2 cruise ship passengers test positive for COVID-19 as crews prepare to set sail from Galveston

Gov. Abbott also plans to sign bill prohibiting any Texas business from requiring vaccine passports, vaccination information

GALVESTON, Texas – Two passengers aboard the first cruise ship to set sail from North America since the start of the pandemic tested positive for COVID-19, officials announced Thursday.

Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Millennium cruise ship required all passengers to show proof of vaccination a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before setting sail, the company said in a news release.

“Today, two guests sharing a stateroom onboard Celebrity Millennium tested positive for COVID-19 while conducting the required end of cruise testing,” the cruise line company said. “The individuals are asymptomatic and currently in isolation and being monitored by our medical team.”

Carnival Cruises will make its maiden voyage since the pandemic on July 3, and the company says its COVID-19 mitigation plan will keep passengers safe.

“Our Have Fun. Be Safe. guidelines for cruises from Galveston incorporate guidance from the CDC and Texas officials,” the company’s COVID-19 protocols detail.

Carnival’s mitigation plan requires passengers ages 12 and older to provide proof of vaccination, mandating receipt of a final dose at least 14 days prior to setting sail. They said its mitigation plan will help to prevent spread.

On Friday, doctors said mitigation plans overall on cruise ships can be trusted.

“We know it’s really rare,” said Dr. Annamaria Macaluso Davidson, Vice President of Medical Operations at Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Davidson said two passengers aboard a ship testing positive for COVID-19 also isn’t a surprise. She said the fact that they’re asymptomatic and in quarantine confirms that.

“The viral load that they would have would be extremely low. The vaccine is doing what it’s supposed to where it’s keeping them well. It’s keeping them from spreading the virus to other people,” she said.

Dr. Wesley Long, associate professor of pathology and genomic medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital, agreed.

“That’s really a vaccine success story,” Long said.

Still, Long stressed those looking to set sail should do their homework before they cruise. For starters, he said it’s best for customers to review their ship’s policy, as well as protocols and mitigation plans at international ports.

“How many other passengers you’re going to be exposed to? Where are the ports you’re going to on the cruise? What’s the situation in those countries?” he questioned.

While doctors stressed the importance of cruise lines following CDC recommendations, legislation signed into law this week by Governor Abbott may rock the boat.

Abbott announced Monday that he will be signing a law into place that will prohibit any Texas business from requiring vaccine passports or vaccination information.

“Texas is open 100% without any restrictions or limitations or requirements,” Abbott wrote on Twitter.

Carnival told KPRC 2 it’s evaluating the law:

“We are evaluating the legislation recently signed into law in Texas regarding vaccine information. The law provides exceptions for when a business is implementing COVID protocols in accordance with federal law which is consistent with our plans to comply with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s guidelines,” the company wrote in a statement.

But scholars of business law say requiring passengers to be fully vaccinated before they board is more than just a safety measure – it’s legal protection, too.

“This is a mitigation strategy and that is particularly relevant when you come into litigation because you say, ‘did you take all reasonable steps to prevent this,” said Dietrich von Biedenfeld, Assistant Professor of Business Law, at the University of Houston Downtown.

Von Biedenfeld said the cruise likely is exploring its legal options, as a result.

Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista will depart the Port of Galveston on July 3. The Carnival Breeze will follow on July 15.

About the Author:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. NOLA born and bred, though #HoustonStrong, with stops in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in along the way.