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Large number of people in confined spaces on cruise ships make onboard tourists prone to infectious diseases such as the coronavirus. In 2019 alone, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported ten outbreaks on cruise ships.

In 2020, the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, is the latest threat to the cruise industry where bookings are done much in advance. Five cruise ships including Diamond Princess, World Dream, Anthem of Seas, Westerdam, and Costa Smeralda have been quarantined after news about possible infections emerged.

Cruise operators have started to either cancel or change their itineraries as countries across the world implement travel restrictions to curb the disease spread. Ports are refusing to accept cruise ships that have been either to Chinese ports or carrying Chinese passengers during the outbreak.

Cruise ships with confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus infection

Novel coronavirus cases have been either confirmed or suspected on at least four cruise ships so far, as listed below.

Coronavirus-affected on Diamond Princess cruise ship

Diamond Princess, operated by Princess Cruises (a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation), has been quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, since 03 February after a passenger from Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus on 25 January after disembarking in Hong Kong. The ship has 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew on-board.

The Japan Ministry of Health is currently conducting a full review of the health screening records of all passengers on-board. As of 19 February, 598 confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported on the ship, of tourists from multiple countries including the US, India, Russia, the UK, Canada and Australia. The infected passengers have been transferred to various local hospitals.

The Japanese health ministry allowed those passengers who have not shown any symptoms of the virus since the start of the quarantine period and those who have tested negative for the virus to disembark the ship on 19 February.

The US Embassy chartered two aircraft to evacuate the 388 US citizens on board the ship on 16 February. The aircraft arrived at the Travis Air Force Base in California on 17 February. A total of 14 evacuated passengers have tested positive for the virus. Ten of them have been moved to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for treatment.

The Canadian government has also secured a chartered flight to evacuate 352 Canadian citizens onboard the ship. The chartered flight is scheduled to arrive on 19 February in Tokyo. Approximately 200 Australians who are onboard the ship were evacuated by the government in a charter flight on 20 February. The evacuees will be placed under quarantine for a period of two weeks in a mining village near Darwin.

More than 100 Hong Kong nationals who were on board the cruise ship returned home on 20 February. All arriving passengers will be placed under quarantine for a period of 14 days at the Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan. Another flight is scheduled to bring the remaining citizens.

Italy and the Philippines have announced plans to evacuate its citizens on board the ship.

Princess Cruises announced the cancellation of the next voyage of Diamond Princess, following the developments.


Read the latest news on Diamond Princess:

Coronavirus: Confirmed cases on Diamond Princess nearly double

Coronavirus: Confirmed cases on Diamond Princess rises to 70

Holland America’s coronavirus-affected cruise ship

MS Westerdam, operated by Holland America Line, was on a 14-day voyage to Taiwan and Japan. It was scheduled to dock at the Yokohama port in Japan, but turned away after travel restrictions were imposed on all cruise ships due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The ship was also denied entry by ports in Guam and Manila. It had 1,455 passengers and 802 crew on-board the vessel.

On 10 February, Holland America announced that the ship set sail to dock at Laem Chabang, Bangkok, Thailand, where the current voyage of the ship will end on 13 February. The Thailand government, however, denied entry to the vessel on 11 February, as reported by Reuters.

Holland America announced on 12 February that the Cambodia government has given permission to allow the ship to dock in Sihanoukville. The ship arrived in Cambodia during the early hours of 13 February. All passengers were temperature tested and allowed to disembark.

An 83-year-old woman who disembarked the ship and flew to Malaysia tested positive for the coronavirus infection. The passenger who travelled along with the confirmed case has tested negative for the virus.

Malaysia has since banned the entry of any person on board the ship into the country. Thailand announced similar restrictions banning all passengers except Thailand citizens who have been on the ship from entering the country.

Cambodian health authorities tested all passengers of the MS Westerdam cruise ship for coronavirus infection. On 19 February, the Cambodian Ministry of Health announced that a total of 781 passengers have tested negative for the infection. These passengers will now be able to fly to their respective home countries.

Some of the passengers who have already disembarked and left Cambodia will be contacted by their local health authorities for further action. Testing for 747 crew members is expected to be completed over the next few days.

World Dream cruise ship

World Dream, operated by Dream Cruises, with more than 3,600 passengers and crew was quarantined at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong on 05 February. The ship left Hong Kong on a voyage to Taiwan, where it was turned away after revealing that it had carried passengers with confirmed coronavirus infection on a previous voyage.

On 09 February, Hong Kong lifted the quarantine and allowed all passengers to disembark from the ship after conducting extensive health screenings and temperature checks. Samples of all the 1,814 crew members have also tested negative for the virus.

The World Dream cruise ship’s operations have been temporarily suspended following the event.

Coronavirus suspected on Anthem of Seas cruise ship

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of Seas cruise ship’s scheduled voyage to the Carribean was delayed after 27 passengers were suspected to have the coronavirus infection. The ship was docked at Bayonne, New Jersey, US.

The passengers later tested negative for the infection as announced by the New Jersey Health Authority. The ship was allowed to sail on 10 February.

Costa Smeralda cruise ship quarantined for coronavirus tests

Costa Smeralda cruise ship, owned and operated by Costa Crociere, was quarantined in Civitavecchia, near Rome in Italy on 30 January after a couple from China showed symptoms of the coronavirus infection. The ship had approximately 6,000 people on-board.

Samples taken from the couple tested negative at Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases, following which the passengers were allowed to disembark.

Coronavirus precautionary measures by cruise ship operators

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents 90% of cruise operators, announced the various precautionary measures being implemented by its members.

All passengers who have travelled to or visited/transited through China, Hong Kong and Macau within 14 days before embarkation will be denied entry into cruise ships.

Any persons in close contact with either suspected or diagnosed cases of coronavirus infection will also be denied entry. Further, pre-boarding screening procedures such as temperature checks will be conducted as a preventive measure. Any person displaying symptoms of the disease will be put through enhanced screening and medical evaluations.

Princess Cruises announced similar restrictions and precautions in addition to the implementation of stringent cleaning and sanitation protocols. It also announced that crew members from China will be delayed from joining their duties.

Holland America, Cunard Line, Dream Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Crystal Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Costa Cruises are some of the other cruise operators who have implemented similar measures. Cunard coronavirus prevention measures include pre-boarding screening and restrictions on all passengers from China or those who have travelled to or transited through China.

Royal Caribbean (RCL) delivers masks to China and offers complimentary sailings

Cruise operator Royal Caribbean Criuses (RCL) delivered one million N-95 protective masks to China, for distribution by the government in coronavirus-affected areas. Royal Caribbean also announced to offer complimentary sailings to first responders and medics in China, by dedicating one of its cruise ships.

Coronavirus impact on the cruise industry

Cruise operators have either cancelled or changed the itineraries of their cruise ships as ports across the world impose travel restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak. Royal Caribbean has cancelled eight cruises until 04 March including three cruises on its Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship, which is homeported in China.

Celebrity Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean, has changed the itinerary of its ships sailing from ports in China and Hong Kong including Celebrity Millennium. Cruise and Maritime Voyages has cancelled its scheduled call on 17 March 2020 to Tianjin for its Columbus cruise ship.

Norwegian Cruise Line and Oceania Cruises have announced itinerary changes as ports in Hong Kong and China imposed travel restrictions. Costa Cruises announced the cancellation of its scheduled voyages on Costa Venezia and Costa Serena cruise ships.

Itinerary changes have been announced by Seabourn for its Seabourn Ovation cruise ship, while Princess Cruise has announced itinerary changes for several voyages of its cruise ships including Caribbean Princess, Sapphire Princess, and Diamond Princess.

Carnival Cruise, another company owned by Carnival Corporation, announced that the company’s financial performance may be impacted due to the coronavirus outbreak. The company noted that the full extent of the impact is yet to be determined. If the company has to cancel its operations in Asia, its financial performance may be impacted by $0.55 to $0.65 per share.