Carnival Cruise Line sent a letter Thursday notifying thousands of passengers who had been on a Galveston-based ship that a crew member had recently tested positive for COVID-19.
Passengers who had been aboard Carnival Freedom in early March were advised to quarantine themselves.
“We have been informed by the health authorities that a team member on board Carnival Freedom during the sailing of March 8, 2020, has been confirmed with a positive case of COVID-19,” the letter said.
The ship, which is now berthed in Gulfport, Mississippi, last left Galveston on March 8 and returned on March 14. It was one of the final cruises to leave Galveston before major cruise lines, including Carnival, agreed to suspend operations for 30 days in an effort to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
On March 8, 3,280 people boarded the Freedom in Galveston, according to embarkation data the Port of Galveston provided this week in response to an open records request The Daily New filed March 10.
In its letter, Carnival Cruise Line said the ship “did not have any guests or crew who reported any symptoms of COVID-19 or influenza-like illness.” The company was notified about the crew member’s diagnosis Wednesday evening, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said.
The company told passengers they should isolate themselves for 14 days from the end of their voyage, which would be until this weekend.
Port of Galveston officials learned about the diagnosis Thursday afternoon from the U.S. Coast Guard, port spokeswoman Cristina Galego said.
“The Coast Guard confirmed that they were contacted about the case on Wednesday and that no action was needed by the Port of Galveston,” Galego said in an email to The Daily News.
Still, the port was gathering its infectious disease response team and was working “to determine what, if any, additional measures the team may recommend.”
One passenger who was on the Freedom cruise said he was surprised to receive the notification from Carnival.
“I was surprised because it had been so long,” said Benjamin Prijatel, a teacher from Shreveport, Louisiana.
People with whom Prijatel had talked to over the past two weeks had been concerned he was on a cruise ship so recently because of a perceived connection between the virus and cruise travel, he said.
“We told people it was fine,” Prijatel said. “Carnival had taken some added precautions; we got our temperatures checked before we got on.
“The kind of cool thing was that we had all been quarantined together for six days. So if we all got on the ship with no symptoms, and no temperature, and six days later we all got off the ship with no outbreak, that means we’re probably OK.”
There have been no public reports connecting the cruise ship and a coronavirus case involving a passenger.
When the Freedom arrived at the Port of Gulfport, officials there said Carnival employees would not be granted shore leave, according to the Biloxi Sun Herald.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended all cruise travel be deferred during the coronavirus pandemic. As of Thursday, Carnival’s stated plan was to begin cruises again in mid-April.