Carnival Corporation Says 6,000 Passengers Are Currently Stranded at Sea on its Cruise Ships

Grand Princess Cruise
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Carnival Corporation confirmed on Tuesday that thousands of passengers are still stranded at sea on its cruise ships amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The corporation, which is the parent company of major cruise lines including Carnival, Princess and Holland America, disclosed the information in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. They stated “there are approximately 6,000 passengers onboard ships still at sea.”

And those passengers may still have four weeks of isolation ahead, as they “are expected to disembark . . . by the end of April.”

It was not immediately clear how many different ships those passengers are aboard, but a representative for the company tells PEOPLE, “We expect to have three ships at sea by the end of this week.”“The ships that remain at sea were primarily longer cruises, including some world cruises,” the rep adds. None of the ships still at sea belong to their largest U.S. brand, Carnival Cruise Line.

Luis Acosta/Getty
Luis Acosta/Getty

Numerous cruise ships have been turned away from international ports in recent weeks due to expanding travel restrictions and in several instances, confirmed cases of COVID-19 — or fears of potential illness — on board.

Princess Cruise Lines’ Diamond Princess and Grand Princess ships, and Holland America’s MS Zaandam, which are all owned by Carnival Corp., have experienced the worst outbreaks to date.

In the case of the Diamond Princess, a total of 621 people eventually tested positive for the virus and seven former passengers have now died, according to Reuters. Twenty-one people tested positive on the Grand Princess, “some of whom subsequently died due to the disease,” Carnival Corp. said.

The MS Zaandam, which is currently en route to Ft. Lauderdale after being stuck in limbo for over a week following port closures in South America, has had four deaths on board and 189 passengers and crew reporting flu-like symptoms as of Monday night.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan with over 3,000 people on board in February. A member of the media looks out toward the Diamond Princess cruise ship (L) with over 3,000 people as it sits anchored in quarantine off the port of Yokohama on February 4, 2020, a day after it arrived with passengers feeling ill. - Japan has quarantined the cruise ship carrying 3,711 people and was testing those onboard for the new coronavirus on February 4 after a passenger who departed in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)

Four more of their owned ships also had confirmed coronavirus cases on board in the last two months.

“Numerous passengers and crew on . . .Costa Luminosa, Ruby Princess, Costa Magica and Costa Favolosa, have been diagnosed with COVID-19,” they stated, adding that “Costa Magica and Costa Favolosa are currently working with the U.S. Coast Guard to facilitate medical evacuations.” Both of those ships are now anchored near the port of Miami.

They also noted that even once everyone is on dry land, “Some of our crew is unable to return home, and we will be providing them with food and housing.”

The company, like much of the travel industry, has taken a massive hit amid the pandemic. The SEC filing was to issue $6 billion in stock in order to hopefully shore up its finances, but, it allows, the future is uncertain and the suspension of all planned voyages will likely be extended.

Luis Acosta/Getty

“Each brand has separately announced the duration of its pause, but we expect such pauses to be extended (and some extensions have already been announced),” the filing reads. Its flagship carrier, Carnival Cruise Line, has already cancelled cruises until mid-May.

In the meantime, the company is spending an enormous amount of money, while not embarking on any voyages.

Ship and administrative operating costs (including maintaining its empty ships in storage), refunding the deposits of customers canceling trips, and “COVID-related costs associated with sanitizing our ships and defending lawsuits,” among many other expenses tally to “approximately, on average, $1 billion per month,” according to the document.

In 2019, Carnival Corporation had a net income of $2.99 billion, the filing details. This year, it said, “We expect a net loss.”

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On March 13, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) — a trade organization that represents Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Princess, Holland America and many more— shared that in observance of government health recommendations and travel restrictions, its members would voluntarily stop new cruises from departing at midnight on March 14, and all ships already at sea would make their way home.

At the time, 40 cruise ships carrying 90,000 passengers were in the middle of their planned itineraries around the world, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The agency released a timeline for their safe return: 11 of the ships were to complete their sailings and get back to port by March 16. The remaining 29 were to do so by March 30.

As of the deadline Monday night, however, CLIA confirmed to PEOPLE that 3.6% percent of its 277 member vessels had not yet made it back, meaning approximately 10 ships with passengers on board are still at sea. Another five are docked but cannot yet disembark.

Before the industry-wide decision to voluntarily halt sailings was reached, many cruise lines were proceeding with voyages as planned amid warnings from the CDC and U.S. State Department that citizens, particularly those in compromised health, “should not travel by cruise ship” at this time.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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