The cruise ship-outbreak "Nightmare at Sea" has by now become a familiar trope to many of those following the coronavirus pandemic gripping the world. But although dozens of ships operated by nearly all of the major cruise lines (and their many subsidiaries) have experienced outbreaks onboard, one cruise line stands out as a symbol for the calamities that unfolded on its ships, some of which became floating international incidents.
That company, of course, is Carnival. Not only is it the owner of the Princess Cruise subsidiary, which is responsible for the "Diamond Princess" fiasco in Japan, the "Grand Princess" in California, and, most recently the Coral Princess, Another lethal outbreak unfolded aboard the Zandaam which docked in Ft. Lauderdale earlier this week. That ship is owned by another Carnival subsidiary, Holland America. After being turned away by more than a dozen countries, somehow, that ship, too, became America's problem.
As cruise ships continued to contribute to the spread of the virus, and their management continued to appear confused, overwhelmed or downright negligent in responding to these floating fiascos, we started to suspect that the issue would soon become a criminal matter, somewhere, perhaps notoriously punitive Japan.
But Australian authorities managed to strike first. As the BBC reports, a criminal investigation has been launched in Australia into how passengers traveling aboard the "Ruby Princess" were allowed to disembark in Sydney even though some clearly exhibited flu-like symptoms.
Eventually, some 600 passengers tested positive for COVID-19; 10 of them died. The ship is still sitting off the coast of Australia, with some 200 passengers aboard. It has become a terrible political headache for PM Scott Morrison at a time when he needs to focus on leading his country's response to the outbreak.
Police in New South Wales said they would look into whether Australia's national biosecurity laws had been violated. The country has so far reported 5,548 coronavirus cases and 30 deaths. Those sickened on cruise ships account for roughly 10% all cases in Australia.
Data obtained by Bloomberg reveals that dozens of cruise ships continued to sail the globe even after COVID-19 first emerged as a transnational threat in late January/early February. Though the virus's true infectious potential wasn't ascertained right away, by mid-February, cruise lines should have been able to read the writing on the wall. And yet, ships continued to launch as late as the first week in March, shortly before Carnival's Princess Cruises subsidiary finally suspended operations, even as dozens of cruises continued on.
Carnival still has five ships active with passengers aboard, traveling thousands of miles from port. There have been no incidents of coronavirus reported on those ships, at least not yet. MSC Cruises also reported one ship with passengers, while Norwegian and Royal Caribbean report none, per BBG.