Several major cruise lines, including Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line and Seabourn Cruises, are refusing to cancel voyages which call on ports in China as concerns grow about the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. The New York Times published an article this morning that Hong Kong has restricted travel from mainland China due to the deadly outbreak as infections reportedly exceed 4,500.
As of this morning, these companies have also decided not to refund their customers’ cruise fare for cruises scheduled to call on Chinese ports. A regular commentator on our firm’s Cruise Law News Facebook Page states:
“Sadly Celebrity Millennium is canceling nothing. Many are writing about it on the Celebrity Captain’s Club Facebook Page. As a result many are going as they have spent a lot. Celebrity is offering no credit or cancel option without losing it all. Pretty shocking.”
A crew member employed by Seabourn who is working aboard the Seabourn Ovation, and who wishes to stay anonymous, states:
“I guess my company doesn’t have the plan on cancelling our itinerary to Hong Kong this 1st and 2nd of February. Worst, it’s our embarkation day. They think they can avoid an infected guest going onboard on that day despite the incubation period of the virus which is 10-14 days. I hope they will change their mind. Coz its like we are going to a suicide mission…”
The crew member in question states that Seabourn and its parent company HAL/Carnival Corporation do not have any new medical procedures to screen passengers who may have been exposed to coronavirus.
Cruise travel writer Gene Sloan wrote an article yesterday titled: Cruise Lines Begin Canceling China Sailings as Virus Worries Grow which mentioned that Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises are both stopping operations out of China because of the virus. Mr. Sloan writes that “Both Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises said passengers on the canceled sailings would receive full refunds. Costa Cruises didn’t address refunds in its statement.”
However, Holland America Line (HAL) which operates the Westerdam, which is scheduled to depart from Hong Kong this Saturday on a 14-night voyage to Taiwan and Japan that ends in Shanghai, refuses to either cancel the cruise or provide refunds to its customers. HAL will then sail the Westerdam on a 14-night voyage out of Shanghai that is scheduled to include calls at the Chinese ports of Qingdao and Tianjin (the port for Beijing).
HAL states that in light of the outbreak, it will allegedly implement “stepped-up screening procedures” for its cruise ships, including a “requirement for temperature and questionnaire screening for persons from affected areas.”
“Your health and safety are always are top priority. Our medical experts are always in close contact with international health organizations. We are taking many precautions – as we always do – to prevent illness onboard.”
Passengers aboard the Seabourn Ovation, which will be sailing from Vietnam across the South China Sea on January 31st, and then calling on Hong Kong on February 1st and 2nd, will be sailing to a port which other cruise lines have prudently cancelled on their itineraries.
It’s a shame that Celebrity, HAL and Seabourn are refusing to cancel and refund the cruises to Chinese ports and, in the case of HAL/Seabourn, requiring crew members to issue talking points dreamed up by clueless shore-side executives. Perhaps now that Hong Kong is closing its China borders as the coronavirus spreads (as of this morning per CNN) these greedy and irresponsible cruise lines will bend to public pressure.
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Update: A crew member aboard the M/S Westerdam tells us that today HAL replaced Shanghai with Yokohoma, but the HAL cruise ship is still calling on Hong Kong on February 1st.
January 29, 2020 update: Other cruise lines, like NCL and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, are reportedly refusing to cancel cruises to Hong Kong and refund cruise fares. The Norwegian Jade remains scheduled to sail on January 30 and February 17, 2020 from Hong Kong and is refusing to issue refunds to its customers. Regent Seven Seas Cruises is refusing to cancel or refund the Bali to Hong Kong voyage on the Seven Seas Voyager leaving on February 12, 2020 and calling on Hong Kong on February 29 and March 1, 2020.
February 2, 2020 Update: Westerdam Cruise Ship Stuck in South China Sea Because of Philippines Coronavirus Ban – perhaps a fitting result for greedy HAL after it refuses to cancel (or offer refunds) and permits another 800 passengers to board in Hong Kong.
Photo credit: New York Times; Westerdam – Master0Garfield – CC BY-SA 4.0.