The first cruise from Saudi Arabia since the pandemic was cut short last week when a person on the Silversea Silver Spirit tested positive for COVID-19, according to several newspapers in the region.

The Al Arabiya newspaper reported that the Silver Spirit cruise ship sailed on Thursday, August 27th from King Abdullah Port in King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia.  The ship carried Saudi Arabian passengers on the Kingdom’s first cruise since COVID-19 struck the cruise industry last February and March. The Silversea cruise ship had been chartered to the Red Sea Cruise Ship Company owned by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia which marketed the Silver Spirit exclusively to Saudi nationals for three and four-day cruises in the Red Sea out of the King Abdullah Port. This port is located on the Red Sea coast and is the Kingdom’s newest commercial port in close proximity to Jeddah and other key Saudi cities.

The Silver Spirit sailed with 450 guests, 75% of its operational capacity of around 600 passengers, consistent with its preventative protocols against coronavirus.

The newspapers which covered the story characterized the woman suspected with COVID-19 as a “passenger.” But according to several crew members on the ship who prefer to remain anonymous, the person was hired as a disc jockey (DJ) by the company which chartered the ship. She along with the guests who booked the cruise had undergone tests for coronavirus which were reportedly negative. However, before the ship sailed she visited with a family member who exposed her to COVID-19. After she boarded and sailed on the Silver Spirit on the 27th of August, she began to exhibit symptoms of the virus which she reported to the ship’s medical center.

Silversea decided to return the ship to King Abdullah Port on Saturday August 29th, in the morning. The cruise line then informed all of the passengers of the existence of a suspected coronavirus case and asked the guests to stay in their rooms. Fourteen crew members were also suspected of coronavirus and were quarantined in cabins on the ship, and later taken ashore with the DJ for testing. The DJ tested positive at a hospital for COVID-19; the 14 crew members tested negative for the virus, according to other crew members.

Tomorrow (September 9th), all crew members (who are currently quarantined on the ship) will reportedly be tested for the virus. Assuming the crew members test negative, the next cruise will proceed on September 13th.

Royal Caribbean Group, which owns Silversea Cruises, is one of several U.S. based cruise lines which are testing their health and safety protocols in sailings in Europe and elsewhere before they try to resume operations out of U.S. ports, once the CDC permits them to do so. Royal Caribbean will have to study and understand exactly how this individual came into contact with coronavirus and was infected even though she underwent testing before the ship sailed.

The Silver Spirit became the first ultra-luxury cruise ship to sail with a certification in infection prevention from DNV GL, the world’s leading classification society. The ship was awarded the certification on August 24, 2020, just three days before the ship sailed on the cruise in question. MarineInsight quoted Roberto Martinoli, Silversea’s President and CEO, who referred to the Royal Caribbean Group and its “Healthy Sail Panel,” as saying “we are proud to become the first ultra-luxury cruise line to gain the certification in infection prevention for maritime, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of our guests, crew and the destinations we visit.”

The Silver Spirit (MarineTaffic image right, in blue) is currently to the west of King Abdullah Port, off of the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea. It will likely sail into the port tomorrow for the COVID-19 testing of its crew.

September 9, 2020 Update: The Silver Spirit cruise ship returned to King Abdullah Port for COVID-19 testing of its crew members today, following the positive test of a woman on the ship on August 29th as confirmed in the hospital.

September 9, 2020 Update: The popular YouTube page @Travellingwithbruce covered this issue in the video below:

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Photo credit: Silver Spirit (top) – Saudi Gazette; Silver Spirit (bottom) – by Brian Burnell and uploaded to Commons by George Hutchinson, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

 

The newly formed Global Cruise Activist Network launched its website and convened a virtual press conference today.

Representatives of environmental groups, cruise ship crime organizations and port communities worldwide joined forces to demand that the cruise industry not return to “business-as-usual” after COVID-19. Approximately 100 members of the network attended the conference, as well as representatives from news organizations from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Italy, Norway, the U.K., the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas.

The network addressed many issues involving the cruise industry which I have focused on with this blog over the years – shipboard crime against women and children, environmental crimes involving air and water pollution, abuse of crew members, over-tourism and exploitation of port communities.

The network includes several members of the International Cruise Victims organization, including a passenger who survived the Costa Concordia disaster with her husband and family and now helps coordinate a group supporting cruise victims. The network also includes a former cruise employee who helps coordinate a labor rights group supporting crew members still stranded at sea, as well as an international group dedicated to ending the exploitation of crew members at sea.

The network introduced a global set of guidelines called the “Principles of Responsible Cruise Tourism” which it wants the cruise line to follow before cruise ships start sailing again.

A recording of the virtual press conference, as well as photos from some of the activists, are available online. 

“The Global Cruise Activist Network is giving a voice to people living in port communities worldwide. Our organizing efforts are giving us the power we desperately need, to better organize in our communities and to demand that the cruise industry doesn’t return to business as usual as it starts sailing again after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Karla Hart of Juneau Alaska, one of the organizers of the network. “Through the network, our members have been able to support fellow activists in demanding additional noise restrictions, better understand how ports and cruise terminals are being financed; share what works for community-led air and water pollution monitoring; learn from locations dealing with referendums and legal actions; and track where and when cruise ships are returning.”

“The Global Cruise Activist Network is calling for an equitable and responsible system of leisure travel that optimizes economic benefits to all stakeholders, while eliminating the negative social, public health, and environmental impacts of cruising on port communities, workers, and passengers. We oppose the return of a ‘business-as-usual’ cruise ship industry. Until these common sense policies are collectively adopted, effectively implemented, and consistently monitored, the cruise industry will remain complicit in putting passengers, crew, communities, and the planet at risk,” said Jane da Mosto of Venice, Italy.

Each member of the network is focused on a specific set of principles that are unique to the needs and demands of their area. These principles include:

  • Self-determination: Respect the universal right to self-determination of each home port and ports of call, including nearby Indigenous communities.
  • Economic impacts: Address the cruise industry’s ongoing history of exploitive business practices by implementing policies that maximize the retention of revenue within home ports and ports of calls.
  • Labor: Create a safe, just, and equitable environment for workers on board and on shore by aligning with the strictest labor and environmental standards in the world.
  • Climate change: Stop contributing to climate change by publicly committing to achieving zero emissions across the entire global fleet, including implementing slow-steaming protocols, halting LNG investments, and eliminating the use of heavy fuel oil globally.
  • Air and water pollution: Stop polluting the air and water by leading the development of a universal shore power system, ceasing the use of scrubbers, and stopping the dumping of all waste near shore.
  • Monitoring and transparency: Install continuous air and water monitoring equipment and publicly disclose the performance, and support third-party monitoring.
  • Environment and biodiversity: Reduce speeds near coasts to prevent whale strikes and avoid sonic disturbances to sensitive coastal and marine wildlife, stop development of private cruise destinations; and eliminate dumping of all plastic waste.
  • Public health: Notify passengers of the potential health risks of breathing ship exhaust, implement measures to control the spread of disease, and when an outbreak occurs, cease all travel immediately and provide real-time reporting of infectious diseases.
  • Crime victims: Institute policies and practices to protect passengers, including from sexual assault, and implement Man Overboard Detection technology.
  • Worker repatriation: Provide for the repatriation of all ship-based crew in the event of future disease outbreaks and ensure that crew members who remain on board are being adequately paid.

The Global Cruise Activist Network’s logo features two international maritime flags representing the letters K and L, which communicate “I wish to communicate with you” (K or Kilo) and “You should stop your vessel immediately” (L or Lima).

Learn more by visiting the network’s website.

The virtual press conference was covered by the Nelson DailyCayman Compass, Loop Cayman, Cayman News Serrvice, Juneau Empire, Tribune (Nassau), Guardian (Nassau) and Eyewitness News in the Bahamas.

The Cayman Compass reported: “Some have been fighting air and water pollution issues; others, like those in Cayman, are opposing plans to build or expand cruise ports in their towns or islands; several were campaigning to reduce the frequency of cruise visits and the numbers of cruise ship passengers descending on their neighborhoods; and still others were battling against the dumping of cruise garbage.”

The Cayman News Service reported on the press conference and included one of the many photographs (left) taken of Carnival ships: “A leading member of the Cruise Port Referendum campaign and local environmental activist, Linda Clark, has joined a new global organisation which is calling for major change in the cruise sector. With growing concerns here about the negative impact of mass cruise tourism, Clark hopes this new group will help Cayman benefit more from the sector and reduce the environment damage when cruise ships return to George Town.

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Carnival Freedom – Anonymous; Venice – Jim Walker

Italy has given the green light to Costa and AIDA  to resume cruising from Italian ports this month. Meanwhile, the number of positive COVID-19 cases on Costa cruise ships in Italy increased to nine this weekend, according to the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero. The Costa Deliziosa (below right) has four crew members with positive COVID-19 cases; the Costa Favoalosa (top) has five crew members  who tested positive for the virus.

The number of COVID-19 positive crew cases on the Costa Deliziosa cruise ship increased from two, reported a week ago, to four crew members. The newspaper reports that the additional crew members infected with the virus are part of a group of Filipinos who were supposed to be involved in the re-start operations.

The newspaper explains that new crew members who are expected to part of the re-start operations are “tested and kept in solitary confinement for fifteen days.” However, two Costa employees on the Costa Deliziosa were found positive and immediately transferred to a hospital in Spallanzani, Italy. The remaining crew members were placed in solitary confinement in their cabins. Quarantine measures were imposed and the crew members were not permitted to get on and off the ship.

Il Messaggero also reported that five crew members (up from one reported last week) on the Costa Favolosa tested positive for the virus and were kept in isolation. The newspaper states that the Costa Favolosa also “remains stuck on the dock” due to the positive COVID-19 cases.

A week ago, we reported that a total of three Filipino Costa crew members tested positive from the Costa Favolosa and Costa Deliziosa.

The increased number of positive crew tests comes at a time when Italy has given permission to Costa and MSC Cruises to resume their cruise operations. The lines have announced their new protocols designed to respond to the COVID pandemic. MSC’s protocols include COVID-19 swab tests of the passengers and plans to operate its first ship, the 4,842-passenger MSC Grandiosa, beginning as early as August 16th, at an occupancy of 70% according to The Points Guy. The ship will sail seven-night voyages out of Genoa to Civitavecchia, Naples and Palermo in Italy; and Valletta, Malta. A second MSC Cruises ship, the 2,550-passenger MSC Magnifica, will sail out of Italy on August 29th with seven-night cruises from the ports of Bari and Trieste to the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon and Piraeus.

Italy gives the green light to COSTA and MSC to re-start cruise operations. Thoughts anyone?

Posted by Cruise Law News on Saturday, August 8, 2020

When we posted the news on our Facebook page that cruising on Costa and MSC cruise ships would shortly re-start from Italy to ports in the Mediterranean, many felt that this was a prudent development in light of the new protocols recently announced by Costa (which you can read here) and MSC (available here). MSC Cruises is the first cruise line to announce protocols which include peerforming  rapid COVID-19 test of every passenger just before boarding on the day of departure. Popular travel blogger Gene  Sloan tweeted about the resuming of cruising by Costa and MSC, which in my estimation, will undoubtedly lead to additional outbreaks of COVID-19.

Crew members are understandably eager to return to work on the ships and support their families. However, an equal number of people believe that it is too soon to be resuming cruising and the cruise lines are being greedy and reckless resuming vacation cruises during a pandemic.

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Photo credits: Costa Favolosa –  Hannes Grobe – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia;  Costa Deliziosa – Drdoht – CC0, commons / wikimedia.

Last week, I received an email from a resident of Palm Beach County. It said “Port of Palm Beach July 31, appx 10:30 am” with a single attachment. When I opened the attachment (above), I immediately recognized the Grand Celebration’s orange painted funnel, out of which thick black smoke billowed over the port. 

The funnel is the iconic design of the Carnival Cruise Line fleet of ships owned by Carnival Corporation, of course.  The ship was built in 1986 and was originally named the Celebration or, more commonly called, the Carnival Celebration.  It was renamed the Grand Celebration when it was operated by Carnival subsidiary Ibero Cruises from 2008–2014 before Costa Cruises absorbed Ibero in November of 2014 and renamed the ship the Costa Celebration  

In December of 2014, the newly formed Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line purchased the ship, which was 28 years old at the time. It used the name Grand Celebration and began operating the ship out of the Port of Palm Beach in Riviera Beach, Florida on 2 day cruises to Freeport, Bahamas.

When I received the photo, I immediately checked the ship tracking website MarineTraffic to verify that the ship had sailed from Riveria Beach on July 31st (to avoid Hurricane Isaias). Receiving photos and videos of cruise ships polluting the air and water is not particularly unusual. I have received many dozens of images from concerned members of the public over the years, such as photos showing cruise ships emitting thick spoke at Caribbean ports of call like this image in Nassau and this image in Grand Cayman as well as videos of crew members throwing garbage bags of trash into the sea.

I had forgotten about the image of thick smoke belching out of the Grand Celebration until two days ago when I read about allegations that Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line lied to its crew members and forced them to work without wages throughout the pandemic. The Miami Herald reported:.

Other newspapers have also reported on the alleged malfeasance by the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, inlucing the Washington Post, the New York Post and the Daily Mail in the U.K.

I have concluded over the past twenty-five years that I have specialized in maritime law involving cruise lines that those companies which openly skirt environmental laws and regulations also likely violate the few wage and labor laws which apply to their operations. The ships which abuse the air and water seem to be the ones which also likely abuse their hard-working crew members.

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August 7 2020 Update: A local newspaper in the Caymans, Loop Cayman, published an article titled As borders reopen, Cayman must consider the impact of cruise emissions. The article included another photograph (right) sent to our office showing a Carnival cruise ship (the Carnival Freedom) belching soot as it approached Grand Cayman last October.

Photo credits: Anonymous.

Numerous news sources are reporting that the first cruise ship to sail in Alaska during the COVID-19 pandemic experienced a positive case of COVID-19 yesterday. KTOO reports that the Wilderness Adventurer, operated by Uncruise, left Juneau last Saturday on a one week cruise with 36 guests and 30 crew members aboard the small cruise ship.

KTOO states that:

“All passengers were required to get tested for COVID-19 before traveling to Alaska and boarding the boat. According to the City and Borough of Juneau, a passenger got a call after the ship left Juneau notifying them of the positive test result. According to UnCruise, that passenger was tested five days before the trip and had arrived with a negative test result in hand. It was a second test at the Juneau airport that showed the passenger was positive.”

The city and borough of Juneau explained that the ship will return early to Juneau tomorrow morning. The ship informed the other 35 guests today and asked them to restrict themselves to their cabins until the ship returns to Juneau. “All guests will quarantine at a local hotel and the crew will quarantine on the vessel in port at Juneau.”

 

Small cruise ship company UnCruise Adventures confirmed today a guest has tested positive for COVID-19 (bit.ly/3ilkBvt)….

Posted by City and Borough of Juneau on Tuesday, August 4, 2020

You can read the cruise company’s press release here. You can review UnCruises’ COVID-19 protocols here. You will note that the protocols do not include COVID-19 testing of passengers.

There are over a hundred comments to the city of Juneau’s Facebook post (above). There appears to be a consensus that it is irresponsible to cruise during this pandemic. One commenter said that this “small and intimate” style of cruising  equates to potential transmission of coronavirus. “Unpopular during a pandemic. Unsafe. Unbelievable that they put so many at risk and risked Juneau’s population. Very Uncool.” Another remarked: “100% irresponsible by the Uncruise line & port! Anything to make a buck including possible lives lost. But hey, I’m sure every passenger will enjoy their extended stay. Unbelievable.”

Others questioned why the guests will be let off the ship tomorrow and permitted into Juneau. “Why in the holy hell” is the city  “allowing them to disembark? Quarantining at a local hotel exposes essential workers…..AGAIN!! It’s a damned cruise ship…a floating hotel!! Let them stay on it!! Unless they need medical care, they should be quarantining on the vessel!! Stop importing Covid into our community.”

One person summed up the news: “That didn’t take long.” Another said: “Saw that coming.”

This news follows news reports yesterday that a prior guest who sailed in Norway on the SeaDream I tested positive for COVID-19.  This resulted in all 126 passengers being ordered to remain in their cabins.  Unlike this case, the Norwegian authorities are prohibiting the passengers (as well as the crew) to go ashore and they will undergo tests on the ship to avoid infecting the local villagers.

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Photo Credits:  James Brooks / ADN) via Anchorage Daily News

A massive fiery  explosision near a waterfront, industrial section of Beirut, Lebanon killed over 70 people and wounded around 4,000 earlier today.  A video (below) of the blast, which was broadcast around the world, showed a large fire with smaller explosions followed by a horrific explosion which reportedly destroyed buildings far from the blast site.

The huge blast significantly damaged the Orient Queen cruise ship, which was located near the explosion at the port of Beirut. Photographs taken by a correspondent of Al Jazerra of the damage to the port include the cruise ship listing significantly at her berth at the port.

The Bahamian-flagged cruise ship is owned and operated by locally-owned Abou Merhi Cruises.

Local officials blamed the explosion on the storage of ammonium nitrate, which are highly explosive materials, which was stored in a warehouse in the port for the past many years. There is also speculation that the explosion was intentionally set.

FR24 News reported that several people aboard the ship moored near the site of the explosion were injured and taken to hospital.

“The ship is totally destroyed – the cabins, the saloon, everything,” said Vincenco Orlandini, a 69-year-old crew member.

Al Jazeera reported that “at the port, a man in the all-white uniform of a boat crew, stained with blood,” wandered near the Orient Queen whoseinterior was blown out, it was sloped sideways onto the quayside.”

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Orient Queen – Timour Azhari Twitter @timourazhari; video – CNN.

August 3, 2020 Update:

According to the popular Crew Center:

“Philippine Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, confirms with a heavy heart that two Filipinos died from the explosion. Another eight Filipinos suffered from injuries, one of them is in critical but stable condition, while the rest sustained minor injuries.

Two of those injured are currently recuperating at the Embassy Chancery after receiving treatment from a hospital. They are part of a group of 13 Filipino seafarers whose ship was docked some 400 meters away from the blast zone. The other eleven (11), as of this reporting, have been reported missing.”

There are also posts on Twitter regarding injuries to crew members who are suffering and need medical assistance. There are also tweets showing that the Orient Queen has sunk at the port:

Crew Member Aboard Viking Star Tests Positive for COVID-19

A crew member aboard the Viking Star (right) reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 according to the NRK newspaper in Norway. The newspaper states that it “is unclear where the person became infected.” The person in question took a test, which was negative, in his home country before leaving for Norway.  The crew member joined the cruise ship on July 17th and was then quarantined in his cabin for 14 days. After ten days on board the cruise ship, the person was tested again for corona which was also negative. The employee then started work. When he started to feel bad, he was ordered to take another test, which showed that he is infected with covid-19. The person was tested on board and now is isolated in his cabin. There are 105 crew members on the ship, which has not yetresumed operations. All 105 on board the boat must now be tested for the virus.

Guest on SeaDream 1 Tests Positive – Over 100 Passengers & Crew Quarantined

A guest aboard the SeaDream 1 (top) tested positive for COVID-19 resulting in all of the remaining passengers being quarantined on this ship which is operating near Norway.

Over one-hundred passengers on the SeaDream 1 have been ordered to stay in their cabins after a guest on the previous cruise tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home to Denmark, according to the Aftenposten and VG newspaper in Norway. The newspaper spoke to one of the 123 passengers on board the current cruise who stated that the ship left Tromsø two days ago. “After we were ashore in Henningsvær early yesterday, we were told that we will not go ashore anymore. Then we anchored up in Nusfjord, before we came here to Reine.” Local hospitals are making arrangements to test the 85 crew members for COVID-19 on the ship.

The local municipality, Bodø, is not permitting the crew or passengers to go ashore, according to the mayor.  Local and national official in Norway are taking the situation seriously. At a press conference last Friday, the national minister of health said that the government of Norway is tightening the rules for cruise ships, so that passengers on ships with more than 100 people on board are no longer allowed to go ashore. This order was entered after the COVID-19 debacle with the Hurtigruten expedition ship, the M/S/ Roald Amundsen, where 36 crew members and at least 8 guests tested positive. The guests were among the 387 passengers on the last two cruises on the contaminated ship. The last group of 176 passengers were permitted to disembark the ship in Tromsø after a guest and 4 crew members of the 158 ship employees on the ship initially tested positive for COVID-19. 32 additional employees tested positive. More positive test results for the guests are expected.

COVID-19 Positive Crew Members Cases on Costa Cruises, AIDA and TUI Group/Mein Schiff Cruise Ships

As we previously reported, in the last two weeks ten crew members employed by AIDA Cruises tested positive for COVID-19 and five crew members working for TUI / Mein Schiff tested positive which required the cancelation of a cruise on the Mein Schiff 1. Three Costa crew members on the Costa Favolosa and Costa Deliziosa tested positive this last weekend.

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Photo Credit: Viking Star – Pjotr Mahhonin – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia; SeaDream 1- Halvard Alvik, NTB scanpix via Aftenposten; Hurtigruten’s M/S/ Roald Amundsen – VG

Three Costa Cruise seafarers tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Italian press today. In the last two weeks, over four dozen other crew members employed by AIDA, TUI and Hurtigruten have tested positive.

Costa Favolosa and Costa Deliziosa Crew Members Test Positive

Two of the three Filipino Costa crew members who tested positive were from the Costa Favolosa (above). The Italian newspaper reports that the rest of the crew are now under quarantine. The other Costa crew member who tested positive was on the Costa Deliziosa (right). He also recently arrived from the Philippines and was already under mandatory isolation when he joined the ship.

The regional councilor for Health of Lazio, Alessio D’Amato, was quoted in an Italian newspaper saying: “At the Port of Civitavecchia two cruise ships were placed in isolation which were rearming the crews in view of the reopening of the cruises.”

All threee crew members reportedly were transferred to Spallanzani Hospital in Rome.

Both ships are in Civitavecchia, Italy. Until recently, the crew could go ashore two hours every day according to the newspaper.  Now Costa is prohibiting the employees from leaving the ships until all staff are checked.

Costa acknowledged its “constant application of health protocols” which discovered the “3 positive swab cases.

Thirty-Six Crew Members and One Guest (So Far) Test Positive on the Hurtigruten Expedition Cruise Ship MS Roald Amundsen

This news follows reports from Norway this weekend that crew members on the Hurtigruten expedition cruise ship, the MS Roald Amundsen (left), tested positive for COVID-19. We reported that on Friday the ship arrived in Tromsø, Norway. Hurtigruten permitted as many as 177 of its guests to leave the ship and mingle ashore without telling anyone that several crew members (initially reported as two to four employees) tested positive.

Subsequent reports indicated that Hurtigruten knew that a guest had also tested positive on Wednesday yet the company did not inform the other passengers and permitted them to go ashore on Friday. Subsequent testing of the crew of around 160 employees showed that several dozens other crew member tested positive.

At last count, a total of 36 crew members tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, 60 guests were quarantined and tested and the remaining number of guests (over 160) are in the process of being contacted, tested and traced. Guests from the prior cruise (over 200) are also reportedly being contacted and tested. It remains to be seen how many other guests may have been infected on this ship.

Today, Reuters reports that “so far, four of the combined 387 passengers travelling on the ship on two separate cruises since July 17 have been found to carry the virus, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) and the Tromsoe municipality said.” It is less than clear whether the total of four guests with COVID-19 includes the passenger who tested positive last Wednesday. “We expect that more infections will be found in connection to this outbreak,” said Line Vold, a senior FHI executive, to Reuters.

AIDA Cruises and TUI Group’s Mein Schiff Employees Test Positive

Meanwhile, ten crew members employed by AIDA Cruises which is preparing to resume cruising recently tested positive. The TUI Group, which manages operations of the Mein Schiff fleet of cruise ships, admitted that at least five crew members tested positive for COVID-19 after cancelling a cruise on the Mein Schiff 1 (right).  We initially reported this news on July 21st but TUI did not respond to requests for information until over a week later.

The Total So Far: 54 Crew Members and At Least 4 Guests Test Positive

Between TUI, AIDA, Hurtigruten, and now Costa, at least fifty-four (54) crew members employed by European cruise lines which have started sailing, or are preparing to shortly re-start cruise operations, have tested positive for COVID-19. This number will likely increase once the test results of the hundreds of passengers on the Hurtigruten ship become public.

These companies are following the so-called “European Union” (EU) protocols, which call for social distancing, the wearing of masks, daily temperature tests, and reduced occupancy of the ships, among other measures. But the EU protocols, which were largely drafted by members of the “Healthy Sail” panel selected and paid for by Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), do not require COVID-19 testing of cruise passengers.

The Miami-based cruise lines like Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean and NCL are testing how the European companies deal with the coronavirus pandemic before they try and resume cruising.  Carnival Coporation owns the ADIA and Costa brands; Royal Caribbean has a 50/50 ownership with the TUI Group in the Mein Schiff fleet. So far, the re-start of cruise operations in Europe has been an inauspicious although entirely predictable result of cruising during a pendemic with no vaccine. These developments paint a bleak future for resuming cruises in the United States where cases of COVID-19 are much higher than in Europe.

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Photo credits: Costa Favolosa – Andrsvoss – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; Costa Deliziosoa – Geiranger, Norway  Jorge Andrade from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia; MS Roald Amundsen – Hurtigruten; Mein Schiff 1 – Dickelbers – SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

Crew members who are employed aboard a Hurtigruten ship tested positive today for COVID-19, according to several newspapers in Norway. Nordlys reports that the crew members work on the Hurtigruten expedition cruise ship, the MS Roald Amundsen, which reportedly recently sailed to Svalbard with around 200 passengers. The Hurtigruten ship is currently located at the dock in Tromsø, Norway after arriving in port this morning. It permiited all of its passengers to do ashore, apparently without notifying anyone that its crew members were infected with COVID-19.

Nordlys states that two employees tested positive. NRK reports in an update that there are three crew members who tested positive.

At least two of the ship employees are now hospitalized at the University Hospital in northern Norway, after being isolated several days ago due to another illness. Hurtigruten claims that the COVID-19 testing was part of “routine” testing of its crew members. It denies that these crew members showed symptoms of COVID-19. Hurtigruten has not disclosed the nature of the illnesses to the public.

Hurtigurten states that all 160 crew members on board will be tested.

The company did not disclose whether these crew members were previously tested, either while at home or immediately before they joined the ship or after boarding the ship. The company did not release any details of the employees’ work or whether they came into regular contact with guests who were previously on the ship.

The University Hospital of Northern Norway (UNN) released a press release indicating that the two hospitalized crew members are “foreign nationals.”

Hurtigruten cancelled the cruise that was schedule to sail today to Svalbard which was scheduled to arrive in Longyearbyen on August 4th. The company also said that it contacted “all guests who were on board the ship’s last voyages to give them information and pass on the authorities’ advice.”

Nordyls wrote: “When “Roald Amundsen” docked in Tromsø on Friday morning, the corona alarm had already gone off. Nevertheless, Hurtigruten manages to release the 200 cruise passengers who had been on board the ship for a whole week, ashore.  In Tromsø, they could walk around freely, go to a café, get in a taxi or on a bus, or on a plane, to get home. Without knowing that they might be infected by the dangerous and, in the worst case, deadly virus. Passengers Nordlys has spoken to say that they did not know anything about the coronavirus on board until they read about it in the newspaper.'”

This dreadful news follows ten AIDA crew members testing positive last week. Today, the Norwegian newspaper VG News reports that AIDA cruises ships, which were planned to call at Stavanger at the end of August, will not be not allowed to disembark  passengers ashore.  TUI Group which manages operations of the Mein Schif fleet of cruise ships admitted that at least five crew members tested positive for COVID-19.  We initially reported this news on July 21st but TUI did not respond to requests for information until over a week later. It appears that neither Hurtigruten nor the AIDA or Mein Schiff companies require or provide COVID-19 testing of their guests. As we have written before, without such testing of the passengers, the new screening protocols of the European cruise lines are likely to fail.

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Update: Norway’s largest newspaper writes that the hospital “UNN wrote on Twitter that four employees with foreign citizenship at Hurtigruten had been admitted to hospital with a proven covid-19. Dagbladet reports that 337 people have been quarantined. 177 are passengers and 160 are crew members.”

Major Update: VG newspaper reports Hurtigruten was notified of passengers with infection after the previous trip – thought there was no cause for concern. Outrageous.

August 1, 2020 Update: The Norwegian press is reporting that “33 of 158 crew members (29 new positive cases + 4 original cases = 33) on Hurtigruten’s expedition ship MS Roald Amundsen have tested positive for corona infection…” No word yet regarding the test results for the guests of around 177 people who were disembarked at the port in Norway (60 people in quarantine at port). To be continued.

August 20, 2020 Update: According to the Norwegian press, a total of 71 people now reportedly infected with COVID-19 on the Hurtigruten MS Roald Amundsen. 29 passengers and 42 employees were confirmed positive with COVID-19 by the Norwegian National Institute of Public Health. The figures had been justed upwards after people who first tested negative, later tested positive. The ship has been isolated at the quay in Tromsø since the outbreak at the end of July. (translation via Google translate).

Photo credits: Ambulance in Tromsø, Norway – Herman Henriksen via Nordlys; the MS Roald Amundsen – Hurtigruten.

Today, TUI Cruises, which operates the Mein Schiff fleet of cruise ships, announced that five crew members hired to work aboard the Mein Schiff 1 (photo below) tested positive for COVID-19. The German cruise blog called Kreuzfahrt-Aktuelles (cruise news) published the news. The majority of travel publications and cruise blogs are currently reporting with great fanfare on the cruise recently taken by another ship in the Mein Schiff fleet, the Mein Schiff 2, which recently returned from a three day cruise from Hamburg with 1,200 guests.

TUI stated that according to what it calls its “strict processes . . . five crew members of Mein Schiff 1 tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently in a facility on land rented by TUI Cruises . . . ”

TUI previously stated that it cancelled the first trip from Kiel, Germany because it was unable to fill certain positions on the start team of Mein Schiff 1 in “good time due to global travel restrictions.” On July 21st we reported that the true reason for the cancellation of the July 31 Mein Schiff 1 cruise was that crew members tested positive for COVID-19. Mein Schiff 1 had already completed its crew manning for this ship by this time. Those who tested positive were all newly joined crew members. Several Mein Schiff ship employees informed us that as many as seven crew members tested positive for COVID-19. TUI refused to respond to our inquiries whether it cancelled the re-start cruise for the Mein Schiff 1 due to its crew members testing positive for the contagious virus.

TUI is now finally acknowledging our report that testing of it crew revealed that many were infected with the virus, although it is now admitting that five, rather than seven, crew members tested positive.

TUI responded to the bad news by claiming that the positive tests for the crew members “proves that the processes introduced are working.” This is the same spin that AIDA Cruises gave to the fact that ten crew members tested positive for COVID-19, as we reported last week. But it tends to prove that it is important for cruise lines to perform tests of its guests, as well as its crew, before they board the ships.

This means that between the two German brands now either cruising or preparing to sail next month (August) from Germany, there have been at least fifteen (15) crew members who tested positive for COVID-19.

We recently published our article titled Without COVID-19 Testing, New Protocols for German Cruise Lines Are Doomed to Fail. The Mein Schiff 1 was supposed to be one of the test cruise ships for Royal Caribbean which has a 50:50 joint venture with TUI of Germany which manages the Mein Schiff ships. The AIDA ships will be test cruises for the Carnival Corporation brands.

It is irrational for cruise lines not to test guests for the virus when over two dozen crew members on the Mein Schiff and AIDA ships have tested positive. Without testing, there is a statistical certainty that there will be a handful of asymptomatic guests infected with COVID-19 who are not screened out by the pre-boarding temperature checks. It is entirely predictable that the guests will then infect other guests and crew members, irrespective of health protocols which may be in place.

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Photo credits: Mein Schiff 1 – Dickelbers – SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.