August 03, 2020
(10 a.m. EDT) -- The international cruise industry took a step back this weekend, as two lines that had restarted operations reported COVID-19 outbreaks among passengers and crew.
Both lines -- Hurtigruten in Norway and Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia -- had restarted operations with clearly laid out health and safety guidelines for passengers and crew.
Hurtigruten has suspended all expedition sailings that were planned on three of its ships -- Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen and MS Spitsbergen.
The outbreaks show that much is still unknown about COVID-19 and the best way to prevent the disease from spreading, particularly among asymptomatic individuals and groups living together in enclosed spaces.
Here is what Cruise Critic knows about the different COVID incidents over the weekend:
As reported, 36 crew members from Roald Amundsen have tested positive for COVID-19. Four of the cases were confirmed Friday, with the final number coming after Hurtigruten tested the entire crew. The remaining 122 crew members have tested negative.
Five passengers so far have tested positive,
Hurtigruten resumed cruises June 17, making it the first ocean cruise line in the world to come back into service after the COVID-19 pandemic caused a global shutdown in mid-March. The line, which also runs a ferry service on the Norwegian coast, had restricted the original sailings to Norwegian and Danish passengers, as the Scandinavian countries had seemed to have the coronavirus under control.
the line allowed the 178 passengers onboard to disembark Roald Amundsen in Tromso, a city in Norway above the Arctic Circle. The ship had been returning from a July 24 Arctic cruise to Svalbard, the world's northernmost inhabited archipelago, which has no medical facilities.
reports the passenger and crew from the most recent voyage have been put into quarantine, while the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) has also been contact tracing and notifying passengers who took the July 17 cruise. As many as 69 municipalities in Norway could be affected by the outbreak, according to the Norwegian press.
Hurtigruten said on its site that it will be assisting the quarantined passengers with transport, accommodation, food and other needs.
Within Norway, both the line and local police are reviewing the sequence of events to see if proper notification procedures were followed,
, Norway's national broadcasting company. The service reports that Hurtigruten discovered Wednesday that a passenger on the July 17 sailing had reported COVID-19, but the ship didn't notify current passengers until two days later, going against the recommendation of the FHI.
Hurtigruten Executive Vice President Daniel Skjeldan told the news agency that the line will do a full review of the incident. "A preliminary evaluation shows that there has been a failure in several of our internal procedures," he is quoted as saying. "This is a serious situation for everyone who is affected. We have not been good enough, and we have made mistakes.
"On behalf of all of us in Hurtigruten, I am sorry for what has happened. We take our responsibility fully."
What's also still to be resolved: how the virus came onto the ship in the first place. Hurtigruten had implemented a full slate of health and safety protocols, with all crew members monitored and screened daily. Non-Norwegian crew members are quarantined before boarding the ship, and non-European crew need to undergo two negative COVID-19 tests before even leaving their home country, said Rune Thomas Ege, Hurtigruten's vice president of global communications.
Capacity restrictions had been implemented, with social distancing encouraged and self-service meals eliminated. Passengers had been asked to fill out safety questionnaires to confirm they have had no symptoms before they boarded, and the line carried out mandatory temperature testing in ports and in the restaurant for passengers and crew via a heat sensor.
Passengers were not required to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding, though.
All travelers to French Polynesia are required to take COVID-19 tests within three days of their flight and show negative results before entering the country. The cruise ship Paul Gauguin also requires passengers to present the test results, with the exception of residents and visitors who have been in French Polynesia for 14 days.
Regardless, the ship discovered a positive COVID-19 case on its first voyage open to international guests, which left Papeete, Tahiti, on July 29 on a 10-night itinerary; Paul Gauguin had resumed sailing in mid-July with local passengers only.
According to the line, the affected passenger was an asympotomatic 22-year-old American traveling with her mother. She tested negative before leaving the United States, but then tested positive onboard.
The announcement was made on the ship August 2, as the ship was sailing between Bora Bora and Rangiroa. The ship then turned around to Papeete, where a specialized medical team boarded the vessel to test all 148 passengers and 192 crew members. All passengers, including the positive one, and crew were confined to their cabins.
Once the ship arrived in Papeete, the woman and her mother were escorted off the ship under "sanitary corridor" and put in a hotel provided for that purpose, the line said. The woman took a new test, which alos came back positive. All people onboard, including crew and guests, who had been in contact with her were also tested; all came back negative.
The current cruise was canceled, and teams will organize disembarkation for all passengers today. Crew members will stay in quarantine onboard for seven days, the line said. The passengers and crew members will also have to be re-tested within seven days.
Paul Gauguin is owned by the French cruise line Ponant, which has also resumed cruises in France. The small ship line had a
, including 100 percent fresh air in staterooms, reduced capacity, mask wearing and more.
Cruise Critic member jimm942 was on the ship and posted live in the Paul Gauguin forum:
"Yes we are bring asked to disembark tomorrow and to fly flight back to USA. There are 5 USA citizens on the cruise but one is from Hawaii. There are 11 from France and everyone else is from FP (French Polynesia). They have found us a flight to LAX tomorrow night Aug 3. Our Covid test was negative. Only one person (USA citizen) tested positive and they are in a local hospital. We only got to see Bora Bora as we had to skip Huiane (sp) because of engine problems and leaving real late from Papeete. Service on ship was great. Lots and lots of wine during our lock down after returning to Tahiti."