Cruise ships screen passengers and change routes to battle coronavirus threat
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Dawn
Paul Marotta | Getty Images
Cruise lines around the world are taking new measures to reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak onboard their ships.
A cruise ship carrying 6,000 tourists went into lockdown at the Italian port of Civitavecchia on Thursday over fears a Chinese passenger may be infected with the virus. Health officials later cleared the ship after diagnosing the passenger with common flu.
In a statement issued Thursday, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) — the body representing the global cruise industry — said cruise operators were working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other regulators to protect passengers.
“This includes the modification of itineraries, where needed, in light of evolving circumstances, as well as health, travel and contact screening where appropriate, for guests and crew who have recently traveled from or through the affected area,” CLIA said. “Screening protocols allow for informed decisions on a case-by-case basis whether a guest or crewmember will be denied boarding.”
Members of CLIA have suspended crew movements from mainland China and will deny boarding to anyone who has traveled from or through China within the previous 14 days.
A spokesperson for P&O Cruises told CNBC via email on Friday that the company’s medical experts were working closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the WHO to implement control measures.
“Guests and crew who have visited mainland China within the last 14 days will be denied boarding irrespective of any history of symptoms of respiratory illness,” they said.
“Our pre-boarding screening will be conducted for all guests in all embarkation ports with further medical evaluation if necessary. All guests and crew who visit our onboard medical center with symptoms of any respiratory illness will be risk assessed for coronavirus and action taken as necessary.”
P&O announced earlier this week that one of its routes would be diverted to call at Singapore instead of Hong Kong.
Royal Caribbean told CNBC on Friday that it was implementing “intentionally conservative” health and safety steps until further notice.
“Regardless of nationality, we will deny boarding to any individual who has traveled from, to or through mainland China or Hong Kong in the past 15 days — these guests will receive full refunds,” a spokesperson said via email.
Mandatory health screenings would also be performed on anyone who had been in contact with a person who had visited China or Hong Kong in the previous 15 days, as well as all holders of passports from China or Hong Kong — regardless of when they were last in the region. Travelers and crew members who reported feeling unwell would be screened, and anyone presenting fever or low levels of oxygen in the blood would be denied boarding.
The company also said it had canceled all cruises to China and Hong Kong until mid-February.
Elsewhere, U.S. cruise line Norwegian also told CNBC on Friday that the company had implemented new health precautions but had not altered any of its itineraries.
“Due to the growing concern regarding coronavirus infections in China, we are implementing non-touch temperature screenings for all passengers embarking in Hong Kong. Our vessels are currently not calling to ports in mainland China,” a spokesperson said via email.
“Guests who register a body temperature screening of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or higher and are embarking on a voyage in Hong Kong will not be allowed to board. In addition, guests who have visited mainland China in the last 30 days will not be allowed to board any of our vessels.”
British cruise line Saga Cruises told CNBC in a phone call Friday that the company was carrying out enhanced screening checks similar to those being performed at airports. Those screenings involved checking signs such as temperature and asking passengers about their recent travel history before they boarded any ship.
However, the spokesperson pointed out that the firm was an “anomaly” as all of their passengers boarded in the U.K. and it didn’t operate any routes through Asia.
In a statement on Thursday, MSC Cruises said that while there were no cases of coronavirus onboard any of its ships, the firm would immediately be implementing precautionary measures to ensure the wellbeing of its passengers and crew.
People who have visited mainland China in the previous 30 days will not be allowed to board MSC ships, the company said, and anyone wishing to board a ship will be screened for signs of illness such as fever.
Anyone with flu-like symptoms while onboard one of MSC’s cruises would be isolated in their cabin, as would their close contacts and any crew member who had served the passenger in question.