What was meant to be the first in a new post-lockdown era of cruises around the Greek isles has fallen victim to the reality of travel in the coronavirus age after crew members tested positive for the virus.
Within hours of the Mein Schiff 6 departing from the Cretan port of Heraklion on Sunday night, the perils of holidaying on a cruise ship during a pandemic became apparent.
“Early on Monday we received positive test results for 12 crew members from an external laboratory,” said the Anglo-German travel company Tui. “As a precautionary measure and in accordance with the strict procedures for resuming cruise operations agreed with authorities in Greece, the persons concerned were immediately isolated on board.”
The results emerged after 150 random tests were conducted on the ship’s 666-strong personnel. All of the infected staff were described as asymptomatic. Subjected to further Covid-19 tests on the ship later in the day, six were given the all-clear.
The Maltese-flagged ship had been en route to Corfu via Piraeus. As soon as the diagnoses came in, its captain halted the voyage and moored the vessel off the Aegean isle of Milos until authorities in Athens instructed him to make straight for the capital’s port city.
Greek media said all 922 of the ship’s passengers would be confined to their cabins for the duration of the journey.
However Tui, operating the luxury liner in conjunction with the US firm Royal Caribbean, denied that passengers were constricted in their movements. Sabine Lueke, a spokeswoman for Tui, said: “They can use the ship in the normal way. The cruise will go on as planned.”
A team of public health experts is expected to visit the liner when it arrives in Piraeus on Tuesday, but officials indicated no one would be allowed to disembark.
What are the quarantine rules?
Anyone entering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from somewhere that is not on that country’s list of exempt travel corridors is required to go into self-isolation for 14 days.
What if the rules are not the same between the different countries of the UK?
You can’t get round the rules by using a different airport. For instance, as of 4 September travellers returning to Wales and Scotland from Portugal are required to quarantine. This is true even if they fly into an English airport, despite Portugal still being on England’s green list.
How are the rules enforced?
Everyone entering the UK, including British nationals, must fill in a passenger locator form, regardless of whether or not they need to quarantine. The form asks travellers to provide their contact details and UK address.
If someone who is required to self-isolate does not provide an address, the government will arrange accommodation at the traveller’s expense.
What does quarantine mean you can’t do?
For 14 days, starting from the day after arrival, people who are quarantining should not:
- Go to work, school, or public areas.
- Have visitors, except for essential support.
- Go out to buy food, or other essentials, if they can rely on others to do this for them.
- Use taxis or public transport to reach their destination on arrival in the UK, if possible.
- Use public transport or taxis once at their destination.
The quarantine rules apply to everyone apart from selected groups of people such as freight drivers, very regular business travellers, and politicians or other dignitaries.
How do I find out which countries are on the list?
The travel restrictions are being frequently updated, and are available on the relevant government and administration websites linked to here, with separate lists covering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Passengers who had undergone tests before boarding the liner had received a clean bill of health.
The cruise ship was the first to return to Greek waters after lockdown measures were imposed in March, with the inauguration of the industry being greeted with fanfare in the tourist reliant country.
In a world dominated by the deadly shadow of the highly contagious virus, it offered a shimmer of light.
“Cruises are still feasible, even amid the coronavirus pandemic,” Wybke Meier, the chief executive of Tui Cruises, had said.
Greece was the first Mediterranean country in which Tui had resumed cruises. The unfolding drama has ensured that questions will be asked in a country that initially had been a rare success story in handling the pandemic before experience a surge in infection rates over the summer.