Now all of the major cruise lines have shut down.
Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, the top three cruise lines in the U.S., all announced temporary suspensions of their operations in an effort to help quell global spread of the novel coronavirus.
The announcements follow similar moves on Thursday by competitors Princess, Disney, and Viking cruise lines, and suspensions earlier Friday by Carnival Corp.-owned Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises.
Carnival said it will pause operations for a month, effective immediately with departures scheduled from March 14 to April 10 across its North American fleet of ships. All ships currently at sea will continue their itineraries and return to their home ports as scheduled, according to the company’s news release.
Norwegian said it suspended all voyages of its Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands embarking between March 13 and April 10.
Royal Caribbean said it will pause its fleet’s sailings from United States ports for 30 days as of midnight. Cruises departing before midnight will operate their scheduled itineraries. U.S.-based ships at sea will finish their itineraries as planned.
“We are reaching out to our guests to help them work through this disruption to their vacations, and we are truly sorry for their inconvenience,” the company said in a news release. “We are also communicating with our crew to work out the issues this decision presents for them. We know this adds great stress to our guests, employees and crew, and we are working to minimize the disruption.”
A statement by Norwegian said, “the measure is taken in an abundance of caution and the Company has not experienced any confirmed cases of COVID-19 across its 28-ship fleet.”
Impacted guests will receive cruise credits worth 125 percent of their fares or a full cash refund that will be reimbursed within 90 days of their request, the statement said. Royal Caribbean’s statement did not outline how customers would be refunded or credited.
Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Line, the world’s largest cruise line, also pointed out that it has not had a diagnosed case linked to its operation -- although sister cruise line Princess Cruises, also owned by parent Carnival Corp., had two ships quarantined with numerous cases on board.
Yet, Carnival said, “we realize this situation is bigger than the cruise industry and we will continue to do our part to support public officials to manage and contain this unprecedented public health challenge.”
The move comes after all of Carnival Cruise LIne’s major competitors announced suspensions, including sister companies Costa, AIDA and Princess.
On Thursday, the company indicated that it planned to continue sailing by updating its embarkation policies to bar travel by anyone 70 or over who cannot present a doctor’s letter confirming they don’t meet have outstanding health issues.
“We apologize for the disappointment of our guests,” the company said in a statement. “These are extraordinary times and the requirements placed on us are changing by the hour and advance notice isn’t always possible.”
Continuing to market its voyages during the crisis flew in the face of recent advisories by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that travelers should avoid cruise ships completely.
Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group for the major lines, issued this statement by Adam Goldstein, CLIA Global Chairman, after Carnival’s announcement:
“We do not take this decision lightly, and we want the traveling public to know in no uncertain terms the commitment of this industry to putting people first. During this time, we will continue to work with the CDC and others to prepare for resumption of sailings when it is appropriate. We know the travel industry is a huge economic engine for the United States and when our ships once again sail, our industry will be a significant contributor to fueling the economic recovery.”
Prior to today’s announcements, Jim Walker, a South Florida-based attorney who specializes in maritime law, said he expected more companies to suspend operations. “I think all lines need to suspend cruising, or they risk becoming the next cruise coronavirus poster child, like Princess.”
Asked whether all cruise lines should shut down, Consumer Reports spokesman James McQueen said in an email that the nonprofit watchdog and testing organization takes no position on the question at this time.
However, he said, “The CDC warns against any travel on a cruise ship, particularly for those at higher risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19. Consumer Reports advises everyone to heed that warning.”
By RON HURTIBISE, SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL
Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
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