More than a dozen cruise ships remain stranded at sea right now—some with and some without passengers—as ports deny entry and passengers panic about returning home.
On March 13, in light of mounting fears over onboard COVID-19 outbreaks, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) made the decision to suspend operations from U.S. ports of call for 30 days.
Two weeks later, thousands of passengers and crew members remain aboard at least 15 ships across the world.
Industry group CLIA encompasses 38 cruise companies, with a total of 277 ships.
The organization confirmed to CNN on March 31 that 3.6 percent of the total fleet was still at sea completing adjusted itineraries and five ships are awaiting debarkation.
“Flight restrictions and port closures have led to some challenges bringing ships in, however our members are working around the clock to address these road blocks,” a CLIA spokesperson told CNN Travel.
“CLIA is asking ports and governments around the world to allow these ships to come into port so that those onboard can make their way home safely and as quickly as possible.”
Major cruise lines P&O, Cunard, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Holland America have now extended their ban on cruising until mid-May.
Here are details on the cruise ships still in limbo that we know about.
Cruise Ships With Passengers
Status: Disembarking at Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The Zaandam was sailing a South American voyage that departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was originally supposed to conclude in San Antonio, Chile, on March 21.
No one has exited the ship since it stopped in Punta Arenas, Chile, on March 14. Guests were originally told they could disembark in Chile for flights, but ultimately this was forbidden.
Once flu-like symptoms cropped up on board, those with symptoms were isolated and their traveling companions quarantined. All guests were asked to remain in their staterooms.
Four guests on board Zaandam have passed away, the cruise line confirmed on March 27.
“I fear other lives are at risk,” Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line, said in a statement.
All the ports en route are closed to cruise ships, so Holland America deployed another of its ships, Rotterdam, to offer relief.
Rotterdam met Zaandam off Panama in the evening of March 26 to “provide extra supplies, staff, COVID-19 test kits and other support as needed.”
Previously, the ship had no virus test kits on board.
Holland America transferred healthy Zaandam guests to Rotterdam. The guests who moved from Zaandam to Rotterdam completed a health screening beforehand, the cruise line said.
There are currently 808 guests and 583 crew on Rotterdam. On Zaandam, there are 442 guests and 603 crew members on board.
As of April 2, 107 guests (90 on Zaandam/17 on Rotterdam) and 143 crew on Zaandam (0 on Rotterdam) have presented with influenza-like symptoms.
Guests on both ships are remaining in their staterooms until the ship disembarks.
On March 29, Holland America confirmed it was granted special approval by by the Panama Canal Authority to transit Zaandam and Rotterdam through the Panama Canal.
On April 2, Holland America confirmed that both Zaandam and Rotterdam were cleared for arrival to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Guests will be health screened upon arrival.
Disembarkation is expected to be completed by April 3 evening local time. In a statement, Holland America said priority would be given to those in need of immediate medical care. They will transfer to local health system partners who have approved their arrival.
Guests who are deemed fit to travel will travel straight to the airport, with the majority booked on charter flights.
“Guests who still have symptoms will remain on board and disembark at a later date to be finalized after they have fully recovered and meet the CDC guidelines for being fit to travel,” said Holland America. “They will continue to be well cared for on board by the ships medical staffs.”
No crew from either ship will disembark.
Coral Princess—Princess Cruises
Status: Docking at Miami, Florida
The Coral Princess departed Santiago, Chile, on March 5. Princess Cruises announced operations were halting one week later.
Princess Cruises tried to negotiate disembarkation in Brazil for guests on board the Coral Princess. Anvisa, the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency, denied the disembarkation of Coral Princess guests, including those with confirmed outbound flights.
The ship was originally headed for Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
On April 4, Princess Cruises confirmed the ship is arriving into Miami, Florida.
“Disembarkation of guests is expected to take several days due to limited flight availability. Guests requiring shoreside medical care will be prioritized to disembark first,” said the cruise line.
On April 2, a Princess Cruises spokesperson confirmed to CNN Travel that there are 12 positive cases of COVID-19 on board.
There are 1,898 people onboard: 1,020 guests and 878 crew members
“In response to a reported small cluster of cases of respiratory illness, Coral Princess proactively collected and sent 13 COVID-19 test samples to Barbados on March 31. We can confirm the results yielded 12 positive cases: seven guests and five crew,” said the Princess Cruises spokesperson.
On April 5, a Princess Cruises spokesperson confirmed that two guests on board the Coral Princess have died.
“Our hearts go out to their family, friends and all who are impacted by this loss,” the cruise line said in a statement.
Guests and crew members who arent working have been self-isolating in their staterooms, and will continue to do so.
Face masks are also being distributed to guests.
Christine Beehler, 72, from New Hampshire, is on board the ship, traveling alone. She spoke to CNN Travel before the shop docked in Florida.
Beehler says she had no qualms about boarding back in early March. But the trip took a turn on March 13.
Since then, she says, tensions have often been high.
“Yet I think most are coping well,” she tells CNN Travel, speaking from her cabin where shes currently self-isolating.
Beehler is concerned the ship will not be allowed to disembark in Florida, but heartened by the news about Zaandam and Rotterdam.
For now, Beehler is trying to stay positive.
“The four walls get a little tiring,” she admits, but shes in regular communication with other passengers on board, and theyre keeping each others spirits up. She has a Whatsapp group with other solo travelers on board.
Beehler praises the captain for being “very forthcoming with his transparency” and calls the crew “phenomenal.”
Beehler has five further cruise trips booked for this year, although some have been canceled. She also says she remains a devoted cruiser, and plans to take this exact same cruise in 2021.
Princess Cruises said internet and guest stateroom telephone service is currently complimentary, to help guests stay in touch with family members.
Arcadia—P&O Cruises UK
Status: Sailing to Southampton, England
Cruise ship Arcadia embarked on a 100-day, round trip World Cruise back in January, in a very different cruising landscape.
Now, the ship is making its way back to Southampton, in the UK. Its due to arrive on April 12, 2020, on schedule.
The ship is skipping all stops after it was turned away from Cape Town.
“As South African authorities are enforcing additional entry and travel restrictions because of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, all guests are remaining on board until Southampton, where Arcadia is due to arrive on Sunday 12 April as per the original itinerary,” said P&O Cruises in a statement.
There are no reported cases of COVID-19 on board.
Pacific Princess—Princess Cruises
Status: Sailing to Los Angeles, California
The Pacific Princess docked in Australia on March 21, with the majority of passengers who disembarked on flights March 22 or March 23.
Those who couldnt fly due to medical reasons remained on board the ship, which is now traveling towards Los Angeles.
According to former passenger CJ Hayden, some of those on board were previously traveling on Holland Americas Amsterdam, which also docked in Fremantle, Australia, on March 21.
Princess Cruises says there are 115 passengers on board and no known cases of COVID-19.
The Pacific Princess is due to arrive in Los Angeles on April 24. It stopped briefly in Melbourne, Australia, to “refuel and replenish provisions,” according to Princess Cruises.
The ship is also expected to dock in Honolulu, Hawaii, for an additional service stop.
A passenger on board, who preferred to remain anonymous, told CNN that despite the circumstances, the voyage has been “another wonderful and enjoyable Princess cruise.
“We are looking forward to the future when we can start sailing again with Princess,” they added.
Queen Mary 2—Cunard
Status: Sailing to Southampton, England
The Queen Mary 2 set off on a 113-day New York to New York voyage on Jan. 3, 2020.
“Queen Mary 2s World Voyage was canceled and the ship is currently en route to Southampton from Australia,” says a Cunard spokesperson.
Most guests disembarked in Perth and flew back home from there.
“The only guests who remain on board are those who are unable to fly due to medical reasons,” said Cunard in a statement.
There are 264 guests still on board.
There are no known cases of COVID-19 on board.
Status: Sailing to Venice, Italy
Costa Deliziosa set sail on an 87-day round world voyage from Venice on Jan. 5, 2020.
When Costa Cruises, owned by Carnival, decided to suspend cruises, Costa Deliziosa was the only cruise that wasnt immediately canceled.
“The current world tour itinerary will be completed to allow guests to disembark and return home,” was the cruise lines official statement.
Some passengers disembarked and traveled home when the ship stopped off in Perth on March 16. The only passengers allowed to disembark were those with booked flights.
The ship is due to return to Venice, Italy on April 26, although the destination could be changed.
Dana Lindberg is on board the Costa Deliziosa, a “once in a lifetime trip” shes planned since early 2018.
Boarding the world cruise in January, Lindberg did not consider that the itinerary would be impacted. It was only in February, as COVID-19 fears ramped up, that the ship revised its voyage to avoid Asia.
Passengers will have been at sea without docking for at least a month when the Costa Deliziosa eventually disembarks guests.
“We still do not know what port we will ultimately disembark from,” Lindberg tells CNN Travel.
“Im not sure why the ship is moving so slowly. However, we are safer here than in Italy. I personally would rather disembark in Greece but I have no say in the situation.”
Lindberg is also concerned about how she and the other 10 American passengers will travel home to the Unites States.
“My biggest complaint is lack of information regarding what is happening and regarding refunds/compensation for all the ports and included excursions that did not happen,” she says.
There are no reports of COVID-19 on board, and Lindberg says passengers spirits are relatively high given the circumstances.
“I dont think this experience will deter me from future cruising,” she adds. “However, I may not plan to do a 4 month cruise again.”
Lindberg also says she would consider carefully which cruise line she picked for her next trip, depending on how Costa handle the present situation.
MSC Magnifica—MSC Cruises
Status: Sailing to Europe
MSC Magnifica disembarked on a world voyage on Jan. 4, 2020.
The ships passengers were not allowed to disembark when the ship docked in Fremantle, Australia, on March 24.
The Magnifica says there are no sick passengers on board.
An MSC spokesperson told CNN Travel: “MSC Magnifica, currently sailing a world cruise, is en route from Australia to Europe.”
Costa Victoria—Costa Cruises
Status: Berthed in Civitavecchia, Italy
The Costa Victoria cruise ship arrived in Civitavecchia, in Italy, on March 25.
Earlier in the voyage a passenger tested positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, and was disembarked in Greece.
The disembarkation process in Italy is ongoing.
Columbus—Cruise & Maritime Voyages
Status: Sailing to Tilbury, England
Last week, two Cruise & Maritime Voyages ships, Columbus and Vasco da Gama, met at sea 12 nautical miles off the coast of Phuket, Thailand, to undertake what the cruise line called “a unique passenger transfer and repatriation operation.”
This decision was made to help get passengers on both vessels home as quickly as possible.
Some 239 passengers were transferred between the ships. British nationals transferred onto the Columbus, which is heading to the UK, while Australians and New Zealanders are now on board the Vasco da Gama.
There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on either ship.
There are 907 passengers on board, including 602 nationals. There are an additional 619 crew members.
The Columbus is set to arrive in Tilbury on April 14.
Status: In Western Australia
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