Despite no reported coronavirus, Hawaii won’t let cruise ship passengers disembark

(HONOLULU) — Two cruise ships with no onboard reported cases of coronavirus, are not permitted to let passengers off to explore Hawaii, officials announced.

As a precautionary measure to prevent spread of the virus — formally known as COVID-19 — the Hawaii Department of Transportation will not allow passengers on the Maasdam operated by Holland America Line and the Norwegian Jewel operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, to disembark.

“The health and safety of all people in Hawaii is always at the forefront of operational decisions. Presently, all state resources are focused and directed towards containing the spread of COVID-19. Allowing more than 2,500 passengers and crew to disembark will further strain these resources,” said Jade Butay, the director of Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDT).

The Norwegian Jewel has about 1,700 passenger and was scheduled to arrive on March 22. The Maasdam has 842 guests and 542 crew members and was scheduled to arrive on Friday.

Butay did agree to allow the ships to dock, refuel and restock. Hawaii was not a final port for either of the ships.

All cruise ships are on a 30-day pause in operations which took effect March 14, but cruises already at sea either ended their itinerary or continued on to their next destination.

The Cruise Lines International Association said about 40 ships with 90,000 passengers were at sea when President Donald Trump announced a ban last week that restricts travel by many foreigners to the U.S.

Both the Norwegian Jewel and Maasdam were already at sea when the announcement was made. A Norwegian Cruise Lines spokesman told ABC News on Thursday that the 23-day Australia and French Polynesia itinerary “was modified to disembark in Auckland, New Zealand,” on Friday, but “due to multiple port closures in the area, further modifications were made.”

Two vessels were rerouted to Miami after they were turned away from their home port in Puerto Rico, even with no reports of infections. Authorities in Argentina, Chile and Brazil placed ships on quarantine after reports of positive coronavirus tests.

There are 16 cruise ships that have canceled scheduled visits to Hawaii during the 30-day suspension in operations, the HDT said.

Norwegian Cruise Line said to The Associated Press that one of its vessels was turned away by Fiji and New Zealand. The Norwegian Jewel refueled in American Samoa but was not allowed to disembark at the Port of Pago Pago.

The transportation department previously said officials were working to direct the Maasdam to Honolulu Harbor so passengers will have flight options out of Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

“It has been confirmed that there will be no disembarking of passengers, not even to go straight from the port directly to Honolulu airport to catch their flight home.” said U.S. Rep. and former presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard during a telephone town hall meeting on Wednesday. “After they are refueled and resupplied, the ships will be sent off to another destination that is not Hawaii that will allow them to discharge their passengers.”

There will be teams ensuring that people don’t leave the ships, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said during the telephone town hall.

Request for comment from Holland America Line was not immediately received.

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