A major Mediterranean cruise was briefly halted after an apparent COVID-19 outbreak

cruise outbreak coronavirus tui cruises
Photo via madle-fotowelt/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)

One of the first major Mediterranean cruises to set sail since the pandemic began briefly had to halt operations. According to the Guardian, within 24 hours of setting sail on Sept. 27, a dozen crew members of the Mein Schiff 6 cruise ship sailing from the Cretan port in Greece had reportedly returned positive results for COVID-19 tests acquired from an external laboratory. That led to more worries about the potential of a cruise outbreak as some ships are returning to the water despite the pandemic.

But in a statement from the TUI Group only two days later, the travel company confirmed that previous testing of crew members on the Mein Schiff 6 had resulted in false positives. The company stated that operations on the cruise would continue as normally planned and that the crew member’s new negative results help to prove that “cruises are possible in times of Corona.”

“Following a false alarm caused by a report of 12 positive test results on crew by a land-based laboratory, three further tests, including two PCR tests and one antigen test, have confirmed the results: There are no cases of COVID-19 on board Mein Schiff 6,” the cruise line wrote, stating that the new results were corroborated by Greek authorities Tuesday.

“The handling of unclear test results of crew members reported yesterday now once again confirms the process agreed with the authorities of the resumption of the cruise business …”

The initial cruise outbreak onboard posed obvious safety concerns for the 922 passengers and all 666 crew members, further complicating the prospect of travel and how to safely handle tourism in the pandemic era. 

The staff who tested positive showed no symptoms of the coronavirus and were immediately isolated on board in accordance with strict guidelines for resuming cruises by Greece authorities. Only 150 crew members of the entire staff were randomly chosen for testing. At that point, passengers were reported to be confined to their cabins within the ship for the duration of the trip.

TUI Cruises used the journey as a primary test for future similar trips in collaboration with the Royal Caribbean cruise line in a 50-50 joint venture. The cruise line had previously encouraged passengers, saying that it was operating “with highest hygiene and safety measures” in addition to “the newly formed position [of] an Infection Manager on board.”

As noted by The Points Guy, “TUI Cruises has been among the most aggressive of the major lines in returning to service since the coronavirus crisis began.” It opened up operations with small recreational cruises in July, and it heralded the Mein Schiff 6 as being “one of the first cruise ships worldwide at this size to return to service including the offer of shore excursions.”

The U.S. cruise industry remains under “no sail” orders under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) until at least Oct. 31.

Read more on traveling during the pandemic:

Sources: Cruise Law News, Johns Hopkins University, CNN, The Guardian, The Points Guy

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