COVID-19 Spreads to 89 Cruise Ships, Prompting a U.S. CDC Investigation

On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection identified nearly all cruise ships carrying COVID-19 patients.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal urged cruise companies and health agencies to stop ships from sailing, saying they are “repeating recent history as petri dishes of Covid-19 infection.” Operators such as Carnival Corp. have implemented safeguards including mandatory masking and proof of vaccination, but the fast-spreading omicron variant has triggered an increasing number of infections and reports of ships being turned away at ports.

“Time for CDC & cruise lines to protect consumers & again pause—docking their ships,” Blumenthal said in a tweet.
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Roger Frizzell, a spokesperson for Carnival, said in an email that “our health and safety protocols put in place have proven to be effective time and time again over the past year with our sailings being restarted across each of our brands.”

Carnival owns 32 of the 86 ships that are under investigation by CDC. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has 25 while Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. has 15. Four ships operated by Walt Disney Co.’s Disney Cruise Line are now also under watch, according to the CDC website. The list is changing rapidly and further public health steps could be taken for outbreak-prone ships.

Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney Cruise Line and Viking Cruises didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Health and safety is the cruise industry’s highest priority,” said Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a spokesperson for the Cruise Lines International Association trade group, in an email. “In fact, the latest data show that cases have occurred less frequently on cruise ships than on land, with a greater proportion of asymptomatic or mild cases.”

The travel industry rebounded Tuesday, as did shares of cruise operators. By 12:35 p.m. New York, Carnival was up 1.2% while Royal Caribbean was up 0.4%. Norwegian was not affected. Of the three, only Royal Caribbean shares have had positive returns this year and they have significantly trailed the broader market, up less than 6% year to date compared to a 27% gain in the S&P 500 Index.


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