Amid coronaviruses, cruise ships idle on the SoCal coast

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Massive cargo ships regularly drift at anchor off the coast of Southern California while waiting to unload the cargo in the ports of Los Angeles or Long Beach. Oil tankers and container ships are a common sight for local residents from San Pedro south to Huntington Beach.

In recent weeks, however, huge new shapes have joined the bulky contours of cargo ships visible from shore: large cruise ships are waiting until they can resume international navigation. Just as airlines have put some of their fleets on hold due to the coronavirus crisis, cruise lines are hiding hundreds of ships in various US ports.

Ten of the large vessels are in southern California waters this week, but their numbers change frequently. Some are moored, others are anchored at sea. Most are visible from the shore. None carry passengers.

In early March, federal and health officials warned Americans to avoid cruises due to coronavirus outbreaks on board certain ships.

On March 13, Cruise Lines International Assn., The industry’s largest trade organization, announced that its members, which operate approximately 300 vessels, would voluntarily suspend cruise ship operations from and to US ports of call. Most lines have now extended suspensions until mid-May or later.

A handful of ships that left before the closure are still at sea with passengers on board, but all are heading for land.

Seven of the shelved vessels currently moored or anchored here are Carnival Cruise Lines vessels. Carnival is the world’s largest cruise company, with 100 ships sailing under 10 brands, including the Carnival brand, which has four ships moored or anchored in the Long Beach area, and the Princess brand, with three ships in the port area. from Los Angeles to San Pedro.

The ships take turns anchoring or mooring. “We have to move the ships out of port for maneuvering and maintenance,” said Vance Gulliksen, public relations manager for Carnival Corp.

In addition, there are not enough docks to hold all the ships. The Carnival brand, for example, has 27 vessels in its fleet. “We anchor ships at sea because there is a demand for berths and a shortage of available space,” said Gulliksen.

In addition to the ships now in southern California waters, the Carnival brand has ships moored or anchored in three Florida ports, plus Galveston, Texas; New Orleans; Mobile, Ala .; and Charleston, S.C.

Carnival Panorama is the newest ship on the line. It is moored in Long Beach.

Carnival Panorama is the newest ship on the line. It is moored in Long Beach.

(Carnival Cruise Lines)

The newest ship in the Carnival brand fleet, Panorama, is docked in Long Beach. The 5,000-passenger vessel, which launched in December, began sailing weekly cruises from southern California to the Mexican Riviera before Christmas.

The ship was afraid of caronavirus in early March when a sick passenger was tested for the disease and cruisers spent the night on board at Long Beach. But the test came back negative. Panorama’s last cruise ended on March 14.

Last week, the ship was anchored offshore. On March 31, he moved to Carnival Harbor from Long Beach Harbor, where he will stay until he changes places with another ship on Wednesday. Crew members are not permitted to descend ashore during mooring.

How is it on board?

Some things are very different, others are pretty much the same, said Lars Juel on a phone call in the afternoon.

Juel, director of the Panorama Hotel, serves 1,400 crew members. At some point, the Carnival may begin to send home crew members who are not essential to ship operations, but nothing has been finalized yet, said Gulliksen.

Lars Juel is the hotel manager on Carnival Panorama, docked in Long Beach during the epidemic.

Lars Juel is the hotel manager on Carnival Panorama, docked in Long Beach during the coronavirus epidemic.

(Carnival Cruise Lines)

The big difference now for the crew, of course, is the missing 5,000 passengers. Juel said, “Everyone would love to have guests on board. It gives you energy. It keeps you busy. “

In the absence of passengers, “the crew did a lot of cleaning, a lot of cleaning, a lot of disinfection. And we still have to feed a lot of people. In many ways, we operate normally. “

Meals are served in the buffet of the Lido Deck on the 10th floor, with breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and midnight meal. “People are social distance. But we also organize team meetings and keep people informed about what’s going on. “

For entertainment, the ship’s Wi-Fi has been optimized for free access for everyone, movies are shown and some crew members play guitar and other music for entertainment.

“There’s a good atmosphere on board,” said Juel, from Oslo, who has worked for Carnival for 14 years. “Morale is high because we will all succeed together,” he said. “We are all in the same boat, forgive the pun. “

Three other Carnival ships are filming with Panorama at the Long Beach wharf: Carnival Miracle, Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Imagination.

The Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center in San Pedro currently has two Princess ships moored or anchored, Royal and Star Princess. A third ship, Pacific Princess, is en route to Los Angeles from Australia, according to Princess officials.

Several Princess ships have been affected in some way by coronavirus problems, including illness and death of passengers, cancellation of port calls or cancellation of voyages.

In addition, the Norwegian Joy was docked in San Pedro on Sunday morning.

Among the other ships shelved in Southland waters are three high-end cruise ships that are moored or anchored off San Diego: Celebrity Cruises’ Regent Seven Seas Splendor, and Eclipse and Millenium. Splendor was just baptized on February 24 and is considered one of the most luxurious ships in the world.



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