The Cruise Ship Story Mainstream Media Got Wrong

Back in March, the mainstream media was quick to jump on the Ruby Princess story, painting the ship and those in charge of her as a major contributor to the current health crisis.

Ruby Princess docked in Nassau, Bahamas.

Now, however, few of those same outlets are giving equal coverage to a new report which has essentially cleared the ship and her crew of wrongdoing.

“It Goes to the Integrity of Our People”

When the Ruby Princess arrived in Australia following an 11-day cruise back in March, 2,700 passengers disembarked. From there, they spread far and wide via trains, planes, and automobiles, many of them taking the illness they’d contracted while on board with them.

In the weeks that followed, over 914 of these guests would test positive, with 22 of them dying.

This, of course, led to a slew of newspaper reports with screaming headlines, almost all of which trotted out the “floating petri dish” trope.

These news stories and editorials also blasted Princess Cruises as well as the captain and crew of the Ruby Princess. They were accused of misleading the public about the situation which unfolded when the passengers disembarked.

For many, the ship became the metaphorical face of the crisis, especially in Australia.

Despite fears that the infected guests would lead to a nationwide outbreak, it has since been revealed that only around 30 people who weren’t on the ship tested positive via secondary transmission.

And now, an inquiry into how events unfolded has shown that Princess did not, in fact, mislead the public or those in charge.

READ MORE: Australian Cruise Ship Ban Extended To September

“The commission’s report confirms that none of our people — the captain, the ship’s doctor, or members of our shore-side port agency team — misled public authorities involved in Ruby princess being permitted to disembark guests on March 19,” said Jan Swartz, Group President, Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia, in a statement.

“The finding is of great importance to us because it goes to the integrity of our people,” she added.

Why Coverage of the Story Matters

Ruby Princess in St. Thomas. (Photo via Princess Cruises)

While various mainstream outlets have covered the inquiry’s results, their headlines have continued the negative-skewing narrative.

Rather than acknowledging that Ruby Princess’ crew was cleared of wrongdoing, the headlines talk about mistakes being made and mention the cruise line, but make it appear that — were one to connect the dots in the headlines — the mistakes were made by the cruise line.

For example, the BBC’s headline read, “‘Serious Mistakes’ Made Over Ruby Princess Outbreak.” What the headline doesn’t mention is that those mistakes were made not by the cruise line, but by the New South Wales Health Department.

Meanwhile, there is far less coverage of the inquiry’s results — which in essence slam the health officials who fumbled nearly every step of the process from the moment the ship arrived in Sydney — than of the days and weeks immediately following the disembarkation of passengers.

Because, of course, there’s nothing sensationalistic or sexy about health departments, especially not when you can imply or infer that the cruise line is at fault.

Princess Cruises has opted to take the high road with their statement.

After taking a moment to “again express profound sorrow at the impact [this illness] has had on Ruby Princess’ guests, crew and their families,” Swartz acknowledged “the Commission’s specific comments about Carnival Australia,” saying they would “consider these comments to the fullest possible extent.”

The statement pointed out that due to ongoing legal situations, they could and would not be commenting further at the time being.

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