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Tourism & Cruises

Three ill Costa cruisers debark in Spain after former shipmates got COVID-19

 

Note: The Miami Herald and McClatchy news sites have lifted the paywall on our websites for this developing story, providing critical information to readers. To support vital reporting such as this, please consider a digital subscription.

Three passengers and their companions on the Costa Luminosa cruise ship were offloaded Sunday with respiratory problems in Spain’s Canary Islands.

The cruise ship, owned by Miami-based Carnival Corporation, has left three people diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in two countries since it departed Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 24.

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On Feb. 29, a 68-year-old Italian man was evacuated from the ship in the Cayman Islands following a stroke. He tested positive there for COVID-19 before he passed away Saturday. The ship returned to Fort Lauderdale on March 5 to pick up new passengers. On March 8, when the ship was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a 68-year-old woman from northern Italy was evacuated from the cruise ship with pneumonia, accompanied by her 70-year-old husband. Both tested positive for the virus Saturday.

The Costa Luminosa had to skip its next scheduled stop in Antigua on March 9 because the country didn’t allow it to dock. During its week-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean on the way to Spain, passengers say they were free to roam the ship, gather in restaurants and bars, and use the gym. The theaters were closed.

A crew member who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from the company said the company has not provided the crew with any protective gear. He is concerned about the crew’s safety since they have been on the ship the longest.

“When the crew members we ask for mask they don’t want to give us mask,” he said.

The company said protective gear is provided “according to international medical guidelines.”

“The level of sanitation on board, already previously high following the Costa Crociere policy on its entire fleet, has been further raised in order to guarantee the maximum level of hygiene and safety for guests and crew,” Costa Cruises said in a statement.

The passengers offloaded in the Canary Islands on Sunday are German, Danish, and Belgian, the company said. Spain banned all cruises from its ports on March 12 but allowed the health department to make exceptions, which it did in this case, the port said in a statement on Facebook.

The ship is expected to arrive in Marseilles, France, on March 19. On Sunday evening, the captain ordered all passengers to remain in their cabins for the rest of the cruise.

“The protection of the health and safety of passengers and crew members is a top priority for Costa Cruises,” the company said in a statement.

Emilio and Barbara Hernandez, of Miami, boarded the ship in Fort Lauderdale on March 5. They said they toured got off the ship in Puerto Rico on March 8 and had their temperatures taken by crew members when they got back on board. If they had known that two passengers had been evacuated with pneumonia, they said they would have stayed in Puerto Rico.

Emilio and Barbara Hernandez of Miami sent a letter to the captain of the Costa Luminosa cruise ship on Sunday asking to be let off in Spain. The ship left Sunday evening after three passengers with respiratory illnesses were offloaded. The Hernandezs remain on board. Emilio Hernandez

“They waited until the next day to tell us,” said Emilio. “I saw Antigua go by. A little bit later they said we’ve been denied entry to Antigua. I said, that’s crazy, we are going to be at sea without access to medical services for five to six days.”

Emilio, 51, and Barbara, 46, are frequent cruisers, but this is their first with Costa. Emilio said he was shocked to see passengers crowding in confined restaurants and bars even after the news broke Saturday that the former passenger in the Cayman Islands had died and the two in Puerto Rico had tested positive.

“It’s almost like, it’s unreal,” he said. “There are gatherings of hundreds of people in several areas.”

On Sunday, the captain ordered passengers back to their cabins in segments so that crew members could take their temperatures. Emilio wrote a letter to the ship’s captain asking that passengers be let off in the Canary Islands. He said he received a call from someone at the company who said that would not be possible.

On Sunday evening, the ship departed the Canary Islands. Emilio fears that the ship will not be allowed to dock in France given the history of sick people on board.

There are currently 1,427 passengers on board; of those, 233 are U.S. citizens. The company did not respond to a request for information about how many crew members are on board. The ship can hold 1,050 crew members.

The Costa Luminosa isn’t the only ship with positive cases.

Susan Gary of Palm Beach, Florida stands on her cabin balcony of the Silver Shadow cruise ship, which is stuck in Recife, Brazil after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19 on March 14. Susan Gary

In Recife, Brazil, the Silver Shadow cruise ship, operated by Silversea announced Saturday that a passenger tested positive for COVID-19. All 318 passengers are confined to their cabins, according to Brad and Susan Gary, passengers from Palm Beach, Florida in their 70s. There are 291 crew also on board. Silversea is partly owned by Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

On Sunday evening, the Garys said Brazilian authorities requested a list of medications taken by each passenger but have not announced any plans for disembarking.

“There has not been a shred of information about where we go from here and when we go from here,” Susan said. “We’d like to know from the Brazil government what exactly their plans are.”

In the Caribbean, the Bahamas turned away the Braemar cruise ship, operated by the British company Fred. Olsen Cruise Line, because it has four crew members and one passenger on board with COVID-19. On Monday, Cuba announced that it will allow the ship to dock after a request from the British government. The ship is carrying 682 passengers and 381 crew members

Costa Cruises, Silversea and Fred. Olsen have all suspended future cruise service.

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