Coronavirus (COVID-19) … What did the Cruise Lines Know? When? And, Can Cruise Lines Be Held Accountable? A Maritime Lawyer’s Analysis.
Of late, cruise ships have been referred to as “floating petri dishes” following numerous shipboard outbreaks of Coronavirus/ COVID-19. This article will examine: to what extent the cruise industry contributed to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, what the cruise industry knew and when, and if certain cruise lines can be held liable to cruise passengers and crewmembers for serious illness and in certain instances death from contracting COVID-19 while traveling on a cruise ship.
First Shocking Fact: During February–March 2020, COVID-19 outbreaks associated with three cruise ship voyages accounted for more than 800 laboratory-confirmed cases among passengers and crew according to the US Centers for disease Control and Prevention’s (“CDC’s”) March 23, 2020 article. Transmission occurred across multiple voyages from ship to ship by crew members, both crew and cruise passengers were affected and at least 10 deaths resulted involving crew and passengers who contracted COVID-19 while sailing or working aboard these cruise ships. A more recent article in Bloomberg News provides that after the outbreak on the Diamond Princess, “[a]t least seven more of [Carnival’s cruise ships or brand name lines] at sea have become virus hot spots, resulting in more than 1,500 positive infections and at least 39 fatalities.”