Today, a popular video blogger, Gary Bembridge, mentioned cases of COVID-19 which are apparently on the Seabourn Ovation cruise ship which he is sailing on. The exact number of positive COVID cases are currently unknown. It is quite common for most cruise ships sailing today to experience breakthrough infections from a few to a dozen caases per cruise.

The Seabourn Ovation is currently sailing to a port in Cyprus. The cruise ship is currently on a two week cruise around the Greek Isles after leaving Piraeus, Greece on September 25, 2021.

Seabourn requires its guests to be vaccinated. Guests are required to have a negative PCR test at least three days before the cruise and a negative antigen test at the cruise terminal right before the cruise.

The company encourages Seabourn-organized shore excursions but permits its guests to go on independent shore excusions. It appears that guests left the cruise ship on excursions which were not under the control or protocols of Seabourn.  A copy of the company’s COVID protocols are here and here.

Seabourne is not the only cruise line sailing in the Agean Sea which is experiencing guests with breakthrough COVID infections. This weekend, we reported that in the last two weeks alone, Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas has at least thirty-three guests who have had breakthrough COVID infections. There were also positive COVID cases of six guests and two guests on prior cruises earlier this summer.

We reached out to Carnival, which owns this cruise ship, but have not received a response.

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Image credits: Kahvilokki – CC BY-SA 4.0 commons / wikimedia.

The Jewel of the Seas again is in our focus, as the Royal Caribbean cruise ship had another unusually high number of positive COVID-19 cases this week amongst its guests, according to a trusted crew member who wishes to remain anonymous. According to this crew member, yesterday twelve passengers tested positive for the virus using both antigen and PCR testing performed by Euofins Tesing Services. The crew member did not communicate any current information regarding the number of crew members who are currently infected with COVID-19.

Guests who tested positive for COVID-19 were transported by ambulances this morning, when the ship returned to its home port, to villas in Limassol for quarantine with insructions that they cannot fly home until and unless they test negaive for the virus. The ship again performed extensive sanitation for the incoming new passengers who boarded today.  The ship is sailing with a reduced guest capacity of around 1,100 guests.

There was a conference call between shoreside management in Miami and top shipboard managment this morning. Shoreside remains concerned with the relatively high number of COVID-19 cases on board the ship.  The ship still has four more cruises before making the upcoming transatlantic crossing to Miami.

One week ago there were twenty-one positive COVID-19 cases involving guests and two weeks before that there were five positive cases among the guests.

It is the policy of Royal Caribbean that guests ages 12 or older must be fully vaccinated in order to sail. All crew members are required to be vaccinated. Most crew members have received Astrazeneca injections.

The ship is currently departing from Limasoll, Cyrprus on a seven day cruise around the Greek Isles. Two guests were denied boarding earlier this morning after they tested positive per the PCR tesing at the terminal. Tomorrow the ship intends to test the occupants, of some twenty cabins on the ship, who took the same bus as the two infected guests.

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

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.

A total of six cruise passengers aboard the Crystal Symphony tested positive for COVID-19, according to an article today in Bermuda’s major newspaper, the Royal Gazette. A  Ministry of Transport spokeswoman in Bermuda added that the passengers on the Crystal Symphony were given PCR testing “during the crossing from New York City to Bermuda.”

The newpaper reports that the infected passengers  remain on the island after they tested positive for coronavirus. The cruise ship is now returning to New York City. “A Ministry of Transport spokeswoman (initially) said five people on the Crystal Symphony were infected and stayed at a hotel with their immediate close contacts.” A Crystal Cruises representative added that “another guest received a positive result after further testing,” bringing the total to six infected guests.

The transport ministry spokeswoman in Bermuda noted: “All guests have a pre-departure PCR test taken as part of the Bermuda Travel Authorisation process and only negative PCR test result passengers may board the ship following a negative antigen test result conducted in the terminal by Crystal Cruises before embarkation in New York City.”

The spokeswoman stated that all crew and guests on the Crystal Symphony were fully vaccinated.

The cruise ship, which arrived on Sunday, remained in quarantine until the results were known early on Monday afternoon.

The guests who tested positive, as well as their close contacts, disembarked and transferred to a local quarantine hotel designated by Bermuda health authorities where they currently remain.

The newspaper article does not address the issue who will pay for the hotel and related expenses during the shoreside quarantine or the air flights back to New York City.

The six positive COVID-19 cases on this ship appear to be the “new normal” of sailing on cruise ships at this point during the pandemic. In addition to large outbreaks which are occuring more frequently, most cruise ships sailing today have at least a small number (2 to 10) of positive guests on each cruise.

The only issue is whether the public will learn of the positive cases, or the cruise line will be able to keep such basic information secret.

Most cruise lines continue to refuse to release any information about the number of positive cases of their guests and crew. The public is largely dependent on local newspapers reporting shipboard cases or the rare occasions when concerned crew members provide information from the ships.

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Image credits: Top – Bahnfrend – CC BY-SA 4.0 commons / wikimedia; bottom – Royal Gazette / Blaire Simmons.

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.

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.”

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.

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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.

A German newspaper reports that the AIDA Cruises’ AIDABella is “being (temporarily) converted from a cruise ship into a quarantine ship. 1,500 people are said to be on the ship for two weeks to spend their time there in quarantine.”

The newspaper explains that there is a need to quarantine future AIDA crew members, including the crew of the AIDACosma (below right), the “newest ship in the Aida fleet (which) is scheduled to go into operation in Bremerhaven in December. Before the crew can start their work on the cruiser, they have to go into isolation due to the ongoing corona pandemic. And that is what the AIDABella is intended for.”

The German newspaper further explains that the cruise ship, which has not been used by passengers this year, will then remain in Bremerhaven for the next three months.

The pro cruise industry publication, Cruise Industry News, reports today, without any explanation, that AIDA Cruises, owned by Carnival Corporation, denies that it has plans to use the AIDAbella as a quarantine ship for its crew members.

“No, this is not true,” AIDA’s press department told Cruise Industry News. “There are no concrete plans for the AIDAbella now.”

AIDA’s denial raises the question how the cruise line of how Aida intends to quarantine its new, incoming crew members in the future.

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Image credit: AIDABella – Top – Maciek Godlewski – CC BY 3.0, commons wikimedia.; ADACosma Bottom – Meyer Werft.

 

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