Around 40 passengers on the Norwegian cruise ship the MS Roald Amundsen have tested positive for Covid-19 since the vessel – bound for Svalbard in the Artic, with additional stops scheduled in England and Scotland – docked in the Arctic port of Tromso about a week after it set sail.
Around 36 crewmembers tested positive for Covid-19 after some 180 passengers were allowed to depart the ship. Authorities worked hard to locate and test all of those who had been onboard, and those passengers have since been told to self-isolate for 10 days. Five passengers have so far tested positive out of 387 who had travelled on the ship since 17 July. “We expect that more infections will be found in connection to this outbreak,” a health official said.
The ship belongs to the Norwegian firm Hurtigruten, which has halted all leisure cruises because of the outbreak. “This is a serious situation for everyone involved. We have not been good enough and we have made mistakes,” Chief Executive Daniel Skjeldam said in a statement on Monday. “A preliminary evaluation shows a breakdown in several of our internal procedures,” he added. “The only responsible choice is to suspend all expedition sailings.”
In addition, Norway's government has announced it will stop all cruise ships with more than 100 people on board from disembarking passengers for at least 14 days.
A preliminary evaluation shows a breakdown in several of our internal procedures ... The only responsible choice is to suspend all expedition sailings
Elsewhere, the Paul Gauguin – operated by Ponant – was forced to suspend its journey after a passenger tested positive during the vessel’s Pacific cruise. Passengers were told to stay in their cabins as the ship turned back to Papeete, French Polynesia, where all onboard are being tested. Local reports suggest that sailing is to be cancelled – it was the company’s second voyage since relaunching operations in July. On its blog, Ponant insists that the company had strict regulations in place that ‘go further than the international standards for the sector’, and back in June, it announced that it was collaborating with the IHU (Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire) Méditerranée Infection of Marseilles, a leading centre in the field of infectious diseases.
It’s certainly a turbulent time for the cruise industry. No sail orders and changing governmental advice have made operations tricky for operators. And with customers who were previously booked onto now-suspended and cancelled voyages keen to use their cruise vouchers (some, not all), the industry is no doubt under some pressure to get things going again. Was it too soon to restart cruise operations? It’s difficult to say exactly, but cruise operators have been working to abide by public health regulations and travel restrictions while doing their best to instigate the recovery of the industry.
Indeed, very recently, MSC Cruises announced that it was planning to restart cruises this summer in the Mediterranean via its two ships, MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica. The company added that sailings will only be available to guests who are residents in Schengen countries.
“MSC Cruises restart in the Mediterranean would be a huge step forward both for the company and the cruise industry as a whole,” commented Antonio Paradiso, MD of MSC Cruises UK & Ireland. “Whilst there is no doubt it's been a very tough year for the whole travel industry, we feel that [the] cruise [industry] has adapted incredibly well to these challenges, which our summer restart and new health and safety operating protocol is evidence of.”
In other news, P&O cruises is to take delivery of its Iona cruise ship – at 185,000 gigatonnes, with the capacity for 5,200 guests, Iona is the largest cruise ship ever built for the UK market. “Whilst our operations are currently paused, we are delighted that we have more clarity on the arrival of these two new ships,” P&O Cruises President Paul Ludlow said.