Amid fears around the COVID-19 virus, several cruise lines have announced cancellations, enhanced precautionary measures and screening procedures. They are part of new guidelines introduced by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) following the death of an infected California resident who traveled on a voyage from San Francisco to Mexico with Princess Cruises.
A string of companies, including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Celebrity Cruises and Crystal Cruises, have announced changes to their itineraries for March and April.
The deadly virus, which was first detected in China’s Wuhan city in the Hubei province, has infected at least 95,425 people, 80,411 of whom are in China, including at least 2,902 deaths in the country. The outbreak has claimed the lives of 3,286 globally, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.
There has been a spike in cases reported outside China, including in the U.S., which on Wednesday reported its eleventh death. The latest fatality was that of a 71-year-old resident of Placer County who tested positive after traveling on a cruise from San Francisco to Mexico last month.
The individual traveled aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, which went to Hawaii after reaching Mexico and was scheduled to arrive early in San Francisco on Wednesday. But the ship is being held off the coast of San Francisco, with around 100 passengers and crew members being tested for the virus, Princess Cruises confirmed in a statement.
Princess Cruises also operates the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship that was quarantined in Japan last month after a passenger from Hong Kong was diagnosed. At least 46 Americans from the Diamond Princess tested positive, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All American evacuees from the ship who tested positive were taken to a hospital near the Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, California.
Following the latest death of a cruise passenger, the CLIA announced enhanced screening protocols, as part of its “continued commitment to the health and safety of guests and crew, as well as the residents of port cities and destinations around the world.”
The new CLIA measures include banning anyone who has “traveled from, visited or transited via airports in South Korea, Iran, China, including Hong Kong and Macau, and any municipality in Italy subject to lockdown (quarantine) measures by the Italian Government, within 14 days prior to embarkation,” from boarding.
It also requires denying boarding to any traveler “who, within 14 days prior to embarkation, have had contact with, or helped care for, anyone suspected or diagnosed as having COVID-19, or who are currently subject to health monitoring for possible exposure to COVID-19,” CLIA said in a statement.
The enhanced guidelines require cruise lines to “conduct illness screening for all persons who have traveled from, visited or transited via airports in any destinations listed on the U.S. CDC ‘Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel‘ page of its website within 14 days before embarkation.”
Cruise lines are also required to “conduct pre-boarding screening necessary to effectuate these prevention measures. Enhanced screening and initial medical support are to be provided, as needed, to any persons exhibiting symptoms of suspected COVID-19,” the CLIA states.
The cruise line has canceled the Grand Princess Hawaii cruise departing on March 7.
“All guests will receive a full refund of their cruise fare, Princess Air, Princess Cruise Plus pre- and post-cruise hotel packages, prepaid shore excursions and other prepaid items purchased through Princess,” the cruise company confirmed in its statement.
“Unexpected expenses, such as air change fees, reimbursement of reasonable non-refundable out-of-pocket expenses will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Guests will also receive a Future Cruise Credit equal to 100% of the cruise fare paid on this voyage,” it said.
The cruise line’s China and Hong Kong sailings on the Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship are canceled through the March 21 departure, while cruises on the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship through the end of March are also canceled. All passengers on canceled cruises will receive full refunds.
U.S. passengers booked on Asia cruises departing before March 23 who want to rebook for a later date and do so without a fee.
On Wednesday, Royal Caribbean announced new “temporary safety precautions,” which will be in place for 30 days, to “comply with guidance from CDC, WHO [World Health Organization] and other public health authorities around the world,” it said in a statement.
Regardless of nationality, the cruise line will deny boarding to all guests who have “traveled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong, China, Macau, China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy in the past 15 days” and anyone who “has come in contact with anyone with 15-day prior travel to mainland China, Hong Kong, China, Macau, China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. The CDC characterizes contact with an individual as coming within six feet of a person,” it said.
The company will also deny boarding to anyone who reports feeling unwell or demonstrates any flu-like symptoms.
Mandatory “specialized health screenings” will be also be conducted on all guests who have “traveled from, to or through Japan, Singapore, and Thailand in the past 15 days,” the company states.
Anyone presenting with fever or low blood oximetry in these specialized health screenings will be denied boarding, the company adds.
The cruise line announced diversions on some of its cruise itineraries, including all South Pacific cruises on the Carnival Splendor and Carnival Spirit ships scheduled to visit the ports of Lifou, Mare or Isle of Pines in New Caledonia, which have been diverted to other ports in Vanuatu.
Carnival is also reviewing its itinerary in Grand Cayman and Jamaica after passengers on the Carnival Horizon and Carnival Freedom cruise ships were recently refused entry at some ports on both islands, including at Montego Bay and Ochos Rios in Jamaica and George Town in Grand Cayman.
As well as applying the enhanced CLIA guidelines, Crystal Cruises will also reportedly deny boarding to any guests who have a temperature of 100.4 F or higher or show signs of respiratory issues. Those denied boarding under these rules will receive a full refund.
The company has canceled all nonessential day trips to the ships when they are in port and also noted several countries, including India, Israel, Seychelles and Macau, have closed their borders to passengers from various nations that have been affected by the COVID-19 virus. See the full details at the Crystal Cruises website.
Several cruises on the Crystal Symphony ship in March and April scheduled to travel from Singapore have been canceled, including sailings on March 16 and 31 and April 24.
The Asia sailings on the Crystal Serenity cruise ship, departing Sydney on March 17 and departing Sri Lanka on March 28, have also been canceled.
All affected passengers will be refunded for their canceled cruises.
In addition to the new measures mandated by the CLIA, the cruise line will also deny boarding to passengers presenting with fever or low blood oxygen levels during their specialized health screenings and those who report feeling unwell or show any flu-like symptoms.
Specialized health screenings will also reportedly be required for any passengers who have been to Japan, Singapore, Thailand and all regions of Italy (other than Lombardy and Veneto) in the past 15 days, as well as anyone unsure about whether they have been in contact with anyone who visited a country on the denied-boarding or special-screening list in the past 15 days.
“In some cases, guests presenting certain symptoms in the specialized health screenings may be denied boarding. All guests who are denied boarding due to these restrictions will receive full refunds.
“Additional restrictions may be imposed based on local circumstances. For example, certain countries may deny visas or prohibit entry based on travel history or nationality,” the cruise line notes in a statement.
The cruise line also announced changes to itineraries on some of its cruise ships, such as the Celebrity Millennium, whose entire 2020 season in Asia has been canceled, including sailings for March 14 and 28, April 10 and 12 and May 10. The ship will instead head to the U.S. West Coast earlier than originally planned, offering three-, four- and five-night Pacific Coastal sailings.
All affected passengers on the Celebrity Millennium will receive a refund, in addition to a 25 percent future cruise credit, and refunds for any excursions and on-board packages.
The March 2 sailing on the Celebrity Constellation cruise ship will be traveling from Dubai and skip Phuket in Thailand, staying at sea for that day instead. The ship’s March 17 sailing will now embark in Dubai instead of Singapore, while also replacing its Phuket stop with a day at sea, with extended port times in Cochin, Goa and Mumbai in India.
Passengers on these two March cruises will receive an onboard credit equal to the rate of one cruise day.
Any shore excursions in Singapore and Phuket booked via Celebrity Cruises will also be refunded.