Costa Cruises ship cleared after coronavirus scare

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The fear of a potential outbreak of coronavirus on one of the world’s largest cruise ships has turned out to be a false alarm.

Costa Cruises confirmed that Italian health officials diagnosed a passenger onboard the 6,000-passenger Costa Smeralda with the “common flu”.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that two members from the same family in England have the first cases of coronavirus in the UK.

Passengers on the Costa ship had been placed in quarantine as a precaution over a suspected case of the deadly virus in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome.

At least 66 British passengers were reported to be on board the vessel at the time.

A 54-year-old woman from Macau held in isolation on the ship with her husband had reportedly flown from Hong Kong to join the Mediterranean cruise.

A Costa Cruises spokesperson said: “Thanks to the protocols that are applied on board the fleet, Wednesday night our medical team promptly identified a suspected fever case in a 54-year-old woman, just a few hours before the ship’s arrival in Civitavecchia.

“As soon as the case was discovered, the required precautionary procedures were immediately taken. The relevant authorities were informed and, upon arrival of the ship in the port of Civitavecchia, they carried out all the required checks.

“While we appreciate the inconvenience caused, the procedures in force and our co-operation with the health authorities were effective in managing the situation and intended to ensure maximum safety for our guests, crew and the community as a whole.”

The ship will remain docked at Civitavecchia until today and miss the port of La Spezia before returning to its homeport of Savona.

 

 

MSC Magnifica in Queensferry, Scotland, photo credit Dave Jones

The scare came as rival line MSC Cruises announced a new series of strict “precautionary measures” across its fleet due to the coronavirus outbreak in China which has caused 213 deaths in the country and triggered a World Heath Organisation global health emergency.

Guests from all nationalities are required to fill out a pre-embarkation questionnaire to ensure no-one boards their ship who has travelled from mainland China or visited mainland China in the past 30 days. Anyone who has travelled from mainland China or visited mainland China in the past 30 days will be denied access to the ship;

Mandatory non-touch thermal scans conducted for all guests and crew prior to embarkation for every cruise operated by the company anywhere in the world, and persons with signs or symptoms of illness such as fever or feverishness, chills, cough or difficulty breathing will be denied embarkation;

Elevated deep-sanitation on every ship in the line’s entire fleet;

Guests who may have fever symptoms will be isolated in their cabin and the same measure applies for their close contacts, including guests staying in the same cabin and family members, as well as any crew member who may have served these guests.

A spokesman said: “While there are no cases of coronavirus on board any of MSC Cruises’ ships these measures are additional steps to secure the health and well-being of all guests and crew.”

“These measures follow previous actions that were taken last week,” the spokesman added.

“Guests and crew who travelled last week from mainland China were already screened for symptoms upon embarkation and were requested to report any symptoms of illness to the onboard medical centre.

“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, MSC Cruises has been closely monitoring the public health and safety situation in each of the regions its ships sail.

“The company has been consulting with international and local health authorities to follow their advice and recommendations.”

The move came after the line cancelled the next three MSC Splendida sailings from Shanghai.

The ship’s four and five-night sailings from Shanghai to Japan on February 1, 5 and 9 will not operate.

MSC Splendida, deployed in Asia for the winter, will reposition to Singapore to start a 27-night repositioning voyage to the Middle East and Europe on February 14.

The line’s chief executive Gianni Onorato said: “The decision to reposition the ship from Shanghai to Singapore has been taken in the best interests of the safety and wellbeing for our passengers and crew, as was the decision to cancel our next three scheduled sailings from China.

“Many major airlines have either cancelled or reduced their flight frequency to China and the grand voyage, a maritime tradition whereby a ship moves from one part of the world to another for a new sailing season, was entirely booked with guests flying from abroad to enjoy the experience of a unique itinerary.

“In light of Singapore becoming a new embarkation port we have had to cancel calls to Naha, Japan and Hong Kong but it has also created an opportunity to update and enrich the grand voyage’s itinerary with four additional new ports; Langkawi, Penang and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, plus Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to create a new, one-of-a-kind memorable cruise.”

Cruise ship warning: How diseases can spread like wildfire amid coronavirus fears

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A CRUISE ship with 6,000 passengers carrying two suspected coronavirus patients have banned guests from disembarking at an Italian port, as fears surrounding catching diseases while travelling are on the rise. What are the best ways travellers can protect themselves against outbreaks?

 

 This fear has further heightened after news broke that two suspected patients from Hong Kong are being held in isolation in the on-board hospital of the Costa Smeralda in Civitavecchia, Italy.

The ship, which contains around 6,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members have been told to stay on board amid concerns of the outbreak.

 

In a statement, Costa Cruises said: “Costa Cruises confirms the sanitary the protocol has been activated for a guest on-board of Costa Smeralda.

 

“The guest, a 54 years old lady of Chinese nationality, is currently put on isolation on the onboard hospital since last night together with her travel mate, in line with health protocols.

“As soon as the a suspected case was detected, the Medical Team on board immediately activated all the relevant health procedures to promptly isolate and manage the clinical condition.


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“The Health Authority has been immediately notified and is now on board to conduct all the pertinent measures. It is our utmost priority to ensure the health and safety of passengers and crew.”

They added that the company is at “complete disposal” of the Health Authority and their indication will be strictly applied.

“Costa Cruises continue to apply the relevant national policies and epidemic developments, as per World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indications.”

Other major cruise lines cancelled cruises as the virus spreads, including Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises.

Mardi Gras delays not surprising but still costly for Carnival

A rendering of the Mardi Gras' top deck.
Carnivals Mardi Gras

When Carnival Corp. announced that it was delaying this year’s delivery of the Carnival Mardi Gras, it had a familiar ring.

The Mardi Gras, the first Carnival Cruise Line ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), joins ships from two other Carnival Corp. brands that also feature LNG propulsion and weren’t delivered on time.

The shipyards involved have blamed the delays on design complexity, troubles with coordinating subcontractors and the size of the ships, which are each intended to carry more than 5,200 passengers.

In each case, the ships are the first in a new class of vessel for their respective lines. All are built on a common platform introduced by Carnival in 2015 and referred to as the Excellence class.

The platform was adapted for the individual needs of Carnival as well as for Carnival Corp.’s two European brands, Costa Cruises and Aida Cruises.

For North Americans, the Mardi Gras will be the first ship to feature the LNG engines, a big technological leap that promises environmental gains and cheaper operating costs, especially with new restrictions on heavy sulfur fuels that start this year.

But going first has never been a formula for smooth sailing in the cruise industry. New technologies frequently have unforeseen problems that need to be ironed out as they move from the drawing board to actual use.

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World’s First Purpose-Built LNG Bunkering Vessel

Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald alluded to that legacy when asked about the delay in a conference call in December.

“The situation is that historically we’ve had occasional delays with prototypes,” Donald said. “But we’re working with the yard and are in the process of negotiating what we need to do to ensure that future delivery is on time.”

That’s not much consolation for passengers on eight Mardi Gras sailings that were cancelled because of the delay.

Those sailings included a debut cruise in Europe, a transatlantic crossing, a New York preview cruise and the first four sailings from the Mardi Gras’ year-round homeport, Port Canaveral in Florida.

More than 40,000 guests have been notified that their plans have been changed. They will get a full refund and a 25% future cruise credit for their troubles as well as assistance with nonrefundable airline and hotel reservations already booked.

Travel agents who sold the cruises will still receive the commissions they earned, Carnival said.

The first sailing, which had been set for Aug. 31, has now been rescheduled for Nov. 14.

Ben Clement, Carnival’s senior vice president of newbuilds, said that despite working closely with shipyard executives to keep the giant ship on schedule, prudence dictated that it be delayed to get it right.

“While we deeply regret disappointing our guests, this change in the delivery date is required to make sure all of the ship’s systems, features and technology will be fully operational so that we can give our guests the vacation they expect,” Clement said.

Carnival will get some compensation from the shipyard, Donald said, but it will be reflected in the ship’s value on the balance sheet, not on the profit and loss statement, so the loss of the eight cruises in 2020 will likely impact earnings.

Clement didn’t go into detail about what issues are making the ship late. But in the previous cases involving Aida and Costa, the shipyards issued statements.

In October 2018, the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany said that it would push back delivery of the AidaNova from Nov. 15 to Dec. 2. It was eventually delivered to Aida on Dec. 19.

AidaNova was the first cruise ship to be powered by LNG, and Meyer Werft said it “required more time for commissioning and testing of this prototype.”

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Costa Smeralda

Another LNG ship built to the Excellence platform is the Costa Smeralda, which was launched Dec. 20 after being delayed twice. The the shipyard, a Meyer Werft-owned facility in Turku, Finland, cited “the high complexity and the sheer size of the ship project” and noted that it was the the first ship in the class to be built at the Turku yard.

The Carnival Mardi Gras is also being built in Turku.

Using LNG for power instead of diesel requires special pressurized steel tanks to keep the gas in its liquid state. For safety reasons, the tanks must be surrounded by void space, requiring about twice as much room inside the ship as tanks for diesel fuel.

The Mardi Gras is being fitted with three steel LNG tanks and four Caterpillar engines. Carnival officials have said that integrating the tanks, piping and bunkering is the biggest challenge in designing LNG ships.

One reason Carnival and other lines are switching to LNG, despite its complexities, is that natural gas is cheaper than oil. Perhaps more importantly, burning it produces little or no sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, two health-damaging gases in petroleum exhaust.

By some estimates, natural gas also generates about 15% less carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas implicated in climate change.

Of the first four LNG-powered ships ordered by Carnival, only the P&O Cruises ship Iona, due in May 2020, has not suffered a delivery delay.

In addition to its novel powertrain, the Mardi Gras has several other features not attempted before on Carnival ships.

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P&O Iona

The most prominent is an electric roller coaster that loops around the funnel and most of the upper deck of the ship. Called the Bolt, it is being built by Munich-based Maurer Rides and will require extensive testing for issues of vibration, noise and safety, Carnival has said.

The Mardi Gras is also pioneering an atrium that looks out to see from the side of the ship through a glass wall that spans three stories; a report in the Wall Street Journal noted novel structural problems for supporting that area, which would typically be framed in steel.