Princess Cruises has been accused of knowing about outbreaks of Covid-19 during the past two voyages of the Ruby Princess cruise ship, according to a lawsuit filed in the United States.
The complaint, acquired by the Sydney Morning Herald, was filed by the family of cruise ship passenger Chung Chen, who died of the virus on April 4.
Chen's daughter, Vivian, and widow, Juishan Hsu, who also fell ill on board the ship, are seeking damages in excess of US$1 million ($1.66m) in the District Court of California.
The last confirmed case in Hawke's Bay, a woman in her 40s, was a Hawke's Bay District Health Board healthcare worker, who had worked for a short time at Gladys Mary Care Home within its dementia group of residents already placed in isolation.
The case increased the Ruby Princess cluster number to 19 on Wednesday, with the cluster now at 22.
The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that crew members, who are currently stranded on the ship near Port Kembla, New South Wales, fear they could be sent "to their deaths" if they fall ill after it is forced to depart for the Philippines in coming days.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday, accuses the corporate office of Princess Cruises of being aware of coronavirus outbreaks not only during the voyage from March 8 to 19, but also the previous voyage from February 24 to March 8.
The complaint claimed the company had placed "profits over the safety of its passengers" and was grossly negligent when it allowed passengers including Chen to join the "infected" ship on March 8.
Passengers boarded without proper screening alongside crew who had already been exposed to the virus and some of whom had "come down with the symptoms", it alleged.
Soon, coronavirus was "running rampant" on the second voyage around New Zealand, and when Princess Cruises became aware, it added "insult to injury" by failing to quarantine passengers.
"They didn't even bother to notify the passengers that there was an actual outbreak, allowing the sailing to continue as if it were a normal cruise, up until the time it returned to Australia three days early," the complaint says.
Princess Cruises, which is owned by Carnival Corporation, has vehemently denied all of the allegations.
A Princess Cruises spokesman said: "As this is the subject of active litigation in another country, we do not wish to add further comment at this time."
The ship is now marooned off the NSW coast with more than 1000 crew members on board, but will soon be forced to depart for the Philippines.
Two of the hundreds of crew members told the Herald they feared falling ill and needing a ventilator during their 14-day journey to Manila.