Cruise ship linked to Church of Scientology amid measles scare heads to Curacao

The vessel Freewinds, apparently owned by the Church of Scientology, is expected to pull into Willemstad port in Curacao early Saturday morning.
Image: The Freewinds cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology is seen docked in quarantine at the Point Seraphine terminal in Castries, Saint Lucia
The Freewinds cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology is seen docked in quarantine at the Point Seraphine terminal in Castries, Saint Lucia on May 2, 2019.Kirk Elliott / AFP - Getty Images

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By David K. Li and Doha Madani

A cruise ship in the Caribbean that had been quarantined in St. Lucia over a measles scare has set sail for Curacao, maritime tracking records showed.

The vessel, which St. Lucia Coast Guard Sgt. Victor Theodore said is named Freewinds, left St. Lucia at 11:18 p.m. Thursday and is expected to pull into Willemstad port in Curacao, almost 500 nautical miles west, at 6 a.m. local time Saturday, according to the site MarineTraffic.

The ship was quarantined on Monday when local health officials confirmed a female staffer on board contracted the highly infectious disease.

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Dr. Izzy Gerstenbluth, director of epidemiology at the University of Curacao, told NBC News that authorities would screen each passenger's health status before anyone is permitted to leave the ship.

"The ship doctor has been asked to take down a passenger's health history, whether or not they had measles and/or the vaccination before," Gerstenbluth said. "We have to verify whether the information is true, may need to consult vaccination records."

Curacao has a fairly high rate of vaccination and is not currently at risk for an outbreak, Gerstenbluth said. He also said that the ship's doctor has been advised to start vaccinating those on board who may be at risk. Gerstenbluth said some passengers may have to stay on the ship for 21 days, the full incubation period for the measles virus.

The Freewinds cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology is seen docked in quarantine at the Point Seraphine terminal in Castries, Saint Lucia, on May 2, 2019, after a measles case was detected onboard.Kirk Elliott / AFP - Getty Images

A 440-foot cruise ship owned and operated by the Church of Scientology is also named Freewinds. Officials with the St. Lucia Health Department declined to comment on the name of the quarantined cruise ship, but Sgt. Theodore with the St. Lucia Coast Guard identified it to NBC News as the same one listed on the church's website.

Actress Leah Remini, who has spoken out publicly against Scientology since leaving the church, on Friday called the Freewinds vessel a "ship of horrors" on Twitter.

Scientology officials have not returned multiple messages left for the church this week by NBC News.

Before leaving St. Lucia, a doctor aboard the Freewinds requested 100 doses of the measles vaccine, an island health official said.

While St. Lucia ordered Freewinds passengers and crew to stay aboard, the island's government didn't have authority to keep the vessel from leaving, officials said earlier this week.

A representative for the health ministry in Curacao could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.