Cruise ships kept sailing in the Caribbean, even as signs of sickness spread

As the coronavirus outbreak was spiraling into what became a pandemic and cruise ships began to report confirmed exposures, thousands of tourists continued to visit one of the most popular cruise destinations: the Caribbean. The $100 billion cruise industry transports some 30 million passengers around the world every year, an industry trade association said, with nearly a third of all cruise ships in the Caribbean. That’s a fraction of those who travel by air, a major factor in the spread of the virus. But public health experts said cruise ships create unique opportunities for infectious diseases to spread.

Along with airplanes, cruise ships also played a role in the spread of the virus in the Caribbean, a region with small island populations and a fragile health-care system. While air travelers brought the first cases to islands such as St. Lucia and Cuba, cruise passengers were the first confirmed coronavirus patients in places such as the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico, according to local health officials. A Post analysis found that five ships — the Costa Favolosa, Costa Magica, Costa Luminosa, MS Braemar and MSC Meraviglia — made 18 stops in the Caribbean between Feb. 29 and March 11 while carrying someone who later tested positive for coronavirus. As of April 20, at least 145 crew members and 48 passengers who were aboard the Costa Luminosa have tested positive for the coronavirus. This is the story of how the Luminosa was able to continue sailing, even as signs of sickness spread. Read the story: SPECIAL OFFER: To thank you for your support, here’s a deal on a Washington Post digital subscription: $29 for one year

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