Nearly 150 Total Coronavirus Cases Confirmed on Cruise Ship in Japan

An aerial view shows Italian cruise ship Costa Atlantica in Nagasaki, southern Japan April 21, 2020. Kyodo/via REUTERS

Nearly 150 cases of coronavirus infection have been confirmed among crew members of an Italian cruise ship docked in Japan after health authorities finished testing everyone on board, an official said on Saturday.

The Nagasaki prefecture official said 57 more crew had tested positive, bringing the total infections on board the Costa Atlantica to 148, roughly one-quarter of the vessel’s 623 crew members.

Authorities began testing after one crew member tested positive for the virus earlier this week. No passengers are on board the vessel, which has been docked in Nagasaki in southwestern Japan since February for repairs and maintenance after the pandemic prevented scheduled repairs in China.

The official told a news conference that the prefecture was discussing with the national government how to handle a large number of positive infections on the ship.

He added that there was no change in plans to send those testing negative to their home nations as soon as possible.

The infection cluster on board the vessel comes as hospitals are running out of beds in some parts of Japan, where the national tally of virus cases has risen above 13,000. Some 350 people have died. Nagasaki, excluding the ship figures, has seen a relatively low number of 17 infections and one death.

Of those infected on board the Costa Atlantica, only one crew member has been admitted to hospital, while others remain onboard, having shown slight or no symptoms.

Nagasaki authorities had quarantined the vessel on arrival and ordered its crew not to venture beyond the quay except for hospital visits.

But prefecture officials said earlier this week that some of the crew had departed without their knowledge, and sought detailed information on their movements.

The cruise ship infections follow a similar incident earlier this year when more than 700 passengers and crew tested positive for the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise liner docked in Yokohama. (Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu and Chris Gallagher; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Ros Russell)

Cruise Lines Race to React to Coronavirus

Costa Atlantica

The early 2000s and the SARS virus sent Asia-Pacific operators scrambling to move ships, and the same may be about to play out as a number of brands operating in the Chinese market are reacting to the outbreak of the Coronavirus in China.

In a prepared statement, Astro Ocean Cruises said it is offering full refunds to any passengers that have a fever or have been diagnosed with the virus. In addition, for groups departing from Wuhan, where most cases have been concentrated, refunds are also on the table if guests cannot join the trip due to “pneumonia-related management measures.”

The company also said medical personnel that are unable to travel are also eligible for refunds or have the option to change their sailing to a future date.

Costa also issued a statement, saying it was working with port authorities to strengthen passenger screening procedures for guests that may have a fever.

The Italian brand is also modifying cruise policies to allow for full refunds for guests that have the virus or have a fever; as well as any guest from the Wuhan area; and similar to Astro Ocean, medical staff that cannot travel due to work commitments.

Five Ships to Leave Costa Fleet by May 2021

Costa Mediterranea  (Photo: JD Schwartz)

Working to reduce capacity growth in Southern Europe, five ships will leave the Costa Cruises fleet by May 2021, according to Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, speaking on the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Thursday, Sept. 26.

Donald said that two Europe-based ships will leave the Costa fleet in 2020, and he added that two ships will leave the Costa fleet in Asia in 2020.

In addition, he confirmed the Costa Mediterranea will leave the fleet in May 2021. 

The ships will be replaced with more efficient capacity in the new Costa Smeralda, Donald underscored. 

Carnival’s CEO did not mention what other ships would leave the fleet, but based on other Carnival Corp. vessel transfers, these would most likely be the line’s older and less efficient vessels. 

“Some are being sent to China; some are being sent to other markets where we have strength,” Donald said, noting some would also leave the fleet. “When we sell them, we don’t sell them into competing markets.”

The Atlantica and Mediterranea are expected to transfer to Carnival’s joint venture in China with China State Shipbuilding Corporation, but the timeline is behind previously announced goals. 

Recent Carnival Corporation secondhand vessel transactions include not only Costa vessels, but the P&O Oriana, which was sold to Chinese owners and just transferred to the new Astro Ocean brand.

In addition, the Pacific Jewel was sold to Jalesh Cruises, the Pacific Eden moved to Cruise & Maritime Voyages, and the Prinsendam is now the Amera for Phoenix Reisen.