Grand Princess Cruise Ship May Dock This Weekend

Tim Ryan
March 07, 2020 - 9:31 am
The Grand Princess, pictured in a file image, is being held offshore near San Francisco due to coronavirus concerns onboard.

Robert Cross/Chicago Tribune/TNS/Sipa USA

(KCBS Radio) - Passengers on board the Grand Princess cruise ship may come ashore as soon as this weekend as the ship continues to circle off the California Coast.

The ship was circling about 35 nautical miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay Saturday morning, and came closer to shore at one point when a U.S. Coast Guard vessel briefly made contact with the ship before returning to the San Francisco Bay. A Coast Guard spokesperson would not comment on the reason for the trip.

21 people on the ship have tested positive for the virus out of the group of 45 who were first tested.

It is still not clear where or when the ship will dock after Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the federal government’s coronavirus response, said Friday that federal and state officials are working around-the-clock to find a non-commercial port where the ship can dock this weekend.

“It could go to almost any of the normal ship locations including all the way up to Stockton or all the way up to Sacramento and everything in between. [With] the water depth and the dredge channels – it’s fine,” says Pat Carson, a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain who operates commercial passenger vessels in the Bay Area. He tells KCBS Radio the former BAE shipyard in San Francisco’s Pier 70 is an option. “There’s several ships over there right now. They used to do haul-outs on cruise ships up until they closed… That’s a good, non-commercial location.”

Once the ship docks it is not clear where passengers will be held.

“Those that will need to be quarantined will be quarantined,” said Pence. “With regard to the 1,100 member crew, we anticipate that they will be quarantined on the ship [and] will not need to disembark.”

Out of the 21 people to test positive for the virus, all but two are crew members. One possible explanation is that the crew has been onboard the ship for longer than most passengers and may therefore have had more exposure to former passengers who disembarked from the ship on Feb. 21 and became ill soon after.

Health officials are in the process of expanding testing aboard the ship. At least one person has reportedly become seriously ill. Passenger Chris Grady of Milpitas, CA told KPIX-5 that crew was preparing Friday night for one person to be airlifted off the ship, although it is not clear when that may happen.

About 3,500 people are on the ship.