The cruise industry's latest coronavirus scare turned out to be just that - a scare. Late today, TUI Cruises issued a statement announcing that the Greek authorities confirmed that there are no cases of the virus aboard the cruise ship and that the cruise can proceed as planned.
TUI Cruises was quick to highlight the success of its health protocols established in coordination with the Greek authorities.
Noting that all of the crew had tested negative before boarding the Mein Schiff 6 and gone through a period of isolation, the company said the steps had been taken as a precaution.
Yesterday, a lab on shore had reported 12 positive tests out of 150 tests conducted among the 666 crew members aboard.
While none of the crew members were exhibiting any symptoms of the virus, they were immediately quarantined and contact tracing isolated an additional 24 crew members that were part of “contract group 1” meaning they had close contact with the potentially positive crew.
TUI immediately conducted PCR tests, which it reported were negative, and this morning the Greek authorities conducted two further tests, both the rapid antigen test, which was negative, and another PCR test, which the Greek authorities confirmed this afternoon was also negative.
“The safety of the guests, the crew, but also the Greek population is the top priority for TUI Cruises.
I would like to thank all the responsible authorities for their good and professional cooperation in connection with the unclear test results on board Mein Schiff 6 and I am pleased that the voyage can be continued for all guests tomorrow with shore excursions in Piraeus” said Wybcke Meier, CEO of TUI Cruises.
The handling of the unclear test results of crew members reported yesterday once again confirms the processes agreed with the authorities for the resumption of the cruise business and proves that cruises are possible in times of corona, TUI said in its prepared statement.
The cruise line has established extensive precautions, including the testing of all crew members, and all passengers must test negative within three days before boarding special charter flights to join the cruise ship in Heraklion, Crete.
No independent travel is permitted to join the ship. In addition to limiting capacity to 60 percent of the ship’s normal passengers, they are only making balcony cabins and suites, which have access to outside air, available.
On board, they are asking everyone to comply with social distancing and hygiene and both passengers and crew have daily temperature checks.
The Mein Schiff 6 departed from Heraklion on Sunday, September 27, with 922 passengers for a 7-day cruise with stops in Piraeus and Corfu.
When the captain was informed of the potential positives aboard, he decided to take the ship into Piraeus where they could coordinate with the Greek health authorities.
The passengers remained aboard the cruise ship, but tomorrow will be permitted to take the company’s tours to Athens.
This situation was not the first instance of possibly inaccurate tests since the cruise industry began resuming service and the overreaction in the media demonstrates the increased sensitivity in reporting these instances.
UnCruises in July had just commenced its first cruise when one passenger was told he had tested positive when he arrived in Alaska days earlier.
UnCruises canceled the trip and undertook its protocols, including a subsequent test during which that passenger was negative. Similarly, SeaDream Yacht Club had a situation in July where a passenger after disembarking the cruise tested positive but later also received a negative test.
Many in the cruise industry have been closely following TUI’s progress as the first large cruise line to resume sailing first with trips to nowhere from Germany and now the additional cruise ship sailing in Greece.
Both MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises also returned to service sailing from Italy and Dream Cruises in Taiwan.
AIDA Cruises is the next cruise line with large ships due to resume service and several others are believed to be preparing to resume sailing.
Also, several lines with smaller cruise ships have returned to service. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s no sail order is due to expire on September 30. So far, the CDC has not announced any actions.