Passengers isolated over coronavirus fears as cruise ship docked near New York

Feb 7, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information. It originally published Feb. 7.

One of the world’s biggest cruise ships, Royal Caribbean‘s Anthem of the Seas, arrived at a New York City-area port early Friday with about a dozen passengers in isolation over fears of the new coronavirus from China, according to New York’s WABC-TV.

The news outlet said some of the passengers, all Chinese nationals, had displayed flu-like symptoms in recent days.

New Jersey officials later said 27 passengers on Anthem of the Seas were screened for coronavirus after the ship’s arrival, and four were taken to a nearby hospital.

The 16-deck-high vessel, which is docked in Bayonne, New Jersey, had just returned from an 11-night voyage to the Caribbean that began on Jan. 27.

In a late morning statement, Royal Caribbean said none of the four passengers taken to the hospital showed any clinical signs or symptoms of coronavirus while they were onboard the ship. But, in what the line called “an abundance of caution,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now will test the four passengers for coronavirus.

“One had tested positive onboard for Influenza A,” the line said in the statement. “Our records indicate the guests had not been in China since Jan. 26 — 14 days ago.”

Related: Nearly 4,000 quarantined on cruise ship for 14 days after coronavirus confirmed

Local officials allowed the rest of the passengers on Anthem of the Seas to leave the vessel. The ship can hold up to 4,905 passengers and sails with a crew of 1,500.

In a tweet around 9 a.m., Bayonne mayor Jimmy Davis suggested health officials weren’t overly concerned about the situation.

“I was advised [the CDC] considers this “Below Low Risk” situation,” Davis said in the tweet. “All other passengers released [with] no action needed.”

Anthem of the Seas had been scheduled to depart Friday afternoon on a new, eight-night voyage to Port Canaveral, Florida, and the Bahamas. But Royal Caribbean said the departure had been delayed until Saturday afternoon. The delay will give the CDC time to finish its testing on the four passengers who were taken to a nearby hospital.

“We have … been cleared by authorities to depart on our next cruise as usual,” the line said. “However, to reassure concerned guests, we will delay our departure until tomorrow, when we expect to receive conclusive test results from CDC.”

Related: Is it safe to travel to Asia? Complete guide to traveling during the coronavirus outbreak

In a letter sent to passengers on the delayed sailing, Royal Caribbean said they would receive a prorated refund for the missed day in the form of an onboard credit. The letter said the vessel’s itinerary would need to be adjusted due to the delayed departure.

Passengers who wish to cancel the cruise will face standard cancellation penalties, the line has said today in Twitter responses to concerned passengers. The line is emphasizing on Twitter that the ship will undergo “enhanced sanitation in the cruise terminal and on board, as part of our ongoing illness prevention efforts.”

The ship’s just-ended voyage took it to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Martin; St. John’s, Antigua; Castries, St. Lucia; and Basseterre, St. Kitts.

The coronavirus scare on Anthem of the Seas comes just days after the quarantine of a Princess Cruises ship in Japan due to a coronavirus outbreak. As of late Thursday, more than 60 people on the vessel, Diamond Princess, had tested positive for the illness.

Princess said late Thursday the quarantine of Diamond Princess would continue through Feb. 19, barring unforeseen developments. The ship initially was carrying 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew, but some have been removed for medical treatment.

We’ll continue to update this developing story. For more TPG news, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Feature image of Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

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