Passengers confined to cabins as coronavirus appears on another cruise ship

Aug 3, 2020

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Another cruise ship that tried to resume sailings in recent days is having a coronavirus crisis.

The French Polynesia-based, 332-passenger Paul Gauguin returned early to its home port of Papeete, Tahiti, over the weekend after a passenger tested positive for the illness.

The vessel, operated by Tahiti-based Paul Gauguin Cruises, was just three days into its first sailing with international passengers since cruise lines around the world halted operations in March.

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French Polynesia’s High Commission on Monday said 148 passengers on the vessel had been confined to their cabins.

The passenger who tested positive and a family member sharing the same cabin have been removed from the ship and placed in isolation on land.

The High Commission said initial COVID-19 testing of passengers and crew members who were in close contact with the passenger who tested positive have come back negative. Health officials are now testing all remaining passengers and crew on the vessel.

Paul Gauguin Cruises
The 332-passenger cruise ship Paul Gauguin sails year-round in the South Pacific. (Photo by Sylvain GRANDADAM/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

The High Commission didn’t say how long passengers would be confined on the ship or whether the vessel was formally under quarantine.

The situation on the Paul Gauguin began unfolding just a day after one of the first cruise ships to resume operations in Europe experienced a significant coronavirus outbreak.

Norwegian expedition cruise company Hurtigruten’s 535-passenger Roald Amundsen arrived in Tromsø, Norway, on Friday with four sick crew members who later tested positive for COVID-19. Another 32 crew members and at least five passengers have since tested positive.

The four sick crew members have been hospitalized.

Related: Coronavirus claims another small cruise line — the third in a month 

The Roald Amundsen had just finished its second sailing since resuming operations, a seven-night trip out of Tromsø to the Arctic’s wildlife-filled Svalbard archipelago.

Hurtigruten and Paul Gauguin Cruises have been at the forefront of efforts to restart cruising around the world.

Hurtigruten restarted cruises to Norway out of Hamburg, Germany, in June with a single ship, the 530-passenger Fridtjof Nansen. It added cruises to Svalbard on the Roald Amundsen and the 335-passenger Spitsbergen in July.

Hurtigruten on Monday said it had suspended all upcoming sailings on the three vessels. In a statement, Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam called it “the only responsible choice”.

Paul Gauguin Cruises resumed operations in French Polynesia on 18 July with a voyage open to local residents only. The current sailing, which began on 29 July, was its first with international travellers.

Paul Gauguin Cruises hasn’t said whether it would go ahead with future sailings.

French Polynesia on 15 July became the first destination in the South Pacific to accept international visitors without requiring a quarantine, and several cruise companies quickly announced plans to restart operations in the region.

Related: French Polynesia is about to be at the vanguard of cruising’s return 

The High Commission said the passenger who tested positive on the Paul Gauguin had taken a self-administered COVID-19 test while on board the vessel. A second test performed by health officials after the ship returned to Papeete confirmed the illness.

The Paul Gauguin had spent two days at the island of Bora Bora before the coronavirus case on the ship was discovered. The 10-night trip had been scheduled to also include visits to Moorea, Huahine and Motu Mahaea in the Society Islands as well as stops in the Tuamotu Islands.

Paul Gauguin Cruises is a division of Ponant, a France-based cruise company that specializes in expedition-style cruises to remote destinations. It draws a significant number of Americans.

Hurtigruten and Paul Gauguin Cruises are just two of several cruise companies that have been starting to bring back cruises in a handful of regions around the world since June. Until this week, no cruise operators in North America had resumed sailings. But one small-ship cruise company, UnCruise Adventures, resumed trips out of Juneau, Alaska, on Saturday.

Featured image by Sylvain GRANDADAM/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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