Cruise ships – the final voyage

To be honest, I haven’t really been obsessing too much over cruise ships for the last 36 hours or so. I pretty much stated my case here and moved on. Because as large as this story is, there is a lot of big news right now, with profound implications for so many populations and industries.

I sort of expected some dramatic action yesterday, and it didn’t happen. But there were some hints. Pence made mention of a 72 hour action plan that started from the Saturday meeting. Trump made some remarks yesterday about big news coming today. But no big news. This evening I went back for another look.

I mentioned in my first post on cruise ships that I was watching two ships, the Pacific Princess and the MSC Opera. There have been a few others that I’ve kept an eye on that I don’t have to drag out right now.

The MSC Opera is docked in Genoa. I thought I read somewhere that the passengers and crew were cleared to disembark, but now I’m not sure. It will come out soon enough. I’d bet my last dime on there being infection aboard. I hope the actions of port and health authorities in Greece and Italy with this ship will come under close scrutiny. Malta turned the ship away under pressure from doctors there. There’s a story there if anyone wants to find it.

A point I’d like to make on Pacific Princess is one of spin. They went aboard, tested a small group of occupants, and came back with close to a 50% positive rate. 21 people total, according to the Princess web site. And the headline number everywhere has remained small. It’s not a stretch to suggest that the majority of crew and a good number of passengers are currently infected. The true numbers will no doubt be available somewhere, some time. I want to emphasize that perception is being very tightly managed. They could easily have tested all passengers by now and made summary results available. But 21 doesn’t raise the same alarm as 867, or some such number. The CV-19 numbers being thrown around in the US lately have been largely bullshit. I’ll talk about that lots. Just a heads up.

One more Pacific Princess thought: US announced they would take passengers but not crew. I’d bet that there was a plan in place, if only briefly, for the ship to depart Oakland for BC. That’s probably back in the air now, but a relatively minor concern in the scheme of things. It sounded like US was expecting owner to handle it.

Now, to some current at-a-glance pics from my free Android App. These are cruise ships shown.

What I think I’m seeing is that ships that are at sea are mostly lollygagging around. Ports seem very empty. Destinations appear to be almost completely empty. I’m sure there’s data out there to support or disprove my thesis, but all will become clear soon.

I have a narrative on the last few days. Here’s some points:

1) US and cruise chiefs met Saturday under the cloud of Pacific Princess and with other alarming information just bubbling up. I’m pretty sure there were clear negative indicators in Florida over the previous week that were at best willfully ignored, at worst understood and suppressed.

2) while wanting to be supportive of the business, I think the administration likely laid down the law on avoiding another Pacific Princess. And put the onus squarely on the business to make sure it didn’t happen, and that if it did they would own it.

3) public messaging changed quite dramatically on Sunday. Public health official’s concerns were winning the day through the weekend. I mentioned the State Dept announcements earlier.

4) Pence made specific mention of at least one other ship they were interested in. Can’t remember the details, but there could very well have been others. One other ship I was watching as likely known infected was due in two days ago but is now loitering around Grand Bahama.

I’m going to venture that limited or possibly full onboard testing started on the weekend across multiple ships, and after positive results started pouring in, the magnitude of the problem became clearer.

I’m also convinced that no ships with known cases will enter port in the US. Not their problem.

The magnitude?

I’m not going to speculate much further, but if ports insist on seeing negative test results for all passengers and crew in order to land they may remain largely empty. There are some very tough decisions ahead on how to deal with this, and the magnitude of the challenge may be much higher than anybody was expecting.

Just dug out a post that I made to Trawler Forum when the subject was introduced. Feb 17. It didn’t get much traction then.

I was pretty much bang on. But it’s not a couple. It’s much more than that.

@jeff_zolo