Outbreak affects another Princess cruise ship

SAN FRANCISCO — Another Carnival Corp. cruise ship has become embroiled in an outbreak of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — this time in a West Coast-based liner called the Grand Princess where health officials say at least one former passenger has died after a recent cruise.

The ship, on a voyage to Hawaii with a stop in Mexico, has been ordered to return to port in San Francisco. The vessel has a capacity of 2,600 guests and 1,150 crew.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said late Wednesday the cruise ship won’t be allowed to come ashore until state officials appropriately assess the passengers and the vessel. "It’s a dynamic situation," Mr. Newsom said in a press briefing.

Officials of Carnival’s Princess Cruises said in a letter early Wednesday to passengers that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had notified them it was investigating "a small cluster" of Covid-19 cases in Northern California tied to the same ship’s voyage in February between San Francisco and Mexico.

The company, the world’s biggest cruise operator, also operates the Diamond Princess, where dozens of passengers became infected with Covid-19 when it docked in Japan in January. That ship was quarantined for two weeks.

An elderly passenger from the Feb. 11-21 Mexico cruise became the first person in California to die from the illness, after being hospitalized in Placer County, Calif., following likely exposure on the trip, health officials said Wednesday.

Mr. Newsom said another passenger from Sonoma County, Calif. is in a "difficult condition" and being monitored for possible Covid-19 complications.

Placer County officials said other cruise passengers may also have been exposed, and that they were working with the CDC to find and alert them. Mr. Newsom said several of those people from Placer County were part of a tour.

On Princess Cruises’s website, Chief Medical Officer Grant Tarling advised guests on the February cruise to immediately seek medical attention if they have experienced any symptoms of the virus, including fever, chills or cough since returning home.

Dr. Tarling said in an open letter that the Grand Princess, until today en route to Ensenada, Mexico, about 100 miles south of the U.S.-Mexican border, would turn around and return to San Francisco for further investigation.

Passengers were told to remain in their staterooms until they had been cleared by medical staff. "You may order room service while you wait for the medical screening to be completed, and we apologize for any inconvenience," Dr. Tarling said in the letter.

The company said 62 passengers who sailed the previous Mexico voyage remained on board for the current Hawaii voyage.

"In an abundance of caution, these guests and other potential close crew contacts have been asked to remain in their staterooms until screened by our onboard Medical team," the company said.

The company said it was taking precautionary onboard measures, including disinfecting major traffic areas and barring passengers from serving themselves from the buffet.

Princess Cruises gained fame in the 1970s when one of its ships, the Pacific Princess, was cast in a starring role in the television series, "The Love Boat."

The Grand Princess, launched in 1998, was refurbished last year. On its February trip from San Francisco to Mexico, the ship passed Cabo San Lucas on Valentine’s Day.

The cruise director dressed in a red suit with white hearts joined the ship’s captain to perform wedding vow renewals for dozens of couples, according to a passenger video posted online.

Passengers enjoyed live entertainment, including a production of a show called "British Invasion" and "Stardust," a Blues Brothers tribute band.

Travelers are backing out of planned cruises over fears of the spread of coronavirus, dealing a punishing blow to the industry at a time of year when ships typically start to fill up.

Erin Ailworth contributed to this article.

Write to Jim Carlton at [email protected]

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