Cruise Season Cancelation Sinks Brazil’s Tourism Revenues

Losses of $300M are anticipated after Covid-19 outbreaks onboard led to suspension of sailings

Covid outbreaks on cruise ships led Brazil's health supervisory authority Anvisa to interrupt the national season, although cruise operators are trying to convince the government to relax the rules and allow them to resume activities.
January 07, 2022 | 09:22 AM

São Paulo — The failure of the Brazilian cruise season, suspended due to outbreaks of Covid-19 aboard ships and amid fears of the Omicron variant, will mean losses of 1.7 billion reais ($299.03 million) for the national economy, according to the Brazilian office of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents cruise ship operators worldwide.

The cancelation affects 106 itineraries that include 409 ports of call through April, with a date for the resumption of voyages yet to be confirmed. And with high risk of contagion persisting, Brazil’s health authorities are recommending that the season be declared over.

The cruise sector is currently negotiating new rules with the Brazilian government.


The suspension of cruises has not only frustrated companies in the sector and tourists, however, as there were expectations that the return of ships to Brazil’s coasts would generate 24,000 jobs, according to CLIA.

The summer cruise season started on November 5 following intense negotiations between the ship owners and the federal government regarding the sanitary protocols for the embarkation of passengers. Anvisa, the country’s health surveillance agency, perceived the risks of allowing ships to ply the country’s ports and spoke out against a relaxing of the rules for the sector, but was ultimately overruled by the government in the fourth quarter of last year.

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By December, a little more than 30 days into the season in Santos (São Paulo), CLIA said more than 50,000 passengers were already embarked on itineraries offered by Costa Fascinosa, MSC Preziosa and MSC Seaside, three of the five ships that planned to ply Brazil’s waters through April.

Ships were required to follow strict health protocols, including mandatory full vaccination for all passengers and crew members, and pre-departure PCR or testing up to three days before embarkation, or one day before for an antigen test, in addition to frequent testing of at least 10% of the passengers and crew members on board. The protocol also limited maximum occupancy to 75% of a vessel’s capacity, a 1.5m distance between groups, and the mandatory use of masks.


Efforts to resume activities were insufficient to prevent contagion aboard the ships, however, with five ships registered more than 300 cases of Covid-19.

On December 30, Anvisa halted the activities of the MSC Splendida, and the next day impounded Costa Diadema, which was docked at the port of Salvador after an epidemiological investigation concluded that there was community transmission of Covid-19 on board. Following that case, Anvisa recommended to the Ministry of Health the suspension of the cruise ship season.

Brazilian media had divulged reports of non-compliance with sanitary protocols by vessels operating along the Brazilian coast, and Anvisa has promised to investigate and sanction any cruise lines found to be in breach of the rules. with fines and even the suspension of the vessels’ activities. On January 2, Anvisa reiterated the urgency of the immediate interruption of the cruise ship season in Brazil.

“Despite the efforts of the agency in recent days to control the health situation aboard the vessels, the actions were seriously impacted by failures to comply with the protocols agreed upon to start the season. Due to the serious risk to the population’s health, Anvisa has already recommended to the Ministry of Health, since December 31, that the start date of the cruise ship season be revised until the sanitary and epidemiological scenario is reassessed,” Anvisa said.


Defending the ship owners’ arguments, Brazil’s Tourism Minister Gilson Machado rejected Anvisa’s evaluation. In an interview published January 3 by the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Machado defended the relaxation of the rules and the resumption of the cruise season. “It is necessary to adjust (the ruling) with Omicron, because it is not generating pressure in hospitals. But the final word is the Minister of Health’s. I hope there is an understanding,” the tourism minister told the newspaper.

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