Stranded Cruise Ships Still Scramble to Find Welcoming Port

Stranded Cruise Ships Still Scramble to Find Welcoming Port
Cruise ships are docked at PortMiami in Miami, Fla., on March 31, 2020. (Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo)

More than a dozen cruise ships remain stranded at sea right now—some with and some without passengers—as ports deny entry and passengers panic about returning home.

On March 13, in light of mounting fears over onboard COVID-19 outbreaks, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) made the decision to suspend operations from U.S. ports of call for 30 days.

Two weeks later, thousands of passengers and crew members remain aboard at least 15 ships across the world.

Industry group CLIA encompasses 38 cruise companies, with a total of 277 ships.

The organization confirmed to CNN on March 31 that 3.6% of the total fleet was still at sea completing adjusted itineraries and five ships are awaiting debarkation.

“Flight restrictions and port closures have led to some challenges bringing ships in, however our members are working around the clock to address these road blocks,” a CLIA spokesperson told CNN Travel.

“CLIA is asking ports and governments around the world to allow these ships to come into port so that those onboard can make their way home safely and as quickly as possible.”

Major cruise lines P&O, Cunard, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Holland America have now extended their ban on cruising until mid-May.

Here are details on the cruise ships still in limbo that we know about.

Cruise ships with passengers

Zaandam—Holland America

Status: Disembarking at Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The Zaandam was sailing a South American voyage that departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was originally supposed to conclude in San Antonio, Chile, on March 21.

No one has exited the ship since it stopped in Punta Arenas, Chile, on March 14. Guests were originally told they could disembark in Chile for flights, but ultimately this was forbidden.

Once flu-like symptoms cropped up on board, those with symptoms were isolated and their traveling companions quarantined. All guests were asked to remain in their staterooms.

Four guests on board Zaandam have passed away, the cruise line confirmed on March 27.

Holland America's Zaandam cruise
Holland America’s Zaandam cruise ship in a file photo. (Courtesy of Holland America Line)

“I fear other lives are at risk,” Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line, said in a statement.

All the ports en route are closed to cruise ships, so Holland America deployed another of its ships, Rotterdam, to offer relief.

Rotterdam met Zaandam off Panama in the evening of March 26 to “provide extra supplies, staff, COVID-19 test kits and other support as needed.”

Previously, the ship had no coronavirus test kits on board.

Holland America transferred healthy Zaandam guests to Rotterdam. The guests who moved from Zaandam to Rotterdam completed a health screening beforehand, the cruise line said.

There are currently 808 guests and 583 crew on Rotterdam. On Zaandam, there are 442 guests and 603 crew members on board.

As of April 2, 107 guests (90 on Zaandam/17 on Rotterdam) and 143 crew on Zaandam (0 on Rotterdam) have presented with influenza-like symptoms.

Guests on both ships are remaining in their staterooms until the ship disembarks.

On March 29, Holland America confirmed it was granted special approval by the Panama Canal Authority to transit Zaandam and Rotterdam through the Panama Canal.

On April 2, Holland America confirmed that both Zaandam and Rotterdam were cleared for arrival to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Guests will be health screened upon arrival.

Holland America's cruise ship Zaandam
Holland America’s cruise ship Zaandam as it enters the Panama City bay to be assisted by the Rotterdam cruise ship with supplies, personnel, and CCP virus testing devices, eight miles off the coast of Panama City, on March 27, 2020. (Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty Images)

Disembarkation is expected to be completed by Friday evening local time. In a statement, Holland America said priority would be given to those in need of immediate medical care. They will transfer to local health system partners who have approved their arrival.

Guests who are deemed fit to travel will travel straight to the airport, with the majority booked on charter flights.

“Guests who still have symptoms will remain on board and disembark at a later date to be finalized after they have fully recovered and meet the CDC guidelines for being fit to travel,” said Holland America. “They will continue to be well cared for on board by the ships’ medical staffs.”

No crew from either ship will disembark.

Coral Princess—Princess Cruises

Status: Sailing to Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The Coral Princess departed Santiago, Chile, on March 5. Princess Cruises announced operations were halting one week later.

Princess Cruises tried to negotiate disembarkation in Brazil for guests on board the Coral Princess. Anvisa, the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency, denied the disembarkation of Coral Princess guests, including those with confirmed outbound flights.

The ship is now traveling directly to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

On April 2, a Princess Cruises spokesperson confirmed to CNN Travel that there are 12 positive cases of COVID-19 on board.

There are 1,898 people onboard: 1,020 guests and 878 crew members

“In response to a reported small cluster of cases of respiratory illness, Coral Princess proactively collected and sent 13 COVID-19 test samples to Barbados on March 31. We can confirm the results yielded 12 positive cases: seven guests and five crew,” said the Princess Cruises spokesperson.

Guests and crew members who aren’t working have been self-isolating in their staterooms since Monday, and will continue to do so.

Face masks are also being distributed to guests.

Laura Gabaroni and her husband Juan Huergo
Laura Gabaroni and her husband Juan Huergo take a selfie on board a tender after they were evacuated from the Zaandam, a Holland American cruise ship, near the Panama Canal, on March 28, 2020. (Juan Huergo via AP)

Christine Beehler, 72, from New Hampshire, is on board the ship, traveling alone.

Beehler says she had no qualms about boarding back in early March. But the trip took a turn on March 13.

Since then, she says, tensions have often been high.

“Yet I think most are coping well,” she tells CNN Travel, speaking from her cabin where she’s currently self-isolating.

Beehler is concerned the ship will not be allowed to disembark in Florida, but heartened by the news about Zaandam and Rotterdam.

For now, Beehler is trying to stay positive.

“The four walls get a little tiring,” she admits, but she’s in regular communication with other passengers on board, and they’re keeping each other’s spirits up. She has a Whatsapp group with other solo travelers on board.

Beehler praises the captain for being “very forthcoming with his transparency” and calls the crew “phenomenal.”

Beehler has five further cruise trips booked for this year, although some have been canceled. She also says she remains a devoted cruiser, and plans to take this exact same cruise in 2021.

Princess Cruises said internet and guest stateroom telephone service is currently complimentary, to help guests stay in touch with family members.

The ship is expected to arrive into Fort Lauderdale on April 4.

Arcadia—P&O Cruises UK

Status: Sailing to Southampton, England

Cruise ship Arcadia embarked on a 100-day, round trip World Cruise back in January, in a very different cruising landscape.

Now, the ship is making its way back to Southampton, in the UK. It’s due to arrive on April 12, 2020, on schedule.

The ship is skipping all stops after it was turned away from Cape Town.

“As South African authorities are enforcing additional entry and travel restrictions because of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, COVID-19 pandemic, all guests are remaining on board until Southampton, where Arcadia is due to arrive on Sunday, 12 April as per the original itinerary,” said P&O Cruises in a statement.

There are no reported cases of COVID-19 on board.

Pacific Princess—Princess Cruises

Status: Sailing to Los Angeles, California

The Pacific Princess docked in Australia on Saturday, March 21, with the majority of passengers who disembarked on flights March 22 or March 23.

Those who couldn’t fly due to medical reasons remained on board the ship, which is now traveling towards Los Angeles.

According to former passenger CJ Hayden, some of those on board were previously traveling on Holland America’s Amsterdam, which also docked in Fremantle, Australia, on March 21.

Princess Cruises says there are 115 passengers on board and no known cases of COVID-19.

NTD Photo
The Grand Princess cruise ship passes beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in this view from Sausalito, Calif., on March 9, 2020. (Eric Risberg/AP Photo)

The Pacific Princess is due to arrive in Los Angeles on April 24. It stopped briefly in Melbourne, Australia, to “refuel and replenish provisions,” according to Princess Cruises.

The ship is also expected to dock in Honolulu, Hawaii, for an additional service stop.

A passenger on board, who preferred to remain anonymous, told CNN that despite the circumstances, the voyage has been “another wonderful and enjoyable Princess cruise.

“We are looking forward to the future when we can start sailing again with Princess,” they added.

Queen Mary 2—Cunard

Status: Sailing to Southampton, England

The Queen Mary 2 set off on a 113-day New York to New York voyage on Jan. 3, 2020.

“Queen Mary 2’s World Voyage was canceled and the ship is currently en route to Southampton from Australia,” says a Cunard spokesperson.

Most guests disembarked in Perth and flew back home from there.

“The only guests who remain on board are those who are unable to fly due to medical reasons,” said Cunard in a statement.

There are 264 guests still on board.

There are no known cases of COVID-19 on board.

Costa Deliziosa

Status: Sailing to Venice, Italy

Costa Deliziosa set sail on an 87-day round world voyage from Venice on Jan. 5, 2020.

When Costa Cruises, owned by Carnival, decided to suspend cruises, Costa Deliziosa was the only cruise that wasn’t immediately canceled.

“The current world tour itinerary will be completed to allow guests to disembark and return home,” was the cruise line’s official statement.

Some passengers disembarked and traveled home when the ship stopped off in Perth on March 16. The only passengers allowed to disembark were those with booked flights.

The ship is due to return to Venice, Italy on April 26, although the destination could be changed.

Dana Lindberg is on board the Costa Deliziosa, a “once in a lifetime trip” she’s planned since early 2018.

Boarding the world cruise in January, Lindberg did not consider that the itinerary would be impacted. It was only in February, as COVID-19 fears ramped up, that the ship revised its voyage to avoid Asia.

Passengers will have been at sea without docking for at least a month when the Costa Deliziosa eventually disembarks guests.

“We still do not know what port we will ultimately disembark from,” Lindberg tells CNN Travel.

“I’m not sure why the ship is moving so slowly. However, we are safer here than in Italy. I personally would rather disembark in Greece but I have no say in the situation.”

Lindberg is also concerned about how she and the other 10 American passengers will travel home to the U.S.

“My biggest complaint is lack of information regarding what is happening and regarding refunds/compensation for all the ports and included excursions that did not happen,” she says.

There are no reports of COVID-19 on board, and Lindberg says passengers spirits are relatively high given the circumstances.

“I don’t think this experience will deter me from future cruising,” she adds. “However, I may not plan to do a 4-month cruise again.”

Lindberg also says she would consider carefully which cruise line she picked for her next trip, depending on how Costa handles the present situation.

MSC Magnifica—MSC Cruises

Status: Sailing to Europe

MSC Magnifica disembarked on a world voyage on Jan. 4, 2020.

The ship’s passengers were not allowed to disembark when the ship docked in Fremantle, Australia, on March 24.

The Magnifica says there are no sick passengers on board.

An MSC spokesperson told CNN Travel: “MSC Magnifica, currently sailing a world cruise, is en route from Australia to Europe.”

Costa Victoria—Costa Cruises

Status: Berthed in Civitavecchia, Italy

The Costa Victoria cruise ship arrived in Civitavecchia, in Italy, on March 25.

Earlier in the voyage, a passenger tested positive for coronavirus and was disembarked in Greece.

The disembarkation process in Italy is ongoing.

Columbus—Cruise & Maritime Voyages

Status: Sailing to Tilbury, England

Last week, two Cruise & Maritime Voyages ships, Columbus and Vasco da Gama, met at sea 12 nautical miles off the coast of Phuket, Thailand, to undertake what the cruise line called “a unique passenger transfer and repatriation operation.”

This decision was made to help get passengers on both vessels home as quickly as possible.

Some 239 passengers were transferred between the ships. British nationals transferred onto the Columbus, which is heading to the UK, while Australians and New Zealanders are now on board the Vasco da Gama.

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on either ship.

The Columbus is set to arrive in Tilbury on April 13.


Status: In Western Australia

The Artania cruise ship embarked on a 140-day world cruise from Hamburg, Germany, to Bremerhaven, Germany, on Dec. 21, 2019.

The ship has now docked in Western Australia.

One passenger, who has since disembarked, tested positive for coronavirus earlier in the journey.

A further 36 passengers tested positive for COVID-19 following a check from Australian health officials upon arrival in Fremantle.

In a statement, cruise line Phoenix Reisen said these passengers were subsequently disembarked and quarantined in local hospitals.

Healthy passengers stayed on board the ship until their repatriation flights, which took place on March 29.

The majority of passengers are German. Those from elsewhere in Europe were also taken back to Germany.

According to Phoenix Reisen, 16 passengers, plus hundreds of crew members, decided to stay on board the Artania, and travel back home that way.

Cruise ships without passengers

Vasco da Gama—Cruise & Maritime Voyages

Status: Passengers in quarantine in Western Australia. Ship sailing back to Tilbury, UK

The Vasco da Gama cruise ship docked in Fremantle, Australia, on March 28.

There were 798 Australians and 108 New Zealanders on board the vessel.

The New Zealand guests disembarked the ship and flew home from Perth on Sunday, March, 29.

On Monday, March 30, all Vasco da Gama passengers from Western Australia traveled to nearby Rottnest island, where they will spend 14 days in self-isolation, before they are able to travel home.

“Australian citizens from other states will be asked to spend their 14-day quarantine at hotels in Perth which have been specifically set aside for this purpose,” said Cruise & Maritime Voyages, in a statement.

There are no suspected cases of COVID-19 on board.

Vasco da Gama has now disembarked passengers at Fremantle and is heading back to the UK with only crew members on board.

Oasis of the Seas—Royal Caribbean

Status: In Miami, Florida

Passengers departed the Oasis of the Seas in Miami two weeks ago, but crew members remain on board.

On Sunday, the Miami Herald reported it had obtained a leaked recording of the ship’s captain announcing that 14 crewmembers had tested positive for COVID-19.

CNN reached out to Royal Caribbean regarding the report, who said: “The health and well-being of our crew is our foremost priority. Crewmembers who exhibited symptoms were evaluated by our medical staff and remain under close supervision.

In accordance with our health and safety protocols, our crew have been asked to self-isolate in cabins while we await confirmation of initial results from public health authorities.”

The ship was anchored off the Bahamas but has since returned to the Miami coast.

On March 31, the cruise line confirmed via a statement to CNN that one crew member from Oasis of the Seas and one from nearby Symphony of the Seas were “being medically evacuated for observation and treatment of respiratory issues.”

“We are grateful to local authorities for their support with the evacuations,” added the spokesperson.

The ship is currently off the coast of West Palm Beach, Florida.

Symphony of the Seas—Royal Caribbean

Status: In Miami, Florida

Symphony of the Seas is the world’s biggest cruise ship, with 18 decks in total.

Passengers disembarked in Miami on March 14, but crew members remain on board.

The ship is currently anchored off Palm Beach, Florida—following the medical evacuation of the sick crew.

Costa Diadema—Costa Cruises

Status: Berthed in Piombino, Italy

Costa Diadema berthed in Piombino on March 31, after being denied docking rights at other ports.

Piombino’s mayor Francesco Ferrari said via a statement on his official Facebook page that “no gratitude” was necessary.

“I did what any responsible Italian would have done,” Ferrari said.

“I could not allow more than a thousand people to remain in the open sea, especially in the precarious conditions that our country and the whole world are going through.”

There were 1,255 crew members on board. Three crew members with serious symptoms of COVID-19 were disembarked and taken to hospital.

There were five people also displaying symptoms, and a further 13 with “mild” symptoms, according to Ferrari.

Doctors are now testing all those on board and charter flights have been set up to repatriate non-Italians.

Costa Magica—Costa Cruises

The Costa Magica is docked near Miami, Florida.

Last week, six crew members with respiratory symptoms were evacuated from the ship, and then transported to a hospital on shore by Miami-Dade Fire, according to a tweet from Miami-Dade County Emergency Management.

The vessel does not have permission to enter the Port of Miami.

The ship previously docked in Guadeloupe and all passengers disembarked to get on flights.

Costa Favolosa—Costa Cruises

Also docked near Miami is another Costa cruise ship, Favolosa.

Seven ill crew members were evacuated from this ship along with the sick passengers who had been on board Costa Magica.

Like Costa Magica, the ship previously docked in Guadeloupe, and passengers disembarked there.

Azura—P&O Cruises UK

Azura is sailing back to Southampton, England with no guests on board. It was due to dock March 31.

Hanseatic Nature—Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

The Hanseatic Nature is traveling from Central America to Hamburg, Germany, scheduled to arrive on April 15.

This voyage is taking place to get the ship to its hold position.

All Hapag-Lloyd Cruises guests have disembarked.

According to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises press team, crew members on board this ship have challenged themselves to walk and jog the track around the ship to keep busy and exercise during the crossing.

“They are hoping the entire crew of 138 do 28 laps a day, for the 27 day trip, if every crew member does the 28 laps a day it will equal the distance they are crossing, 7700 nautical miles = 8861.01 miles,” says a Hapag-Lloyd Cruises spokesperson.

Europa—Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

This ship is on course to Barbados, scheduled to arrive April 3. This voyage is also taking place to get the ship to its appropriate hold position.

™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

NTD staff contributed to this report.

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.