The risks of resuming cruiseship operations amid the coronavirus pandemic have become evident after an outbreak on a vessel that was supposed to kick-start the business in Greece.
Coastguards confirmed that 12 crew members on the 98,800-gt Mein Schiff 6 (built 2017) have contracted the Covid-19 disease.
The ship, which is controlled by the TUI Cruises joint venture of German holiday giant TUI and Royal Caribbean Group, is underway in the Aegean with 666 crew members and 922 passengers on board. The vessel left the Greek port of Heraklion late on Sunday and was en route to Piraeus and later to Corfu.
The affected crew members have been isolated in their cabins. It is not known whether they have developed symptoms.
The ship is currently near the Aegean island of Milos and awaits authorities’ instructions on which port to call at next.
Greek media widely reported on the Mein Schiff 6 before its first trip out of Heraklion earlier this month, hailing it for being the first such vessel to ply Greek waters after a six-month interruption caused by the coronavirus.
“Cruises are still feasible, even amid the coronavirus pandemic,” TUI Cruises chief executive Wybke Meier was then quoted as saying.
Greece has been the first Mediterranean country in which TUI Cruises started its sailing programme this year.
TUI board member Sebastian Ebel met Greek tourism minister Harry Theoharis on 25 September to bolster their cooperation.
The company and Greek authorities said they put maximum-hygiene rules in place to prevent outbreaks on the Mein Schiff 6, and procedures to deal with them if they occurred.
In order to facilitate social distancing measures, the ship was to operate at 60% capacity.
Greece has been one of Europe’s most successful countries in coping with the coronavirus. In recent weeks, however, the number of cases has shot up and reached record levels, albeit from a very low base.