Cases of Covid-19 on Tui cruise ship turn out to be false positives

Benjamin Parker
·3-min read
Mein Schiff 6 has been sailing passengers again since mid-September
Mein Schiff 6 has been sailing passengers again since mid-September

Crew members who tested positive for coronavirus on a cruise ship carrying almost 1,000 passengers have now received negative results following a retest.

A dozen staff had, at first, been confirmed as having Covid-19 following routine tests on 150 of the 666-strong crew – but now at least six have returned different results. The second test was undertaken using rapid testing equipment on board, while the initial results were from an external laboratory.

The remaining results from the second tests are expected back tomorrow. 

No crew members, including the 12 who tested positive, showed any signs of virus prior to their positive result, Tui Cruises said. All crew are meant to undergo a 14-day isolation before beginning their work.

Telegraph Travel cruise expert Dave Monk said: “If cruising, and travel in general, is to resume fully, the speed, accuracy and reliability of tests are essential – and not too much must be read into isolated results.”

Mein Schiff 6, which is operated by Germany-based Tui Cruises, is currently moored off Milos – an island in the Aegean Sea. It will now head to its next port. The Telegraph understands that there are no British passengers on board.

The ship departed from Heraklion, Crete, on Sunday evening for a seven-night voyage. There are no changes to the original itinerary and the vessel will sail to Piraeus, one main port for Athens and one of the largest in Europe, following discussions with Greek authorities.

The ship “has defined processes on board in case of possible Covid-19 cases, which are now taking effect,” a spokesperson said.

Before the negative tests were confirmed, Tui Cruises said any case of the virus would be “unlikely”.

“As a pure precautionary measure and in accordance with the strict procedures for resuming cruise operations, which have been agreed with the authorities in Greece, the persons concerned were immediately isolated on board.”

The operator has insisted that passengers shouldn’t worry due to “extensive hygiene measures and clearance rules on board”.

Mein Schiff 6, which has a maximum capacity of just over 2,500 passengers, was one of the first large cruise ships to resume sailing in Greek waters since the country dropped its cruise ban in August.

A spokesperson for the Greek coastguard confirmed they were assisting the vessel.

So far there have been only a small number of reported cases of coronavirus on sea-going cruise ships that have restarted following the industry-wide pause in March.

However, all of these have been isolated incidents with no transmission among passengers or crew, and a number of lines have blamed false positives.

The notable exception is an outbreak in August on Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen. At least 60 people tested positive for Covid-19, with the Norwegian operator subsequently apologising for “several deviations” from health and safety procedures.

“We’ve been in the situation before, with UnCruise and SeaDream, where a positive test on a passenger has been swiftly followed by a negative and there has been no evidence of transmission,” Monk told Telegraph Travel.