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'No apparent social distancing': NYC river cruise stopped, arrests made over illegal party

Authorities shut down an illegal party on a New York City river cruise ship over the weekend for multiple violations, including a lack of social distancing provisions, according to the New York City Sheriff's Office. 

Empire Cruises' Liberty Belle ship was intercepted at Pier 36 in Manhattan on Saturday and the owners and captain were arrested, the sheriff's department tweeted

Photos shared to social media appeared to show a "packed" boat with "no apparent social distancing" or mask usage, as one Twitter user put it. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer later said in a tweet she alerted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the posts, who then "alerted the sheriff who handles health & civil violations." 

In addition to violating the New York mayor's and governor's emergency social distancing orders, which ban non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people, the sheriff's office tweeted that the party also violated alcohol sales laws and navigation law, which prohibits the discharge of petroleum not “in compliance with the conditions of a federal or state permit.”

"If we want a return to a life WITHOUT social distancing, that means we need to avoid reckless behavior like booze cruises that put fellow New Yorkers at risk, no matter how much we miss our friends and meeting new people," Brewer tweeted

USA TODAY has reached out to the sheriff's office and Empire Cruises for further comment.

The Liberty Belle is Empire Cruises' largest river boat. It can accommodate up to 600 guests standing or 200 seated and is a common venue for parties, concerts and other social events, according to the cruise line's website. 

The most recent coronavirus update on Empire's website, dated March 16, says the cruise line has been "forced to cease our operations until further notice." According to the website, the planned to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and local health departments. 

"The health and wellbeing of our guests and our staff is our number one priority,"  the coronavirus response announcement added.