It’s almost like something from a suspense sci-fi movie, or if you’re old enough, like an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. What started as relaxing dream vacations for thousands aboard cruise ships, has turned into almost a drama aboard what may somewhat akin to luxurious floating prisons.
Many thousands of people from around the world boarded cruise ships just before the COVID-19 crisis hit, only to find now that their original ports of destination won’t let them land. They’ve been stuck aboard as the ships seek a port that will accept them.
The Holland America line, MS Zaandam began its ‘dream’ vacation cruise on March 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina and was scheduled to end March 21 in San Antonio Chile. The ship has 1,243 passengers and 586 crew but now with some 77 people reporting flu-like symptoms ,
Due to concerns over spread of the COVID-19, ports along the route were closed, and the ship is still at sea.
An empty Holland America ship is to rendezvous with the Zaandam to provide COVID test kits and to resupply the vessel as it seeks a port to accept it. It is now expected to head to Ft. Lauderdale.
- A similar situation faced the MS Marina, which also left Buenos Aires and was to end in Lima Peru. After cruising back and forth seeking a port, and with no reported illness aboard it has finally docked at Miami.
Another ship the MS Maasdam now in the south Pacific last reported headed from Hawaii where the ship was denied entry. It is now headed towards the U.S. with the hope of docking in San Diego perhaps tomorrow.
Another cruise ship, the Costa Pacifica was denied entry in France and Spain, but was allowed to dock at Genoa, Italy. The passengers will be taken off and placed in 12 day quarantine.
Another much smaller cruise ship, Le Boreal, with 220 passengers and about 11 Canadians, has also been seeking a port without success.
.That dream vacation was supposed to also end in Chile on March 14. When that was refused, the ship headed to Uruguay where it was also refused even though there are no reported illnesses aboard. It is now headed to Brazil where it hopes to dock this week as supplies aboard are running low. If Brazil refuses, the ship would be forced back to France as most passengers are French nationals.
The cruise industry association says there are still about 20 of its 277 member ships at sea seeking ports.
Global affairs Canada estimates there are still about 3,500 Canadians aboard cruise ships. Even when the ships find a port that will allow them to disembark, the passengers then face the challenge of finding their way back to their country of origin.
Canada’s Prime Minister has said the government is trying to make arrangements to repatriate Canadians from locations around the world, but added that it would not be possible to get everyone home.
additional information – sources:
- CBC: S. Harris: Mar 23/20: ‘Get us the hell off’ Nearly 250 Canadians aboard ship with passengers,crew exhibiting flu-like symptoms
- Globe and Mail: J. Pruden: Mar 22/20: ‘A cruise to nowhere” Cruise ships remain at sea as countries deny entry to port
- USA Today: M. Hines: Mar 24/20: 77 ill on board Holland America cruise ship in limbo waiting for coronavirus test kits