With cases reported in locations around the world, the spread of novel coronavirus has travelers on edge. Much is still unknown about the outbreak, and health officials are urging caution.
The US State Department on Sunday issued an advisory warning travelers against cruise travel.
“US citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” the warning reads.
“CDC notes that older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships.”
All travelers should be aware of the virus, pay close attention to travel advisories, steer clear of heavily impacted areas and exercise preventive measures.
Here’s what travelers should know about the virus outbreak:
Cruise line cases and precautions
The State Department’s cruise advisory comes as the Grand Princess cruise ship, where more than 20 coronavirus cases were confirmed Friday, prepares to dock Monday at the Port of Oakland in California.
A multi-day disembarkation process and quarantining of passengers will follow, officials say.
In February, the Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined for two weeks in Yokohama, Japan. More than 700 people contracted the virus aboard the ship, and at least seven of those patients have died.
Cruise lines have recently instituted flexible rebooking policies.
Princess Cruise Line has created a temporary cancellation policy valid for cruises departing up to May 31, 2020.
Carnival Cruise Line recently sent letters to guests booked through May 31 offering options to reschedule and onboard credits for those who proceed with their plans. Other cruise lines have extended similar offers.
Many cruises to and from mainland China and other Asian destinations were canceled or modified earlier in the outbreak, according to Cruise Critic, an online cruise community and review site.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has continuously updated its protocols for members in efforts to prevent introduction of the illness aboard ships.
CLIA members are to “deny boarding to all persons who have traveled from, visited or transited via airports in South Korea, Iran, China, including Hong Kong and Macau, and any municipality in Italy subject to lockdown (quarantine) measures by the Italian Government … within 14 days prior to embarkation,” one of the organization’s guidelines reads.
Denied boarding for anyone who has had close contact with anyone suspected to have coronavirus and pre-boarding illness screening and temperature checks are also outlined.
Individual cruise lines also have their own policies and screening procedures to guard against introducing the illness.
Flight cancellations and increased flexibility
Airlines all over the world have canceled flights amid the outbreak, and service to China has been suspended by many carriers.
Some airlines, including United, American, JetBlue and Delta, have recently built more flexibility into new bookings, waiving change fees for some travel periods in March.
United Airlines was the first US carrier to cut its domestic flight schedule due to a sharp drop in demand. United plans to cut flights in the US and Canada by 10% and overseas flights by 20% in April. Other carriers across the globe are similarly cutting services.
Delta has suspended flights between the United States and China through April 30. Service to Japan, Milan, Italy, and Seoul, South Korea, has also been impacted, and waivers have been issued for various destinations heavily impacted by the outbreak.
Other airlines, including British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Emirates and more, have similarly slashed or suspended service.
In Japan, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have announced they will reduce the number of domestic flights as the country records a growing number of virus cases.
Travelers with upcoming plans should check with their airlines and look for advisories posted on carriers’ websites.
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