Update: Since our original posting, it’s been reported that Royal Caribbean has now cancelled at least one cruise from Shanghai. The January 27 sailing aboard Spectrum of the Seas was suspended.
By now you’ve no doubt seen the headlines about coronavirus. The illness — which impacts the respiratory system — has earned headlines over the past week as it has spread from China to points around the world.
The virus has hit more than 1,300 people with 41 deaths attributed, according to the BBC. Even the Chinese President said his country is facing a “grave situation.”
The epicenter of the virus is Wuhan, China. Wuhan is a major city in inland China, about 430 miles from Shanghai, 650 miles from Beijing, and 570 miles from Hong Kong.
Already in response to the outbreak there are reports of quarantines in China for tens of millions of people. There are also screening checkpoints at major airports around the world, and the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) has raised its travel warning to Level 3. This warning “recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan.”
In addition to the response from the government, many companies are taking their own action. Disney has closed its theme park in Shanghai for the time being. McDonald’s and Starbucks have also closed stores around Wuhan.
This begs the question of what cruise lines are doing regarding the situation. While Wuhan is hundreds of miles from the nearest coast, there are a number of cases of coronoavirus reported in the areas around port cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong.
According to a number of sources, the cruise lines have already started to take action. CruiseCritic reports that:
“As a preventative measure, Norwegian Cruise Line will be doing non-touch body temperature screenings for all passengers embarking from Chinese ports. Guests with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) or higher will not be allowed to board and will be directed to seek local medical treatment.”
As well, the line is denying boarding for anyone who has been to Wuhan in the past 30 days.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that Carnival and Royal Caribbean are denying boarding for those who live or have recently been to Wuhan.
Why We Think There’s a Chance of Cancelled Cruises
Denying boarding to those who have been to the epicenter of Wuhan doesn’t guarantee that no one on a cruise ship will have the virus. This is because the virus is thought to spread person to person. So if one person came in contact with another that has the virus — even if they didn’t personally travel to Wuhan — they could now carry it.
Meanwhile, past history shows that sickness can spread quickly on cruise ships due to the close proximity of thousands of guests, along with lots of shared spaces. Norovirus illnesses have made headlines when dozens or hundreds of passengers fall ill on a single cruise.
If there is any good news, it’s that cruise lines take illness on a ship seriously. This includes numerous hand washing stations, and regularly sanitizing public areas of the ship.
Even so, it wouldn’t surprise us if cruise lines have to take further action should the outbreak continue to grow in severity or spread more widely to port cities like Shanghai. This could include everything up to having to cancel cruises.
With tens of millions in China already quarantined and with cities, businesses, and events being impacted, the thought of having to cancel a cruise until the outbreak is under control isn’t out of the question.