U.S. State Department Adds Cruises to Coronavirus Advisory

Venice SeaDream plus Big Ships Editorial Use Only Copyright Susan J Young
SeaDream in Venice // Photo by Susan J Young

The U.S. State Department changed its travel advisory for COVID-19 (coronavirus) precautions on Sunday night, saying that "U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship."

The Department also told Americans who travel overseas not to rely on U.S. government repatriation flights as an option should local authorities opt to quarantine them.

Luxury Travel Advisor reached out to the four biggest cruise companies—Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) and MSC Cruises (their U.S. office in Fort Lauderdale)—for any response. 

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Carnival Corporation in an immediate response pointed out that the notice was an advisory, not any restriction on cruise travel. See below for its full statement and that of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. We will post others here as received. 

State Department Advisory

Here is the complete COVID-19 travel advisory on the U.S. State Department's website. The section dealing with cruise travel is as follows:

"U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship. CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking. 

"In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures. While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.  

"This a fluid situation. CDC notes that older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships. 

"Passengers with plans to travel by cruise ship should contact their cruise line companies directly for further information and continue to monitor the Travel.state.gov website and see the latest information from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/index.html."

Cruise Line Responses

Here is Carnival Corp.'s full statement: "While advisories have been been issued, no restrictions are in place for those who choose to take a cruise. Our brands have enhanced their health screening protocols, which includes thermal scans, temperature checks as well as other actions, both prior to boarding and onboard our ships.

"We are currently in discussions with the CDC, World Health Organization and other health officials, and we met as a cruise industry Saturday, March 7, with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on an aggressive industry-wide response plan. The health and safety of our guests and crew is our highest priority, and cruising remains one of the most attractive vacation options available."

Following that meeting over the weekend in South Florida with top cruise industry leaders, Vice President Pence told the media that additional details of a response plan would be coming early this week. 

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s statement referred to that and said the following: "We are staying focused on development of an aggressive, responsive plan as agreed to during the meeting with Vice President Pence that goes beyond the already significantly enhanced protocols in place, which we believe are a model for others.

"We thank the Vice President for a productive meeting marked by our shared focus on public health. We have committed to do even more to protect our guests, our crew and the communities where we sail. This includes more stringent boarding procedures, adding additional onboard medical resources and temperature screenings at embarkation.

"We will also develop industry funded protocols to care for guests on land in the event of an incident to eliminate future incidents of onboard quarantine. We are pleased to know the government agencies are prepared to work with us in developing these aggressive new measures. We expect to report back this week with further details of this enhanced approach to protecting public health."

This article originally appeared on www.travelagentcentral.com.

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