Coronavirus Delays Costa Smeralda Disembarkation; Emergency Declaration Considered

A suspected case of the coronavirus onboard Costa Cruises’ Costa Smeralda has prevented passengers from disembarking the ship in Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, as originally scheduled. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) is meeting again to consider an emergency declaration as the virus continues to spread. 

The cruise line said that a 54-year-old woman from Macau and her traveling companion were placed in isolation in the ship’s hospital overnight, in accordance with health protocols. 

“As soon as the suspected case was detected, the medical team onboard immediately activated all the relevant health procedures to promptly isolate and manage clinical conditions,” the cruise line said in a written statement. Health authorities are now onboard. 

The ship had arrived in Civitavecchia January 30 on the last day of a seven-day cruise that had departed from the port on January 23. The itinerary had included La Spezia and Savona, Italy; Marseille, France; and Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, Spain. The ship had 5,023 guests onboard, of which 1,143 were scheduled to end their cruise. 1,628 crew members have embarked.

The ship is scheduled to depart at 7 p.m. (local time) on a seven-day cruise, with 1,112 guests scheduled for embarkation. Guests who have travel plans affected by the delayed disembarkation in Civitavecchia will be assisted by Costa staff to book the best alternative solution, the cruise line said. 

More Cruise Cancellations & Changes

The outbreak has prompted a number of other cruise lines to cancel calls. 

MSC Cruises reports that it is redeploying the first embarkation port for the MSC Splendida’s Grand Voyage due to the situation. The ship, which is deployed in Asia for the winter 2019 – 2020 season, has cancelled its next three four- and five-night scheduled sailings from Shanghai, and it will reposition to Singapore to start its 27 Grand Voyage itinerary to the Middle East and Europe, departing February 14. 

MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato noted that the sailing had been entirely booked with guests flying in from abroad, and that many major airlines have either canceled or reduced their flight frequency to China. The new embarkation port means that MSC will also cancel planned calls on the itinerary to Naha, Japan and Hong Kong, adding calls at Langkawi, Penang and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, plus Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, instead. 

Customers who booked an outbound flight ticket to Asia may be eligible for a refund or possible re-protection to Singapore. Any pre-paid excursions to the cancelled ports of Naha, Japan, and Hong Kong, will be refunded to the customer’s shipboard account. 

The MSC Splendida will dock in Singapore on Thursday, February 13, and guests can board the ship starting at 6:00 p.m. Singapore time and onwards. The ship will depart from Singapore on Friday, February 14 at 11:00 p.m. Singapore time. The ship’s February 1, 5 and 9 from Shanghai to Japan have been cancelled. 

Crystal is opting to replace a number of planned calls by the Crystal Symphony in Hong Kong with a call at the Port of Keelung in Taipei, Taiwan, on the following sailings:

  • February 2,  28-night (Guam to Taipei)
  • February 7, 8-night (Manilla to Taipei)
  • February 15, 30-night (Round-trip Taipei)
  • February 15, 15-night (Taipei to Singapore)
  • February 15, 8-night (Taipei to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
  • March 1, 15-night (Singapore to Taipei)
  • March 15 (pending port confirmations)
  • March 31, 13-night (Taipei to Singapore)
  • March 31, 5-night (Taipei to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

The luxury cruise line has also updated its pre-boarding public health questionnaire to include questions concerning the virus, plus it will also screen guests at the pier. 

“If guests are determined unwell to travel, they will receive a full refund of their cruise fare, if they do not have insurance,” the cruise line said in a written statement. “The line will also deny boarding of any person who has traveled to Hubei Province or Wuhan, China in the 14 days prior to embarkation. The company has also canceled non-essential day visits to its ships when they are in port.”

Seabourn has cancelled a call by the Seabourn Ovation to Xiamen, China, that had been scheduled for Monday, February 3. Instead, the line will adjust the itinerary to include a visit to Sandakan, Malaysia, on Monday, February 10. No other calls have been cancelled at this time. 

World Health Organization Meeting

The New York Times reports that the World Health Organization is set to meet Thursday to consider again whether or not to declare the epidemic a public health emergency. As of Thursday morning, more than 7,711 cases have been confirmed, and more than 170 people had died. 

The World Health Organization had met previously to consider the question of an emergency declaration, but officials decided that it was “too early.” Officials at the time said that they would continue to monitor the situation. 

Air Travel

A number of airlines are also cancelling flights and issuing travel waivers due to the situation. 

British Airways reports that it has suspended all of its flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai through February 29. Flights to and from Hong Kong remain unaffected. Travelers on cancelled flights who are already in transit may opt for rebooking, although the airline cautions that this will take time; those who have not yet departed can opt for a refund. Customers flying through Hong Kong through February 23 can rebook onto another British Airways flight or request a refund. 

Air China will issue refunds for all flights booked before midnight on January 28. 

China Airlines is offering passengers who file an application by March 31 the option to rebook without a change fee or difference in tax and far, or a full refund. 

American Airlines is offering travelers scheduled to fly to Wuhan through March 31 a refund for all unflown segments of their trip. Customers scheduled to fly through Hong Kong through February 29 can rebook through March 31 between the same city pair in the same cabin (or pay the difference). Those scheduled to fly through Beijing or Shanghai through March 27 can rebook through April 17. The airline will also waive change or cancellation fees for rebookings beyond those dates and up to 331 days after the original ticket date, or rebookings between a different city pair, so long as rebooking is made by February 29. A difference in fare may apply. 

United Airlines is offering refunds to travelers scheduled to fly through Wuhan who booked by January 22 and who are scheduled to fly through March 29. Travelers scheduled to fly through Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai or Hong Kong through February 29 can rebook through March 31 with no change fee or fare difference so long as they fly between the original city pair in the original cabin. For wholly rescheduled travel departing after March 31, or for a change in departure or destination city, the change fee will be waived, but a difference in fare may apply, the airline said. 

Delta is offering travelers scheduled to fly through Beijing and Shanghai through April 30 the chance to rebook through March 31 with no change fee or difference in fare, so long as travel is between the original city pair. When changing the originally ticketed cities or rebooking for travel beyond March 31, a difference in fare may apply. Customers can also opt to cancel their flights and apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for one year from the original issue date. A change fee and any difference in fare will apply. 

Tourist Attractions

Hong Kong is suspending passenger services at a number of links with mainland China Thursday, January 30, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board. These include West Kowloon Station of Express Rail Link, Hung Hom station, China Ferry Terminal and Tuen Mun Ferry Terminal, and the land crossings at Man Kam To and Sha Tau Kok

A number of tourist attractions in Hong Kong and mainland China are also closed:

  • The Great Wall at Jinshanling in Beijing,
  • Great Wall (Mutianyu Section) in Beijing
  • The Ming Tombs in Beijing
  • Gubei Water Town in Beijing
  • Prince Gong's Mansion in Beijing
  • Forest of Stone Steles Museum in Xian
  • The Ancient City Walls in Xian
  • Wuzheng and most sites in Hangzhou
  • Huangpu River Cruise in Shanghai
  • Mogao Caves in Dunhuang
  • Shanghai Disneyland 
  • Hong Kong Disneyland Park
  • Ocean Park Hong Kong
  • Noah’s Ark Hong Kong
  • Madame Tussauds Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong Wetland Park
  • The Ngong Ping 360 cable car service
  • Museums under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department
  • Facilities of the Antiquities and Monuments Office

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