The U.S. State Department has updated its advisory regarding the novel coronavirus to recommend U.S. citizens reconsider travel by cruise ship to or within Asia. The State Department also said that travelers traveling by cruise ship anywhere should be aware that many countries have implemented strict screening procedures in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
“This is a dynamic situation and U.S. citizens traveling by ship may be impacted by travel restrictions affecting their itineraries or ability to disembark, or may be subject to quarantine procedures implemented by the local authorities,” the State Department advisory read. “While the U.S. government has successfully evacuated hundreds of our citizens in the previous weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.”
Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess was put under quarantine in early February in Yokohama, Japan, due to an outbreak of coronavirus onboard. That quarantine ended and guests were able to begin disembarking this week. Holland America Line’s Westerdam was not quarantined, but it was turned away from several disembarkation ports while sailing a 14-day itinerary out of Hong Kong. That ship was allowed to dock in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and passengers were able to disembark the ship this week. In both cases the cruise lines assisted with arrangements for their guests to travel home.
Prior to the State Department announcement, cruise lines had begun cancelling sailings in Asia or modifying itineraries to drop calls at ports in the region.
Holland America Line has cancelled the remaining sailings on Westerdam in Asia, which affects four departures through the end of April: the March 14 – 28 South Korea and Japan cruise; the March 28 – April 11 Japan Explorer cruise; the April 11 – 25 Japan and Russia cruise; and the North Pacific Crossing cruise that would have repositioned the ship to Vancouver from April 25 – May 10. The line will offer all affected guests a full refund, a 50 percent future cruise credit and reimbursement of cancellation fees. Further itineraries for the ship are still under review.
Princess Cruises has cancelled sailings on the Diamond Princess out of Yokohama through April 20, with the ship scheduled to return April 29 for the start of Japan’s annual Golden Week celebrations. The Sapphire Princess will redeploy to Australia six months earlier than planned; bookings for that ship’s new program will open Thursday, February 27. Sailings on the Majestic Princess and Sun Princess have been modified to replace calls to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Pago Pago with calls to Incheon (Seoul) and Jeju, South Korea, and Moorea. Guests booked on a cancelled Asia cruise who have cancelled their booking on or after January 20 will receive details on a compensation package in the coming weeks, Princess said.
Seabourn has cancelled the Seabourn Ovation’s February 29 sailing, which had been scheduled to depart from Singapore. Guests will receive a refund of the cruise fare and prepaid purchases made through the cruise line, including flights, pre- and post-cruise hotel packages and shore excursions, as well as a future cruise credit.
Finally, MSC Cruises has updated the itinerary of the MSC Bellissima’s upcoming 28-night Grand Voyage, which will depart March 21 in Dubai and last through April 28. The updated itinerary will see the cancellation of the port visits to Shenzhen, mainland China; Hong Kong; and Keelung, Taiwan, and the addition of Laem Chabang/Bangkok, Thailand; Phu My/Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; as well as an extra day in Kobe, Japan. In addition, the ship will now also call Sir Bani Yas Island, United Arab Emirates, instead of Khor Fakkan, UAE.