The Ruby Princess cruise ship — which was not-so-fondly once described as the "plague ship" in the pandemic's infancy — docked at the Port of San Francisco in late March with a slew of positive COVID-19 cases in tow. Well, the superspreader vessel recently arrived in Hawaii... with 143 COVID-19 cases on board, according to a new report.
Cast your mind back to the early days of March 2020 when we all found ourselves watching livestreams of a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship anchoring in the San Francisco Bay, the ship floating in limbo after a wave of positive coronavirus infections washed over many of the 3,000-plus souls on board. After a game of oceanic musical chairs, the Grand Princess cruise ship eventually docked in the Port of Oakland to refuel and gather supplies amid quarantine protocols; the same series of events occurred another two weeks later at the Port of San Francisco before the ship finally set off back to Hawaii with just skeleton crew aboard.
It wasn't another nineteen months later until San Francisco allowed cruise ships to again anchor in its port. The first vessel to do so in October of 2021 was, of course, the Princess Cruises' Majestic Princess vessel. Last month, Princess Cruises' Ruby Princess ship arrived in San Francisco from Panama — which ended with 73 people sick with COVID-19 on board. And not even three weeks later, the exact same vessel is reportedly awash with more coronavirus infections, per a report procured by Mercury News.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) has said 143 passengers aboard the Ruby Princess from San Francisco to Hawaii — a round trip journey that ended on April 11th — tested positive for the virus, nearly twice as many as the 73 initially reported sick with COVID-19 after the ship’s March 27 return to SF from Panama.
As evident by an account given by an onboard passenger, it also appears the COVID-19 safety procedures on board were less than ideal.
“It was quite clear that there was a large percentage of passengers that were sick, but unless you self-reported, you were free to keep going and infect other passengers,” said passenger Ted Vomacka to Mercury News. Vomacka said he was among those on board who tested positive on the ship; he was forced to quarantine in separate quarters from his wife, Larisa... who, too, later tested positive after they returned home.
Per the San Jose-based news outlet, both of the recent Ruby Princess outbreaks triggered investigations by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) under its program for controlling COVID-19 aboard cruise ships, which requires cruise ships to notify the government agency of either suspected or confirmed positive cases on board; any vessel with 0.10% of passenger and crew cases meet the criteria for investigation. Given that the Ruby Princess cruise ship can hold a combined 4,280 passengers and crew members at max capacity, the vessel's 143 positive COVID-19 cases account for at least 3% of the total number of people on board, if the cruise ship was, in fact, at its carrying limit.
SFDPH also noted that the crew and passengers of the Ruby Princess’s Panama Canal and Hawaii trips were 100% vaccinated, and “the vast majority of individuals who tested positive for COVID experienced mild or no symptoms.” Per the City health department, only one person on the Hawaii trip was hospitalized — “which speaks to the incredible efficacy of vaccination.”
According to Cruisemapper.com, the Ruby Princess ship actually returned to San Francisco this past Saturday at 8 a.m. before leaving again at 4 p.m. later that day; today, April 25, the Majestic Princess cruise ship is expected to dock at the Port of San Francisco.
Photo: Ruby Princess cruise ship as she begins her departure from Port Kembla on April 23, 2020 in Wollongong, Australia. Australian Border Force has ordered the Ruby Princess to depart Australian waters today, as two separate inquiries continue over how the ship's 2700 passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney in March without adequate health checks during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. A special commission of inquiry has been established by the NSW government over the handling of the Ruby Princess' arrival into Sydney on 19 March, while NSW Police are also conducting a separate criminal investigation. There are now 21 deaths linked to the Ruby Princess along with more than 600 confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)