Following the halt in operations caused by the global pandemic earlier in 2020, cruise operators have been forced to deal with several infection clusters on ships with some lines suspending sailings until 2021
Following the restart of cruises in some regions, coronavirus infections have been reported on board vessels including Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen in Norway, and the French Polynesia-based vessel Paul Gaugin.
The Norwegian Institute for Public Health tracked cases on Roald Amundsen, and said 21 passengers from two sailings had tested positive. A statement from Hurtigruten said 41 crew members had tested positive, with all 158 crew on board having been tested. Hurtigruten has announced the temporary suspension of all expedition cruises on its expedition ships Roald Amundsen, Spitsbergen and Fridtjof Nansen which faced a scare and placed four crew members in isolation when they showed symptoms of the common cold. All on board tested negative, the company said.
Hurtigruten is launching an internal review of its safety procedures and has hired DNV GL to conduct a full investigation. The company said it is also facing an external investigation from Norwegian authorities.
"Hurtigruten has revealed several deviations from the company’s internal procedures in relation to the outbreak on MS Roald Amundsen," a Hurtigruten statement said.
"The preliminary examination of what happened on MS Roald Amundsen has uncovered several deviations from our procedures. That is not good enough. It has caused a demanding and serious situation. I apologise to our guests, colleagues and everyone who cares for Hurtigruten," Hurtigruten chief executive Daniel Skjeldam said.
In another statement, the company said chief operating officer Bent Martini is temporarily stepping down from his positions as chairman of the board and as managing director.
Meanwhile, Norway announced it will stop all cruise ships with more than 100 people on board from disembarking at Norwegian ports for 14 days.
On 4 August, Norwegian operator SeaDream Yacht Club said it was forced detain over 200 passengers on SeaDream 1 in the Norwegian harbour of Bodø after an asymptomatic passenger from a previous trip tested positive for Covid-19 upon returning home to Denmark.
In the South Pacific, a statement from the High Commission for the Republic of French Polynesia said Paul Gauguin Cruises’ eponymously named ship was forced to return to its disembarkation port after a passenger on board tested positive for the virus.
"In accordance with the health protocol in force, all contact cases, passengers and crew members, were quickly tested. The results of all contact cases are negative," the High Commission statement said.
"As soon as the boat docked, the person detected positive after a self-test carried out 4 days after his arrival on board Paul Gauguin was subjected to a new RT-PCR test which confirmed his positivity.
This person was immediately taken from the boat. A member of his family who shared his cabin has been tested and the result is negative. These two people were placed in strict isolation in a dedicated place."
Paul Gauguin Cruises restarted sailings on 11 July for residents of French Polynesia, and 29 July for international travelers. The affected sailing had over 300 passengers and crew on board and has since returned to Papeete, Tahiti. The ship will reportedly resume operations as of 22 August.
The first cruise out of Alaska run by UnCruise Adventures, was cut short on 4 August after an asymptomatic passenger aboard Wilderness Adventurer tested positive for Covid-19. UnCruise said it has cancelled all subsequent Alaska cruises for 2020.
Multiple mainstream media outlets are reporting that Costa Cruises is facing a collective lawsuit from 850 French passengers who were on board Costa Magica which was turned away from several ports during Europe’s first wave of coronavirus infections in March. A statement from Costa said the cruise line will return to service in September.
"The return to cruising will be progressive, involving an increasing number of ships. The first ship to set sail will be Costa Deliziosa, on 6 September 2020," the statement said.
Group chief executive Costa Group and Carnival Asia Michael Thamm said “The resumption of our operations in this phase is also a great responsibility towards our guests, our crew members and the residents of the communities we visit. In the next days, we will be working closely with national and local authorities, ports and terminals, RINA and internally on board our ships, for the full implementation of the protocols issued by the Italian Government so we can all together guarantee a smooth, well organised and safe restart of our cruises, both on board and ashore."
In an earnings call on 10 July, Costa Cruises parent company Carnival Corporation announced plans to trim its fleet of 13 ships, later extending it to 15. In late July, Carnival Cruise Line reported the sale of Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Inspiration for scrap.
But Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, the parent company to Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, is not planning to make cuts to its 28-ship fleet. At an earnings call last week, chief executive Frank J Del Rio said “we absolutely have no plans to divest of any of our vessels.”
Mr Del Rio noted that he was “astonished how well bookings are coming in, given the fact that the industry is suspended”, marking it up to customer loyalty and expectations of better times ahead.
“Across our three brands, over 50% of our guests on any given cruise are repeaters. We are going to lean on them heavily. They are going to lean on us. They want to cruise again. Depending on when you think the restart is, there is going to be 15M, 20M people who were not allowed to cruise this year. And there is a lot of pent-up demand there.”