Carnival failed to protect passengers from virus despite warnings, lawsuit claims

US court filings show cruise group did not change protocols after concerns from ship’s doctor

The cruise ship Carnival Sunrise, part of the Carnival Cruise Line, moored in  Miami, Florida.

The cruise ship Carnival Sunrise, part of the Carnival Cruise Line, moored in Miami, Florida.

 

Carnival Corporation failed to make efforts to protect cruise customers from coronavirus last year despite warnings from its own ship’s doctor about a “concerning” outbreak of flu-like symptoms on board, according to US court filings.

Dr Nadia Nair, senior doctor aboard Carnival’s Grand Princess on a voyage from San Francisco to Mexico in February last year, told the company’s management there was a “concerning” increase of an “influenza-like illness” on board and asked whether “any additional measures should be implemented”.

Despite the warning and alerts from international and US health authorities, no changes were made to on-board protocols, events or cleaning regimes to prevent the spread of Covid-19, according to court documents filed by claimants in a class-action lawsuit against Carnival in California.

Litigation

More than 100 passengers and crew on board that voyage and the one directly following it, which departed from San Francisco on February 21st last year, tested positive for the virus. Two of the passengers who travelled on the earlier trip to Mexico subsequently died.

The company declined to comment on the litigation, but said that it “has implemented a suite of protocols that are designed to flex up as needed to adapt to the changing public health situation related to Covid-19”.

It added: “We meet the standards for a vaccinated cruise as defined by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and implemented additional measures.”

The lawyers, who represent at least 50 customers who travelled on the Princess ships in the early months of the pandemic, alleged that communications from Nair and emails between Carnival’s chief medical officer, Dr Grant Tarling, and senior management showed that the cruise company decided to continue sailing despite being aware of how rapidly infection could spread on board.

Carnival assured passengers that cruises were safe and told those who wanted to cancel tickets for the second Grand Princess voyage that they would have to pay a 90 per cent cancellation fee, customer evidence documented in the filings said.

“Before this pandemic started, Carnival knew its cruise ships were at seriously increased risk for spreading deadly contagious diseases. As we alleged in our lawsuits, Carnival ignored obvious warning signs that it was putting its passengers at risk,” said Mark Chalos, a lawyer at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, the firm representing the claimants.

The lawyers also argued that Carnival should not be permitted to resume its cruise trips after 27 people tested positive aboard Carnival Vista, a 3,954-passenger ship, this month - the highest number since cruising resumed out of US waters in June. One older passenger, who was taken to a hospital in Belize, has died from Covid.

Levels

Carnival said the guest who died on the Carnival Vista “almost certainly did not contract Covid on our ship, and that she was assisted with expert medical care on board”. The other 26 people who tested positive on the ship were crew, who were subject to regular testing.

The company also stressed that “cruise ships across our fleet operate with some of the highest levels of Covid-19 mitigation of any setting in the world, with protocols and precautions going far and above most other sectors”.

It has been a gruelling pandemic for Carnival, whose ships make up almost half of the ocean-going cruise fleet. Its vessels have been docked for more than a year and it has raised more than $23 billion (€19.5 billion ) in debt and equity to survive.

Several of the group’s ships became hotspots for the virus early in the pandemic, including the 2,670 passenger Diamond Princess, which was quarantined off the coast of Japan, resulting in more than 700 cases and 14 deaths. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021