Breaking: COVID-19 scare on one of first ships to resume cruising

Sep 28, 2020

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One of the first large cruise ships to resume sailings in the Mediterranean since the worldwide halt to cruising in March is in the midst of a coronavirus scare.

A dozen crew members on the 2,534-passenger TUI Cruises vessel Mein Schiff 6 have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the line.

The ship had just begun a seven-night voyage around Greece from the port of Heraklion in Crete.

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The vessel is now heading to Piraeus, the port for Athens, where it had been scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.

In a statement to The Points Guy, TUI Cruises said the 12 crew members who tested positive have been isolated, and the line is in the process of retesting them using a rapid test device onboard.

The initial tests that had come back positive were done by an external laboratory.

So far, six of the onboard rapid tests have come back, and they all have been negative, TUI Cruises said in the statement. The line said it would take further swabs from the crew members and send them to an external laboratory for yet another round of testing.

None of the 12 crew members has any symptoms, the line said.

TUI Cruises downplayed the situation onboard, saying the isolation of the crew who tested positive was “a pure precautionary measure” and the retesting was being done “to rule out the unlikely case of infection”.

The line said that “thanks to the extensive hygiene measures and clearance rules on board, there is no reason for neither guests nor crew to worry”.

The 12 positive results occurred after the ship tested 150 crew members as part of routine monitoring. The ship currently is sailing with 666 crew members and 922 passengers.

Mein Schiff 6
The TUI Cruises ship Mein Schiff 6. (Photo courtesy of TUI Cruises)

TUI Cruises is a German line owned in part by Royal Caribbean Group, the parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea. It is the only Royal Caribbean-affiliated line that has attempted to resume cruises since the coronavirus lockdown began.

TUI Cruises has been among the most aggressive of the major lines in returning to service since the coronavirus crisis began. It began “cruises to nowhere” out of ports in Northern Germany in July with two ships. It added cruises around Greece just two weeks ago.

Mein Schiff 6 had just begun its third sailing around Greece when the positive COVID-19 tests came to light.

The coronavirus scare on the ship comes as Royal Caribbean and several other major lines including Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line weigh plans to resume cruising in at least some parts of the world as soon as November.

Related: Royal Caribbean CEO to TPG: ‘We feel as if we’re close’

The limited restart of cruising by TUI Cruises and a handful of other cruise operators in the Mediterranean since August is being closely watched by lines considering a return to service.

TUI Cruises was the first major line to resume sailings around Greece. But two more major brands — MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises — plan to restart Greece cruises in the coming weeks.

The coronavirus scare on Mein Schiff 6 is likely to raise questions about the way TUI Cruises is handling COVID-19 testing for passengers sailing on the ship.

TUI Cruises is requiring that all passengers test negative for COVID-19 before boarding the vessel. But unlike the two other major lines that have resumed limited cruises in the Mediterranean — MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises — it isn’t doing the tests at the pier as passengers board. Passengers can take the test a few days before they travel.

The looser policy means that a Mein Schiff 6 passenger who contracted COVID-19 after being tested but before travelling to the ship could carry the illness on board.

Featured image courtesy of TUI Cruises

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