After being denied entry to a port in San Juan and several other Caribbean ports, the cruise ship MS Braemer is the latest cruise ship to be dangerously stranded at sea after at least five cases were confirmed on board, and another 40 passengers and crew have been quarantined in the hold after exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
Puerto Rico denied the ship entry yesterday after a rumor about another ship allowing infected passengers to disembark in San Juan sparked a public uproar, leading the governor to ban all cruise ships from docking. The transatlantic cruise ship, which is carrying some 600 passengers, is frantically searching for somewhere to dock after it was refused entry at several Caribbean ports.
The vessel, which is carrying 682 passengers and 381 crew members, arrived in the Bahamas on Saturday. The ship was prevented from docking, but was given permission to drop anchor southwest of Freeport, according to CNN.
In a statement, British cruise company Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said on Sunday that “no other Caribbean ports were willing to accept the ship because of local sensitivities towards COVID-19 coronavirus.”
Presently, the Braemar is anchored about 25 miles offshore from the Bahamas waiting for clearance from the local government to bring aboard vital food, fuel and medications and two doctors and two nurses who are preparing to assist the cruise’s onboard medical team.
“No other Caribbean ports were willing to accept the ship because of local sensitivities towards COVID-19 coronavirus,” the company said in a statement. The British government was engaged in a diplomatic effort to find a solution to the drama.
A spokeswoman for the cruise line told CNN that “all options on where to go” were being considered, including returning to the cruise’s starting point in Southampton, back in the UK.
“We are exploring a number of opportunities and working extremely hard to find a resolution,” she said. “It is an option to do a transatlantic crossing but we need to weigh that up against other options.”
“The key thing for us is to get guests home as quickly and as safely as possible.”
Most of the passengers aboard the ship are British, but the group also includes Canadian, Australian, Belgian, Colombian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, New Zealand, Norwegian and Swedish citizens.
Last Monday, March 9, the company reported that two people who had been on the Braemar were diagnosed with the coronavirus after returning home. Six people reporting flu-like symptoms on the ship were tested, and five cases were confirmed on Wednesday, four crew and one passenger, with another testing inconclusive (it’s unclear how these tests were conducted or what kinds of tests are being used).
The ship was refused permission to dock at Curaçao on Tuesday, or Barbados on Thursday and changed course to the Bahamas, the ship’s flag state, with the captain hoping to allow passengers to disembark there.
Before the ship arrived in the Caribbean, there were no confirmed cases in the area. The first cases weren’t confirmed until two passengers who had disembarked tested positive back in the UK.
The cruise line was unable to drop passengers on its Caribbean cruise in La Romana in the Dominican Republic on February 27 after a number of influenza-like cases on board were reported.
Instead, it made an unscheduled stop in St. Maarten on March 2 to allow passengers to disembark and take the cruise’s charter flights back to the UK. New passengers boarded and the vessel set sail for Jamaica as it continued to the Western Caribbean and Central America.
It was due to continue to Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Curacao, and reach Barbados on March 12.
The captain told passengers in an announcement that he was in talks with local authorities and asked passengers to “bear with me in this incredibly frustrating time, where rumor is plentiful and facts are in short supply.”
But the Bahamas has promised nothing beyond humanitarian assistance.
It’s just the latest nightmare at sea as cruise line stocks get hammered.