Grand Princess Crew and Passengers Test Positive for Coronavirus

UPDATE: At approximately 5:30PM ET, during the White House press briefing led by VP Mike Pence, he announced that 21 people aboard the off-shore ship tested positive for COVID-19, coronavirus.  Of these 21 people, 19 are crew and 2 are passengers.   No word yet if and when Grand Princess will dock or remain at sea.  It was suggested that the ship could anchor at a non-commercial port.  Where everyone on board will go has not be determined. 

Nearly 3,500 passengers and crew aboard Princess Cruises Grand Princess anxiously await going ashore.  The cruise ship is not allowed to dock in San Francisco until test results for coronavirus are completed.  The latest in a series of cruise ship docking delays due to coronavirus. 

Grand Princess cruises to Sitka Alaska
Grand Princess last year in Sitka, Alaska.

The ship left San Francisco two weeks earlier on a round-trip cruise to the Hawai’ian Islands.  As do many people with the time and money to do so, sixty-two passengers on the Hawai’i cruise had also been on the previous shorter cruise to the Mexican Riviera.  The 71-year old man who died on Wednesday was among those who stayed onboard for both cruises, for what is called a back-to-back cruise.

At least two other past Grand Princess passengers who were on the first cruise with the man who died have tested positive for coronavirus.  This, plus nearly two dozen other passengers and crew member on board now showing flu-like symptoms, sparked the ship not being allowed to disembark passengers in San Francisco.

Grand Princess cruise ship at sea
Grand Princess at sea. (Photo: Princess Cruises)

Grand Princess passengers and crew await coronavirus test results

As of Thursday morning, with orders still in place not to dock in San Francisco, approximately two dozen passengers and crew now have flu-like symptoms similar to those of coronavirus.

By Thursday afternoon, the National Guard sent a helicopter to deliver coronavirus test kits to the stranded ship.

The dramatic airlift to deliver the kits was accentuated even more as Grand Princess crew members awaited the package as it was lowered from the helicopter.  The entire pool deck was empty except for crew members in neon orange jumpsuits, clearly noticeable in the typical San Francisco fog.

Princess Cruises Grand Princess - San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge
Waiting offshore from San Francisco may not be a pleasant experience. Gale force wind and dense fog can make for a rough ride.

How it all began

On Wednesday, March 4, after the cruise line was alerted to the previous cruise passenger’s death, the ship’s chief medical officer, Dr. Grant Tarling, sent a letter to every stateroom.  The communication began…

Dear Princess Guest: 

I wish to advise you that today we have been notified by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that they are investigating a small cluster of COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases in Northern California connected to our previous Grand Princess voyage that sailed roundtrip San Francisco from February 11 to February 21. We are working closely with our CDC partners and are following their recommendations.

For those guests who sailed with us on our previous voyage and may have been exposed, in an abundance of caution, the CDC requires you to remain in your stateroom until you have been contacted and cleared by our medical staff. A member of our medical team will be calling you between the hours of 8:00 AM and 11:00 AM this morning. You may order room service while you wait for the medical screening to be completed, and we apologize for any inconvenience.

The letter included safety and hygiene tips, notice of cancellation for the stop at Ensenada, Mexico as well as symptoms to watch for relating to coronavirus.  

More letters followed that updated passengers on the ship’s status and to confirm there were no known cases of COVID-19 on the ship.  How this statement could be determined without testing was probably meant to calm worries that no one knowingly boarded the ship with the virus. 

Who will be tested for coronavirus aboard Grand Princess

Another letter from Princess to passengers sent out at 11PM on March 4,  stated, “There are fewer than 100 guests and crew identified for testing, including all in-transit guests (guests who sailed the previous Mexico voyage and remained on board for the current Hawaii voyage), those guests and crew who have experienced influenza-like illness symptoms on this voyage, and guests currently under care for respiratory illness.”

In the meantime, while awaiting test results that should be completed by Friday afternoon, March 6, while not officially quarantined, passengers were asked to remain in their rooms.  Internet bandwidth had increased, in-room television option and movies were available and room service would deliver meals.  

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