MIRROR: Mr. Neumeier, as a cruise blogger you are monitoring the current situation. How many cruise ships are currently wandering the seas because they are not allowed to moor due to the corona crisis?
Neumeier: About 30, maybe more. But far from everyone is really wrong and cannot find a port to disembark. Most of them deviate from their planned routes, but they have a clear destination and only need a while to get back to Europe from Australia or the Amazon, for example.
MIRROR: Is it always about suspected cases or corona infected people on board when ports prohibit disembarkation – i.e. leaving the ships?
Franz Neumeier, 51, is a freelance travel journalist with his own blog. He was editor-in-chief of several IT journals; More than ten years ago, he set up his own cruise business as a focal topic and – at normal times – is at sea more than a hundred days a year.
Neumeier: No, all countries have now closed their ports and do not let foreigners into the country. The United States – with the exception of Hawaii – is one of the few countries that allow cruise passengers to disembark at the end of a trip provided they fly straight home. In Australia, a lot is done through the port of Fremantle on the west coast. If there are no infected people on board, vacationers are escorted directly from the port to the airport. The “Braemar” had at least six infected people on board, was rejected by Barbados and – surprisingly – was allowed to moor in Cuba, which now has around 680 passengers at home in Great Britain. The positively tested passengers flew in a separate machine.
MIRROR: Are ships still under quarantine due to corona patients?
Neumeier: Two ships have positive cases on board at the moment: The “Silver Shadow” has been anchored off Recife in Brazil since March 12, the “Silver Explorer” since March 20 in Puerto Montt in Chile. It is still unclear when the passengers can board. The “Aida Mira” was in quarantine in Cape Town with a suspected case for a week, which was not confirmed. The last of the 1,240 German passengers flew home on Monday.
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MIRROR: There are photos of cruise ships exchanging their passengers by tender boat at sea. What has happened there?
Neumeier: Yes, I had never heard of such an action before. Two Transocean / CMV ships were in the Southeast Asia region and were not allowed to moor in Thailand. Therefore, they exchanged passengers offshore at Phuket to bring them to their home ports – all Europeans on the “Columbus”, all Australians on the “Vasco da Gama”. 239 people, more than 500 pieces of luggage and groceries were transported back and forth by tender boats. The “Columbus” with 904 passengers is now on its way to Tilbury in Great Britain and the “Vasco da Gama” with 957 passengers to Fremantle.
MIRROR: Is the supply of passengers secured, even if they are not allowed to get on board and their journey is indefinitely extended?
Neumeier: Yes, most ports either let the ships anchor or anchor, so that containers with food can be on board and bunkers, i.e. refueling, are possible.
MIRROR: How are the passengers?
Neumeier: They are supplied as normal on cruises, only there are no shore leave. I have heard of one case that Internet is free on board, elsewhere drinks at the bar are free. The last thing the shipping companies can use is that passengers get nervous – especially not on the weeks-long crossings.
MIRROR: Readers tell us that they are so poorly informed on the cruise ships.
Neumeier: The shipping companies can only pass on the information that they themselves have. And they tell me that even minute by minute they don’t know what’s going on. Authorities would provide conflicting information. Or permits would be issued, and two hours later a governor would intervene and take it back. Companies are also in a situation that has never been there before.
MIRROR: Which ships currently have no destination?
Neumeier: That changes from hour to hour. So the “Maasdam” of Holland America should first disembark in Hawaii in Hilo, then in Honolulu, then the Hawaiian authorities refused. Now she is on her way to San Diego. The “Norwegian Jewel” was rejected in the Fiji Islands, New Zealand and French Polynesia. Then it was said that she should only go to Hawaii to take in food and fuel and should go on to the US west coast. Suddenly, passengers are allowed to go ashore in Hawaii – as a passenger, you can only believe that when you are on board.
MIRROR: Which ships are now on transfer trips?
Neumeier: There are still a few. The “Queen Mary 2” is on its way from Fremantle in Australia to Southampton. The ships of the German shipping company Phoenix Reisen like “Amera”, “Amadea” or “Albatros” are on their way to Germany. They still need weeks to Hamburg and Bremerhaven.
MIRROR: Are all guests still on board?
Neumeier: On some ships, passengers had the opportunity to disembark and fly home on the way. The “Artania” from Phoenix Reisen with space for about 1200 guests was in Sydney, for example. Quite a few, around 800 of the passengers, have decided not to fly back but to stay on board for 28 days. They are not expected to arrive in Bremerhaven until April 14th. The passengers of other ships, on the other hand, were not allowed to go ashore – like those of the “Amera”, which could not disembark in Manaus on the Amazon and should now arrive in Hamburg on April 4.
MIRROR: If the passengers preferred to fly, how did they get flights? Many have been deleted.
Neumeier: At the “Artania” there were still places in line machines from Sydney that the shipping company took care of. For other ships from the Caribbean, for example, some of these were already used aircraft for the return of Germans from abroad.
MIRROR: And have all shipping companies stopped their trips now?
Neumeier: Yes, at least all the big ones canceled all trips until around the end of April. At the moment it would also be impossible to have a cruise because all ports worldwide are closed.
MIRROR: What should vacationers do who booked a cruise around May?
Neumeier: Wait – but this currently applies to all trips booked. Unless I have booked the flights myself, they are not part of the package and I may not get them refunded. The shipping companies are currently overloaded, have to reverse many trips and have no time to answer questions about cruises in May or June.
MIRROR: As a cruise fan, would you like to be part of a long transfer trip across the Atlantic, for example?
Neumeier: As far as the corona virus is concerned, such a ship would currently be the safest place in the world. But honestly, I’d rather be home.