Two Costa Cruises ships, the Costa Magica and the Costa Favolosa, were anchored near the port of Miami on Thursday with ill crew members on board.
Both vessels have received permission from port and health officials to anchor and have sent boats to shore, Roger Frizzell, spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line, parent company for Costa Cruises, told USA TODAY.
Six crew members are to get off of the Magica and seven will leave the Favolosa. All will be taken to a local hospital for treatment, observation and testing. Frizzell said earlier some crew members on board have flu-like symptoms, which are similar to that of coronavirus, which is sweeping the globe and has infected close to 500,000 people worldwide, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
However, the ship is not technically in port.
“At this point, the ships do not have official clearance for entry into the Port of Miami,” Frizell said.
The ships have been ordered by the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port, Sector Miami, to remain at least three miles offshore.
“The U.S. Coast Guard is facilitating medical evacuations Thursday after requests were made by Costa Magica and Costa Favolosa for life-critical care ashore for multiple crew members presenting with respiratory symptoms consistent with pneumonia and bronchitis,” the PortMiami Unified Command said in a release posted to the Miami Dade County website.
The PortMiami Unified Command is made up of representatives from the U.S and Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, Miami-Dade Police Department, Port of Miami, the Florida Department of Health and Costa Cruises.
Miami Dade Fire Rescue will be facilitating the transport of the crew members who need to be medically disembarked and transported to local hospitals once they arrive at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.
As of Thursday night there were around 30 people on the ship who had reported flu-like symptoms, Frizzell said. None of them had been tested.
There are just over 1,000 crew members on board between the two ships, according to Frizzell.
“It is worth noting that… in the last weeks Costa struggled to find a feasible solution to allow its crew members to disembark in the safest condition possible and organize their trip back home, several ports in the Caribbean had not accepted the two ships,” the line said in a release shared by Frizzell.
Though some reports claimed the ships were headed for PortMiami, Andria Muniz-Amador, spokesperson for PortMiami, told USA TODAY the ships were not scheduled to dock there.
“The PortMiami Unified Command is addressing the ongoing situation,” Muniz Amador said. “At this time I can confirm Costa Magica and Favolosa are not scheduled to dock at PortMiami and currently offshore.”
On Tuesday, the City of Miami issued a “shelter in place” order. Mayor Francis Suarez, who has tested positive for COVID-19 himself, announced the order in a tweet.
“Effective today, all non-essential travel within the City will be prohibited to fight the spread of COVID-19. The sooner we take action, the sooner we can return to normalcy,” he wrote.
As of Thursday morning, Florida had seen nearly 2,000 cases of COVID-19 resulting in the deaths of 23 people statewide.
Costa Cruises extended its suspension on sailing until April 30
On Monday, Costa Cruises extended its suspension on operations until April 30, while other lines suspended their operations until May 11.
“Due to the protracted emergency situation for the global pandemic of COVID-19 and the further introduction of containment measures — such as port closures and restrictions on the movement of people — which do not actually allow us to operate, Costa Cruises has decided to extend the voluntary suspension of its cruises until April 30, 2020,” the Italian cruise line said in a statement provided by spokesperson Buck Banks.
All Costa cruises that are still underway are continuing in the process of ending their voyages and disembarking passengers. Costa Cruises North America is working to let travel agents in North America and customers know that due to the changes, all will receive a future cruise credit voucher for 150% of the fare paid
Holland America’s MS Zaandam hopes to dock in Florida Monday
Costa Magica and Costa Favolosa are not the only ships seeking refuge in Florida. Holland America’s MS Zaandam, which has 77 ill people on board but doesn’t have coronavirus test , is hoping to dock in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Monday.
All ports along the ship’s route are closed to cruise ships as they seek to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. While the ship intends to head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with an anticipated arrival of March 30, backup plans are being developed as ships around the world have been denied ports and scrambled to get passengers disembarked.
“When we have the full plan, we’ll let guests and others know,” Erik Elvejord, spokesperson for Holland America Line, told USA TODAY in an email Tuesday.
Cruise industry continues to scramble to bring ships home
Nearly two weeks after Cruise Lines International Association announced it would suspend operations, cruise lines are still scrambling to get passengers off ships – often in the nearest port that will allow them to do so.
As of Thursday morning, approximately 5.4% of trade organization Cruise Lines International Association’s 277 member ships were still at sea and in the process of wrapping up current voyages.
“This is a highly fluid situation, with numbers changing by the hour as cruise ships around the world are completing their voyages,” Bari Golin-Blaugrund, CLIA’s senior director of strategic communications told USA TODAY last week.
“The vast majority of the rest are either at port, anchored or repositioning,” Golin-Blaugrund said. “CLIA members are focused on the safe and smooth return home of those onboard cruise ships that are currently at sea.”
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