Spanish cruise ship with swine flu outbreak heads to Aruba


A Spanish cruise ship hit by a small outbreak of swine flu was headed Thursday for the Caribbean island of Aruba, where more than 400 passengers will disembark, the vessel’s Spanish owner said.

A Venezuelan state health official, Jorge Alchaer, initially said the passengers and crew would be held in quarantine aboard the Ocean Dream off Venezuela’s Isla Margarita, but he confirmed on Thursday that the vessel was headed to Aruba.

The ship was originally carrying 759 passengers and 400 crew members for a planned nine-day tour that began last Friday. But 342 Venezuelan passengers got off in Isla Margarita Wednesday because that was their final destination anyway, said an official with Spanish tour operator Pullmantur, which owns the ship. She spoke on condition of anonymity in line with company rules.

Three crew members have tested positive for swine flu and 11 others have flu symptoms but no passengers have fallen ill, Pullmantur says.

The ship was denied permission to dock in Grenada and Barbados on Wednesday. At that point, the company had not yet received confirmation of the positive cases but warned the authorities in those two countries that some crew members were sick, the company says.
The ship is now scheduled to arrive Thursday in Aruba, where the cruise originally began.
Passengers have apparently complained they are not getting enough information on the swine flu outbreak.

“We are out on the water, with people who do not want to tell us anything. This is not a quarantine, it is a kidnapping,” passenger Mario Infantini told the newspaper El Pais.
But the company official said the ship’s crew had provided travelers with all information it had as it became available.

Venezuela’s state news agency, Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, said the passengers included 198 Spaniards, 151 Colombians, 11 Argentines, 11 Peruvians, seven U.S. citizens, five from Holland, four from Brazil, Chile and Panama, three from Uruguay, two each from Russia, Romania, France and one from Belgium, Ireland and Italy.
Passengers will receive a partial refund for not having made the planned port calls in Grenada and Barbados, the company official said.