One of the first cruises in the world to resume sailing again amid the pandemic has been struck by a coronavirus outbreak.
The Hurtigruten expedition ship is currently quarantined with 160 crew members aboard off the coast of northern Norway.
Hundreds more passengers who left the MS Roald Amundsen are now being traced, after four crew members tested positive for Covid-19 – without initially having any symptoms.
The 535-passenger Norwegian ship is currently docked off the coast of Tromso, after it had to cut short its sailing to the remote islands of Svalbard.
Hurtigruten’s headquarters said the ship is isolated with 160 crew members aboard.
The company is helping Norwegian health authorities contact 177 guests from the cruise ending on Friday, and another 209 guests from a sailing ending July 24.
All sailings will be cancelled from now until September, the line added.
It will be a blow to the company whose brand new ‘state of the art’ eco-conscious vessel is less than a year old, and had only recently been allowed to resume sailings.
It was carrying tourists to the remote archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole famed for its polar bears, as the country eased restrictions for domestic travel.
The Roald Amundsen’s packages start at nearly £3,500 to more than £7,000 for longer 19-day sailings that include options for Arctic, Antarctica, South and Central Americas expeditions.
The luxury vessel’s outdoor upper decks feature a stunning infinity pool and hot tubs, and it boasts three Nordic-themed restaurants aboard.
Passengers can take yoga classes on their scenic journeys.
Cabins are decorated in a classic Scandinavian aesthetic, and many include outdoor balconies and private hot tubs.
It features an outdoor observation deck for tourists to spot wildlife, like polar bears and walruses on icy Svalbard’s shores, and whales and penguins in Antarctica.
Its two polar cruise options include stops in Antarctica, Patagonia and the Chilean fjords and Falklands.
The vessel also has tours to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and the Central American Pacific coastline, which include monkey, turtle, dolphin and sloth spotting.
It also features an interactive science centre on board so visitors can learn more about environment and wildlife and polar waters.
The latest outbreak is among the first after cruise liners around the world became stranded floating prisons with hundreds stuck aboard in the early stages of the pandemic.
Passengers died aboard some vessels, as passengers and crew became marooned amid their journeys while the crisis began grounding flights and stoking travel chaos internationally.
The crisis led countries including the United States to declare cruises off-limits for citizens early in the crisis, as the liners were deemed particularly vulnerable to the virus’ spread.
The pandemic has threatened cruise operators globally, with some lines have already been forced to close as the crisis continues to devastate the travel industry.
A statement from Hurtigruten said: “The four crew members were isolated several days ago because of other disease symptoms, with no symptoms of Covid-19. They were still routinely tested when the ship docked in Tromso Friday morning.
“The four crew members are now admitted in the University Hospital of North Norway (UNN).
“The ship is isolated and all 160 crew members on board will be tested. Hurtigruten and Norwegian health authorities is in the process of contacting all 177 guests from the cruise ending on July 31 and all 209 guests from the cruise ending on July 24.
“The safety of our guests and crews is Hurtigruten’s highest priority. We are working closely with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI), Tromsø municipality, UNN and other resources both locally and nationally,” Hurtigruten’s Global Communications Vice President Rune Thomas Ege added.
“Hurtigruten has implemented strict hygiene measures on all ships during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“All crew members are closely monitored and screened on a daily basis. As a precautionary measure, the crew members in question were isolated early, and the cases discovered, even without showing any symptoms of Covid-19.
“The ship was scheduled to sail to Svalbard on Friday afternoon. That voyage is now cancelled. The next cruise with the ship is not planned until September.
“We will get in touch with all guests who have been on board during the previous voyages to give them information and pass on advice from the authorities,” Ege added.