CDC Stops Cruising From US Ports For Four Months – Other Cruise News: Cholera And The Dunbrody – The St Louis 1939

by Kevin Griffin

For the past three weeks, cruise ship news has been overwhelmed by the Corona-virus. This week, it gets worse with the CDC starting to interfere with how cruise ships should organise themselves. And while we note what is occurring with the present virus, we look back to another life-threatening disease from almost two centuries ago, that of cholera. And a replace of an Irish trader of the period. And we look at another ship, the St Louis, that was refused docking in US ports, a position in which several cruise ships have unwantingly fiound themselves.


CDC Stops Cruising From US Ports For Four Months

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week announced the extension of a “No Sail” order for cruise ships carrying more than 250 passengers in waters over which the United States has jurisdiction.
The order effectively bans cruise ship operations in light of the COVID-19 epidemic until the earliest of any of three conditions is met:

1. If the Secretary of Health and Human Services declares that the COVID-19 public health emergency has expired;
2. If the CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order, based on public health or other considerations;
3. 100 days from the date of publication (April 9) of the order in the Federal Register.Cruise Lines International Association - CLIA (logo)

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) voluntarily suspended cruise ship operations on March 14 on the basis of an earlier order issued by the CDC.
The new order means that, at the very soonest, cruise lines aren’t likely to be sailing again before mid-July 2020.

Here is CLIA’s official reaction:

WASHINGTON, DC – April 10, 2020— ”Our industry has taken responsibility for protecting public health on board cruise ships for more than 50 years, working under the guidance and at the direction of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as the World Health Organization and others. To this end, in March and April the industry submitted proposals to the White House Coronavirus Task Force that are far reaching in prevention, detection, and care—and, importantly, would be led and funded by the industry.

We very much value our relationship with the U.S. authorities, and will continue to work with these important agencies in our shared commitment for the health and safety of passengers and crew, which is the industry’s number one priority.

We are, however, concerned about the unintended consequences the No Sail Order issued on April 9 has in singling out the cruise industry, which has been proactive in its escalation of health and sanitation protocols and was one of the first industries to announce a voluntary suspension of operations.

Cruise activity supports multiple sectors of the U.S. economy (transportation, food and beverage, lodging, manufacturing, agriculture, travel agencies and travel agents, plus a broad range of supply chain industries and small businesses) that stretch across the United States. Should the suspension of sailing extend well beyond the appropriate time to resume business, the economic impact could be significant given each day of the suspension results in a total economic impact loss of about $92 million and the loss of more than 300 direct and 620 total American jobs. Over time the pace of the losses will increase and could result in a total economic impact loss to the United States of $51 billion and 173,000 direct and 343,000 total American jobs if the Order were to remain in effect for a year (Source:BREA / CLIA Economic Impact Analysis).

While it’s easy to focus on cruising because of its high profile, the fact is cruising is neither the source or cause of the virus or its spread.  What is different about the cruise industry is the very stringent reporting requirements applicable to vessels that do not apply to comparable venues on land where the spread of communicable disease is just as prevalent. It would be a false assumption to connect higher frequency and visibility in reporting to a higher frequency of infection.”

Cholera And The Dunbrody

In mid-19th Century, meanwhile, cholera was epidemic throughout the world. Many of those affected were Irish emigrants, victims of the Potato Famine. Eastern Canada and cities and small towns of the US Midwest were not spared.

Cholera mortality was great in the large cities. St Louis lost 500 in 1832–35, Cincinnati 732, Detroit 322. In the 1849–51 outbreak, St. Louis lost 4,557, Cincinnati 5,969, and Detroit 700. In each outbreak, deaths totalled 5-10% of the population. Great as the losses were, the life of the larger cities went on.

Gross Isle, Quebec, is an island in the St Lawrence River below Quebec, home to a quarantine station set up in 1832 to contain a cholera epidemic, and home to thousands of Irish emigrants from 1832 to 1848.

On May 17, 1847, the first vessel, the Syria, arrived with 430 fever cases. This was followed by eight more ships a few days later. Dr Douglas wrote that he had ‘not a bed to lay [the invalids] on… I never contemplated the possibility of every vessel arriving with fever as they do now’.
One week later seventeen more vessels had appeared. By this time, 695 people were already in hospital.

Only two days afterwards the number of vessels reached thirty, with 10,000 immigrants now waiting to be processed. By May, 29 a total of 36 vessels had arrived. The end of May saw forty ships forming a line two miles long down the St Lawrence River, each affected by fever and dysentery. 1,100 invalids were accommodated in sheds and tents, or laid out in rows in the church.

Dr George Douglas was Grosse Isle’s chief medical officer, and recorded that by midsummer of 1847 the quarantine regulations in force were ‘physically impossible’ to carry out, making it necessary for the emigrants to stay on board their ships for many days. Douglas believed that washing and airing out the ships would be enough to stop the contagion spreading between infected passengers.

With the arrival of thousands of emigrants, the island was quickly overwhelmed. Tents were set up to house the influx of people, but many new arrivals were left lying on the ground without shelter. Robert Whyte records seeing “hundreds… literally flung on the beach, left amid the mud and stones to crawl on the dry land as they could.”
The Anglican Bishop of Montreal, Bishop Mountain, recalled seeing people lying opposite the church screaming for water, while others lay inside the tents without bedding.

Some of the more positive aspects of this era are kept alive in a typical Irish timber trader, the The original ship had been built at Quebec in 1845, one of eight sister ships built for William Graves & Son of Wexford. With help from the JFK Foundation, a replica of this ship was completed in Ireland in 2000

Between 1845 and 1851 the Dunbrody carried thousands of emigrants to North America and returning from Quebec with timber. At this time, Cunard’s first St Lawrence trader, the 640-ton Unicorn, was running between Quebec and Pictou NS, where she connected by stagecoach to the Cunard mainline mail steamers at Halifax.

Between 1845 and 1851 the Dunbrody carried thousands of emigrants to North America

Between 1845 and 1851 the Dunbrody carried thousands of emigrants to North America

Regulations allowed a ship the size of the Dunbrody to carry anywhere between 160 passengers and over 300. In 1847 she is recorded as carrying 313 passengers to Quebec. Many of her passengers were tenant farmers from Irish estates.

Two classes of passengers were carried by the Dunbrody: cabin passengers, paying between £5 and £8 and steerage passengers, paying between £3 and £4. Cabin passengers had substantial food and services provided. Steerage passengers, though, largely had to fend for themselves.

By 1847 the potato crop had failed for three years in a row, and mass emigration was underway. Within the first open months of spring, 40 ships were waiting to disembark at the quarantine station at Grosse Ile in Quebec. With the facility utterly overwhelmed by the numbers arriving, many people were forced to wait for weeks before they could even leave their ships.

In May 1847 after finally disembarking his passengers, Captain Baldwin wrote to William Graves reporting, “the Dunbrody was detained in quarantine for five days because there were too many ships queuing in the St. Lawrence River. Doctor Douglas is nearly single-handed… everyday, dozens of corpses are thrown overboard from many ships… I have heard that some of them have no fresh water left and the passengers and crew have to drink the water from the river. God help them!”

Although the Dunbrody was detained at Grosse Ile on a number of occasions, her onboard mortality rate was very low. This was, without doubt due to her good and humane captains, Captain Baldwin and his successor Captain John W. Williams. On more than one occasion, emigrants writing back home praised their care and dedication to both crew and passengers.

Thanks to the well-organised Cunard mail boats, the Captains were also able to remain in regular contact with William Graves. The Graves Family continued to operate the Dunbrody until 1869, when she was sold.

The St Louis May 1939

Recent media reports have highlighted the difficulties of cruise ships with ill passengers and / or crew being turned away from ports where they might receive medical care.

This news was somewhat reminiscent of another time when US authorities refused to accept incoming passengers, not for reasons of disease, but of world politics and immigration policy.
In May 1939, the German liner St Louis sailed from Hamburg to Havana carrying 937 passengers, almost all Jewish refugees. The Cuban government refused to allow the ship to land, and the United States and Canada were unwilling to admit the passengers.

The St Louis passengers were finally permitted to land in western European countries rather than return to Nazi Germany. Some 254 St Louis passengers were killed in the Holocaust.

Although the ship sailed near the Florida coast, the US government did not allow the passengers to land, since they did not have US immigration visas and had not passed a security screening.
American newspapers publicized the saga and many Americans sympathised with the passengers.

Great Britain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands each admitted a percentage of the passengers upon their return to Europe in June 1939.

Source: United States Memorial Holocaust Museum.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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