Grand Princess Berths in Oakland

Grand Princess approaching the pier in Oakland on Monday (Jose Andres / World Central Kitchen)

Published Mar 9, 2020 10:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Monday, the quarantined cruise ship Grand Princess docked at a commercial wharf at the port of Oakland, California in order to disembark her passengers. 21 out of the 3,500 people on board tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 last week, and federal and state officials have made arrangements to bring all passengers off the ship for a shoreside quarantine.

Aerial footage of the dock showed a series of tents set up in a receiving area, along with ambulances and buses. The tents include a temporary commissary operated by World Central Kitchen, which provided lunches to those coming off the ship and will be cooking meals for everyone on board over the coming days. 

About 230 Canadian passengers are expected to disembark as a group, and they will be repatriated by the Canadian government. 

The majority of those who have tested positive aboard Grand Princess are crewmembers, not passengers, but as of Monday the ship's crew has not been given affirmative permission to disembark in the United States. "Once disembarkation of the guests is completed, the crew will remain onboard and Grand Princess will depart from San Francisco bay. Plans for a crew quarantine are still being determined," said Princess Cruises in a statement.

Guests "with more urgent medical needs" had priority, according to a shipboard loudspeaker message relayed on Twitter. According to local media, one individual was immediately transferred to a waiting ambulance at the pier. 

The disembarkation process begins on the #GrandPrincess pic.twitter.com/ehr38TRv0u

— Keane Li (@keaneli) March 9, 2020

Two guests were disembarked from the vessel before her arrival for medical reasons unrelated to COVID-19. Passenger medevacs are a routine operation for cruise vessels. 

The U.S. Coast Guard carried out the second of the two medevacs on Sunday using the small cutter USCGC Tern. The service was notified by the ship’s captain that a man in his early 60s with a non-COVID-19 medical emergency needed medical treatment. The duty flight surgeon and the CDC recommended that the passenger should be medevaced from Grand Princess. 

On the outbound trip, Tern delivered medical supplies and seven people from the California Department of Health and Human Services to the vessel. The HHS medical team assessed the medical status of passengers and crew ahead of the ship’s arrival.