A cruise ship that set sail from Mumbai went from ‘ringing in New Year with a bang in Goa’ to ‘tested positive for Covid-19, need help’ real fast like the Omicron variant’s infectious nature.
There is mass panic and hysteria accompanied by humankind’s nightmare of two years, Covid-19, onboard a Cordelia Cruises ship named the Empress of the Seas. It is the same cruise liner that was raided by the NCB in October 2021 for allegedly hosting a rave party, where Shah Rukh Khan's son Aryan Khan was detained from.
Cordelia cruise ship named the Empress of the Seas is facing a Covid-19 outbreak. Photo: cordeliacruises.com
The cruise line was operating a New Year celebrations package from Mumbai to Goa and back to Mumbai.
However, now it has at least 66 confirmed Covid-19 cases out of a total of 2,000 passengers on board. But passengers who tested negative for the virus were not allowed to get off the cruise in Goa. Now, the cruise ship has been forced to return to Mumbai, with Covid positive and negative passengers onboard, together.
Even as the country dealt with the threat of the Omicron variant, 2,000 revellers set sail from Mumbai to Goa for a New Year’s bash. Passengers were allowed entry only upon showing a negative RT-PCR test and vaccination certificate.
JANUARY 1, 2022: The cruise left the Mumbai port around 5 pm.
JANUARY 2, 2022: It reached Goa in the morning, around 10.30 am. Passengers were supposed to be allowed to roam in Goa for 6-7 hours, but a crew member tested positive for Covid-19. Then, RT-PCR tests of all the 2,000 onboard were conducted.
Passengers were told that those who test negative would be allowed to leave the cruise.
JANUARY 3, 2022: Results arrived, and revealed that 66 people had tested positive. The cruise was sealed and nobody was allowed to leave, not even those who had tested negative.
The Goa administration said that they decided to send the cruise back to Mumbai when 27 of those who tested positive refused to leave the cruise and isolate themselves in a government facility. Only 6 patients agreed to isolation at a government facility but were later taken back to the cruise when it was decided to send the cruise back.
THE PRICES AND THE PACKAGES
Representational image of Crodelia Cruises. Photo: cordeliacruises.com
Passengers on board the luxury liner shelled out quite an amount of money for the New Year packages. Here's a look at the fares Cordelia Cruises charged for the Empress of the Seas:
1. Interior: from Rs 46,512
2. Ocean View: Rs 58,672
3. Balcony: Rs 64,448
4. Suite: Rs 1,07,312
5. Chairman's Suite: Rs 1,49,872
Kids under 12 could travel free of cost.
THE PANIC AND THE PROTEST
#EXCLUSIVE | India Today LIVE tracks Cordelia cruise ship that turned Covid hotspot; chaos inside the ship as negative passengers get stuck with positive ones; BMC to send doctors on board. @saurabhv99 with more details. #Omicron #Coronavirus pic.twitter.com/hAl45bw1ty— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) January 4, 2022
India Today reported that passengers who had tested negative protested onboard the ship for the alleged careless attitude of the Goa administration. Some passengers claimed that Covid patients are not being isolated on the ship and that they are roaming around in the lobby area.
"Why were negative people not allowed to leave the ship? Why were Covid positive patients not taken to the quarantine or isolation ward in Goa itself? What if positive patients need medical help, who will provide them with medical help?" Jasveer Singh, a passenger, told India Today.
Singh sought help saying that people onboard are not aliens and that they are Indians.
Passengers are worried that the virus will run rampant onboard the cruise and infect the uninfected by the time the cruise reaches Mumbai port and all the formalities are completed. Currently, the cruise is headed back to Mumbai.
CORDELIA CRUISES ISSUES A STATEMENT
Cordelia cruises CEO Jurgen Bailom issued a statement on the Covid-19 outbreak and slammed the Goa government for their alleged apathy.
"It was disheartening to witness lack of empathy on the part of the authorities for neither allowing local residents nor tourists to disembark. The cruise, however, will be bringing them back to Mumbai and scheduling their flights back to Goa," Bailom said in the statement.
He also added that there were no state officials present at the port when the incident was reported and they had to take chaotic instructions from a collector. You can read the complete statement here.
CRUISE SHIPS AND COVID OUTBREAKS
Diamond Princess cruise ship docked off the coast of Japan in January 2020. File Photo: Getty Images
The Empress of the Seas cruise ship is not the only ship in the world to have become a Covid-19 breeding ground. Remember the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020, when a cruise ship named Diamond Princess became a petri dish of the novel coronavirus? It was anchored off Japan’s coast and passengers were not allowed to leave the cruise.
Over 700 people onboard the cruise ship had tested positive. All negative and positive passengers were forced to quarantine on the ship itself.
It seems like the world is yet again welcoming 2022 with floating coronavirus petri dishes. The Cordelia Cruises ship in India is not the only ship to have tempted the virus on New Year's eve.
A luxury cruise liner MSC Splendida in Brazil was docked days after it sailed on December 26, 2021 for a 7-day long New Year bash along the southern coastline of the South American country. After a Covid outbreak, the cruise spent most of the time docked at a port. According to some reports, the parties onboard the ship continued despite small outbreaks that later exploded.
At least 80 passengers and crew members out of 130-something people onboard tested positive for the virus.
Another cruise ship in Brazil also reported an outbreak of Covid-19 around the same time.
In the US, the CDC raised the risk of Covid infection on cruise ships to the maximum and warned citizens to avoid them altogether. Currently, the CDC is investing 26 outbreaks on cruise ships and observing 65 such cases.
Cruise ships sailing in the US waters reported around 5,000 Covid cases between December 15 and 29.
WHAT NEXT FOR CORDELIA CRUISES?
Covid-19 can spread rapidly in closed and shared indoor spaces like a cruise ship. It needs to be seen how the Mumbai administration handles the case and how many more will test positive for the virus. The Cordelia Cruises ship is returning to Mumbai, where another round of RT-PCR tests will be conducted.
Those who are positive already will be given four choices:
1. Stay on ship and complete quarantine
2. Shift to designated hotels for quarantine if asymptomatic
3. Shift to BMC's Covid facility at Bhayakhala for quarantine
4. If symptomatic, shift to hospital as per conditions
The rest of the passengers and cruise employees will need to take a test, and till results are out, they will be on board the ship.
1. Those who test negative will be allowed to leave
2. Those who are positive will be given the four options mentioned above.