Cruise ship companies take drastic step to combat coronavirus outbreak

Two major cruise lines are banning people with certain passports from boarding its ships in response to the coronavirus threat regardless of the last time they visited mainland China.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd reportedly consulted with medical experts and public health authorities, and is in “alignment with new, stricter Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols, plus changes in various countries’ requirements and regulations”.

In a statement, the company also said they wanted to “ensure that we are able to provide a great vacation experience”, while keeping guests and crew members healthy.

The new restriction will be in place throughout February and any guest who holds a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passport will not be permitted to board any of the Royal Caribbean ships “regardless of residency”.

All ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet will implement tough restricts amid coronavirus spread. Source: AP

According to a separate statement, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd said all ships in the fleet will adopt new health screening protocols.

Guests who have travelled to, from or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau will be denied boarding as well as guests who have come into contact with people have travelled to, from or through the same three places within 15 days prior to sailing.

“We continue to closely monitor global developments regarding the coronavirus, and we are fully focused on protecting the health and safety of our guests and crew,” the statement reads.

In addition to banning certain passengers and to “ensure safety”, the cruise line has tightened their health screening requirements, meaning certain guests will have to undergo additional screenings at the terminal.

Anyone who presents “fever or low blood oximetry” through the health screening will be denied board.

Mandatory specialised health screenings will be performed on people who feel unwell or exhibit flu-like symptoms, or anyone who is unsure whether they have been in contact with individuals who have travelled to, from or through China, Hong Kong, or Macau in the last 15 days.

The new restriction will be in place throughout February and any guest who holds a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passport will not be permitted to board. Source: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito

All guests who are denied boarding due to these restrictions will receive full refunds.

“We know that these steps are very conservative, and we apologise that they will inconvenience some of our guests,” the statement reads.

“We regret to have to do this, but it is our responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy environment on board our ships, as well as in the ports we visit.”

High traffic areas on board will be sanitised multiple times a day, and the ship terminal will also be sanitised before and after every sail.

All areas on the ship will be thoroughly cleaned, and extra cleaning will be done where guests have flu-like symptoms.

Extra medical staff will be added to each ship and guests will be offered complimentary medical consultations.

The captain will also make two daily announcements “reminding everyone of how to stay healthy”.

Norwegian Cruise Line also brings in passenger ban

Similar protocols have been implemented by the Norwegian Cruise Line, banning all Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passport holders and individuals who have travelled to or from China, or via Chinese airports.

Guests who are denied boarding by Norwegian Cruise Lines will be provided with a refund upon giving proof of travel.

All guests boarding the company’s ships will still have to undergo pre-boarding health evaluations, and any guest who appears “symptomatic are subject to pre-boarding medical evaluations including but not limited to temperature checks as deemed necessary”.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship is under quarantine after cases of coronavirus were confirmed. Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

The coronavirus death toll has risen to more than 720 people, while the number of confirmed cases rises to nearly 35,000.

In Japan, three more cases were diagnosed Saturday among 3,700 passengers and crew on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship. Those aboard remain under 14-day quarantine.

“It’s not going to be a luxury cruise; it’s going to be like a floating prison,” passenger David Abel, who is onboard the Diamond Princess, wrote on Facebook.

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