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New cruises rerouted as coronavirus situation escalates

January 29 2020
6 min read
New cruises rerouted as coronavirus situation escalates
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information. It was originally published on Jan. 27.

Add Holland America and Seabourn Cruise Line to the list of cruise companies altering itineraries in Asia as fears grow about the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

Holland American on Wednesday said nearly all China stops scheduled for its Asia-based Westerdam through March 28 have been canceled.

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The 1,404-passenger vessel will depart Hong Kong as scheduled on Saturday on a 14-night Asia voyage, but the sailing no longer will end in Shanghai on Feb. 15. Instead, the cruise will conclude in Yokohama, Japan -- the port for Tokyo. All subsequent sailings through March 28 will begin and end in Yokohoma instead of Shanghai or Hong Kong.

The voyages had been scheduled to include calls at such Chinese ports as Qingdao and Tianjin (the port for Beijing) but now will focus on Japan and South Korea.

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Westerdam cruises after March 28 were planned without ports in China and will sail as scheduled.

Seabourn has canceled a call in Xiamen, China, scheduled for Monday by its 600-passenger Seabourn Ovation. Instead, the vessel will visit Sandakan, Malaysia, several days later.

The itinerary changes are notable as they're the first for cruise ships that cater heavily to the North American market.

Nearly half a dozen cruise lines including Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises began canceling voyages out of mainland China over the weekend. But the sailings that were canceled were primarily aimed at the local Chinese market.

In a statement to The Points Guy, Holland America cited a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel warning issued Monday as the catalyst for the Westerdam itinerary changes. The Level 3 warning recommends all travelers avoid any nonessential travel to China.

Holland America said it would rebook flights for Westerdam passengers affected by the changes if the passengers had arranged air through the line's Flight Ease program. Instead of being routed to and from Shanghai and Hong Kong, the passengers will be flown to and from Tokyo. Holland America said passengers who arranged their own flights to meet the ship should contact their airlines directly to change their routings. The line noted most airlines have waived change fees for flights in and out of China.

A spokesperson for Seabourn did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Seabourn Ovation itinerary change.

The list of ships that have stopped sailing out of China this week include Royal Caribbean's giant, Shanghai-based Spectrum of the Seas -- one of the world's 10 biggest cruise vessels. It's the only Royal Caribbean ship currently sailing out of China.

Royal Caribbean's giant Spectrum of the Seas, shown here in Hong Kong, currently sails to Japan out of Shanghai. The ship debuted in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Other China-based ships that have halted operations for now include MSC Cruises' MSC Splendida and four Costa Cruises vessels. The lines have been offering customers full refunds.

Other ships catering to North Americans that are scheduled to arrive in China in the coming weeks include Oceania Cruises' Nautica and Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Millennium. For now, the lines have not announced itinerary changes.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

While mainland China-based ships have stopped sailing this week, cruises from Hong Kong still are departing. The departures continue even as some attractions and venues in the city, such as Hong Kong Disneyland, have closed.

In light of the outbreak, cruise lines across the globe have implementing stepped-up screening procedures for passengers boarding ships, including temperature checks for those coming from affected areas (This is how airports are screening travelers for this coronavirus.)

Some lines, such as Royal Caribbean, are denying boarding to passengers who have traveled to China's Hubei Province on all their ships worldwide. Hubei Province is home to the city of Wuhan, which has been at the center of the outbreak. Royal Caribbean this week also said it had temporarily postponed the return of crew who reside in China to its ships.

Cruise lines have expanded rapidly in China over the past decade with sailings that mostly are aimed at the Chinese market. While sailings out of Shanghai on Royal Caribbean's Spectrum of the Seas are bookable on the line's U.S. website, the trips have been designed with the Chinese traveler in mind. The vessel operates short, four- to seven-night getaways to Japan.

MSC Splendida's round-trip voyages out of Shanghai aren't even bookable on the line's U.S. website. Costa Cruises' China-based ships also aren't bookable from North America.

Costa Cruises is the line most affected by the outbreak so far. A division of cruise giant Carnival Corp., it already has canceled nine sailings from the Chinese ports of Shanghai, Shenzhen, Sanya and Tianjin scheduled to depart through Feb. 2.

Related: Myth-busting: Will a face mask keep you safe from viruses on a plane?

Such widespread cancellations of cruises from an entire region are rare. The situation recalls the widespread cancellations of cruises out of Florida that occurred in 2017 as Hurricane Irma approached the state. More than a dozen sailings from major lines were canceled at the time.

The Wuhan coronavirus is part of a family of viruses that includes everything from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Symptoms include nasal congestion, headache, cough, sore throat and fever.

As of Wednesday morning, the virus -- officially called 2019-nCoV -- had killed 132 people in China, according to government figures. There had been more than 6,000 confirmed cases.

Featured photo by GRAHAM UDEN

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