US State Department says Americans should not cruise

Mar 8, 2020

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The U.S. Department of State on Sunday said Americans should stop all cruise travel, citing the growing spread of the new coronavirus from China.

In a health alert issued late in the day, the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had identified an increased risk of infection from the illness in a cruise ship environment.

The bureau also noted that many countries have begun implementing strict screening procedures that have resulted in ships being turned away from ports and passengers being unable to disembark.

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“U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” the health alert said.

While the State Department is not ordering Americans not to cruise, the health alert is likely to result in widespread cancellations of upcoming trips.

“When the State Department says you shouldn’t go to a country, you often don’t go,” said Mike Driscoll, editor of industry publication Cruise Week.

“As long as the cruises are sailing, everyone is going to make their individual decision,” Driscoll told TPG. “However, this will cause more people to cancel regardless of financial consequences.”

In its health alert, the State Department warned cruisers that the U.S. government might not be able to evacuate them from foreign countries if they get caught up in a coronavirus-related quarantine situation.The U.S. government evacuated several hundred passengers from a Princess Cruises vessel in Japan, the Diamond Princess, that experienced a coronavirus outbreak in February.

“While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities,” the State Department said.

The State Department action appeared to catch the cruise industry off guard.

Related: The extreme measures cruise lines are taking as coronavirus spreads

Neither Royal Caribbean Cruises nor Carnival Corp., the world’s two biggest cruise companies, had a statement available on the development.

On Saturday, cruise company leaders met with Vice President Mike Pence at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades to discuss the industry’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The State Department action comes as a Princess Cruises ship, Grand Princess, is on its way to the Port of Oakland, in California, with at least 21 people on board who have contracted the new coronavirus. Of those infected, 19 are crew members.

Princess has said the ship will dock at the Port of Oakland on Monday and passengers will be allowed to disembark. Following health screenings, passengers who are California residents will be transported to a federally operated facility within California for testing and isolation. Non-Californians will be transported by the federal government to facilities in other states.

Crew will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship.

Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates

This weekend’s sailing of Grand Princess has been canceled along with the sailings of two other Princess ships, the Los Angeles-based Royal Princess and Fort Lauderdale-based Regal Princess. Both of the vessels have at least one crew member on board who formerly sailed on the Grand Princess, which has raised concerns.

The CDC on Saturday issued a rare “no-sail order” for the Royal Princess and is holding the Regal Princess off the coast of Florida while two crew members on the vessel are being tested for coronavirus.

The Regal Princess had been scheduled to dock in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

Feature image courtesy of Princess Cruises.

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