Possible COVID-19 Outbreak with Crew on Cruise Ship in Greece
At the start of its third weekly cruise in Greece, TUI’s Mein Schiff 6 has been forced to implement its COVID-19 precaution protocols as it seeks to determine if a small number of crew members aboard the ship might have the virus. The cruise line is emphasizing that it is taking all the necessary precautionary steps to address potential exposure to the virus while the cruise ship is proceeding as scheduled to its next port of call which is Piraeus, Greece.
The current situation began shortly after the cruise ship left Heraklion, Crete on its third weekly cruise. According to reports from Greek authorities, a dozen crew members aboard the cruise ship Mein Schiff 6 tested positive during a random sampling of 150 crew members done as part of the ongoing health protocols aboard the ship. The ship currently has a total of 666 crew members aboard as well as 920 passengers for the weekly cruise.
TUI reports that none of the crew members are showing any signs of the virus but that they have all been isolated. Under the cruise line’s health protocols, they have appointed an infection control officer who is to be in charge of a situation such as this. “If COVID-19 is suspected, mini-laboratories on board can be used, which provide a COVID-19 test result within 70 minutes. Should a suspected case be confirmed, the person - guest or crew member - in the interests of the health of all persons on board - is isolated on the ship and brought to a suitable institution as soon as possible for further diagnosis and treatment, if necessary also by emergency disembarkation.”
The health protocol also calls for each crew member to have tested negative on land before boarding the cruise ship. Once aboard, crew members “go into 14-day individual isolation in a balcony cabin. Only then do the crew members take up their duties.”
The course of action will be determined after the crew members are retested. For the time being, the cruise line is emphasizing its strict precautions and hygiene regiments aboard the ship. The Greek authorities said they would review the situation once the ship arrives in port. Under the current schedule, the Mein Schiff 6 will arrive at Piraeus in the early morning hours, tomorrow, September 29.
Greece had announced during the summer that it would reopen its major cruise ports seeking to have cruises resume before the end of 2020 tourist season. TUI on September 13 became the first to resume service with a large cruise ship.
TUI had announced that it would follow strict protocols for its cruise programs. Passengers are coming to Greece aboard specially chartered airplanes, but because of the air travel, the cruise line was requiring passengers to have a negative COVID-19 test completed before leaving home. Other cruise lines that have resumed service have been testing passengers on the dock before boarding. TUI is only accepting passengers aboard that travel with the company and not permitting independent travel to the ship.
Passengers and crew are also being limited in their ability to go ashore only on prearranged tours organized by the cruise line. During the cruise, they were requesting that social distancing be observed as well as other precautions.
Other cruise lines experienced similar situations during the summer. Both Sea Dream Yacht Club and UnCruise had instances of positive tests where the passenger later tested negative for the virus. In Sea Dream’s case, the company was able to continue sailing, while UnCruise ended its cruise program only days after it had resumed service. Hurtigruten also had a widely publicized situation where a passenger tested positive after a cruise and the outbreak resulted in 70 passengers and crew testing positive for the virus.
TUI and the Greek authorities are expected to provide updates tomorrow.