Three people, including  an unvaccinated crew member, tested positive for coranavirus this weekend aboard the American Constellation cruise ship during a 10-night cruise from Juneau, Alaska which left July 4, 2021. The other people infected included two vaccinated passengers.

The cruise ship in question, operated by American Cruise Lines, is a relatively small vessel which at the time carried 162 passengers and 52 crew members, according to USA TodayThe newspaper stated that American Cruise Lines canceled its next Alaska cruise scheduled for July 14, 2021 as a result.

The cruise line’s website states:

“American Cruise Lines strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccine for all eligible guests. Vaccines may become required in specific instances when necessitated by the ports or states visited, and all guests will be asked to certify their vaccination status. Unvaccinated guests will be subject to additional testing and quarantine requirements that may affect their ability to travel or participate in the cruise.”

The company also requires COVID-19 vaccines on 2021 cruises visiting the State of Alaska. USA Today reports that “most of the ship’s crew members are vaccinated,” but there is no explanation why this particular crew members was unvaccinated.

Since cruising was shut down in March of 2020, there have been at least 246 cases of COVID-19 on cruise ships, including three cases involving passengers on the MSC Grandiosa which we reported yesterday. There additionally are an undisclosed number of crew members on the Queen Elizabeth who tested positive last week.

To date, Cunard has refused to state the total number of crew members who tested positive. Cunard suspended cruises which were scheduled to begin on July 19, 2021.

You can read a summary of the total number of positive COVID cases since March 2020 herehere, and here.

As cruise lines continue to resume cruise operations, there will be routine reports like this in the future.

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Image credits: Top – American ConstellationAmerican Cruise Lines; middle – American Constellation – American Cruise Lines via USA Today.

 

 

Several news outlets in Spain and other European countries reported last week that several passengers aboard the MSC Grandiosa tested positive for COVID-19. The cases have apparently not been reported in the U.S. press.

Three Passengers Test Positive As the MSC Grandiosa Returns to Spain

The Europa Press states that three passengers tested positive for the virus, including two residents of Barcelona, where the cruise ship returned after the cruise, and one resident of Zaragoza. These three individuals are now quarantining outside the cruise ship. They reportedly do not have symptoms.

The positive results were reportedly detected by antigen tests that were carried out on last Friday, July 2, 2021.

Fourteen other people were determined to be had close contact with the three infected passengers via tracking bracelets, however subsequent tests for these individuals were negative, so they do not have to quarantined.

MSC Says No Problem, Everything Worked As Planned

The cruise line issued a press release indicating that “that the protocols have worked “perfectly and strictly.”

It’s Not the First Time the MSC Grandiosa Tested Positive for Coronavirus

The Italian press reported that the MSC Grandiosa experienced a positive test result for COVID-19 involving a passenger last February.

The Big Picture – Expect More Positive Cases in the Future

Since cruising was shut down in March of 2020, there have been at least  243 cases of COVID-19 on cruise ships in addition to an undisclosed number of crew members on the Queen Elizabeth who tested positive last week. To date, Cunard has refused to state the total number of crew members who tested positive. Cunard suspended cruises which were scheduled to begin on July 19, 2021.

You can read a summary of the total number of positive COVID cases since March 2020 here, here, and here.

As cruise lines continue to resume cruise operations, there will be regular reports by newspapers which learn of outbreaks on ships.

A couple of positive COVID cases on one ship, a few on another ship, five to eight cases on another – this will be the pattern as long as cruise lines continue to resume operations during a pandemic. The news accounts will mention the positive cases but will invariably stop short of explaining whether the symptomatic guests require medical treatment, or how they respond to medical intervention and/or whether they fully recover, unlike an officer of Carnival Cruise Line who died of COVID last month.

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Image credit: Top – MSC Grandiosa – By kees torn – Vertrek, CC BY-SA 2.0 commons / wikimedia; middle – “El MSC Grandiosa de MSC cruceros, el sábado pasado en Barcelona. EUROPA PRESS.”

As Celebrity Cruises and other U.S. based cruise lines begin to resume operations, the captain of the Celebrity Edge created a stir earlier this week when a cruise related website posted a video on its Facebook page of what the captain described as an UFO cruising right over the ship.

Captain Kate McCue originally took short videos of the incident which she posted in June of 2020 (a year ago) on her TikTok page and July of last year on her Instagram page. The video from her TikTok page, with the theme song of the Twilight Zone playing in the background, is shown below.

@captainkatemccue

Strange sighting at sea #ufo #strangerthings #fyp #foryoupage #celebrityedge #unknown #sighting

♬ The Twilight Zone (Main Theme) – The Soundtrack Studio Stars

The more recent Facebook posting shows a slightly different video (below). Captain McCue describes the incident in front of a crowd of cruise guests. She states that the UFO  “sailed” or “floated” or was “cruising” above the cruise ship:

“. . .  and I have a drone on board, so I thought it would be a good night to catch a sunset. I had a drone in my hand, and someone said: ‘what’s that?’ and we look up and there was – I put it on TikTok – it looked like a black jellyfish, a gigantic back jellyfish, and it sailed right over the retreat, directly through the center-line of the ship, right through the center line of the ship, right through our “X” in our stack and just floated though. The thing is, we had no wind, maybe 5 knots at the time, but this thing was cruising along about 10-15 miles per hour, just cruised right over, and as its passed the stern of the ship, it went a couple hundred meters, maybe three or four hundred meters, and then it started to descend into the water. But because it was sunset we couldn’t put a rescue boat down to see what it was, but it disappeared into the water, and we had no idea . . . it wasn’t a drill, there was no noise associated with it. So if you want to see our UFO, it was on TikTok.” (crowd applauds)

Under the caption “UFO’s Are Back,” the captain posted a similar video from a different angle on Instagram a year earlier.

One of the videos was also posted on Reddit where some people people expressed their skepticism. Many seemed to conclude that the UFO was actually a partially deflated balloon drifting over the cruise ship. Reddit user Alphaste posted:

“I do not see the Gigantic black jellyfish. Just what appears to me to be the usual out-of-focus blur, that is probably a deflating and descending balloon reflecting the sunlight. It surprises me that this individual does not understand that there are relatively strong airstreams higher up that would explain the non-spectacular motion of this object.”

Another Reddit user, Ceeejnew, posted: “It would be more convincing if it did some high speed maneuvers that are more . . . unbaloonlike.”

This is not the first time that a video posted by Captain McCue made our selection for our “Weird Cruise News” section. In June of 2016, Celebrity Master McCue posted on her Instagram page a videotape of a Falcon 50 jet making a low high speed pass close to the Celebrity Summit. (The video of the jet buzzing the cruise ship was taken by Captain Frederic and then posted by Captain McCue). The jet rattled the nerves of several passengers on the ship. The spectacular video of the encounter was one of several videos of jets buzzing Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships at high speeds which made our “weird news” category several years ago.

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Image credit: Captain Kate McKune Instagram and TikTok pages; Facebook post – Cruise Reviews page.

A “small number” of crew members aboard the Queen Elizabeth cruise liner tested positive according to Cunard, BBC News reported yesterday.

The Cunard ship had “about 800” crew members aboard at the time of the test said the British cruise company. Exactly what a “small number” means is anyone’s guess.

I tweeted with a discerning cruise fan in Britain who raised the issue whether Cunard has had all of its crew members on the Queen Elizabeth vaccinated yet.

The Queen Elizabeth is currently moored off the coast of Dorcet.

Cunard says that it is working with the Southampton Port Health to “successfully contain the situation” by putting in place its “approved isolation protocols.”

ITV reports that a Cunard spokesperson said: “We have comprehensive health and wellbeing procedures in place to protect all on board, which have been developed with guidance from our global medical, public health and industry experts and in close coordination with Government departments.”

Whatever Cunard’s new health protocols may be, it seems reckless at this late date not to have a fully vaccinated crew within 14 days of resuming cruise operations with guests.

According to the Cunard website, Cunard resumes operations on July 19, 2021 as the Queen Elizabeth will sail with guests on board for a series of UK “British Isles” voyages from Southampton. Beginning on October 13, 2021, the ship will resume sailing internationally with voyages to the Iberian coast and the Canary Islands.

Since cruising was shut down in March of 2020 (and without considering the unknown number of of Cunard crew cases reported here), there have been 239 cases of COVID-19 on cruise ships in Europe.  You can read about the prior cases here and here. The last COVID-19 cruise line case we mentioned involved the death last week of a senior officer, here in the U.S., who was employed by Carnival Cruise Line.

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Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

July 7, 2021 Update:

USA Today: “‘We have detected a small number of Covid-19 cases amongst crew members joining Queen Elizabeth,’ Cunard president Simon Palethorpe told USA TODAY in a statement.

Cunard did not share medical details of the crew, including whether they had been vaccinated. The BBC reported that the ship has about 800 crew members on board. According to Cunard’s website, the Queen Elizabeth can carry just over 2,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members.

According to government guidance, only domestic cruises are allowed in the U.K. during its third step in the path to cruising’s resumption after it was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic last year. By July 19, the U.K. is expected to reach its fourth step, lifting social distancing and capacity restrictions. Right now, only up to 1,000 passengers, or 50% of capacity, are allowed on board domestic cruises – limit that doesn’t apply to the crew.”

Today, I was notified that a senior shipboard officer employed by Carnival Cruise Line died three days ago due to complications from COVID-19, according to a Carnival crew member who wishes to remain anonymous.

Chief Engineer Angelo Strano worked for Carnival for the past thirty-four and one-half years after starting his career with Carnival in December 1986.  Officer Strano worked on a number of Carnival Cruise Line ships dating back to the the M/S Jubilee and TSS Festivale in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

You can see photographs posted by officer Strano, when he was younger and worked on a number of older cruise ships early in his career, on the “I worked on Carnival in the 90′s” Facebook page.

Officer Strano reportedly contracted the coronavirus on a Carnival cruise ship around early May of this year. He was subsequently hospitalized in the U.S. for treatment of the virus for over the past two months. There was a tribute to Officer Strano yesterday on Facebook. Over 150 of his former friends and colleagues at Carnival spoke fondly and highly of this well-liked gentleman. Many dozens of his former colleagues sent their condolences to his surviving wife and young children who live in the town of Riposto in Sicily, Italy.

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Photograph credits: Angelo Strano Facebook Page.

Royal Caribbean’s attempt to return to cruising continues to be marred by positive COVID-19 cases among its guests and crew members. Several news sources are reporting today that two passengers tested positive while on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas.

Skift reports that “Royal Caribbean Group said on Thursday two guests on its cruise liner, Adventure of the Seas, had tested positive for COVID-19.  Both guests were not vaccinated and had been quarantined before they disembarked on Thursday in Freeport.”

CNBC adds that “both guests were unvaccinated and under the age of 16. One guest is asymptomatic and the other is experiencing mild symptoms,” according to the cruise line.

The two infected guests and their travel party disembarked in Freeport, Bahamas and are on their way home to Florida, Royal Caribbean said in a statement according to Cruise Industry News.

The Miami Herald report that the positive cases were discovered five days into an eight-day cruise from Nassau, after the ship made stops in Cozumel and the company’s private island in the Bahamas. Two children under 16 years who old tested positive for COVID-19 were flown by Royal Caribbean back to the states in a private jet.

The two COVID-19 positive guests on this cruise ship brings the total number of Royal Caribbean ship guests and employees, on cruise ships operated by the company, who tested positive in the last four weeks to nineteen (19), including:

Including the two passengers on the Celebrity Millennium, owned by Royal Caribbean, who tested positive on June 10th, the total infected in the last month on Royal Caribbean owned cruise ships is twenty-one (21).

This brings the total number of positive COVID-19 cases since the cruise industry was shut down last year to 239. You can read about the prior cases here.

Taking a cruise during a pandemic remain dangerous, particularly so if you are unvaccinated and as the new Delta variant continues to emerges. Taking children, who can’t be vaccinated yet, on a cruise is the height of irresponsibility.

There is a risk of spreading the virus by unvaccinated cruise guests to member of the port communities which usually have a much higher rate of unvaccinated people.

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Image Credit: Master0Garfield – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

Four Royal Caribbean crew members on the Anthem of the Seas reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, according to the popular Crew Center website.

Crew Center reported the positive test results this evening, after the Royal Caribbean cruise ship arrived in Greece for loading of provisions and for the crew to receive vaccinations, scheduled for today and tomorrow. Royal Caribbean disembarked the four ship employees in the port city of Piraeus and reportedly suspended the vaccinations. Here’s what Crew Center reported:

“Starting today the crew onboard Anthem of the Seas will go in a so-called modified quarantine after four crew members tested positive for COVID-19 on the recent PCR test. According to our source, the 4 crew members disembarked the ship today.

Anthem of the Seas arrived in Piraeus, Greece for loading and for the crew re-vaccination, scheduled for today and tomorrow. (The crew apparently have apparently already received the first of their two vaccinations on May 22, 2021).  Our source said that due to the latest test results the vaccination was postponed. Tomorrow all crew will be tested once again in order to proceed with vaccination.

Anthem of the Seas’ captain made an announcement on the ship’s PA system saying:

“In an effort to keep you all safe starting now we will be implementing ship-wide modified quarantine for all crew for the next 48 to 72 hours. This means all crew are requested to go, and remain in your cabin, except to go to restaurants for daily meals. Social distancing will be strictly enforced. Please contact your manager or supervisor for a working schedule and mealtime. Smoking will be allowed on the balcony. Crew in crew cabins please use outside smoking areas after mealtime in a limited short visit. For more detail information will be sent to you. Crew PCR test is scheduled for tomorrow. It is utmost important that you contact the nurse on duty to report any symptoms, and do not leave your cabin.”

The Anthem of the Seas is scheduled to begin sailing to the U.K. from its new home port in Southampton with fully vaccinated passengers and crew members.

It seems unusual for crew members to be quarantined for only 2 or 3 days, as Crew Center reports.

There was a crew change between the Anthem of the Seas and the Odyssey of the Seas in Cyprus toward the end of May, after the Odyssey left Israel. When the Odyssey was sailing through the Atlanta before crossing the Atlantic, as many as five crew members tested positive for COVID-19 and were disembarked to an ambulance ashore in Palma de Mallorca. There was no quarantine of the other crew members.

After the Odyssey has arrived in the U.S. to begin cruises from Port Everglades on June 4th, eight crew members tested positive for COVID-19 after being tested on June 10th. Royal Caribbean disclosed the positive results on June 15th. Two of the crew members were symptomatic. Royal Caribbean then placed the other 1,400 crew members on quarantine and postponed sailings on the Odyssey until July 31st.

The four COVID-19 positive crew members on the Anthem of the Seas brings the total number of Royal Caribbean ship employees who tested positive in the last four weeks to seventeen (17). Including the two passengers on the Celebrity Millennium, there has been a total of nineteen (19) people on cruise ships owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises who have tested positive during this time period.

This brings the total number of positive COVID-19 cases since the cruise industry was shut down last year to 237. You can read about the prior cases here.

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Image credit: www.GlynLowe.com CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

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

Multiple sources are reporting that eight crew members employed by Royal Caribbean Cruises aboard the Odyssey of the Seas tested positive for COVID-19. According to a press release from the cruise line,  the crew members tested positive on June 10, 2021, six days after the ship arrived in the U.S. after sailing from Israel. Media reports indicate that Royal Caribbean states that two employees were symptomatic, with what the cruise company describes as “mild symptoms.”

Previously, as the Odyssey of the Seas was sailing through the Mediterranean Sea, as many as five crew members tested positive for COVID-19 (Royal Caribbean claimed that only four crew members tested positive for the virus). At the time of the news, the cruise ship was anchored off the coast at Majorca Bay, Mallorca, Spain. A Spanish newspaper carried the headline styled “Five Positive Crew Members of the ‘Odyssey of the Seas’ are Transferred to Clinic in Palma” On May 24, 2021, Royal Caribbean  disembarked the crew members in question in Palma de Majorca where they will went quarantine at a private clinic. The Spanish newspaper’s Twitter feed stated that Royal Caribbean had left them on the island and tracking services showed the Odyssey sailing toward Gibraltar.

We reported on this incident last month. For reason not clear to us, none of the other news sources are mentioning the previous five crew members from this ship who tested positive just seventeen earlier.

The new Royal Caribbean cruise ship had previously been sent to Israel to begin cruises from that country. However, in mid-May, the cruise line cancelled cruises from Haifa, Israel, ostensibly because of violence between Israel and Palestinians.

Royal Caribbean initially intended to have its crew on the Odyssey vaccinated while the ship was in Israel, although the Israeli press reported in April that this was never approved even though the planned cruises from Haifa were imminent. The Odyssey then sailed to Cyprus where there was a crew transfer of unvaccinated crew. My opinion remains that taking a leisure cruise during a pandemic is dangerous, and that this cruise line has delayed taking appropriate steps to protect its crew members and future guests from becoming infected and risks spreading the virus into Caribbean port communities.

Regarding the most recent outbreak, Royal Caribbean stated that the eight crew members arrived in the U.S. on the ship on June 4, 2021. At the time, 1,400 crew on board received COVID tests which apparently were negative. Subsequently, they crew members were vaccinated. The crew were tested again and tested positive on June 10, six  days after the cruise ship arrived in the U.S. after sailing from Israel.

The positive COVID-19 test has caused Royal Caribbean to delay the first revenue cruise from July 3rd to July 31st, according to Seatrade Cruise News.

This brings the total number of positive COVID-19 cases since the cruise industry was shut down last year to 233. You can read about the prior cases here.

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Photo credit: Main photo – Royal Caribbean via USA Today; top – Royal Caribbean via Travel Pulse.

As everyone knows by now, yesterday two guests tested positive for COVID-19 during the recent cruise of the Royal Caribbean owned Celebrity Millennium from St. Maarten, notwithstanding the fact that the cruse line require 100% of the adults (but not children) to be vaccinated and also required negative test results before boarding.

The infected guests apparently (according to guests aboard the ship who have contacted us) have to remain in a hotel once the ship returns to St. Maarten until their test results are negative. It is unknown whether the two infected guests require medical treatment, although the cruise line’s media reports stress that they are asymptomatic. I imagine that they will then fly home when they receive their negative test results, wherever that might be.

The question naturally arises who will pay for the costs of the medical treatment (if any) and international travel back home?

These questions should be asked by any family thinking of taking a cruise during the ongoing pandemic, whether they are vaccinated or not.

The conditional sailing orders (CSO) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) require (for cruise leaving from U.S. ports) that cruise line submit proof of the companies’ agreements with port authorities that they have arranged housing for the quarantine of guests, as well as arrangements for medical treatment of the infected.  The cruise lines, or course, have not produced copies of the agreements to the public or otherwise clearly disclosed who will be responsible for paying  for any necessary medical treatment their guests require off of their ships, or for the costs of their guests flying back from wherever they are quarantined.

Of course, the CDC’s CSO’s apply only to cruising from U.S. ports, so there are no such agreements that the cruise lines have to make for cruises leaving ports in the Caribbean, such as the Celebrity Millennium which left from St. Maarten. But the issue nonetheless exists who pays when cruise guests test positive during a cruise?

A Royal Caribbean ship, the Adventure of the Seas, left the port of Nassau today. This is another cruise where 100% of the guests (except children) are suppose to be vaccinated. I understand that Royal Caribbean also required negative COVID tests before the guests boarded the cruise ship.

I am reading lots of comments on Twitter and Facebook from cruise fans who express their excitement about finally returning to cruising. Some brought their unvaccinated kids aboard the cruise ship today.  How many of them have inquired what will happen if they or their close contacts test positive  for COVID-19? Will they be quarantined off the ship? Who will pay for their  medical expenses off the ship and who will pay for their flights home?

Regarding medical expenses, homeowner’s insurance policies typically exclude coverage for liabilities on ships.  Most medical insurance does not cover illness or injuries outside of the U.S. And many policies of travel insurance exclude coverage for illnesses related to pandemics. The last thing that a family wanting to spend a relaxing week at sea wants is to think about potentially incurring uninsured expenses for repeat testing and medical treatment required off of the ship and flights to get their families home.

So today I asked Royal Caribbean via Twitter these basic questions. I quickly received a pleasant response: “Onboard our ships the health and safety of our guests is our top priority” followed by this response:  “this means there are certain and specific protocols in place to avoid this from happening aboard our ships. In the event this was to happen, certain instructions and protocols would be given once you’re onboard.”

So What Are Royal Caribbean’s Legal Obligations?

In considering the contractual obligation owed by a cruise line to a guest, courts look at the terms and condition of the cruise ticket and related documents prepared by the cruise company. Most cruise lines typically deny all responsibility for medical expenses related to shipboard illnesses and injuries.

Based on the terms and conditions set forth in Royal Caribbean’s cruise tickets and internet site, it appears that the cruise line may be able to avoid paying for all of the medical expenses incurred off of the ship and most of the flights back home.

Sources of Information

There are three sources of information which a guest needs to read and understand regarding this issue. First, there are terms in the cruise line’s “Healthy Sail Center.” Secondly, there is the ROYAL CARIBBEAN GROUP REFUND* AND CANCELLATION POLICY FOR COVID-19 (caps in original). Thirdly, there is Royal Caribbean’s “Cruise/Cruisetour Ticket Contract.”

Medical Expenses on the Ship – Yes; Off the Ship – No:

I know that at one point Royal Caribbean stated in the terms and conditions of its cruise ticket for its cruise from Singapore, for example, that it will pay up to $20,000 for medical expenses incurred by a guest on the cruise ship. Of course, Singapore has virtually no community spread of COVID cases. And cruises from Singapore are limited to citizens of that country. So its not much of a risk to guarantee payment of shipboard medical expenses where all of the guests are from a country with no COVID exposure. Shipboard medical expenses are unlikely to ever reach that amount in the first place.

For Caribbean sailings, such as from the Bahamas, the shipboard medical care is free on the ship, but not ashore either if the guest is quarantined on a Caribbean island or when they return home.

The Healthy Sail Center information includes this initial language regarding medical expenses: “Onboard SARS-CoV-2 evaluation and testing that is performed on recommendation of the onboard medical team is free of charge. COVID-19-related medical treatment provided onboard, should treatment be necessary, is also free of charge.” But there is no such responsibility for COVID evaluation and treatment when its required off of  the ship, either during a quarantine during the cruise or after the guest return home.

Of course medical care on the ship is limited. Guests can reasonably assume that anyone who becomes acutely ill will be transferred off of the ship. This is where the problems begin. Medical treatment in Caribbean ports of call is also limited, particularly during this pandemic, and very expensive. Hospitals in the Caribbean typically require upfront payments. Guests should prepare to turn their credit cards over in order to receive treatment. No insurance company back home in the U.S. will reimburse these expenses.  It is also questionable whether a guest’s medical insurance will cover intensive care treatment, ventilators and expensive medicine and therapies if the guest contracts COVID at sea outside of the U.S. and become ill.

Uninsured medical expenses for medical care in the U.S. which is needed to severe COVID infections contracted on a cruise ship could be catastrophically high.

Airfare Back Home – Watch Out For the Fine Print!:

Royal Caribbean will pay for some guests’ airfare back home but not for all guests, largely depending on whether the guest booked their flights through the cruise line. The language in the Healthy Sail Center (which is arguably not part of the contract between the cruise line and guest) states in general terms:

“If you test positive for COVID-19 during the cruise, Royal Caribbean will cover the costs of COVID-19 related medical treatment onboard, any required land-based quarantine, and travel home for you and your Travelling Party” (defined as “your family members living with you in the same household and travelling companions assigned to your stateroom on the cruise”). The Healthy Sail Center also says: “Royal Caribbean has developed transport protocols to ensure impacted guests get home safely.”

But this broad language is narrowed by the fine print in the terms and conditions of the ROYAL CARIBBEAN GROUP REFUND* AND CANCELLATION POLICY FOR COVID-19 which obligates the cruise line to pay the airfare for guests who tested positive for COVID only if the guest “purchased flights through the cruise line.” But for guests who handled their own flights, the cruise line “will not be responsible for any associated costs” (such as “airline change fees and any difference in the airfare”).

This is a perfect example of a popular saying by Tom Waits — ‘The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.’

Royal Caribbean’s Catch-All “Obligation to Comply with RCG COVID-19 Policies and Procedures”

The cruise line’s “ROYAL CARIBBEAN GROUP REFUND* AND CANCELLATION POLICY FOR COVID-19” contains language permitting the company to deny paying for or providing assistance “of any kind” when it determines that guest failed “to comply with the RCG COVID-19 Policies and Procedures in effect at the time of the cruise.” It is less than clear exactly what these policies and procedures may be. In light of the fact that the company recommends its quests to become vaccinated, does a passenger risk forfeiting all of the rather limited payments and assistance by ailing to become vaccinated?

The Bottom Line: Guests who booked their own flights and require medical treatment ashore and back home are largely on their own

Forbes recently reported that:

Only half of Americans (50%) are confident that the cruise industry can reopen safely coming out of the pandemic, according to a recent Harris Poll Covid-19 tracker survey fielded May 26-28 to 1,999 U.S. adults . . . When asked whether they were confident that various industries could keep customers safe, respondents rated the cruise industry dead last . . .”

Providing gobbledygook responses to legitimate questions posed regarding the health and safety of cruise passengers and the economic consequences of testing positive for COVID or becoming ill at sea is not the way to bolster consumer confidence.

One would think that any family thinking of taking a cruise during a pandemic would check and double check the details of the cruise line’s policies and protocols (and the fine print) and know exactly what will happen and the financial consequences if they or other guests on the ship test positive for COVID.

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Image credit: Master0Garfield – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.