Grand Princess' Passengers Face Varying Quarantine Plans

Grand Princess approaches the pier in Oakland (Jose Andres)

Published Mar 10, 2020 9:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

The quarantined cruise ship Grand Princess continues to disembark passengers at a secure area within the Port of Oakland, California. All are headed for quarantine, self-quarantine or medical care, depending upon nationality and health status. 

21 individuals tested positive for the disease before the Grand Princess berthed in Oakland, including 19 crewmembers. Government health authorities have made arrangements for all passengers to depart the vessel, avoiding a quarantine-on-board scenario like that aboard Diamond Princess; once passengers have fully disembarked, the vessel is expected to head back out to sea with all 1,100 crew still on board. 

About 400 out of 2,400 passengers have disembarked as of Tuesday morning. In comments repeated by local media, the captain expressed his frustration about the changing guidelines for the process. "We have not been receiving timely nor accurate information from the government agencies who have developed and are now managing the disembarkment plan. It has been literally impossible for me to guide you on their processes. Thus far they have shared information about a plan, procedures and protocol only to see it change without notice," the master said in an announcement quoted by local ABC7 News.

The arrangements vary widely by group. Early on Tuesday, about 230 Canadian passengers arrived by government-chartered airplane at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario, where they will begin a two-week quarantine. A number of Canadian nationals are still on board Grand Princess, including a "very limited number of [Canadian] crewmembers" who tested positive, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told the Globe and Mail. 

Most American nationals will be transported to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas or Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia for a two-week quarantine. However, 49 passengers who are residents of Nevada will be returning to their homes for self-isolation when they disembark, not to a military base for quarantine, thanks to an agreement announced Tuesday by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. In order to qualify, the Nevadan passengers must be tested for COVID-19, must be asymptomatic and must return home in a manner that limits their exposure to the general public. 

Like the Nevadans, passengers who are British nationals are expected to be allowed to self-quarantine at home, according to UK media. About 140 passengers from the UK are scheduled to be flown back to Britain aboard a government-chartered aircraft on Wednesday. 

At least two individuals plan to file a lawsuit against Princess Cruises for alleged damages related to the outbreak. Florida residents Ronald and Eva Weissberger are suing for over $1 million, alleging that the cruise operator did not sufficiently screen passengers prior to boarding. The plaintiffs, who say that they are elderly and have underlying medical conditions, assert that they were not notified before boarding that a possible coronavirus case may have been detected among passengers from a prior cruise. Two individuals from that prior cruise tested positive for the disease, and one has since died.