The AIDAnova, with 2,844 passengers and 1,353 crew onboard, docked in Portugal on Dec. 29 while en route to Madera for New Year’s celebrations, officials said. But the ship was unable to continue pressing forward after 52 COVID-19 cases were detected among the fully vaccinated staff, authorities said.
The company told German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, or DPA, that all passengers aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated and have to take an antigen and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before departing.
“The company’s protocol was immediately actioned, with those infected, who are asymptomatic or displaying light symptoms, immediately isolated on the ship … and the company decided to end the cruise and disembark the passengers,” Lisbon port official Diogo Vieira Branco was quoted by Reuters as saying.
AIDA Cruises, the German operator of the ship, couldn’t be reached for comment on Sunday. AIDA Cruises told DPA that it was trying to find new crew members.
It’s not clear when the AIDAnova would depart to the Canary Islands or when the fresh cruise staff will arrive.
Everyone on board had passed a COVID-19 screening test and were vaccinated with two doses before the ship sailed out of Germany, officials told The Associated Press. They told the AP that no passengers on board the vessel tested positive for the virus.
Reuters footage showed passengers still enjoying the afternoon sun on decks with their drinks, and local media said the disembarking would begin after 6 a.m. on Monday. The crew who had tested positive between Wednesday and Friday were transferred to Lisbon hotels and were in isolation there.
On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised people to avoid traveling on cruise ships regardless of their vaccination status.
“Avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status,” the CDC alert says. “Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants … the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.”
It came after several cruise ships, including ones operated by Royal Caribbean and Carnival, were forced to divert their trips due to COVID-19 outbreaks. The cruise lines require all staff and guests who are eligible for vaccines to show proof of vaccination before entering.
The CDC, meanwhile, is monitoring dozens of cruise ships after COVID-19 cases were detected on board in recent days.
COVID-19 is the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Reuters contributed to this report.