Cruise Lines Continue to Misrepresent Number of Positive COVID-19 Cases During Cruises Outside of the U.S.
To convince the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that it is safe to resume sailing from U.S. ports, cruise lines, travel writers, cruise bloggers, and the industry trade organization have tried to mistakenly underestimate the real Number of positive COVID-19 cases that have occurred outside of the United States
Yesterday afternoon, Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, was interviewed by Jim Cramer at the popular MAD MONEY stock fair. He excitedly promoted NCL’s alleged “ironclad” health and safety protocols that Del Rio claims make an NCL cruise ship the “safest place on earth”. Mr Del Rio has dealt with this exaggeration before. In May of last year, before NCL had a single health protocol, he publicly claimed cruise lines were “safer than anywhere else in the world” and urged the CDC to “immediately stop” all COVID-related restrictions. Hundreds of thousands of US citizens have died since then. He suggested that cruise lines in Europe and Asia have carried “over 400,000 guests with fewer than 50 COVID cases”. He added that “Other cruise lines have handled all cases with grace. No cruises interrupted or canceled midway. “As explained below, these claims are obviously false.
Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean, repeated the incorrect CLIA information just last week.
The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) initially published the wrong data. In a press release dated March 24, 2021 aimed at convincing the CDC to drop their Conditional Sailing Ordinance, CLIA said that in the past eight months “nearly 400,000 passengers” with “less than 50” COVID in Europe, Asia and the South Pacific have sailed cases.
Many travel writers and cruise bloggers echoed CLIA’s false talk. Travel writer and cruise blogger Dave Monk (right) quoted the flawed CLIA data in comments on Twitter to continue the cruise, including tweets to travel writer Dana Freedman.
Thousands would be happy to be “laboratory rats” under these conditions. More than 400,000 people have sailed since August, just 50 cases of Covid (even @CruiseLaw could only find 200, including crew). And now vaccinations in addition to strict health protocols.
– Dave Monk (@shipmonk) March 26, 2021
The cruise fan blog Royal Caribbean Blog also picked up the wrong industry data in an article today: “Almost 400,000 passengers have traveled from Europe and parts of Asia since last summer,” with “fewer than 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board “.
The Royal Caribbean Blog also wrote that Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas had over 50,000 guests on board and there have been no positive Covid-19 cases to date. This may be true, but it is more of a reflection of the Singapore cruise that is not mentioned in the article. Residents of the country of Singapore, which notably has Zero new cases of local transmission of COVID-19 (and only 30 deaths last year). Only Singapore citizens are allowed to travel out of that country on Royal Caribbean cruises. Singapore’s success is in stark contrast to US data, with over 555,700 deaths from coronavirus and more 30,800,000 COVID19 infections to date (based on data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center).
Travel Weekly, Cruise Radio, Cruise Industry News, and numerous other travel writers and popular cruise bloggers reiterated CLIA’s misleading information. Several cruise bloggers including Cruise Hive and Royal Caribbean Blog directed cruise fans to write to elected officials to urge the CDC to lift its restrictions, based in part on CLIA’s erroneous claim that there are fewer than 50 COVID cases outside of the United States gave
This selection of cruise companies, cruise managers, industry leaders, and travel writers has consistently underestimated the actual number of COVID-19 cases by over 75%. Our company has meticulously followed the number of positive COVID cases on cruise lines since then last summer involving passengers and crew on the basis of news reports, mainly from Europe and the Caribbean, based on press releases from cruise lines, health authorities and testimony. The truth is that there have been around 214 passengers and crew who have tested positive for COVID-19 while on sails since cruising in U.S. ports last year. The cases involved MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, TUI Group / Mein Schiff, AIDA, SeaDream, Hurtigruten and a number of smaller river cruise ships.
Notwithstanding health protocols, all of which cruise companies have described as “strict” and supposedly a “safe bubble”, from September to November 2020 there were four outbreaks on river cruise lines that infected at least 99 people and canceled numerous cruises. Ten crew members were infected on the river cruise ship MS Thurgau Chopin (formerly MS Frederic Chopin) of the Swiss company Thurgau Travel. Sixty of the ninety-two passengers (two-thirds) who sailed on the river cruise ship MS Swiss Crystal were infected on a cruise on the Danube and the Main. In early September, eight guests and crew members tested positive for COVID-19 on a CroisiEurope river cruise ship on the Douro River in Portugal. German newspapers reported that at least thirteen people were infected on another river cruise ship, the MS Vista Serenity, on the Moselle in Germany. In some of these cases, local newspapers reported that passengers left the ship without realizing that an outbreak had occurred on board.
In addition, 74 people on Hurtigruten cruise lines were infected, including the MS Roald Amundsen (where 71 were infected) and the MS Finnmarken (3 infected with 1 death), and cruises were canceled. Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises recently experienced breakouts on their cruise lines. Eight people were infected on the Costa Diadema (top left), who promoted “strict protocols” and an “absolutely safe cruise”. One person also tested positive on the MSC Grandiosa. Silversea’s Silver Spirit also had a COVID-19 case while on a Red Sea cruise in early September. A Ponant cruise ship, the Jacques-Cartier, was involved in a COVID-19 outbreak that infected thirteen people. The ship was initially delayed when leaving an Italian port. On its website, Compagnie du Ponant boasted of exceptional cruises in an “anti-covid bubble” with “their cutting-edge health protocols”.
Four guests tested positive for COVID on Mein Schiff 2 in February 2021. Five crew members tested positive for COVID on Mein Schiff 1 last July. Ten AIDA crew members also tested positive last July.
The most reported recent COVID debacle involved a COVID outbreak on SeaDream last November that infected 7 guests and 2 crew members. SeaDream Yacht Club canceled the cruise from Barbados and suspended all cruises to date.
The cruise industry tends to make false statements to the public in order to sell cruises. Early last year, the Miami New Times and Washington Post published articles showing that NCL publicly downplayed the pandemic and pressured the sales team to underestimate and misrepresent the reality of COVID-19. Read: Leaked Emails: Norwegian Print Sales Team Misleads Potential Customers About Coronavirus By Miami New Times March 11, 2020 (“Coronavirus can only survive in cold temperatures so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise “Was an NCL talking point for potential customers).
It is important for cruise lines to regain public confidence if the industry is to successfully return to sailing. But the public is right to view cruise ship promises with suspicion. NCL’s talk of “iron” health protocols seems dubious when the cruise line, CLIA and cruise fans consistently underestimate the actual number of positive COVID cases outside the US
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Photo credits: CEO Frank Del Rio – Jim Cramers MAD MONEY April 5, 2021; Costa Diadema – Z Thomas – CC BY-SA 4.0 Commons / Wikimedia; “Totally Safe Cruise” – Costa Cruises – By Z thomas – CC BY-SA 4.0 wikipedia / commons,