Several cruise lines announced yesterday that they are suspending cruising due to the emerging coronavirus outbreak. Following Viking Cruises and Princess Cruises’ suspension of cruising, Disney Cruises, AMA River Cruises, Avalon Waterways, Celestyal Cruises, Saga Cruises, and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises are all suspending their cruise operations.

European lines such as Saga made the decision after the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office advised British nationals aged 70 and over and those with pre-existing health conditions against cruise ship travel at this time.

Fred Olsen Cruises is also temporarily suspending its operations after one it confirmed coronavirus infections on one of its ship, the Braemar.

According to World Maritime News, several cruise line have faced “fierce criticism” for continuing operations amid the outbreak due to the increased risk  to guests and crew members posed by the spreading of the contagious virus in the tight confines of the ship with thousands of people aboard at the same time. As matters now stand, there are at least 19 crew members ill with coronavirus quarantined on the Grand Princess cruise ship while it is docked in Oakland, California, rather than being provided with medical treatment ashore. It remains unknown whether the one thousand other crew members have even been tested yet for COVID-19.  Testing of the several thousand guests also remains largely unknown. Such issues have to be on the minds of the cruise executives weighing whether to suspend cruises.

Virgin Cruises announced the delay in the maiden cruise planned for its first ship, Scarlet Lady, until August 7th.

Last night, MSC Cruises also announced that it was, in its words, “adjusting or canceling” some of its itineraries. In a posting on Facebook, MSC’s CEO Gianni Onorato stated that it is cancelling the cruises of MSC Bellissima and MSC Lirica starting from March 14th, including the “Grand Voyages” of the MSC Bellissima on March 21st and that of MSC Lirica on April 18th due to a limitation on passengers’ movements imposed by the local authorities in the Emirates.

MSC is also cancelling the cruises of the MSC Grandiosa from March 14th to March 28th, and the cruises of the MSC Opera from March 10th to April 21dt due to the “limitation of movements requested by the Italian government, and the announced closure of Spanish ports.”

A crew member sent us a copy of a letter from the Spanish government announcing the closing of ports in Spain yesterday.

Today, Canada temporarily barred all cruise ships that carry more than 500 people, including crew, from docking in Canada until July to protect against the growing pandemic.

The ports in Santa Barbara and Monterey, in California were the first U.S. ports to announce they would stop cruise ship arrivals, according to cruise expert Gene Sloan. Both cities cited the U.S. State Department’s advisory which states: “U.S. citizens, especially with underlying conditions, should not travel by cruise ship.”

In the past week, a number of countries blocked passengers from calling on ports in the Caribbean. Jamaica and the Cayman Islands did not permit a MSC cruise ship, the MSC Meraviglia from calling on their ports because of concerns that flu-like symptoms of a crew member may be due to coronavirus. Carnival refused to permit the Carnival Freedom and Carnival Horizon from calling on ports in Jamaica because the government of Jamaica  would not cowtow to Carnival and agree not to enforce Jamaica’s stringent health protocols, as we reported last week.

Ironically, the Cayman Islands just announced its first coronavirus patient in the island yesterday. The person came from a cruise ship as a cardiac patient.

Gene Sloan also reported that the list of countries which are banning cruise ship arrivals include India, United Arab Emirates Malaysia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, South Korea and Taiwan.

The port of Baltimore is now closed, which caused Carnival to cancel the next cruise involving the Carnival Pride which is currently in Freeport on a cruise to the Bahamas and is expected to return to Baltimore on March 15th.

The emerging coronavirus has caused great uncertainty for all cruise lines as to whether their ships will be turned away from scheduled ports. Over a month ago, HAL’s Westerdam was denied permission to dock in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines before Cambodia finally permitted it to disembark passengers there.

Passengers today on the Silver Shadow (photo above left) informed me that Brazil is placing the cruise ship under quarantine after a passenger is suspected to have coronavirus.  The Silver Sea ship is in Recife, Brazil toward the end of a 12 day cruise. It was expected to end the cruise in Barbados on March 19th. Brazilian newspapers are just now reporting that a 78 year old Canadian is reportedly ill.

The threat of a outbreak when you have several hundreds to several thousands of people together seems inevitable.  This is the obvious reason why the NBA suspended the professional basketball season, concert promoters postponed events, and the CDC continues to recommend against large social gatherings.

It seems also inevitable that other major cruise lines will follow Viking’s lead and suspend their operations.  I suspect that the next major cruise line to do the right thing will probably be Royal Caribbean which is now trading at just $31 a share which is nearly 80% off its 3 month high of $135. Carnival will probably be the last to come to grips with the new reality. At this late date, it is entirely predictable that Royal Caribbean or Carnival, if they refuse to suspend cruises, will find themselves in the unenviable position of becoming the Princess Cruises which earned the reputation of the coronavirus cruise poster child given its poor handling of the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess quarantines.

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NCL just announced that it is suspending cruising for 30 days.

Royal Caribbean announced that it is suspending cruising from U.S. ports for 30 days.

Carnival Cruise Line announced that it is suspending it operations from U.S. ports. Costa Cruises is also taking similar steps.

Photo credit: Saga – Shutterstock / StudioPortoSabbia via; Silver Shadow – Hesiodo Goes / Reuters.