Accidents, pollution, exploitation … cruise firms were in murky waters even before Covid-19
“We’ve been asked – and we’ve asked ourselves – why Covid-19 seems to be impacting Princess so heavily.” Thus spoke Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, in a video posted on social media in mid-March. She looks sad-eyed and baffled into the camera: “We don’t really know.” Perhaps, she muses, the problem is something to do with the “diverse mix of people onboard our ships” and is “being magnified by our core values to respect, protect and connect the world”. She implores her “guests” with a “simple request”: “We ask you to book a future Princess cruise to your dream destination … as a symbol to the world that the things that connect us are stronger than those that divide us.”
Her company does seem to have been terribly unlucky. Their Diamond Princess, quarantined off Yokohama, which suffered over 700 infections and eight deaths among its passengers and crew, was a conspicuous early victim of the pandemic, its global fame growing on wry-turning-to-desperate postings from its passengers. The Ruby Princess, from which 2,700 passengers disembarked in Sydney on March 19, became the single largest source of Covid-19 cases in Australia. The Grand Princess was stuck outside San Francisco, its passengers confined to their cabins, after an outbreak in early March. Something similar happened to the Coral Princess in early April, off the coast of Florida. And this to say nothing of the Caribbean Princess, which has twice this year had to end cruises early, due to hundreds falling ill from a quite different infection, the vomiting bug norovirus.