New measures to seal off borders to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus have left cruise ships stranded in the Caribbean, South America and Europe, with local governments denying permission to disembark as more cases of infected passengers have come to light.
Two cruise ships have been turned away from several Caribbean ports, and at least one by Spain, after passengers fell ill with COVID-19. Two other vessels have rerouted to Miami after they were turned away from their home port in Puerto Rico even with no reports of infections. Authorities in Argentina, Chile and Brazil, meanwhile, have also placed smaller ships on quarantine after reports of positive coronavirus tests.
The Cruise Lines International Association says that about 40 ships with 90,000 passengers were at sea when President Donald Trump announced a travel ban last week that restricts the arrival of many foreigners in the U.S.
Other governments in Europe, South and Central America have also tightened their borders as cases keep climbing topping 175,000 with 6,700 deaths as of Monday. But the cruise lines association along with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association says governments should open their ports to these vessels that sailed into the ocean before the new measures.
The groups said they “have requested that all ports in the Caribbean, South America and other areas keep their ports open to cruise ships sailing on itineraries related to U.S. ports to allow passengers to return as soon as possible to their homes.”
A Fort Lauderdale-based ship from Italian company Costa Cruises was denied permission to disembark its more than 1,400 passengers in Spain after the government decided to close the country’s ports to passenger traffic.
The company, owned by Carnival Corp., says that three Costa Luminosa passengers who were removed from the ship in the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico have tested positive for COVID-19, including a 68-year-old man who died last weekend. On Monday, two passengers who had problems breathing and one who had a fever were taken off the boat and to the hospital during a technical stop in the Canary Islands.
“I am super worried,” said Ashley Ecker, of San Diego, whose parents boarded the Costa Luminosa in Fort Lauderdale on March 5. Ecker says her 66-year-old parents wanted to cancel their journey but the company refused to give them a refund and told them it was safe to travel.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.
“They are in that demographic the CDC is now saying `don’t go anywhere. Stay in your house,”‘ she said. “They need to get off the boat. The more they are on the boat, the more people will start getting sick.”
The Costa Luminosa is now sailing to Marseille, France, with passengers isolated to their cabins. It is not clear what measures France will take.
Another cruise ship with passengers who have been infected is in the Caribbean hoping to dock in Cuba. The Braemar has isolated 22 passengers and 21 crew members after they displayed flu-like symptoms. Five aboard had already tested positive for the new coronavirus, said the British company Fred. Olsen Cruises.
The cruise ship is scheduled to dock in Cuba on Tuesday after the island agreed to help transfer the more than 1,000 passengers and crew members to planes bound for the United Kingdom.
In South America, a ship of Silversea Cruises was stopped in Recife, Brazil, and passengers were not allowed to disembark after a 78-year-old Canadian passenger tested positive for COVID-19. Health authorities there say they are considering bringing two airplanes to take passengers of the Silver Shadow ship back to their countries.
Some ships were struggling to dock even without reporting any suspicious cases of coronavirus.
Off the southern tip of Argentina, an Antarctic cruise ship is being quarantined. A passenger from Phoenix told The Associated Press in a text message that no one on board was known to have symptoms of COVID-19, but Argentine officials would not let passengers on board the Ocean Endeavour disembark until they had been at sea for two weeks.
Norwegian Cruise Line said that one of its vessels has been turned away by Fiji and New Zealand and is waiting to find a south Asian country that will let it dock. The Norwegian Jewel, of about 2,000 passengers, was refuelling in American Samoa.
In Puerto Rico, two other cruise ships were denied permission to return to their home port in San Juan, two cruise lines said Monday. Both the Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Freedom of the Seas and the Carnival Fascination are instead sailing to Miami, where passengers are expected to disembark Tuesday.
The Carnival Cruise Line said the government of Puerto Rico even denied a request to let Puerto Rican residents disembark “despite the fact that no one has any influenza-like illness.”
“We have plenty of food, fuel, water and supplies and a full schedule of entertainment and activities,” Carnival Cruise Line said in an emailed statement.
Associated Press writers Michael Weissenstein in Havana and Mauricio Savarese in Sao Paulo, Brazil contributed to this report.