constant cleaning and sanitation” which would, somehow, magically tranform the ship into a “safe bubble.”

Twitter and Facebook remain abuzz with unanswered complaints from cruise passengers who became sickened with the virus.  Guests have continued to complain that the ship, marketed by the cruise line as providing a safe, virus-free “bubble” of a cruise, has been operating at a crowded capactiy with guests not wearing masks or socially distancing.

A private Facebook group, organized for people who have been infected with COVID-19, has now beeen joined by around around 232 infected guests (involving 93 cabins with average of 2.5 guests per cabin). Since we last reported on the fiasco, there have been at least two deaths of passengers (in addition to the deaths we peviously reported) due to COVID-19, as well as several cases of serious illnesses of guests requiring emergency medical treatment and hospitalization.

These are all “unofficial” disease figures because MSC steadfastly refuses to act responsibly and respond to numerous ongoing complaints from its customers. Former guests have connected on Twitter and Faceebook to determine the extent of the COVID outbreak.

Meanwhile, the corporate offices of MSC have remained mum, ignoring its customers and speaking only to spread disinformation. MSC claims that the summer season sailing from the U.K. has been a “success” and its COVID protocls “worked well.” MSC managing director Antonio Paradiso stated at a “conference at sea” organized by the Institute of Travel & Tourism (“ITT”) that “we’ve supported the whole travel industry as UK cruises have given travel agents the chance to start selling something again. Round-UK cruises have been a real success story this summer.”

Ironically the travel conference was held on the crowded MSC Virtuosa, and was touted by the ITT as “our first in-person event since March 2020 due to the pandemic.” MSC Director Paradiso talked to the conference attendees on the cruise ship, not about operating “smaller and “safer” ships, but about “Rebuilding Our Industry Bigger and Stronger.”

Ben Bouldin, a representative of the cruise trade goup for the industry, CLIA-UK, appeared at the conference on the infected cruise ship. He bizarely represented that the cruise industry’s health protocols were “absolutely working.”

CLIA also makes the preposterous claim that there were only 50 COVID-19 cases, out of the 100,000 or so guests from the U.K., on cruise ships operated by all of its member cruise lines over the past several months this last summer. In light of the fact that there were well over 200 guests infected on the MSC Virtuosa alone over just the last couple of cruises, such an allegation is not only absurd but shows the extent that cruise lines and their trade organization will manipulate the data to try and bamboozle the public. CLIA and the cruise lines have lied about such COVID-19 data in the past (falsely claiming that cruise ships in Europe and Asia carried “over 400,000 guests with less than 50 COVID cases.”)

Perhaps the appropriate name associated with the MSC Virtuosa shold be the MSCVirusosa.”

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September 27, 2021 Update: Except for a few newspapers in the U.K., most newspaper and media outlets have not covered this outbreak. One exception is cruise vlogger Midships which operates a YouTube channel which covered the MSC Virtuosa superspreader events. He says ”Jim Walker, while in my opinion biased against the cruise industry, does appear to bring fact-based, or at least evidence-based information to light.”

A record number of passengers on the MSC Virtuosa have tested positive for COVID-19 during the past two weeks. Three days ago, in our article titled COVID-19 Aboard MSC Virtuosa, we first reported that several dozens of cruise guests on the MSC cruise ship complained of catching COVID-19 during cruises from the United Kingdom.

A week ago, the first complaints began appearing on Twitter of guests who felt ill during their cruise and, typically, tested positive as soon as they left the MSC ship. Several dozens of passengers complained that there was no enforcement of the wearing of face coverings or social distancing.  Many people who had cruised earlier on the same ship in June or July on the MSC Virtuosa contrasted those relatively safe cruises with the free-for-all on the crowded ship.

Yesterday, a local newspaper in the U.K. announced that a passenger died due to COVID-19. Eighty-one year old English navy veteran Wilf Broyden boarded the ship, after testing negative for the virus, with his wife, son and grandchild as well as his son’s girlfriend and two children. Five days into the cruise, Mr. Broyden began feeling ill and tested positive at the hospital at home after the cruise. He died a week later in the hospital.

The article explains that “Covid had broken out on board” and “staff suddenly (began) wearing hazmat suits.” People were also “coughing & struggling to breathe.”

According to the article, “his family believe he could have caught the illness while on the seven-day cruise …”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the incubation period for COVID is 2 to 14 days, “with a median time of 4-5 days from exposure to symptoms onset.” According to the original news article, he tested negative for the virus shortly before embarkation and then began having symptoms five (5) days into the cruise, which is exactly the the median time for exposure. The CDC info is based on three peer reviewed studies by the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine and Annals of Internal Medicine.

One other cruise passengers on the MSC Virtuosa died during the  cruise, according to the local press. The U.K. press reported that a man, described to be “in his 70s,” died onboard the MSC Virtuosa which called on Portland Port last Saturday (September 4th). Although there is no indication that the death of this cruise guest was related to COVID-19, the absence of information from MSC Cruises is naturally leading to such speculation.

MSC Cruises is continuing to refuse to disclose the number of infected passengers on the ship. I have counted well over six dozen guests who have contacted our office or tweeted or posted personal comments on Facebook that they became infected during the cruise. One guest who tested positive and later contacted us, Jake Dixon of London, England, was quarantined in his cabin after testing positive and later escorted of the ship by employees wearing hazmat suits. (He sent photos to the left and  right). Mr. Dixon indicated that there is a private Facebook page  for people who tested positive (either on or off the ship. (There are 50 guests reportedly in this group alone, so far). There is also a Facebook group called MSC Virtuosa Liverpool 31st August where at least a dozen other cruise guests indicated that they tested positive for the virus. There are several dozens of guests posting on Twitter as well.

The number of guests infected on the last two cruises appear to be far in excess to the number of those affected on other cruise ships since the cruise industry was shut down last year. Recently there were at least 26 crew members and an unknown number of guests (including one woman, age 77, who died) who tested positive for COVID-19 on the Carnival Vista cruise ship two weeks ago.

MSC Cruises has demonstrated a brazen lack of transparency in refusing to disclose the number of COVID-19 cases on the MSC Virtuosa, and suggesting that it increased its COVID protocols only in response to increased incidents of the virus in the U.K.  MSC allegedly “tightened up” its COVID-19 measures only after a visit by port health officers in Southampton, following numerous complaints by guests on the cruise. Read article by cruise fan and travel writer Dave Monk (a/k/a ShipMonk), titled MSC Cruises tightened up Covid measures on MSC Virtuosa after Southampton port health officer raised passengers’ concerns.

ShipMonk wrote that according to passenger, Eric Suth from Scotland, the ship was “a breeding ground for Covid” because of the self-service buffet and a lack of social distancing. Mr. Suth said he was tested as soon as he disembarked and proved positive. ShipMonk writes only that “the number of people affected has not been established.”

Of course, the exact number of those infected on the MSC ship cannot be determined for no reason other than the fact that MSC refuses to reveal such information to the public. However, it can easily be gleaned from social media that the number of infected guests on the MSC Virtuosa far exceeds those infected on the Carnival Vista. Several cruise guests on the ship have estimated the number of positive cases to be 100 or more. By my count, a reasonable and conservative estimate of those infected on the MSC Virtuosa is at least seventy-five to one-hundred guests, so far, and counting.

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Image credits:  MSC Virtuosa Pool and Crew Member in Hazmat Suit – Jake Dixon; Top – Hazmat suit in hallway – Twitter photo via Fifegirl @PReidie

This past week, Twitter has remained abuzz with complaints of COVID-19 by cruise guests on the MSC Virtuosa cruising from the United Kingdom.

Nearly a week ago, the first complaints began appearing on Twitter of guests who felt ill during their cruise and, typically, tested positive as soon as they left the MSC ship. Several people tweeted that some cruisers would not agree to be tested on the cruise ship in order to avoid a £100 fee. Many complained that there was no enforcement of the wearing of face coverings or social distancing.  Others complained that not only were people ignoring the wearing of masks but that the ship was crowded.

The MSC Virtuosa is a new cruise ship which was delivered from the shipyard to MSC in early February. The cruise ship entered service on May 20th with a series of three and four-night cruises from Southampton, before beginning seven-night cruises around the British Isles in mid-June.

The U.K. press also reports that a man, described to be “in his 70s,” died onboard the MSC Virtuosa which called on Portland Port on Saturday (September 4th).  Although there is no indication that the death of this cruise guest was related to COVID-19, the absence of information from MSC Cruises is naturally leading to such reasonable speculation.

Unfortunately, there appears to be no legal requirement for cruise companies either in U.S. or U.K waters  to disclose the actual number of cases of shipboard COVID-19 to the public. This leads to cruise lines withholding such information from the public for their own selfish PR reasons rather than the health and safety of their customers. Social media sites like Twitter provide one of the only glimpses of what is actually happening on ships at sea.

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Image credit: Top – MSC VirtuosaDorset Echo.

September 8, 2021 Update:

MSC Cruises says it has strengthened its “Health & Safety Protocol” on MSC Virtuosa, with more testing, “following a rise in Covid infections in the UK.” MSC concludes that “suspected cases at the terminal and on board have been “effectively managed in line with the protocol.” Travel writer and cruise fan Dave Monk of the UK tweets:

Still, cruise guests are still complaining bitterly on Twitter that the MSC ship theater and nightclubs are packed and few are wearing masks or socially distancing. Meanwhile COVID-19 infections continue . . .
Below are a few tweets this morning:

The local press in the UK has picked up the superspreader event taking place on the MSC Virtuosa: Pensioner couple split up on MSC Virtuosa as covid cases found on cruise ship.

Recent comments left on our Facebook page by guests on the MSC ship:

  • “My whole family are isolating post cruise, all positive tests.”
  • “I too tested positive for Covid after Disembarkcation on Sat in Southampton. It is a complete shambles on board, wearing of masks compulsory in public areas, but as soon as you get to a bar or eating area off they come. The theatre was packed to full capacity. No two metre social distancing, how can you when the ship appeared to be bursting with people. Never will I go on MSC again.”
  • “We disembarked a week ago (1/9) and all 3 of us tested positive. We have seen many more guests report positive results. It was chaos whilst we were on board. Massive queues all over the ship, people not wearing masks, occupancy limits for hot tubs and lifts not adhered to. MSC did not follow their own safety protocol. They didn’t enforce their own rules which were there for the safety of their guests. It has taken the intervention of Port Health for MSC to take any action but it has still been too little too late. Having multi embarkation ports of Southampton, Liverpool and Greenock creates a vicious circle for the spread of the virus and there is no circuit breaker like cruises with only one embarkation port.”
    “I voiced concerned onboard between the 18th and 25th of August-met with blank stares from staff!”
    “I got on 25th august and was horrified. We got off on the 1st both tested positive. Was so angry with myself I trusted them with our life.”

This week, an” independent not for profit news website,” the Dorcet Eye, posted a short video showing a cruise ship docked in the Isle of Portland, in Dorset U.K., belching pollution from its emission stacks. (Portland is just south of the resort of Weymouth, forming the southernmost point of the county of Dorset, England approximately 150 miles southwest of London).

The Dorcet Eye posted the video on its YouTube page, under the title “Cruise liner at Portland Port choking the locals.” The website described the video as follows:

“A cruise liner docked at Portland Port in Dorset spewing fumes across the bay. Why is it not fined? Who is allowing this to happen? Locals reporting feeling nauseous whilst out sailing or windsurfing . . .”

Jim Ace, of the environmental group Stand.Earth and a member of Global Cruise Activist Network (GCAN), brought the disturbing video to our attention. It appears that the cruise ship is a MSC Cruises ship, although we were initially uncertain of the name of the cruise ship. MSC Cruises has been heavily promoting cruises around the British Isles aboard the MSCVirtuosa. A review of the ship’s itinerary and news articles confirm that the MSC Virtuosa has called on the port of Portland in the recent past and is scheduled to return to this port in the near future.

We posted the video and a photo of the polluting ship on Twitter and requested an explanation and from MSC and the local port, without success.

The MSC Virtuosa is a new cruise  ship which was delivered from the shipyard to MSC in early February. The MSC cruise ship entered service on May 20th with a series of three and four-night cruises from Southampton, before beginning seven-night cruises around the British Isles on June 12th.  

The MSC Virtuosa is supposedly equipped with an exhaust gas cleaning system (i.e., a scrubber) designed to reduces ship sulfur emissions. This system have been heavily criticized, and appropriately so, as essentially turning air pollution into water pollution. Read Smoke and Mirrors: Cruise Line Scrubbers Turn Air Pollution Into Water Pollution.

BBC News published an article titled Why the cruise industry is still navigating choppy waters which included a photograph (right) of the MSC Virtuosa which shows white smoke from the ship’s stacks, which are characteristic of the operation of the ship’s scrubbers. (You can see this clearly in a photo of the ship’s stacks posted here, here and here on Cruise Capital’s Twitter page).

The video (below) clearly shows a long, black plume billowing from this ship, which raises the obvious questions: Did the ship’s engines malfunction? Were the scrubbers, for what they are worth, operational? Were the scrubbers bypassed for some reason at the port?

Let’s see how MSC publicly responds, if it does.

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Video credit: Dorset Eye

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will require cruise lines sailing from U.S ports to continue to follow the CDC’s protocols for COVID-19 on ships subject to its jurisdiction through January 15, 2022. The agency’s conditional sailing order (CSO) was set to expire this weekend, on November 1, 2021, but was just extended to January 15, 2022. After January 15th, if the CDC does not again extend the CSO, cruise lines will be permitted to voluntary follow their own policies to detect and control the spread of COVID-19 on their ships.

The CDC stated that when cruise lines began resuming “revenue voyages” from the U.S. in the last four months, between June 26 – October 21, 2021, there were 1,359 laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 on cruise ships reported to the CDC. You can read the order (total at page 20) here.

COVID-19 Remains A Problem on Cruise Ships Despite High Vaccination Rates 

The resumption of cruises in the U.S. has led to the “introduction and sustained transmission of COVID-19” among cruise ships, despite high vaccination rates among both crew and passengers.

It does not appear that COVID-19 cases where guests disembarked the cruise ship and then tested positive were  included in this total, even where the guest was exposed to COVID-19 during the cruise and likely contracted the disease there.

The CDC did not state any details regarding COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships sailing from U.S. waters. For example, the federal health agency did not disclose the name of a single cruise line or cruise ship whatsoever.

Cruise Passengers Remain in the Dark

Cruise lines, of course, never disclose to the public when their guests or crew members are infected, unless there is information first released by the media. Foreign health agencies sometimes publish news article about outbreaks. The health department in Belize, for example, disclosed the number of infected crew members following a significant COVID-19 outbreak on the Carnival Vista earlier this summer.

Cruise lines like Carnival will never disclose when a passenger dies due to COVID-10. Nor will the cruise lines admit when there are repeated virus outbreaks on consecutive cruises.

A Slew of Large COVID-19 Outbreaks

The CDC, in its order extending the conditional sailing order until next year, highlighted what it described as “several large outbreaks” on cruise ships:

  • 21 infected – on July 24, 2021, one symptomatic passenger who tested positive for COVID-19 on a cruise ship (Cruise Ship A) was epidemiologically linked to 20 additional COVID-19 cases over two voyages, including 2 passengers and 18 crew.
  • 58 infected – between July 24 – August 28, a cruise ship (Cruise Ship B) reported 58 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among passengers and crew.
  • 13 infected – between July 29 – 31, 2021, three symptomatic passengers tested positive for COVID-19 on a cruise ship (Cruise Ship C).  Contact tracing and testing identified an additional 12 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 10 passengers and 2 crew.
  • 7 infected – between July 26 – August 6, a cruise ship (Cruise Ship D) reported 7 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among passengers and crew.
  • 105 infected – between August 19 – September 7, a cruise ship (Cruise Ship E) reported 105 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among passengers and crew on a total of four consecutive voyages.
  • 112 infected – between August 21 – September 7, a cruise ship (Cruise Ship F) reported a total of 112 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among passengers and crew on four consecutive voyages

Other than a brief mention of the above referenced 315 COVID-19 cases, the CDC did not mention any of the other over 1,000 positive COVID-19 shipboard cases.

Most Positive Virus Case Involve “Breakthrough Infections” of Vaccinated Passengers and Crew

The COVID-19 vaccination rates on all of these unnamed ships were at or very near to 100% for crew and between 96.4% and 100% for passengers. Some of the cases apparently involved unvaccinated children, but the majority involve fully vaccinated adults.

Dozens of Medevacs and Hospitalizations Involving Cruise Ship Guests & Crew Due to COVID-19

The CDC also mentioned that cruise lines reported that the COVID-19 cases resulted in a number of hospitalizations (49) and medical evacuations from the ships (28).

Other than one passing reference to the death of a passengers who died of COVID-19, the CDC did not mention how many passengers and crew members on ships sailing into U.S. waters have died due to COVID-19. This summer we reported on at least recent one crew member and one guest who sailed on Carnival ships who died from the dangerous virus.

We have reported on cruise passengers who have required life-saving emergency medical treatment when developing COVID-19 symptoms while cruising. Usually the source of our information is the foreign press. See for example – Cruise Passenger in “Bad Shape” in Hospital in Belize.

The MSC Virtuosa – An Example of a Cruise Ship Not Subject to the CDC

There were several deaths of guests on the MSC Virtuosa, sailing this summer from the U.K., in a series of consecutive cruises where over at least 200 passengers and over 50 crew members were infected.  MSC Cruises reportedly overcrowded this new cruise ship and did not enforce mask protocls and social distancing procedures.

The MSC Virtuosa was not under the jurisdiction of the CDC because it did not sail from U.S. ports or in U.S. waters during these cruises. It is a good example of what would happen if the U.S. federal health agency does not oversee the health and safety of foreign flagged cruise ships and cruise lines become free to ignore their own mask and social distancing protocols.

How Do Consumers Make Informed Decisions Regarding the Risk of Infection on a Particular Cruise Ship When Neither the Cruise Line Nor the CDC are Being Transparent?

A follower of our Cruise Law News Facebook page left the following comment:

“I do wish there was more transparency. I would like to know, for each cruise taken, how many people were on board, if there were any cases and how many, and what was the vaccination rate. Then people can make their own assessment of the risk. For some people these cases seem to be an acceptable amount but not for others.”

There are significan differences between Carnival, Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and NCL regarding their COVID-19 protocols and their general attitudes toward the health and safety of their guests and crew. But, currently, it is not possible to calculate the per capita rate of contracting COVID-19 on one ship or one cruise brand versus another. This is largely because cruise line go out of their way to conceal the true information when a COVID-19 outbreak occurs on their ships.

I would suggest that, as a general matter, taking a voluntary leisure cruise during a deadly pandemic remains dangerous and foolhardy.

But for those looking to minimize the risk of contracting this disease, here are a few recomendation I have to offer:

  • Become vaccinated (and learn which vaccines have the highest efficacy rates);
  • Observe all CDC masking and social distancing protocols;
  • Avoid cruise lines and cruise ships which operate at full or high capacity;
  • Avoid cruise ships that have not upgraded their ventilation and air conditioning systems and installed high quality HEPA filters;
  • Avoid internal cabins without balconies (book only cabins with balconies);
  • Avoid cruise ships which allow unvaccinated passengers (including children) aboard;
  • Avoid iteneraries which call on ports of call with low vaccination rates;
  • Avoid cruise lines (like Carnival Cruise Line) with a history of guests mocking people who wear masks (for example, read Carnival Panorama: The Latest “Fun” Ship With COVID-19 Aboard).

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Image credit: Top – Carnival Vista – Gordon Leggett / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia via “Carnival Cruise Line Admits Positive COVID-19 Cases Aboard Carnival Vista, But Refuses to State Number of Guests Infected;” middle – Carnival Vista – Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images via CNN; bottom – MSC Virtuosa – Phil Nash Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 & GFDLViews.

Twenty-one (21) guests aboard the Jewel of the Seas were positive after antigen testing last week, according to a trusted crew member on the ship, who wishes to stay anonymous. Five (5) guests were positive upon additional PCR testing.  Two guests were symptomatic and received treatment in the onboard medical facility. Four guests left the cruise ship via ambulances at the end of the cruise.

The tests were taken on Friday, September 24th, on the last day of the seven night cruise from Limassol, Cyprus around the Greek islands.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship carried around 1,100 passengers during the cruise.

The infected guests disembarked the ship in Limassol, Cyprus on Saturday, September 25th. On the same day, the ship departed on the next cruise to Rhodes Island, Greece. The ship was  in Mykonos on Monday and Piraeus yesterday, and is calling on Santorini Island today. The ship is reportedly at level MAX 1, which involves enhanced sanitizing during this cruise. It is scheduled to return to Limassol this weekend.

When infections occur on this particular itinerary, the cruise line is required to report the cases to health authorities in Cyprus. The theory is that the ship is required to be in compliance with EU public health standards.

All crew members are required to be vaccinated. Most crew members have received Astrazeneca injections.

It is the policy of Royal Caribbean that guests ages 12 or older must be fully vaccinated in order to sail.

This same cruise ship on a prior cruise two weeks ago had five guests who tested positive for COVID-19, as we reported on September 18th. These prior cases involved breakthrough infections as well. The crew member informed me that the twenty-one positive results represent a “record” number of cases for this ship. “Usually there are only 2 or 3 cabins with positive test results.”

Most cruise ships sailing today are experiencing some number of breakthrouh infections of vaccinated guests or crew members. There are many Royal Caribbean ships as well as literally dozens of other cruise ships which have experienced a relatively small number of positive cases (from a few to around eight or so).

Certain cruise lines, particularly Carnival and MSC Cruises, are consistently refusing to disclose the number of infected passengers and crew members on their ships. In my view, it is important to report whenever there are positive cases duting a cruise, particlarly when there is a significant outbreak. Families deserve 100% transparency in considering risks to their health and safety when deciding to travel.

Meanwhile, at the annual cruise trade association conference, Seatrade Cruise Global, the CEO’s of the major cruise lines are touting few problems related to COVID-19. Royal Caribbean’s CEO Rihard Fain even predicts that cruising will be back at 100% in just ninety days:

In truth, there are an increasing number of “super-spreader” cruises taking place, that the cruise lines are trying to cover-up, like on the Carnival Vista six weeks ago and, more recently, on the MSC Virtuosa over the course of the last several weeks. MSC Cruises has experienced over two hundred guests and crew members infected on the Virtuosa alone, including several guests who have died. This cruise line simply refuses to comunicate transparently with either the victims or the press.

Meanwhile, another Carnival cruise ship, the Carnival Miracle, experienced at least a dozen COVID-19 cases involving guests, including one respiratory-related death, following a recent cruise to and from Alaska. We will be reporting on this cruise in more detail shortly.

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Image Credit: Jewel of the Seas – Top – Jemingway CC BY SA 2.0 via Flickr; Jewel of the Seas – Middle – Dave Souza – CC BY-SA 2.5, commons / wikimedia.

Five guests are positive for COVID-19 on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas, (according to a reliable crew member (who wishes to remain anonymous) on the cruise ship and is familiar with the testing of passengers and crew members.

The infected guests were moved to what the crew calls the “red zone” for isolation onboard the cruise ship.

These passengers were disembarked today in Cyprus.

The COVID-19 tests on the Jewel are performed by a company called “Eurofins” which conducts the Antigen and PCR tests onboard. The crew member explained that Eurofins usually performs tests on crew members on days 2 and 3 of the week-long cruise. Guests are usually tested near the end of the cruise.

Virtually all cruise ships today are experiencing either some number of crew members who test positive or a handful of passengers who turn out to have the virus, notwithstanding the fact that they are already vaccinated. Certain cruise lines are consistently refusing to disclose the number of infected passengers and crew members on their ships.  A month ago, we published a short article titled Infected at Sea – The New Normal on Cruise Ships?  Of course, there is also an increasing number of “super-spreader” cruises taking place, that the cruise lines are trying to cover-up, like on the Carnival Vista last month and, more recently, on the MSC Virtuosa over the course of the last several weeks.

If these infections on the Jewel involve the highly contagious Delta variant, the R0 (pronounced “R naught”) (the mathematical term which indicates how contagious the infectious disease is) is as high as “7” or  “8.”  Each person infected is likely to infect 7 or 8 others. The virus on the Diamond Princess, in contrast, had a R0 of  only “2.”

The Jewel of the Seas departed from Limassol, Cyprus a week ago on September 11th. The Royal Caribbean ship visited ports in Greece including Rhodes Island, Mykonos Island, Piraeus, and Santorini Island. The ship returned to Cyprus today.

Are you aware of a COVID-19 outbreak on a cruise ship? Let us hear from you in the comment section below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Jewel of the Seas – Top – Dave Souza – CC BY-SA 2.5, commons / wikimedia; bottom – Royal Caribbean.

A German newspaper reports that there was a COVID-19 outbreak among crew members on  the World Voyager cruise ship operated by Nicko Cruises. The virus was initially detected in a member of the engine room crew and then spread to other ship employees. The cruise ship is currently in Hamburg, Germany.  As a result, the ship “is therefore not allowed to leave the port for the time being.”

The cruise scheduled for last weekend had to be canceled. “Before guests are allowed on board again, all crew members must be retested,” according to the German press.

According to Nicko Cruises, the entire crew is vaccinated against COVID-19. The next cruise with passengers is expected to leave tomorrow for France and Portugal.

This involves one of many cruise lines that have recently experienced COVID-19 outbreaks among vaccinated crew members. A month ago, the Carnival Vista experienced COVID-19 outbreaks on consecutive cruises involving twenty-six (26) crew members and, a week later, sixteen (16) crew members, as well as guests, one of whom died. More recently, the MSC Virtuosa experienced a super-spreader event involving over 100 guests who became infected, including at least one who died of COVID-19. In both the Carnival and MSC incidents, there was a lack of transparency with the cruise lines refusing to disclose the extent of the outbreaks.

These type of cases will continue to occur as the pandemic continues and the Delta variant further emerges.

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Image credit: Top – World Voyager – NDR; World Voyager – Bottom – Nicko Cruises.

Two weeks ago, on May 3rd, the largest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, arrived in Palma de Mallorca billowing a think cloud of black smoke from its stacks.  The reality of this huge cruise ship belching out a huge plume of smoke over the Mediterranean port contrasted sharply with Royal Caribbean’s over-the-top marketing of the “World’s Newest Wonder” which touted two “advanced emission purification systems” which allegedly “remove 98% of sulfer emissions.”

Many residents, who tweeted images, below, of the toxic smoke emitting from the “mega cruise ship,”  denounced the “cloud of toxic smoke” over the city. 

A number of residents joined in retweeting the photos of the huge polluting cruise ship, with comments such as “The largest cruise ship on the planet arrives. The first thing it does is release a toxic cloud on Palma. They pollute, overcrowd, reduce health and pay tribute to tax havens . . . ”

The local newspaper, Diario de Mallorca, chronicled the protest in an article titled: The Megacruise ‘Wonder of the Seas’ in Palma: They Denounce the “Cloud of Toxic Smoke” Over the City. The newspaper reported that The Wonder of the Seas belongs to the latest generation of cruise ships that is characterized by its “gigantism.” It measures 64 meters wide, 362 meters long and a tonnage of 230,000 tons and can accommodate over 9,000 people (6,988 guests and a crew of 2,3000.

Comments made on social media include “the health and well-being of the population does not matter” and “bcause of its smoke, it robs us of our health.”

In addition to the protests ashore at the port, the protesters embarked on the Rafael Verdera sailing ship, which is the oldest active sailboat in Spain, to position themselves in front of the Wonder of the Seas with a banner stating that “we do not want any megacruiser in Palma.”

The newspaper also reported on the agreement reached by which Palma has become the first Spanish port – and the second in the Mediterranean after Dubrovnik – to limit the number of cruise ships to a maximum of three a day and, of them, only one can be a megacruiser with more than 5,000 guests and crew like the Wonder of the Seas.

Local ports which limit cruise ships do so for good reason. Cruise ships are a major source of air pollution which causes and/or contributes to a wide range of serious health problems such as respiratory ailments, lung disease, cancer and premature deaths. The pollutants from ship engines exhaust gases include sulfur oxides (SOx) as well as non-combustible particulate matter and black carbon.

Heavy fuel oil (HFO), sometimes referred to as bunker fuel, has historically been a low cost favorite of cruise ships. HFO has tar-like consistency which results from the residue of crude oil distillation. HFO is contaminated with several different compounds including sulfur and nitrogen, which makes HFO emissions far more toxic compared to low sulfur fuels.

Bunker fuel cannot be used without incombustible particles flying all over the place – not unlike burning a tire – with the residue burrowing deep into the mucous membranes of your lungs. It should be considered to be a public nuisance and banned as such. No one reading this article would burn bunker fuel in their house, or subject their neighbors to this toxic pollutant. Bunker fuel is the nastiest and most toxic fuel you can use. But this fuel is the cornerstone of the cruise industry.

The smoke billowing from the Wonder of the Seas earlier this month appears not unlike the pollution we have seen from other large cruise ships, like the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas, which was videotaped in 2019 belching smoke while leaving the port of St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., or the MSCVirtuosacruise ship (photo left) which was filmed billowing pollution while docked in the Isle of Portland, in Dorset U.K. last year.  There are many, many other examples,

Reporting on the Wonder‘s air pollution is certain to create the usual debate every time I post an article about a cruise ship burning high-sulfur bunker fuel bellowing smoke from its funnels. Defenders of the polluting cruise industry (who invariably do not live in the port community) will usually comment that the images do not show engine gases but condensed water vapor from the air stack “scrubber” operations.

Even if what we are seeing with our own eyes from the Wonder of the Seas is somehow water vapor as the cruise line wants us to think, and not toxic smoke, the ship would still be creating vast quantities of toxic sludge via its scrubber systems (which Royal Caribbean emphamistically calls “advanced emission purification systems”) which is routinely discharged as waste water. That is why many people say that scrubbers just turn air pollution into water pollution.

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Image credit: Top – Wonder of the Seas – Diario de Mallorca and respective Twitter users; MSCVirtuosaDorset Eye