Congress Investigating Carnival Cruises For Its Handling Of COVID-19 Outbreak
It has been a rough couple of months for the cruise industry, but Carnival got some bad news that might make things even worse. The cruise line faces a U.S. Congressional investigation on its response to coronavirus outbreaks on its ships.
On Friday, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure sent a letter to the Carnival Corporation requesting documents related to the company’s handling of coronavirus since January 1, 2020. Nine of Carnival’s cruise ships reported positive cases of coronavirus totaling 1,500 infections and 39 deaths.
Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio, who is also the chairman of the committee, signed the letter. The chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation, Sean Maloney of New York, also signed the letter.
As background, the letter references Carnival’s 2019 record with norovirus outbreaks. The letter states, “According to the CDC, half of the cruise lines that had norovirus outbreaks in 2019 were Carnival owned ships.” In January 2019, 592 passengers fell ill aboard Carnival’s Oasis of the Seas. In that case alone, more people got sick than in all outbreaks on cruise ships in 2018.
In March 2020, the CDC reported Princess Cruise ships Diamond Princess and Grand Princess had more than 800 positive coronavirus cases and 10 deaths. At the time of the initial outbreak, the Diamond Princess was the setting for the largest outbreak outside mainland China. Princess Cruises is one of Carnival’s affiliated cruise lines. Carnival’s other affiliated cruise lines are Holland America, Seabourn, P&O Cruises (UK and Australia), COSTA Cruises, ADA Cruises, and Cunard.
The Committee criticized the cruise line in its letter for not taking the threat posed by coronavirus seriously enough. The letter says that it understands cruises are meant to be a “care-free escape”. But the Committee pointed out that the company “is still trying to sell this cruise line fantasy and ignoring the public health threat posed by coronavirus to potential future passengers and crew.”
Now, Congress wants company documents related to Carnival’s coronavirus response. The letter requests all documents “with the information Carnival Corporation cruise lines had, and when, regarding potential infections, public health implications, and possible exposure of its passengers and crew to COVID-19.”
In a statement about the Committee’s request a Carnival spokesperson said, “Our goal is the same as the committee’s goal: to protect the health, safety and well-being of our guests and crew, along with compliance and environmental protection. We are reviewing the letter and will fully cooperate with the committee.”
The Committee requested the cruise company produce the documents by May 15, 2020.
Of course, this does not mean Carnival will get in trouble or that they necessarily did anything wrong. But no company likes the idea of a Congressional committee breathing down their neck. Stock reacted negatively to the news on Friday, where Carnival’s stock took a double-digit drop. At a time when there is so much uncertainty in the cruise industry, Congress investigating Carnival is just one more piece of bad news for the industry. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the document release.