Cruise line says passengers, crew 100% vaccinated
Several vaccinated passengers aboard a cruise ship that returned Sunday to San Francisco from a 15-day Panama Canal trip tested positive for COVID-19.
Princess Cruises said in a statement that “during the cruise we identified some positive COVID-19 cases amongst our guests and crew members” aboard the Ruby Princess ship, though all had been vaccinated.
“They were all asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic and were isolated and quarantined while monitored and cared for by our shipboard medical team,” the cruise line’s statement said.
The incident was reminiscent of the drama that surrounded the line’s Grand Princess ship when several passengers tested positive in March 2020, forcing thousands of passengers to quarantine in their cabins as the ship idled off the San Francisco coast and the gravity of the pandemic began to hit the U.S. Two people on that cruise — which had disembarked from San Francisco to Hawaii before turning back, died from the virus.
That incident two years ago captivated many in the U.S. who were learning about the new virus for the first time. and led federal health officials to temporarily suspend cruise travel through last June. Cruise service in San Francisco resumed in October. Most cruise lines since have required passengers and crew to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
But that hasn’t stopped shipboard outbreaks. On Jan. 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began investigating an outbreak among a dozen passengers aboard a cruise ship that had docked in San Francisco after a 10-day cruise to Mexico. That outbreak was discovered following random testing of 25% of passengers. At the time, 22 cruises that had docked in San Francisco had reported COVID-19 positive passengers or crew.
Cruise ships are required to notify the CDC of suspected or confirmed positive cases on board, and any vessel with 0.10% of passenger cases meet the criteria for investigation.
Princess Cruises did not say how many of the passengers aboard the Ruby Princess had tested positive. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website indicates there were enough cases to meet the threshold for a CDC investigation. It listed the Ruby Princess’ status as “orange,” signifying confirmed cases among 0.3% or more of passengers or crew.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health referred questions about the number of infected passengers to the Port of San Francisco, which referred questions to the cruise line. The port said in a statement Monday that it coordinates with the city’s health department and individual cruise lines to establish clear protocols for all vessels that embark, disembark and transit through San Francisco.
“Cruise operations in San Francisco resumed safely in strict compliance with all applicable,” CDC rules and regulations as well as protocols and procedures required by San Francisco health department, the port statement said.
The cruise line said that in collaboration with the CDC and the San Francisco Department of Public Health, “those guests who tested positive and have not completed the isolation period will either return home via private transportation or were provided with accommodations ashore to hotels coordinated in advance for isolation and quarantine.”
The 951-foot Ruby Princess, based out of San Francisco, departed Sunday afternoon for a 15-day cruise to Hawaii, where she is expected to arrive April 1. The 19-deck ship with 1,542 guest cabins made her inaugural cruise Nov. 8, 2008 after being christened by “The Bachelorette” stars Trista and Ryan Sutter, and was refurbished in 2018. She can carry 3,080 guests and 1,200 crew.