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Ship departs San Diego for 7-day cruise after COVID cases prevented passengers from disembarking in Puerto Vallarta

Mexican officials said about 21 crew members aboard the Koningsdam cruise ship operated by Holland America tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 23.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — A cruise ship scheduled to stop in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico was forced to return to San Diego after being turned away by Mexican authorities due to positive employee COVID-19 tests.

Mexican officials said Saturday about 21 crew members aboard the Koningsdam cruise ship operated by Holland America tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 23 when the ship arrived in port at Puerto Vallarta.

According to Mexico's Ministry of Health, only one positive test was found among the fully vaccinated crew before the ship departed Dec. 19 from San Diego. The ship had stopped at Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan before more active cases were detected on board Dec. 23.

A Holland America spokesperson said a small number of the cruise ship's employees, all of whom were fully vaccinated, tested positive for the virus with mild symptoms. They were in isolation and their close contacts were quarantining, the cruise line said.

The virus outbreak led to Mexican authorities not allowing Koningsdam's 1,000-plus passengers to disembark, causing the ship to leave port and reverse course for San Diego.

The cruise line said Koningsdam's itinerary had two days of travel at sea scheduled after leaving Puerto Vallarta.

Holland America said COVID protocols, including mask-wearing by guests and staff indoors as well as routine disinfecting, are required aboard all its cruise ships. Patrons and staff are required to be fully vaccinated, and to provide a negative COVID-19 test, before being allowed to board ships.

The ship is scheduled to set sail again Sunday for another 7-day cruise. A spokesperson for Holland America provided the following information when News 8 inquired what measures are being taken to clean the ship and change out crew members following the outbreak:

  • "All guests also will be required to produce a negative viral COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) result taken within 2 days of their embarkation.
  • All guests regardless of age will be required to wear face masks at all times in elevators and in all indoor areas of the ship, except when eating or drinking or in their own staterooms. This includes wearing face masks prior to being seated in all dining venues and Lido Market, while dancing in public lounges, and outdoors if in large gatherings and physical distancing cannot be maintained.  
  • As advised by health authorities, guests are recommended to use higher-grade masks indoors (such as surgical or KN95) that have two or more layers, completely cover the nose and mouth, fit snugly against the sides of the face and have a nose wire.  (We will provide surgical style masks in all staterooms.  This is different as we permitted cloth and other masks in the past.
  • Until further notice, smoking will not be permitted in the casino. This is new.
  • As the CDC has strongly recommended that all persons over 16 years obtain a COVID-19 booster vaccination when eligible, we strongly encourage all guests who are eligible to receive a booster vaccine to complete the booster at least seven days before boarding. (This recommendation is new and follows CDC guidance.  We have begun providing boosters to crew. Many have received already and this is ongoing to complete all crew.

We’ll continue with these and the frequent disinfection and cleaning. "

The cruise line also issued the following statement on the positive cases among its crew: 

"Through our routine testing of all onboard team members, a small number of fully-vaccinated crew on Koningsdam tested positive for COVID-19. All are showing mild or no symptoms and are in isolation.

With the pervasive nature of the Omicron variant, we have continued to evolve our protocols, which were developed with guidance from leading health experts and in anticipation of situations like this. Current operating procedures require all team members and guests to wear a mask in all indoor areas of the ship and all areas are frequently disinfected.

Our ships operated under the CDC Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) as a vaccinated cruise, which includes CDC-approved protocols and guidelines.

All crew and guests five years and older fully vaccinated. Crew receive boosters as soon as eligible and are tested frequently for the virus. All guests provide a medically supervised negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding the ship.

The health and safety of our guests, team members and the destinations we visit remains our top priority. We will continue to monitor this situation with our medical staff and will take any additional actions needed.

The itinerary we had called for two days at sea after Puerto Vallarta and then back to San Diego. The missed call at Puerto Vallarta meant another day at sea added."

WATCH RELATED: Impact on holiday plans amid COVID concerns (December 2021)

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