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The Regal Princess was supposed to dock in Port Everglades Sunday morning but instead is sailing back and forth off the coast of Florida awaiting tests for the novel coronavirus from two crew members.
The crew members transferred to the Florida-based ship from the Grand Princess cruise ship in California, which has 21 positive cases — 19 of them crew members — of the virus that causes COVID-19. The Regal crew members are not showing symptoms of the virus, the company said. Princess Cruises is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corporation.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “no-sail order” for the ship and the U.S. Coast Guard delivered testing kits to the ship via a small boat Sunday morning. The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Regal Princess, which can hold more than 3,500 passengers and 1,300 crew, was on a 14-day Caribbean cruise out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. A spokesperson for the port declined to comment and referred inquiries to the U.S. Coast Guard. The following Regal cruise scheduled to leave Port Everglades on Sunday for a seven-day tour of the Caribbean has been canceled.
At around 5:30a.m. Sunday, Regal Princess passengers and crew awoke to an announcement from the captain that the ship was waiting for federal health authorities to test two crew members. A letter distributed to passengers Sunday says the crew members transferred from the Grand Princess 14 days ago.
One passenger on board said the self-service water stations are no longer available and passengers aren’t allowed to grab food from the buffet. Other than that, life onboard continues as usual, and passengers are hopeful the tests come back negative.
The testing comes one day after Vice President Mike Pence met with cruise company CEOs, including Arnold Donald of Carnival Corporation, at Port Everglades Saturday to discuss the industry’s response to the spread of the novel coronavirus on cruise ships. The Grand Princess in California, expected to dock in Oakland Monday, is the second cruise ship to house a coronavirus outbreak. The Diamond Princess ship saw nearly 700 people contract the virus on board while quarantined in Japan in February.
Pence said only elderly people with serious health conditions should reconsider cruising.
The CDC, however, is warning all older adults, not just those with health conditions, to “avoid crowds” as much as possible.
Adam Goldstein, head of the cruise industry lobbying group Cruise Lines International Association, vowed to improve passenger screening and quarantine procedures going forward.
“Given the significance of travel and tourism, it is critical that Americans keep traveling,” he said.
Two people in Broward County have tested positive for the virus. One worked at Port Everglades for a company, contracted by cruise companies to greet passengers and help them on and off ships. Ellen Kennedy, a spokesperson for Port Everglades, told the Miami Herald she did not know what day the worker had last come to the port, but said the port is safe for business.
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Shamarial Roberson, Florida’s deputy secretary of health, did not respond to requests for information about how many people the port worker might have come into contact with.
The world’s three largest cruise companies, Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd., did not respond to requests for comment about whether they contract with the company.
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