Twelve weeks after the global cruise industry announced its suspension of service, and just as some cruise lines are exploring a return to service, the last eight cruise passengers aboard an ocean-going cruise ship have arrived home.
The German cruise ship Artania arrived in Bremerhaven, Germany completing a world cruise that began in January and which saw the ship caught in the midst of the global pandemic. Having sailed with over 1,000 passengers, the Artania reached Australia as the world began efforts to contain the virus.
Docking in Fremantle in late March, the cruise ship started a multi-week odyssey as passengers and crew became sick from the coronavirus with some being transferred to a local hospital or placed in quarantine onshore. At one point, the Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan demanded that the cruise ship depart, while the crew asked for permission to remain in port to complete its quarantine and a sanitation program.
Western Australia health authorities reported that by the time she was ready to leave in April that the Artania had been responsible for more than 80 cases of the virus with at least three passengers and one crew member having died. A 42-year old crew member who died in the hospital in Perth was at the time believed to be the youngest person to succumb to the virus in Australia.
The Artania finally departed Fremantle on April 17 after a three-week stay in port and onboard were eight passengers, who were reportedly medically unable to make a flight to Germany, along with approximately 400 crew members. The majority of her passengers and some of the crew had previously departed flying back to Germany, while a few others remained in an Australian hospital when the ship departed.
The ship’s operators, a German tour company called Phoenix Reisen, decided that before heading to Germany the Artania would transport additional crew members home. She made stops in Manila, departing at the beginning of May, and then at Port Klang, Malaysia, before the return voyage with the eight passengers and approximately 75 crew members.
The voyage home lasted approximately four weeks, including a refueling stop in Sri Lanka in mid-May. The cruise ship proceeded through the Suez Canal and continued on to Germany where she arrived on June 8.
Debarking in Germany, these people became the last cruise ship passengers to leave an ocean-going cruise ship. It was a unique distinction they earned in late April when three other cruise ships, Costa Cruises’ Costa Deliziosa, MSC Cruises’ MSC Magnifica, and Princess Cruises’ Pacific Princess, had all completed long ocean voyages also from Australia to disembark passengers from their respective world cruises.
While there are no longer any passengers on cruise ships at sea, the lines are continuing to use their cruise ships to deliver crew members home. In the Philippines, for example, five additional cruise ships carry more than 3,000 people that worked on the ship are expected to reach Manila during June, while other ships are sailing bound for the Caribbean as well as India, Indonesia, and Malaysia transporting crew home.
Officials have estimated that there as many as 200,000 seafarers across all segments of the shipping industry still at sea as the industry works to facilitate trips home or complete crew changes.
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