The Ruby Princess cruise ship is now docked in SF with a number of confirmed COVID-19 cases onboard, and one passenger says “We’re not getting tested, so the Bay Area is getting us as is.”
With Omicron variant outbreaks and a COVID-19 testing meltdown now in full swing in the Bay Area, it is an unwelcome 2020 flashback to see a cruise ship with a COVID-19 outbreak docking right here in San Francisco. But that is what’s happening, as KPIX reports that the Ruby Princess cruise ship docked in SF before dawn this morning with multiple COVID-19 cases on board.
This was its scheduled stop, it’s the end of a ten-day cruise that was scheduled to end here today. And looking at the numbers, KPIX informs us that “Ruby Princess crew had randomly tested 25% of all passengers debarking at San Francisco. Among those, 12 tested positive.” So the outbreak may simply be those 12, or it could be much larger, as that is a mere fraction of the total passengers. And guests onboard tell the press there was definitely a larger outbreak among the ship’s staff.
KPIX has the raw video above of the cruise ship, where no passengers had disembarked yet. But several have at this point, and are back mingling among the general Bay Area population.
Whether this cruise was an absolute COVID nightmare or a delightful, carefree time at sea depends on who you ask. KTVU spoke to one passenger, Joe Donnelly of Vallejo, who said, "There was plenty of room to get around," and added that "Everybody seemed to be happy. Didn't see any problems."
But we get a very different story from the passengers NBC Bay Area spoke with. A Mountain View couple said there was definitely an outbreak among the ship’s dancers and performers, which the ship’s staff seemed to want to sweep under the rug. “We’re not getting tested, so the Bay Area is getting us as is,” passenger Cerafin Castillo told the station. “With no information about what happened here after the dancers, avid singers and everybody else had to quarantine.”
Castillo and his wife said they had isolated themselves in their room as soon as they learned that entertainment on the ship was canceled due to a COVID outbreak among the performers.
NBC Bay Area got a statement out of Princess Cruises regarding the outbreak. "Upon request by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, we conducted additional testing and identified a small number of positive COVID-19 cases among vaccinated guests, who are all asymptomatic,” the statement says. “In accordance with our established protocols, those guests who tested positive will either return home via their personal vehicles or be taken to hotels coordinated in advance for quarantine.”
To point out the obvious, you should not be taking cruises right now. There have been at least a half dozen cruises into or out of South Florida that have had recent COVID outbreaks onboard. And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is quite blunt about this in their latest cruise ship guidance: “Avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status,” the guidance says. “The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.”
Princess Cruises has little regard for that guidance, and that very same cruise ship will set out later this afternoon. “Ruby Princess is scheduled to depart this afternoon for a 10-day cruise to Mexico," the cruise line said in their statement.