Coronavirus: Updated Cruise Ship Policies and Cancellations

Many cruise lines have canceled or altered scheduled sailings to China and in and around Asia as the deadly novel coronavirus continues to spread through more than 25 countries, sickening thousands of people and killing hundreds.

On January 30, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, following an emergency committee meeting in Geneva.

Cruise lines have swiftly reacted to the outbreak and started implementing their own precautions by canceling sailings, rerouting others, restricting passenger and crew boarding and boosting screening procedures for passengers boarding from Chinese ports or who have traveled in or through China and Hong Kong.

In additon, a number of ports in Asia, including all Japan ports, Taipei and Hong Kong, are barring ships with any suspected coronavirus onboard from docking. This has led to ships sailing around the South China Sea unable to dock, including Holland America Line’s Westerdam, which has no known cases of coronavirus and is not under quarantine.

Also January 30, the U.S. State Department updated its China travel warning to Level 4, urging all Americans to avoid traveling there.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office also updated its travel guidance, advising against all but essential travel to mainland China and against all travel to Hubei Province.

Industry Wide Travel Restrictions

As of February 7, all ocean-going member cruise lines of Cruise Lines International Association agreed to adopt enhanced screening measures as part of its existing health policy intended to address the industry’s exposure to the ongoing outbreak.

In a statement, a CLIA spokesperson said: “The health and safety of cruise passengers and crew is and remains the number one priority of CLIA and its member lines, which make up over 90 percent of ocean-going cruise capacity worldwide.

“Given the evolving nature of the ongoing 2019-novel coronavirus outbreak — and based upon prevailing guidance from global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) — CLIA Members have adopted the following enhanced protocols for ocean-going guests and crew who have recently traveled from or through China, including Hong Kong and Macau. These enhanced policies, which are in effect as of February 7, 2020, build upon those which were implemented on January 31, 2020 and continue to allow for informed decisions on a case-by-case basis whether a guest or crewmember will be permitted to board.”

These additional measures include:
  • CLIA members are to deny boarding to all persons who have traveled from, visited or transited via airports in China, including Hong Kong and Macau, within 14 days before embarkation.
  • CLIA members are to deny boarding to all persons who, within 14 days before embarkation, have had close contact with, or helped care for, anyone suspected or diagnosed as having coronavirus, or who is currently subject to health monitoring for possible exposure to novel coronavirus.
  • CLIA members are to conduct preboarding screening necessary to effectuate these prevention measures. Enhanced screening and initial medical support are to be provided, as needed, to any persons exhibiting symptoms of suspected novel coronavirus.

“In coordination with cruise lines, medical experts and regulators around the world, CLIA and its member lines will continue to closely monitor for new developments related to the coronavirus and will modify these policies as necessary with the utmost consideration for the health and safety of passengers and crew.”