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The last three cruise ships will be returning to port today, and the sea will be free of massive passenger liners. The MSC Magnifica will be docking in Marseille, the Costa Deliziosa in Barcelona, and the Pacific Princess in Los Angeles.
Each has had their own difficult journeys on the high seas, and none of the passengers nor crew aboard could imagine the international political intrigue that would accompany these final tours.
The MSC Magnifica has been traveling since January when it departed from Genoa, Italy, and passengers and crew have not felt land in six weeks. There were 1,760 passengers on board, primarily from Italy, France, and Germany, captained by Roberto Leotta from Riposto in Sicily. Captain Leotta tracked the global spread of the virus as they sailed.
“We were always in contact with all the local authorities,” he said, reported by the BBC, “[But it was] after South America the situation became more concerning.”
From Africa, the ship went to South America, docking in Brazil in mid-January, and then to Chile and Pitcairn, in the South Pacific. This is when Leotta noticed that ports were not allowing cruise ships to dock, and that there were some ships that were full of sick passengers. Quarantine ships made local authorities nervous, as well as Leotta.
The MSC Magnifica was due to dock in the Cook Islands, but the local government there only allowed them to dock in the Capital of Raratonga, a departure from the ship’s original itinerary. As they neared Australia and New Zealand, the decision was made that though the ship would dock, no passengers would be getting off. By the time they reached Sydney, the cruise was over.
At that point, some passengers did get off in Sydney and Melbourne, and since no one on board had either symptoms or a confirmed case of the coronavirus, they were allowed off. The rest of the passengers remained on board for a five-week journey back to Europe.
The ship was protested in Fremantle due to confusion as to the status of coronavirus on board, and in Sri Lanka, after much difficulty and help from social media, a Sri Lankan chef was able to get off and go home, per his wishes. He was escorted back to shore by that nation’s navy, and began a two-week quarantine period before he would be released to go see his family.
Today the MSC Magnifica will port in Marseille, after about 100 days at sea.
The cruise ship industry was rocked as ships carrying passengers became floating quarantine zones. A couple described what that was like from their cabin in February.
The Costa Deliziosa will port in Barcelona, before dropping off additional passengers in Italy. A few days ago, the Costa Deliziosa endeavored to dock in Marseille, but the local authorities for the Bouches-du-Rhone refused them, noting that there was a nationwide ban on letting ships dock, due to French containment measures.
The Costa Deliziosa has been at sea for 15 weeks, and this will be the first port-of-call in over 35 days. The ship has had no physical contact with the outside world. They have no cases or symptoms of coronavirus on board the ship, owned by Costa Crociere, an Italian cruise ship company.
Passenger Carlos Paya told the AP “It was not surreal. It was incredible. We have family in our home countries. The news that was arriving from home was causing us all a lot of worry and grief. For us, it was a stroke of good luck to be where we were.”
The Costa Deliziosa will stop first in Barcelona today, before dropping off its remaining passengers in Genoa. The cruise was supposed to last until April 26, with a final stop in Venice.
On March 13, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to announce that he had coordinated with cruise companies to “suspend outbound cruises for 30 days.”
The Pacific Princess will dock today in Los Angeles. It set sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in early January for a planned 111-day journey around the world.
In March, the cruise ran into trouble after coronavirus outbreaks were reported on other ships. The journey was cut short, but not until after the ship had sailed to Aruba, through the Panama Canal, Mexico, Hawaii, French Polynesia, and New Zealand. Other nations that were originally on the ship's itinerary refused to allow the ship to dock.
It will dock in LA today after meeting the US Coast Guard criterion: “Passenger vessels or any vessel carrying passengers that have been to impacted regions or embarked passengers who have been in impacted regions within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the United States. If ALL passengers exceed 14 days since being in the countries ... [on the CDC restricted-countries list] ... and are symptom-free, the vessel will be permitted to enter the United States to conduct normal operations.”
Now that all ships are heading safely to port, with healthy passengers going home to families and homes in hot spot areas, the timelines for when cruises will be able to operate safely is not yet known. On April 9, the Centers for Disease Control issued a No Sail Order for an additional 100 days, signaling a return to cruises in late July.