Cruise lines cancel China sailings

Several major cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises, have cancelled voyages out of China as fears grow about the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

The centre of the outbreak is the city of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have been passed from animals to humans in a food market. China has since banned travel from Wuhan and neighbouring cities in the Hubei province to try to contain the virus.

However, cruise lines have swiftly reacted to the outbreak and started implementing their own precautions by cancelling sailings and boosting screening procedures for passengers boarding from Chinese ports, according to Cruise Critic.

China has become an increasingly popular cruise destination in recent years, coupled with many lines deploying ships to serve the rapidly growing Chinese cruise market which has become the second largest in the world after the US.

Citing concern for the health of its passengers and crew, Royal Caribbean said it was dropping the departure of its giant, China-based Spectrum of the Seas. MSC Cruises cancelled its China-based MSC Splendida sailing, according to The Points Guy blog. Both ships sail out of Shanghai.

Spectrum of the Seas, shown here in Hong Kong (Courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Also stopping operations out of China are Costa Cruises, Dream Cruises, and new China cruise brand, Astro Ocean. Costa has four vessels operating out of Chinese ports. Dream Cruises and Astro Ocean each have one.

“The health and safety of our guests and crew is our primary concern,” Royal Caribbean says. “We continue to work with the World Health Organisation, the Centres for Disease Control and government health authorities to monitor the situation.”

MSC Cruises suggested the cancellations were at the behest of the Chinese government.

“Due to urgent guidelines from the Chinese government to combat the spread of the coronavirus, MSC Cruises is required to cancel the upcoming cruise with MSC Splendida. At the time of writing, MSC Splendida is planned to remain in port for the duration of the cruise from 28 January until 1 February.”

Temperature screenings

Norwegian Cruise Line has introduced non-touch temperature screenings for all passengers boarding its ships from ports in China to prevent the spread of infection on ships, according to Ship Technology.

The cruise line has said that people who have a body temperature of 100.4˚F (38˚C) will not be allowed to board the ship. In addition, passengers who have visited or stayed at Wuhan in the past 30 days will be denied access to the ship.

Astro Ocean Cruises said that it would fully refund the cruise cost to passengers who have been infected by the virus. The company added that passengers departing from the virus epicentre, Wuhan, will also be given refunds if they cannot board the ship, citing ‘pneumonia-related management measures’.

In addition, medical personnel who cannot travel can change the date of sailing or can obtain a refund.

Quarantine measures

Costa Venezia was quarantined when the ship recently arrived at the Shenzhen port in China.

The ship had approximately 5,000 people on board, including 150 people with a previous history of visiting the Hubei province.

Authorities said that 13 passengers on board exhibited the symptoms of the virus. Medical professionals were sent onto the ship to carry out assessments, according to Ship Technology.

In light of the outbreak, Holland America Line Cruises said it was implementing stepped-up screening procedures for all of its ships, including a requirement for temperature and questionnaire screening for persons from affected areas, according to The Points Guy blog.

Cruise lines have expanded rapidly in China over the past decade with sailings mostly aimed at the Chinese market. While sailings out of Shanghai on Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas are bookable on the line’s US website, the trips have been designed with the Chinese traveller in mind. The vessel operates short, four- to seven-night getaways to Japan.

Costa Cruises is by far the line most affected by the outbreak so far. A division of cruise giant, Carnival Corp., it’s already cancelled nine sailings from the Chinese ports of Shanghai, Shenzhen, Sanya and Tianjin.

The Wuhan coronavirus is part of a family of viruses that includes everything from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Symptoms include nasal congestion, headache, cough, sore throat and fever.

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