While the world locked down, these passengers spent 15 worry-free weeks aboard a luxury cruiseliner

Thousands of passengers and crew members have come down with cases of COVID-19 aboard cruise ships, but one 12-deck pleasure vessel not only escaped the infection but even became an accidental safe haven from the worldwide pandemic.

To the passengers who embarked Jan. 5 on a 15-week around-the-world cruise aboard the Costa Deliziosa, the coronavirus was little more than a news story. It wasn’t until the third leg of the trip in late February that any changes were made to the cruise’s itinerary, prompting visits to the Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius in place of Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Diamond Princess
British-registered Diamond Princess, the first cruise ship struck by a major COVID-19 outbreak, was quarantined for a month at Yokohama, Japan, beginning Feb. 4. More than 700 people became infected, and 12 died. At the time, the ship accounted for over half of the reported cases of coronavirus outside of mainland China.

As an Italian vessel, the ship followed Italian guidelines for social distancing, but because no one on board had a confirmed case of COVID-19, shipboard recreation, socializing and entertainment continued largely unabated during 113 days at sea.

The ship eventually began avoiding stops to limit outside contact—barring technical and refueling stops before the journey back toward the Mediterranean. And it turns out that the resulting isolation insulated the ship’s passengers and crew from infection. That means everyone aboard could be counted among the effortlessly lucky.

314 oceanic cruise ships were operating at the end of 2018

For Spanish traveler Carlos Payá, traveling around-the-globe on a  luxury cruise while the rest of the world scurried into their homes for fear of the COVID-19 pandemic was beyond surreal—it was “a stroke of good luck,” he said.

“Of course, for those of us who have children in Spain, we would have preferred to return,” Payá told The Associated Press. “Other passengers, on the other hand, given their old age, wanted to stay on board knowing that the boat was safe and secure.”

Payá, a sportswriter traveling with his wife, said when news started to reach the boat of the rapid spread of the coronavirus in their native Spain, their first desire was to go home to their two grown children in their hometown of Valencia. But with ports denying the boat entry, they decided to temper their concerns by enjoying the amenities onboard.

He said the passengers’ last chance to touch land was in Perth, Australia, where they docked after “70 wonderful days” of crossing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. That was in March when The World Health Organization alerted the world to the pandemic.

Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’
Carnival Corp., which controls the largest market share in the cruise industry, saw a major selloff following the COVID-19 outbreak, losing more than 70% year-to-date.

All 168 Spanish passengers eventually disembarked from the nearly 1,000-foot vessel at Barcelona’s port on April 20 before the ship headed to its final destination of Genoa, Italy, where it let off the remaining passengers.

We can’t help but name the Costa Deliziosa passengers this month’s Luckboxes of the Month.

These lucky travelers— effectively immune to infection—were sailing into the sunset on a luxury liner, playing shuffleboard and frequenting the buffet while most of the cruise industry was scrambling to protect customers and save face. 

Worldwide cruise passenger capacity at the end of 2018
Source: Cruise Market Watch

30 million total ocean cruise passengers worldwide in 2019

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