New measures to seal off borders to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus have left cruise ships stranded in the Caribbean, South America and Europe, with local governments denying permission to disembark as more cases of infected passengers have come to light.
The Australian government has also ruled that no cruise ships will be allowed to dock for 30 days from Sunday.
Two cruise ships have been turned away from several Caribbean ports, and at least one by Spain, after passengers fell ill with COVID-19. Two other vessels have rerouted to Miami after they were turned away from their home port in Puerto Rico even with no reports of infections. Authorities in Chile and Brazil, meanwhile, have also placed smaller ships on quarantine after reports of positive coronavirus tests.
The Cruise Lines Association says that about 40 ships and 90,000 passengers were at sea when President Donald Trump announced a travel ban last week that affects the arrival of many foreigners into the US.
A Fort Lauderdale-based ship from Italian company Costa Cruises was denied permission to disembark in Spain after the government decided to close the country's ports to passenger traffic.
The company, owned by Carnival Corporation, says that three Costa Luminosa passengers who were removed from the ship in the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico have tested positive for COVID-19, including a 68-year-old man who died last weekend. On Monday, two passengers who had problems breathing and one who had a fever were taken off the boat and to the hospital during a technical stop in the Canary Islands.
"I am super worried," said Ashley Ecker, a woman of San Diego whose parents boarded the Costa Luminosa in Fort Lauderdale on March 5. Ecker says her 66-year-old parents wanted to cancel their journey but the company refused to give them a refund and told them it was safe to travel.
"They are in that demographic the CDC is now saying 'don't go anywhere. Stay in your house,'" she said. "They need to get off the boat. The more they are on the boat, the more people will start getting sick."
The Costa Luminosa is now sailing to Marseille, France, with passengers isolated to their cabins. It is not clear what measures France will take.
Another cruise ship with passengers who have been infected is in the Caribbean hoping to dock in Cuba. The Braemar has isolated 22 passengers and 21 crew members after they displayed flu-like symptoms. Five aboard had already tested positive for the new coronavirus, said the British company Fred. Olsen Cruises.
The cruise ship is scheduled to dock in Cuba on Tuesday after the island agreed to help transfer the passengers and crew members to planes bound for the United Kingdom.
In South America, a ship of Silversea Cruises was stopped in Recife, Brazil, and passengers were not allowed to disembark after a 78-year-old Canadian passenger tested positive for COVID-19. Health authorities there say they are considering bringing two airplanes to take passengers of the Silver Shadow ship back to their countries.
Some ships were struggling to dock even without reporting any suspicious cases of coronavirus.
Off the southern tip of Argentina, an Antarctic cruise ship is being quarantined. A passenger from Phoenix told The Associated Press in a text message that no one on board was known to have symptoms of COVID-19, but officials would not let passengers disembark until they had been at sea for two weeks.
Two cruise ships were denied permission to return to their home port in San Juan, Puerto Rico, two cruise lines said Monday. Both the Royal Caribbean Cruises' Freedom of the Seas and the Carnival Fascination are instead sailing to Miami, where passengers are expected to disembark Tuesday.
The Carnival Cruise Line said the government of Puerto Rico even denied a request to debark Puerto Rican residents "despite the fact that no one has any influenza-like illness."
"We have plenty of food, fuel, water and supplies and a full schedule of entertainment and activities," Carnival Cruise Line said in an emailed statement.
Australia's suspension has been handled in a more orderly fashion, with ships currently cruising Australian waters returning to port to disembark guests. Passengers on board ships that have cruised to international ports from Australia will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.