The COVID-19 pandemic has taken over the world. The spread of the pandemic had been aided in part by international travel, and cruise ships have played an important role.
In early February, it was a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, which was the site of the largest cluster of coronavirus cases outside of China. It was quarantined in Japan. Another ship, the Grand Princess, was quarantined near California, and at least 25 cruise ships reported COVID-19 cases in March.
According to CDC data, around 3000 cases and 34 deaths on cruise ships between March and July may be attributed to COVID-19. As many as 80% of ships on U.S jurisdictional waters may have been affected by COVID-19.
Due to these staggering numbers, the CDC instituted a no-sail order, and then extended it from July 24 to September 30. Now, cruise ship operators are gearing up to start sailing again, but the CDC is still urging caution and an industry-wide consensus for safety measures.
Cruise Ships Prepare to Sail Again
Cruise ship operators voluntarily suspended sailings to U.S ports till September. Additionally, a self-imposed suspension in the U.S sailing industry will last till October 31.
But now, as the economy opens up, operators are also preparing to sail again. They are developing additional health and safety protocols to avoid an outbreak situation.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. recently submitted 74 health and safety protocol recommendations to the CDC, through a panel co-chaired by Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, and Michael Leavitt, a Health and Human Services secretary.
A plan released by the Cruise Lines International Association also suggests the implementation of tighter controls to prevent those infected with COVID-19 from boarding ships, and air management practices to reduce spread.
Some measures included in the trade group’s plan are:
- Passengers and crew members will be tested before boarding
- People on board will be required to wear masks
- Those in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 voyager could be tested after the voyage
- Cabin capacity would be allocated for isolation and other medical requirements
- Private providers would be enlisted for shoreside quarantines and medical infrastructure
- Passengers would only be allowed on shore excursions if they comply with certain protocols
Challenges With Detecting Cases
It may be challenging to identify outbreaks on board cruise ships. Ships might not provide accurate information about COVID-19 cases among their crew and passengers, or might not have the required testing onboard to even find cases.
For example, a few Royal Caribbean ships reported that they had no COVID-19 cases for 28 days, but 55 crew members tested positive for the virus after they went onshore in countries that have mandatory testing requirements.
Countries like Canada and the United Kingdom are still strongly discouraging cruise travel, with Canada banning any cruise ships which travel overnight and have a capacity of 100 passengers or more.
Operators have, however, commenced operations in Europe. Carnival Corp resumed sailing from Germany in August, while Norwegian company Hurtigruten restarted cruises in June. It had to suspend operations in August, however, when COVID-19 spread abroad the MS Roald Amundsen, a ship with a 530-passenger capacity that sails the Arctic high seas.
More recently, on September 29, 12 crew members initially tested positive on a cruise ship on a Greek islands tour. The Mein Schiff 6, operated by TUI Cruises, was carrying 1,500 people and had set sail from Crete to Piraeus, a port near Athens, and then to Corfu. Subsequent tests revealed that this was a false alarm.
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What You Should Do
As the economy opens up, many families are planning for travel and vacations. But the coronavirus pandemic is not over, and companies are still required to comply with due precautions to stop the transmission of the virus.
If you or your loved ones decide to take a cruise, ensure that these ships are following CDC and industry COVID-19 guidelines. If their negligence causes illness or even death, they may be liable under various acts, including the Shipping Act of 1984, and the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA) 46 U.S. Code CHAPTER 303.
What We Can Do
If you are considering taking any legal action against a cruise ship for your illness or injury, ensure that you have the right kind of representation. Take steps as soon as possible to avoid any challenges because of your ticket contract or statutes of limitations.
Our nationwide team of expert lawyers is at your service. Call today to talk to a member of our team about your cruise ship injury case and understand your legal options. We can help you get the compensation you deserve, and ensure your peace of mind.