More Cruise Ships Reach Port

file photo of Koningsdam
file photo of Koningsdam

Published Mar 23, 2020 6:38 PM by Allan E. Jordan

Ten days after the cruise industry announced its 30-day suspension of operations, several cruise ships are still working to return to port. Complicated by fears of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and port closures, the cruise lines are having to develop unique solutions to the challenge.

The number of cruise ships with passengers onboard continues to decline as more of the long haul cruises have been able to reach port. P&O Cruises’ Britannia completed a transit from the Caribbean to Southampton, England, arriving on March 23. Similarly, Oceania Cruises’ Marina disembarked passengers in Miami after having been denied disembarkation in both Lima and Santiago. Other cruise ships, on longer voyages across the globe, however, are still seeking ports to disembark their passengers.

A number of the world’s ports, despite being officially closed to cruise ships, have been working with the individual ships to complete these disembarkations. Fremantle, Australia, for example, recently received both the Pacific Princess and the Amsterdam after each terminated world cruises. Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ Vasco da Gama, after having completed the at sea transfer of passengers with the line’s Columbus may be the last of the cruise ships in Fremantle as she is expected to arrive in port at the end of the week.  

Port closures, however, have also forced ships to extend their voyages. Both the Celebrity Eclipse and the Azamara Pursuit are continuing their voyages returning to the U.S. after only being permitted to make a technical call at Valparaiso. Similarly, Holland America’s Maasdam made a technical call in Honolulu before continuing to San Diego where she is due on March 27. Only the Norwegian Jewel arriving in Honolulu after a stop at American Samoa is being permitted to disembark her passengers in Honolulu. The ship is reporting mechanical issues that need to be addressed before sailing. 

Another unintended consequence has compelled several ships to operate traditional liner runs that had been absent from the passenger shipping industry for many years. P&O Cruises Arcadia is currently making a technical call at Durban after which she will operate the traditional Union Castle liner voyage to Southampton where she is expected to arrive on April 12. The Queen Mary 2 is following a similar route carrying passengers from her world cruise that were unable to make the long-distance flights from Australia. She is expected to reach Durban at the end of the week before making her run to Southampton. Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ Columbus is due to reach the Suez Canal on April 2 as she makes her way from the Far East to Southampton.

Most of the remaining cruise ships at sea have been able to avoid the virus, but a few have not been as fortunate. The MSC Magnifica, for example, is currently being held off Fremantle because of uncertainty if her passengers or crew are infected and how widespread the outbreak might be onboard. Similarly, Holland America’s Zaandam, after being denied entry into ports in South America began sailing north before 13 guests and 29 crew members reported possible symptoms. The ship is currently heading towards the Panama Canal and, assuming she can complete a transit, intends to sail to Port Everglades.

Despite the difficult circumstances, the cruise lines are winning praise for their dedicated efforts to safely return passengers home. For example, the Carnival Care Team in Australia, along with specially trained crew members, has been assisting, and in some cases even traveling with, passengers from Holland America Line’s Amsterdam aiding their return to distant homes in primarily in the U.S. and Canada. Even the ships arriving in the U.S. are being met by team members to aid with the onward travel that has been complicated by the reduced levels of plane flights due to the virus.  

Currently, it appears that the last of the cruise ships will not reach their disembarkation ports till early April. However, the bulk of the cruise fleet is now idled in ports and anchorages around the world with the cruise lines turning their attention to crew morale. The entertainment teams normally for passengers have been organizing activities for crew members that are far from home and concerned about their families and friends.  

A few ships after having offloaded passengers are also beginning to reposition. For example, Silversea Cruises’ Silver Wind recently departed the Caribbean bound for Gibraltar while Holland America’s Koningsdam recently made a technical in Barbados before departing for Brazil. She is scheduled to cruise this summer in Alaska. As the cruise industry completed winding down operations they are also taking the first steps to anticipate a future return to service.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.