Cruise Ships Continue to Report Cases of COVID-19

cruise ship passenger and crew report COVID-19 cases
Genting's World Dream arriving in Singapore in November 2020 to resuming cruising (Dream Cruises)

Published Jul 14, 2021 6:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

The cruise industry, like many places around the world, continues to work to control the coronavirus to resume normal patterns of life. While the cruise ships’ enhanced protocols have been able to prevent the mass outbreaks that made headlines in the spring of 2020, several cruise ships in the past few days have cut short trips or delayed operations, all due to the continuing reports of cases of the virus.

The most recent scare came in Singapore, where Genting’s Dream Cruises ship the World Dream was nearing the end of a 3-day cruise to nowhere with residents of the city-state. The cruise ship had departed on Sunday, Jully 11 and all passengers tested negative before boarding with an antigen test. However, late on Tuesday, a 40-year-old passenger was identified as a suspected case, and the Singapore Tourism Board reported that the passenger was a close contact with a known case on land. The passenger tested positive on the cruise ship and was placed in isolation along with three close contacts aboard the ship.

Under the protocols established by the Singapore Tourism Board and Dream Cruises, the 1,646 passengers on the cruise were notified at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, July 14, and asked to remain in their cabins while all services and activities were suspended aboard the ship. Meals were being delivered to outside cabin doors and nonessential crew within 1,249 aboard were also told to remain in their cabins. The World Dream ended the cruise returning to Singapore.

After confirming at a hospital in Singapore that the passenger was positive for the virus, passengers were being required to undergo disembarkation testing. Passengers began to leave the ship Wednesday evening, and Dream Cruises announced that the next cruise would be canceled. The cruise line said that this is the first positive case aboard the World Dream, which has conducted over 100 cruises and carried over 130,000 passengers since it began cruising from Singapore.

The World Dream was permitted to start short cruises from Singapore for residents in November 2020. The vessel continued to sail in the spring despite Singapore increasing the restrictions to coincide with an increase of the virus in the city. Meal service had been limited to in cabin or prepacked takeaway food while activities were also restricted and capacity levels reduced. In mid-June, Singapore relaxed the restrictions permitting the cruise ship to again travel with up to 50 percent capacity, resume meal service, and activities.

Last week in Alaska, the small cruise ship the American Constellation also reported a COVID-19 positive test. All the passengers are required to be vaccinated before joining the cruise, but on July 9 the cruise line reported that one passenger tested positive and was sent ashore to a medical facility in Petersburg, Alaska. An additional passenger, also vaccinated, as well as one crew member, unvaccinated, also tested positive. The cruise ship had 162 passengers and 52 crew members onboard last week, according to a statement from the City and Borough of Juneau.

“American Cruise Lines has implemented its COVID-19 Response Plan and is coordinating with state and local health officials following the detection of COVID-19 on board,” the cruise line said in its statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, the line’s small ship returned to port in Juneau on Saturday and the next cruise, scheduled to depart on July 14, will be canceled.” The crew has remained aboard the ship and the cruise line expects to resume sailing with the next normally scheduled cruise in late July.

In a third case, last week Royal Caribbean International removed two passengers from its ship the Freedom of the Seas after one of the passengers, a 57-year-old woman who is unvaccinated but says she had the virus months ago, tested positive on the second day of her cruise. Royal Caribbean flew the passengers back to the United States, but they argue they were wrongly put off the ship by a false test.

In addition to passengers, the cruise lines are also continuing to contend with cases of the virus among the crew. The British cruise line Cunard canceled the first five cruises scheduled for its ship the Queen Elizabeth after an unspecified number of crew tested positive for COVID-19. The cruise ship was scheduled to run short cruises for U.K. residents as part of its return to service. Last month, Royal Caribbean International was also forced to delay the entry of its cruise ship the Odyssey of the Seas into service from Florida after several members of the crew tested positive for the virus short after being vaccinated and before immunity was achieved.

These latest instances of the virus on cruise ships come as the cruise industry prepares to expand its resumption of service. Cruises recently resumed from Germany and additional ships are due to resume sailing in Europe and the United States. Short cruises from Hong Kong are also due to start following an arrangement similar to Singapore. The cruise industry’s protocols, however, will continue to be tested as new variants spread in countries around the world.