Mid-day Friday, Carnival Cruise Lines said that Carnival Magic, which had been waiting all morning off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico, for clearance to dock, had not received that from Mexican authorities. Thus, Carnival said the ship was departing immediately for its return to Galveston, and it's expected to arrive there on Sunday morning.
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Mexican authorities were apparently leery of granting clearance -- knowing that someone onboard had potential exposure to Ebola. Late on Oct. 15., Carnival was made aware by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that a guest sailing on this week's cruise was possibly exposed to Ebola via handling lab samples from an Ebola patient who died earlier in the month in a Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. The guest is a lab supervisor at the hospital.
Carnival is working to ease fears of those onboard and relatives and friends at home. The cruise line stressed in a statement Friday that "at no point in time has the individual exhibited any symptoms or signs of infection and it has been 19 days since she was in the lab with the testing samples. She is deemed by CDC to be very low risk. At this time, the guest remains in isolation on board the ship and is not deemed to be a risk to any guests or crew."
The statement continued: "It is important to reiterate that the individual has no symptoms and has been isolated in an extreme abundance of caution. We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation onboard."
Carnival said it regrets the situation, calling it "completely beyond our control." Guests on the ship are being provided a $200 per person credit to their shipboard accounts and a 50 percent discount on a future cruise based on the missed visit to Cozumel.
Carnival also emphasized that none of its ships visit the region where Ebola cases are originating nor do any of its ships call in any countries with Level 3 CDC Travel Heath Notices. "Any passengers or crew who have visited or traveled through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea within 21 days of a cruise departure date will be denied boarding," the line's statement said.
Additionally, all guests sailing with Carnival must now answer a series of health screening questions during embarkation and, if deemed necessary, will be asked to submit to further medical screening prior to being allowed to board.
Carnival said all cruise lines are monitoring the situation, and the cruise industry is in close, frequent contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for updates and guidance.
Carnival Magic is based year-round in Galveston, TX and operates seven-day cruises to the Caribbean. The ship departed Galveston on Sunday, Oct. 12 and will return on Sunday, Oct. 19.