Cruise ship headed to Victoria had 'lots of COVID,' passenger says

“The whole 12th floor is an isolation ward,” said Ally Carol of Richmond, who boarded the ship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with her partner in late March for a 19-day cruise to Canada

The Caribbean Princess was scheduled to arrive in Victoria on April 6 to open the 2022 cruise season but is no longer making the trip | Photo: PIXABAY

A Canadian passenger aboard the Caribbean Princess said there was “lots of COVID-19” on the cruise ship, which has cancelled its scheduled stops in Victoria and Vancouver this week.

“The whole 12th floor is an isolation ward,” said Ally Carol of Richmond, who boarded the ship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with her partner in late March for a 19-day cruise to Canada.

They had planned to return home after the ship docked in Vancouver on April 7, but have now booked a flight from San Francisco after the cruise was cut short.

“There are active cases in cabins throughout the ship as well, and they [aren’t telling] anyone. They say it is a privacy issue and they can’t share with anyone, but medical teams in protective gear are seen going to rooms.”

The Caribbean Princess was supposed to be the first cruise ship to arrive in Canada after more than two years of pandemic restrictions when it arrived at Ogden Point on Wednesday.

But the Canadian leg of the journey was abruptly cancelled late Friday when Princess Cruises announced it was making the “difficult decision to allow added time to prepare for dry dock” near Portland, Oregon.

“This additional time will help assure the vessel is up to our highest standards in advance of the upcoming busy summer season,” Princess Cruises said in a statement.

The company did not mention or respond to inquiries about COVID-19 aboard the ship, but the vessel has been listed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as having “orange status.”

That means there are enough COVID-19 cases aboard to meet the threshold for a CDC investigation. The CDC launches a probe when least 0.3 per cent of passengers and crew aboard the ship have tested positive.

The Caribbean Princess had 1,600 passengers on board.

Carol said she and her partner were aware of the orange status when boarding the ship, but believes the case count was rising.

Of the 104 cruise ships opting into the CDC’s COVID-19 protection and inspection plan, 38 have an orange status, including Holland America Line’s Koningsdam, which arrives to open the cruise season in Victoria this Saturday.

The CDC said 101 of the 104 ships on its list are considered “highly vaccinated,” but not a single ship reaches its “standard of excellence” of 95 per cent of passengers and crew fully vaccinated with two doses and a booster, if eligible.

“Cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission,” the CDC said.

Carol, who booked a flight home to Vancouver on Monday, said the cruise company has been very tight-lipped.

“People have been at the guest services desk demanding to know how many sick people and they won’t tell you anything,” she said. “They just say ‘oh, a certain bartender or waitress you have seen all week [is] feeling under the weather’ when you see that they are gone. The captain has not made any announcements.

“They say they are going to dry dock early, but we all know it is COVID. They have not said this but we on the ship all believe this.”

Carol said the crew were tested on Friday and that’s when passengers got a letter “shoved under our doors at 11 p.m.” that the rest of the cruise to Canada was being cancelled.

She said passengers were set to be tested by Princess on the ship on Saturday, but those were cancelled when the trip was cut short.

“We showed up for our test and they said no tests,” Carol said. “So knowing they have COVID on the ship, instead of doing the responsible thing and testing all the guests going back to Canada, they are just disembarking all of us and sending us home, putting us in planes next to unsuspecting members of the public, instead of responsibly checking to see who caught COVID on their ship.”

Carol said she and her partner tested negative on Sunday.

Times Colonist