The last three cruise ships carrying passengers will finally pull into port Monday, ending the long, quixotic journey for thousands of passengers who embarked before a global pandemic began and are returning to a whole new world.
One of those ships, the Pacific Princess, is letting its remaining passengers off in Los Angeles Monday. The ship left Fort Lauderdale on January 5 with no indication that the 111-day, around-the-world trip would be upended by a virus that, at that point, had only infected 59 people in China.
A month later, another Princess cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, was the site of one of the first major outbreaks of COVID-19. By mid-March, Princess Cruises announced the suspension of all of its cruises.
The Pacific Princess arranged for the majority of the ship’s passengers to disembark in Australia on March 21 and fly home, but 115 people remained onboard because of medical conditions that prevented them from traveling by air. The aborted journey on the Princess was due to take passengers to 42 ports in 26 countries before returning to Florida on April 26. Fares began at $22,999.
The MSC Magnifica also began its journey on January 5, leaving Genoa, Italy, with 1,760 passengers. By mid-February, the ship’s captain had become concerned about the virus, which at that point was causing major problems on other cruise liners. By mid-March, with COVID-19 causing shutdowns across the globe, the journey home began. “It was clear that there was basically nowhere to go,” the captain, Roberto Leotta, told the BBC.
The last of the three remaining ships at sea, Carnival’s Costa Deliziosa, will drop some of its 1,831 passengers in Spain on Monday and the rest in Italy on Wednesday. Despite reporting zero cases of COVID-19, the Italian-flagged ship followed its home country’s protocols on the ship, including implementing social-distancing measures. And with other countries unwilling to allow the ship to dock, passengers have not felt firm land in over a month.
Still, Spain’s Carlos Payá told the Associated Press that spending the beginning of the pandemic on the ship “incredible.” He said, “We have family in our home countries. The news that was arriving from home was causing us all a lot of worry and grief. For us, it was a stroke of good luck to be where we were.”
Like many industries, the cruise business has suffered since the coronavirus outbreak. And earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made life even harder on the industry with a no-sail order that would seemingly cancel cruises for 100 days, or until the CDC declares that COVID-19 is no longer a public-health crisis. According to the order, CDC Director Robert Redfield believes that the “cruise-ship travel exacerbates the global spread of COVID-19.”