LOS ANGELES — The Pacific Princess cruise ship and its 115 passengers are heading for Los Angeles in hopes of docking at the San Pedro port on April 24, according to the cruise line. Princess says no one has been tested for COVID-19 because none of the passengers has shown symptoms.
The ship left Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 5 for a 111-day world cruise that was cut short in mid-March after the company curtailed sailings because of coronavirus outbreaks aboard ships. It sailed to Aruba, the Panama Canal, Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, Los Angeles, Hawaii and French Polynesia and then to New Zealand before the order to return to port.
The ship skipped stops at Bali, Singapore and Phuket, Thailand. Sri Lanka refused to let the ship into port because of the pandemic.
Will the ship be allowed to dock in L.A.?
The U.S. Coast Guard follows these protocols for any ship arriving during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a March 16 bulletin:
“Passenger vessels or any vessel carrying passengers that have been to impacted regions or embarked passengers who have been in impacted regions within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the United States. If ALL passengers exceed 14 days since being in the countries … (on the CDC restricted-countries list) … and are symptom-free, the vessel will be permitted to enter the United States to conduct normal operations.”
Australia is not on the list of countries whose residents are restricted from visiting the U.S. by the CDC. The list includes China, Iran, a slew of European countries — France, Germany, Greece — as well as England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The decision to disembark passengers and crew members lies with the Coast Guard, overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The DHS did not respond to a request for information about whether the Pacific Princess can dock in L.A.
Most people on the Pacific Princess, a smaller ship that can carry more than 800 passengers, disembarked and flew to their respective homes when the ship docked March 21 in Fremantle, Australia. But not everyone disembarked.
“(N)ot all guests on board met the International Air Transport Association (IATA) fitness standards for air travel or were unable to return home by aircraft due to individual medical conditions unrelated to COVID-19,” Princess said in a statement.
The ship stopped in Melbourne to refuel and resupply. No guests or crew members were allowed to disembark. The ship expects to call in Honolulu for services on April 13 before continuing on to Los Angeles.
The Pacific Princess is the last of Princess’ fleet at sea.
On Saturday, the Coral Princess docked in Miami after several weeks in limbo before authorities decided to allow passengers to disembark. Two people died on board of COVID-19, and seven passengers and five crew members had tested positive for coronavirus as of Thursday, media reports say.
This week Australia launched a criminal probe into why 2,700 passengers aboard Ruby Princess, another Princess ship, were allowed to disembark in Sydney on March 19, even though earlier cases of illness had been reported. More than 340 passengers tested positive for coronavirus, according to the New South Wales Ministry of Health. Media reports link a dozen deaths to the ship.
Early on in the pandemic, the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess accounted for more than 800 coronavirus cases, including 10 deaths, the CDC reports.
Between Feb. 3 and March 13, about 200 cases were confirmed in the U.S. among returning passengers on all cruise ships, including the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess. At the time, cruise passengers accounted for about 17% of total cases reported in the U.S.
©2020 Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.