After the news earlier this week that the Brazilian health agency ANVISA had suspended the operations for two cruise ships operating in Brazil, The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA Brazil) announced a voluntary stop on all operations effective immediately.
Two cruise lines are operating in the country, Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises, both of which have been dealing with increased caseloads of COVID-19 onboard. The Omicron variant of the virus spread quickly amongst the crew and passengers. The National Health Agency has said that in the last nine days, from December 26 to January 3, 798 cases were registered onboard cruise ships operating in Brazil.
CLIA has announced its member cruise lines operating in the country have implemented a voluntary suspension of operations in ports in Brazil. The drastic measures have been put in place with immediate effect, meaning no cruises will take place until January 21, at least. However, ongoing cruises may finish their itineraries as scheduled.
In recent days two cruise ships have been told to halt all operations. ANVISA also recommended all cruise operations be put on hold until further notice. The voluntary stop from the cruise lines is not just to protect passengers’ health and safety. The announcements from ANVISA have caused confusion amongst passengers and the cruise lines according to CLIA:
“In recent weeks, the two affected cruise lines have experienced a number of situations that directly impacted ship operations, making continuing to cruise at this time impractical. In addition, operational uncertainty caused significant inconvenience for guests who relied on their vacation at sea with strict security protocols.”
CLIA and the cruise lines will take the time until January 21 to align understanding and the application of health and safety protocols with the authorities from the federal government, ANVISA, and local states and municipalities. CLIA stated it could choose to cancel the entire cruise season in Brazil if the various parties do not reach a conclusive understanding of the policies.
Five cruise ships have been affected by the current pause in operations. These are Costa Diadema and Costa Fascinosa, from MSC Cruises three ships are operational in the region; these are MSC Splendida, MSC Preziosa, and MSC Seaside.
Several news reports stated in the past days that the cruise line did not follow the rules and regulations laid out by the authorities. A fact that has been denied by both ANVISA and CLIA.
All guests and crew members have to be fully vaccinated before sailing, testing is in place for all guests before boarding, and onboard testing of at least 10% of all guests during a voyage. There is also a social distancing and reduced capacity plan in place, and guests and crew must use a mask at all times. This is besides a long list of other measures that cruise lines are sailing under in Brazil.
In a new statement on its website, ANVISA says that possible infractions will be investigated but have not been proven yet. It does not take away the fact the cruise lines have had to deal with an overwhelming amount of cases onboard.
So far, 798 cases have been identified onboard cruise ships between December 26, 2021, and January 3, 2022. It’s a considerable increase from the mere 55 cases found between November 1 and December 25. This immense increase in cases has prompted the cruise lines to stop operations in Brazil, one that could very well find traction in other areas as Omicron proves to be a massive threat to the cruise industry.