The Cruise Ship Dilemma: Do We Help Fools?

I’m an old guy. When I read about the cruise ships presently floating in the ocean waters with no ports to land in I think of the old Kingston Trio song “My Father was the Keeper of the Eddystone Light”  and the words “Yo, Ho, Ho the wind blows free, Oh for the life of the rolling sea.” 

In early February the Diamond Princess which was docked in Yokohoma started to reporting on the coronavirus infections on it. It had 61 confirmed cases by February 7. We heard of another ship, the MS Westerdam, in the middle of February being  not being able to dock in some countries and finally doing so in Cambodia. On March 5 there was the news of a coronavirus outbreak on the Grand Princess located off the shore of California. It was finally allowed to dock on March 9 at Oakland where the passengers were tested.

Now it seems to me that anyone with an ounce of common sense would have been well advised to avoid going on a cruise by the time the middle of February rolled around. I would also have thought that the cruise lines would have stopped going on cruises for a while until a better grasp of the problem was in hand.

I, of course, was mistaken. There are at present “least ten ships around the world – carrying nearly 10,000 passengers – are still stuck at sea after having been turned away from their destination ports in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.”  You have to ask yourself why did the cruise lines continue to continue business after the coronavirus was first seen as a major problem. Professor Ross Klein “at St John’s College in Newfoundland who has written four books on the cruise industry, said companies should have acted weeks earlier to cancel trips and refund customers. He noted that cases of cruise ships being turned away from ports as a result of coronavirus fears began as early as January and escalated in February, with passengers being quarantined on the Emerald Princess in Japan on 3 February. “There is a level of greed on the part of these companies,” he said. “They want to make every penny – and they make money when people are on the ships.””

Almost all of these ships are registered in countries other than the United States. They do this to avoid paying U.S. taxes and to follow its labor laws. Many use the ports in Florida from which to sail. Trump has said that it is important to keep them in business. He mentioned his friend Micky Arison who owns Carnival Cruise line. Who is this guy I wondered. I learned: ” Arison’s wealth at $5.9 billion, making him the 169th wealthiest person in the world. In 2009, he earned $7,201,110, which included a base salary of $880,000, a cash bonus of $2,206,116, stocks granted of $3,618,481, and other compensation totaling $496,513.”  I’m sure your heart goes out to him and earnestly want the American taxpayers to help him through this difficult time. Or perhaps you may think if he wants his company to survive he might want to use some of his money to help it do so.

There is though a greater concern that must be addressed. What is to be done with these ships that have people on board and no country will accept them? It seems that some of them are heading to Florida even though the ships had not previously been there. One is in the Pacific Ocean and planning to go through the Panama Canal and slip on into Fort Lauderdale.

We do want to protect our fellow Americans on board although they were foolhardy in going on these cruises which makes me wonder why do we have to protect people who refuse to protect themselves. I also wonder the wisdom of having them come to our ports. Do we test them all and isolate them for 14 days or send them off through America and elsewhere? We’ve already seen the CDC botch up one incident. Will it handle this any better?

The greed of the cruise owners, the obtuseness of the passengers, and the availability of an  America port all go together to hand us a problem we really shouldn’t be faced with. Fortunately, against the hope of Trump, Congress has not handed these cruise lines a bailout at the present time. Sometimes it gets things right.


6 thoughts on “The Cruise Ship Dilemma: Do We Help Fools?

    1. The analogy is that turning away human beings, refugees facing likely death (the May 1939 St. Louis, in retrospect) or presently turning away those in desperate need of medical attention, facing death too, (the April 2020 Cruise Ship passengers) is contemptible. An excellent analogy.

  1. Just to share:
    There continues to be hope: INFECTIOUS DISEASE specialist, Doctor Joseph M. Smith (Yale Medical grad, in practice for nearly 40 years), who has treated 78 patients, says hydroxychloroquine (HXQ) with Azythromycin (Z-pac) works. Doctor Smith, a renowned infectious disease specialist calls it a game changer, he called it “the end of the pandemic; I’m serious.” A French study (two clinical studies from Marseilles) say it works (of 30 and 80 patients, as I understand them.) A Chinese study says it works on milder cases. A Paris Study of 11 Patients with “Severe Co-Vid-19” and comorbidities (obesity, diabetes, heart disease) says it does not work on Severe Cases and there are negative cardiologic effects (a prolonged q-t interval leading to ventricular fibrillation etc and perhaps death.) (N.B. many drugs cause prolongation of the q-t interval, it is something that should be routinely monitored.) Four days ago, The American College of Cardiologists advised: “Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine use outside of a clinical trial should occur at the direction of an infectious disease or COVID-19 expert, with cardiology input regarding QT monitoring.”

    Good, practical advice, based on reading the experts: continue using HXQ + Z-pac; continue clinical trials; closely monitor potential cardio and other side effects, as good doctors and nurses always do.

    P.S. the Paris study found nasal swabs at 5-6 days revealed “no decrease” in positive tests. It says this is in “contrast” to the Marseilles study, which in fact found the same: no decrease in viral counts in the first 5 days. The Marseilles study: “Between 5 and 7 days (of treatment) very few patients shed the virus.”

    I’ll have to look closer at all these studies, but I don’t see the conflict and even if some exists, I’d go with the positive results.

    Even the experts disagree. Continue treating; await the results of New York’s trials. And I hope to God the medical community is not playing political football.

  2. I had the same thought Bill did about the ship carrying German Jews. The two situations really aren’t equivalent, but we should do the right thing this time and take in the folks floating off Florida. I think the cruise line should pay the full cost of quarantine and medical treatment, if necessary. These cruise lines have very few American employees and don’t deserve a dime of our tax money. The passengers were deeply dumb to have gone on this cruise, but they still deserve our compassion.

    1. Dan, we agree: they do deserve our compassion. Turning them away would have condemned them to more misery and death, as happened when we turned away the St. Louis.

  3. Matt, it is good food for thought.

    Whenever, I think of ships being turned away, I think of the ship carrying 937 German Jews, the St. Louis, fleeing Nazi Germany, in May 1939, before World War II started and before the extent of the persecution of Jews and what would become the Holocaust was fully apprehended. The St. Louis eventually returned to Germany and most Jewish passengers died in the Holocaust.

    So, with ships seeking to dock, our primary concerns should be twofold (1) the health and safety of the passengers and (2) insuring those passengers do no transmit infections. Yes, we can quarantine all passengers off-shore for two weeks, and we can test and treat all passengers on board until we do.

    The second issue you raise is whether the Cruise Lines should be part of the corporations that get relief from the $Trillions Congress is spending. I don’t see why not? Airlines, Hotels/Motels, Sports Arenas, Museums, Universities, etc. all stayed open and in operation until around March 10th to May 17 th. About 10 of 70 Ocean Cruise Lines are “headquartered” in the U.S. according to Wikpedia. Perhaps, after the fact, if Cruise Lines continued to operate after that second week in March, or after the WHO declared a Pandemic (March 11) they could be sued. (See below: Cruise Line International cancels cruises on March 13. Compare: Mar 12, 2020 · Disneyland announced it would be shutting its doors until the end of March amid concerns in the U.S. and around the world over coronavirus. March 27: Disneyland Will Remain Closed Indefinitely.)

    Should we exempt Harvard from any relief we give to University employees? Harvard is the wealthiest university in the world? (I’d read, perhaps falsely I hope, that most colleges are continuing to pay and insure suspended employees, but Harvard is not. Something to investigate.) Should we exempt the wealthier airlines, wealthier restaurants, wealthier big businesses and wealthier small businesses and their employees from relief.

    My gut says treat all businesses equally, but first attend to the health and safety of human beings, perhaps especially so to the elderly on those cruise ships and other elderly (most at risk) who sought to travel. Yes, we human beings were fools to continue travelling for recreation after universities closed. Thinks of the Spring Breakers, after their colleges announced closures.

    What fools we mortals be!

    In medicine and public health, they teach to treat even fools equally. You cannot refuse medical treatment to those who exercise bad judgement, speeders, spree-ers, revelers, alcohol and drug abusers.

    2. A second issue raised at the President’s Press Briefing yesterday: Should planes from hot spots like New York City continue to fly. I’d hope at a minimum all passengers be tested for temperatures and anyone with symptoms (a dry cough) be prohibited from coughing. We’d still miss the incubators. Better yet, as more of these 15 minute tests become available test all passengers. Or better still, anyone who flies from a Hot Spot must prove they’ve been quarantined for at least 15 days.

    3. Here’s an article from CNN from yesterday: “On March 13, in light of mounting fears over onboard Covid-19 outbreaks, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) made the decision to suspend operations from US ports of call for 30 days.
    Two weeks later, thousands of passengers and crew members remain aboard at least 15 ships across the world. . .Industry group CLIA encompasses 38 cruise companies, with a total of 277 ships.”

    Did other tourist/recreational industries and the and the sports organizations do much better?

    Good food for thought.

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