Celebrity Cruises has been hit with a proposed class action over what two plaintiffs allege is the company’s abject failure to protect passengers during a March 2020 voyage from a COVID-19 outbreak despite knowing of the virus’s presence aboard the vessel and extreme contagiousness.
Filed by a New York couple, the 35-page complaint says Celebrity Cruises negligently and carelessly exposed those aboard its March 1-30 Eclipse voyage to COVID-19 despite knowing as early as March 2 that someone on the ship had displayed symptoms consistent with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. At no time during the voyage thereafter did Celebrity enact quarantine or social distancing measures among passengers and crew, the complaint says.
Instead, in what the plaintiffs call “an alarming lack of caution,” Celebrity continued to operate the vessel as normal, complete with a full schedule of entertainment, activities and dining options with no regard for passenger or crew safety, the lawsuit alleges. According to the plaintiffs, Celebrity allowed passengers to continue to eat in buffet settings, participate in dancing and other group activities and generally proceed as though there was no COVID-19 threat aboard the ship.
For instance, Celebrity held on March 21 a gathering of passengers and crew to recognize the medical professionals and first responders battling the COVID-19 crisis on the front lines, the suit says. During the gathering, no social distancing measures were enforced, according to the complaint, which includes a picture purporting to show the event:
The case cites the gathering of crew and passengers as evidence of Celebrity’s failure to follow “even the most basic safety precautions” after knowing full well that such were necessary to protect the safety of everyone on board.
Further, the suit claims Celebrity tried to pacify passengers during the COVID-19 outbreak with complimentary alcoholic beverages and otherwise downplayed the seriousness of the situation while the virus “ravag[ed]” the vessel. The lawsuit alleges Celebrity continued to assure that all guests onboard “remain healthy and happy” as late as March 28.
Ultimately, at least 45 passengers and crew aboard Celebrity’s Eclipse vessel tested positive for COVID-19, and at least two deaths have been attributed to the virus, according to the lawsuit. The suit estimates there are likely hundreds more positive COVID-19 cases and/or deaths linked to the Celebrity Eclipse given testing on the vessel, as well as immediately after passengers disembarked, was limited and/or non-existent.
Per the lawsuit, Celebrity’s failure to protect against a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Eclipse is particularly egregious given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance for cruise operators as early as February 13 on how to manage suspected coronavirus cases. Moreover, a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Princess Cruise Lines-operated Diamond Princess vessel in Yokohama Harbor, Japan in early February served as further warning to the industry of how quickly the virus could spread on cruise ships, the case says.