In an all too familiar cycle, cruise ships are once again dealing with uncertainty in the face of coronavirus. As the world continues to develop and understanding of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, ports are again closing their doors to visiting cruisers and ship crew. Just this week, several Caribbean destinations denied scheduled ships from docking, including the nations of Curacao, Aruba, and Bonaire. The Caribbean countries cited active shipboard coronavirus outbreaks as the reason for rejection. As a result of these last minute changes to the ships' itineraries, thousands of passengers will have less time at key destinations and more time aboard ships at sea ("sea days").
The situation reminds many of the illness outbreaks aboard cruise ships in March 2020, when ships were left without a place to safely debark passengers (sick or well). Cruise lines report that all is well with shipboard outbreaks being limited to 1-2% of passengers. The industry is touting its passenger restrictions and COVID safety protocols. However, cruise ship outbreaks continue to occur. M/V ODYSSEY OF THE SEAS recently reported 48 cases of coronavirus aboard during a voyage. M/V MSC SEASHORE similarly reported 28 cases, while M/V QUEEN MARY 2 identified 10 infected passengers.
The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the developing situation.
These remain uncertain times for vessel passengers. While cruisers are anxious to start traveling again, vessel owners should not sacrifice safety of maritime workers and passengers in an effort to rush. If you or a family member suffered complications due to exposure to coronavirus aboard a cruise ship, maritime law may provide you options for monetary recovery. Cruise lines are required to provide a reasonable duty of care to passengers to keep them safe during voyages. Cruise ship crewmembers are often entitled to seaman status under the Jones Act and general maritime law. This may provide them a negligence and/or unseaworthiness cause of action for shipboard injury or illness. It's imperative to contact an experienced maritime lawyer as soon as possible to discuss what happened and your potential options.
Mariner Law, PLLC serves injured and ill cruise ship crewmembers and passengers nationwide. Licensed in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, New York, and Connecticut, the firm is proud to exclusively represent injured mariners and fight for their justice. Call (253) 600-2531 for a free consultation with a maritime injury lawyer.