Cruises and the Coronavirus: What Passengers Need to Know

Norwegian is allowing passengers to delay final payments on June and July voyages, as well as allowing a longer period to decide to change to a different sailing. Substituting a different passenger for the one who had originally booked (a no-no in the past) is allowed up to 45 days before sailing.

MSC Cruises is allowing passengers booked on a March or April Mediterranean cruise to postpone their cruise or switch to a different one operating in another region and sailing within the next year. And Uniworld travelers set to depart May 1 or later can cancel up to 30 days in advance, rather than up to 120 days with a $200 penalty.

Member companies of the industry association CLIA are generally abiding by its evolving rules regarding who can and can’t board one of their ships. Passengers and crew are to be kept on shore if they have visited or gone through airports in Iran, South Korea, mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau or parts of Italy within 14 days before embarkation; if they have cared for someone who has or might have Covid-19 disease; or if they have exhibited symptoms of the virus. Travelers turned away for these reasons will receive a full refund.

Royal Caribbean is one company going beyond the CLIA guidelines and denying boarding to any passenger who has come within six feet of anyone who has been in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, South Korea or Italy within the last 15 days. The company will be relying on passengers to be truthful about any close encounters.

To comply with these regulations, passengers are filling out health and travel questionnaires before they board. “Cruise companies always screened passengers for health, but the questions are more specific now to the virus,” said Ms. Shelton.

Preboarding temperature checks are also becoming more common.

Companies have been canceling some sailings, adjusting the itineraries of others, and in some cases moving to their next scheduled part of the globe a bit early. Seabourn, for example, canceled one cruise departing from Singapore, and replaced another ship’s Asian ports of call with Australian ones. Alaska cruises are expected to start up a bit earlier than usual for Viking and some other lines.

Cruise companies have always reserved the right to change their schedules based on local circumstances. A letter posted Feb. 12 on the Celebrity Cruise company website states that a March 17 cruise will embark from Dubai instead of Singapore, replace the stop in Thailand with a day at sea, and extend days in India. The letter states that “normal cancellation penalties will apply.” For a passenger two to four weeks from departure, the penalty is 75 percent of the trip cost.

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