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April 8 updates: Princess crew repatriation, Greg Mortimer evacuation plan with many testing positive, charter costs, Crystal 'open deposit,' Marella and TUI River delay

Greg Mortimer.jpg
Australians and New Zealanders will be evacuated from Greg Mortimer in the coming days but Europeans and Americans will have to wait until they test negative
In addition to feature story coverage, here's a quick read of some of today’s other coronavirus-related cruise news and announcements.

Keep checking back. This is being continuously updated.

Grand Princess status and Princess crew repatriation fleetwide

Grand Princess, which has been anchored in San Francisco Bay while crew underwent a 14-day quarantine that started March 21, was given permission to dock temporarily at the Port of San Francisco to take on necessary provisions.

Prior to the crew quarantine, testing was done on any crew who showed COVID-19 symptoms. Those with symptoms were medically disembarked or isolated on board until they met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition for recovery. All crew were quarantined for 14 days to monitor symptoms and reduce the possibility of transmission if they became symptomatic.

Since the quarantine ended Saturday, one crew member is remaining in isolation until April 9 when they are anticipated to meet the CDC definition of recovery. Currently there are 614 crew on board.

Philippines repatriation

Princess Cruises worked with numerous governments, including the Philippines, to repatriate crew before the quarantine. The Philippines repatriated 438 crew (and six passengers) on a charter flight prior to the crew quarantine. Some crew remained because they had symptoms and were not fit to travel.

Princess is working on a crew repatriation plan across the fleet that is still being finalized. In the interim, all crew fleetwide will remain on board in the line's care.

Plans for where Grand Princess will be positioned during the pause of global operations are being finalized.

Coral Princess disembarkation continues

Disembarkation efforts for Coral Princess passengers at PortMiami continue, with three additional charter flights scheduled for departure today. Pending government approvals, an additional four international charter flights to South America and Europe and one domestic charter flight are in-planning to leave April 9.

'Our goal is to ensure all guests are repatriated to their home countries, however, this is a complex process due to unique international travel restrictions which vary by country and require clearance for arrival by customs officials,' the line said. 'We do not recommend that guests remain on the ship when it heads back to sea for marine operations and local authorities will not authorize the use of local hotels, making timely approvals for repatriation critical.'

Greg Mortimer evacuation plan after 59% of ship tests positive

Expedition ship Greg Mortimer, which has been stuck off the coast of Uruguay, will begin evacuating Australian and New Zealand passengers in coming days, however Europeans and North Americans will have to wait longer. Tests confirmed 128 people of 217 on board — 59% — have COVID-19.

Ship charterer Aurora Expeditions said there are currently no cases of fever, and the six people who were medically evacuated earlier are stable. Uruguayan health officials are providing support, and another English-speaking doctor was to join Greg Mortimer today.

With the assistance of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Aurora has been able to secure transport for Australians and asked DFAT to accept the New Zealanders into Australia and allow them to complete their quarantine in Australia before returning home. The flight is expected to leave within two to three days.

The plane is set up according to COVID-19 protocols and scheduled to fly to Melbourne where passengers will go to a quarantine facility.

European and US passengers who've tested positive need to wait until they have a negative test. After that, Aurora plans to organize their departures via Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Charter costs

Illustrating the challenges of repatriating passengers at this time. Aurora Expeditions said the cost of the chartered Airbus A340, refitted to act as a medical plane, equates to an estimated A$15,000 (US$9,335) per person. This includes flying the plane from Portugal to Uruguay, on to Australia and then back to Europe as well as an extensive cleaning following the flight and the need for two flight crews.

'We have asked the Australian government for support with this cost as we know that it is not viable for many people and we are working on a solution,' Aurora Expeditions said. 'We have shared this information with our passengers to be 100% transparent and are doing everything we can to ensure this full amount is not passed on to each individual.'

An approximate cost for flights to the US and Europe is not known at this time.

Crystal's $500 nonrefundable 'open booking' deposit

The new 'Crystal Assured Savings' promotion provides a guaranteed 2.5% additional savings on the voyage of choice when travelers make a $500 nonrefundable 'open booking' deposit before June 30. They'll then have until March 31, 2021, to select a cruise of seven nights or longer — by ocean, river, yacht or expedition — on itineraries departing through the end of 2022. World cruise programs are not eligible.

Crystal Assured Savings are combinable with nearly all other offers including two-for-one fares, 'Book Now Savings' and Crystal Society savings.

Marella and TUI River Cruises delay further

Marella Cruise holidays travelling up to and including 31 May will no longer operate.

TUI River Cruises, due to launch last month, is now scheduled to commence on 26 November.