Princess Cruises yesterday welcomed the outcome of a New Zealand Customs’ inquiry into Ruby Princess’s visit to the country in March 2020 which found the company and crew had no knowledge that COVID was on board.
The announcement means no action will be taken against the ship’s crew or any of the entities involved in the visit, said a Carnival Australia spokesperson.
A police investigation into what happened when the ship docked in Sydney several days later is believed to be still ongoing, though the line was totally exonerated by a special commission of inquiry which largely blamed health officials for the hasty evacuation of the ship.
Twenty-eight people died as a result of the ship’s COVID-19 outbreak and more than 700 were infected in Australia. It is believed the ship may have been responsible for the spread of the virus to 24 people in New Zealand.
The Carnival Australia statement said: “We also understand NZ Customs concluded that the ship’s staff were unaware that COVID could already have been onboard at the time. A copy of Customs’ report is being sought which we will study in further detail.
“The overall result of the inquiry is of great importance to us because it confirms the integrity and professionalism of our people and that, as an organisation, we have always sought to cooperate honestly and professionally with government officials in accordance with the regulatory environment.
“Our overriding objective is to ensure cruising is a safe and enjoyable pastime for the many thousands of people who value cruise holidays and we look forward to our ships ultimately being able to return to New Zealand supported by comprehensive health protocols including vaccination requirements for guests and crew.”
The NZ Customs Service released the findings of a 20-month investigation to the local website Stuff under the Official Information Act.
The investigation concluded the virus was probably on board when the ship arrived in New Zealand – one passenger had the virus but didn’t report the symptoms – but, according to Stuff, “this investigation has found no evidence of the crew, agent, or anyone else connected with the Ruby Princess being aware of a Covid-19 infection prior to arrival in New Zealand”.
The Ruby Princess had 2,761 passengers and 1,146 crew on board when it sailed for Milford Sound, Dunedin, Akaroa, Welling and Napier on March 9.
Customs investigators said, according to Stuff, that the ship’s staff knew six people who were ill before the ship arrived in New Zealand, but the symptoms did not match those of COVID-19.
In Wellington, five passengers were tested for COVID-19 and none were found to be infected.
Cruise Passenger asked NSW Police today if it intends to continue its investigation. A spokesman said the investigation was “still ongoing” and there were no further updates.