Nine cruise ships stranded at sea while ports deny entry

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Aerial view of Holland America’s cruise ship Zaandam as it entered the Panama City bay to be assisted by the Rotterdam cruise ship with supplies, personnel and COVID-19 testing devices, eight miles off the coast of Panama City, on March 27, 2020.

Luis Acosta | AFP | Getty Images

Nine cruise ships and nearly 8,000 passengers are stranded at sea as major ports deny access to the vessels as the coronavirus continues to spread.

According to cruise tracker site Cruise Mapper, Holland America-operated MS Rotterdam, Coral Princess, MS Arcadia, Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 and others are in the process of trying to find a port to disembark passengers and crew members.

Of the nine ships, the one getting the most attention is Carnival-owned MS Zaandam which has been at sea for 15 days. So far, four passengers have died while other passengers have displayed flu-like systems. The ship has been denied entry by multiple ports including Cuba, Mexico and Peru. As it makes it way to Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to give the ship the green light to dock.

“This has been a complex process with teams of people working day and night to coordinate a safe and orderly return to port for passengers and crew, with cruise lines that must follow greatly enhanced protocols and the requirements of governments and health authorities,” said Anne Madison, a spokesperson for trade group Cruise Lines International Association, to CNBC.

Travel experts caution that the longer these ships remain at sea, the more negative attention they will attract.

“It’s only contributed to the cruise lines’ woes. The sooner cruise lines can get out of the headlines, the better. These ships stranded only extends the pain,” said Patrick Scholes, managing director at SunTrust Robinson who covers lodging and leisure, to CNBC.

All of these nine ships were already at sea when the U.S. cruise lines decided to temporarily halt sailings due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian have all delayed sailings until mid-May, creating an enormous cash crunch for the cruise lines.

Adding to their woes, the stimulus bill passed by Congress left the cruise industry out despite remarks from President Donald Trump that the cruise lines was a prime candidate for financial relief.

With no support as of yet from the federal government, Carnival announced a plan to raise $6 billion in the form of equity and debt, secured in part by some of its massive ships.

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