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With the coronavirus outbreak showing little sign of slowing, cruise lines are abandoning Asia and sending their ships to different parts of the world, including several large ships heading to Australian waters. Some have even cancelled all trips in the region until the end of the year.
Cruise Lines International Association – which represents around 90 per cent of global capacity – says 10 of its 272 member ships were due to be sailing around Japan and China as the outbreak took hold. This year, 10 per cent of ships worldwide were scheduled to be deployed in Asia, compared to 32 per cent in the Caribbean and 28 per cent in Europe.
In the past week the two biggest cruise companies, Carnival Corporation (parent company of Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, Carnival Cruise Line and Seabourn) and Royal Caribbean Cruises (parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara, and part owner of Silversea), offered warnings about the impact that coronavirus could have on their financial performances.
Furthermore, Royal Caribbean Cruises said the impact was beginning to be felt beyond Asia. It said: "While the early impact due to concerns about the coronavirus is mainly related to Asia, recent bookings for our broader business have also been softer. If the travel restrictions and concerns over the outbreak continue for an extended period of time, they could materially impact the company's overall financial performance."
Three large ships so far - Royal Carribean's Spectrum of the Seas, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess - have been redeployed from Asia to Australian waters.
Here is a summary of the cancellations and amended itineraries that are costing the cruise lines in terms of reimbursement, compensation and rebooked flights.
The atrium on board Sapphire Princess.
Cruises on Sapphire Princess through Asia have been cancelled all the way up to and including October 22. These include a whole series of round-trips from Shanghai, and other cruises departing from Singapore, Yokohama and Hong Kong. Sapphire Princess will redeploy to Australia six months earlier than planned, and 44 new cruises from five major cities will be introduced as new itineraries to replace the cancelled Asia programme. This new year-long programme in Australia will go on sale from February 27.
The cruise line has cancelled five Diamond Princess departures from Yokohama, the port for Tokyo where it has been stuck for more than two weeks. The cruise line says this is due to the ship's prolonged quarantine period, and the anticipated time to prepare the ship to return to service. The ship is currently due to return to service on April 29, in time for the start of Japan's Golden Week celebrations.
Cruises have also been cancelled on Majestic Princess all the way up to and including April 2. These include a series of round-trip departures from Keeling, the port for Taipei.
In a statement, Princess Cruises explained the challenges of the task in hand: "Changing a ship's itinerary involves multiple complex factors, including port and berth availability which is a fluid and dynamic situation, government regulations on immigration and itineraries, calculations on distance and speed required between ports, supply chain operations for provisions, goods, and fuel, and crew rotations."
"These are issues and decisions that teams of people who usually plan itineraries undertake two to three years in advance and are now trying to amend as quickly as possible. Simultaneously, other cruise lines are also making itinerary changes and, in some cases, inquiring on the availability of the same ports, adding to the complexity."
Compensation: All booked guests on cancelled voyages will receive a full refund of their cruise fare, air fares (if booked with Princess), hotel packages, pre-paid shore excursions, along with a future cruise credit.
Queen Mary 2 has begun a cruise from Fremantle to Sydney after skipping Asian ports.
Queen Elizabeth is no longer calling at Hong Kong on March 31 and Shanghai on April 4, with replacement ports yet to be announced.
Queen Mary 2's voyage from Asia to Australia has been modified with the introduction of the following Australian ports: Darwin on February 24-25 and Yorkneys Knob (for Cairns) on February 29. After sailing to Airlie Beach, the ship reverts to the original itinerary.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Columbus will no longer call at Tianjin (for Beijing) on March 17 or Hong Kong on March 23, which has been replaced by Chan May in Vietnam.
Norwegian Cruise Line
The cruise line cancelled Norwegian Jade's departure from Singapore on February 17. In addition, all sailings in Asia on Norwegian Spirit have been cancelled from April 15 through to December 7, 2020.
Instead, the newly refurbished ship will set sail on a series of 17-, 20- and 28-day voyages spanning three continents, including departures from Dubai, United Arab Emirates on March 2, 2020; and Cape Town, South Africa on March 22, 2020, before homeporting in Piraeus (for Athens) for the first time on April 19, 2020. She will then offer a season of seven-day voyages to the Greek islands, Turkey, and Israel through to November 8.
Compensation: Passengers have a choice between cancelling and receiving a full refund, or remaining onboard the affected sailing and getting 50 per cent of their cruise fare credited back.
Holland America Line
After Westerdam was diverted to Sihanoukville, Cambodia, arriving on February 13, the next voyage was cancelled. As a further precaution, the line has cancelled two further cruises departing on February 29. These are a 14-day Taiwan & Japan sailing, and a 28-day Taiwan, Japan and South Korea itinerary.
Compensation: Guests will receive a full refund, and a future cruise credit for 50 per cent of the cruise fare paid.
Royal Caribbean International
Spectrum of the Seas.
The line has cancelled a total of 18 sailings in Asia, including Quantum of the Seas' departure from Singapore on February 24 and Spectrum of the Seas' departures from Baoshan, China on March 5 and 13.
Spectrum of the Seas is being redeployed to Australia. The billion-dollar cruise giant capable of carrying up to 5622 passengers will provide free cruises to firefighters who battled this summer's catastrophic bushfires.
Compensation: Guests on affected voyages will receive full refunds.
The remainder of Celebrity Millennium's season in Asia has been cancelled. The ship will be repositioned to the West Coast of the United States earlier than originally planned. Celebrity Constellation's March 2 itinerary will now end in Dubai on March 17, instead of Singapore. This also affects embarkation for the ship's next cruise, departing the same day.
P&O Cruises has cancelled a number of port stops on Arcadia's current world cruise, including Manila, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Port Klang and Penang. Instead the ship is planning a more in-depth Australia leg with calls in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, Port Arthur, Adelaide, Albany and Fremantle.
Due to new restrictions from Singapore regarding ports of embarkation, four Crystal Symphony cruises have been cancelled: two seven-night voyages departing February 23 and March 9 and two eight-night voyages departing March 23 and April 5. Other itineraries from February to April have been amended, with Singapore replacing Keelung, the port for Taipei, Taiwan.
Compensation: Passengers can choose not to travel on amended cruises, and defer their holiday to a later date but they must inform Crystal by February 21, to receive 100 per cent future cruise credit. For the cancelled cruises, passengers can choose a full refund of the cruise fare paid or 100 per cent future cruise credit.
In addition to cancelling Seabourn's departure on February 15, Seabourn has cancelled the cruise on board Ovation that was due to depart Singapore on February 29, a two-week round-trip voyage. In a statement the line said: "The decision comes out of an abundance of caution considering the highly dynamic and unpredictable changes we have seen the past couple of weeks in travel restrictions and port operations that could affect the cruises. While we expect things will stabilize, we never want to put our guests in the position of having an experience that doesn't live up to their expectations."
Compensation: Passengers will receive a full refund of the fare paid, along with any pre-paid charges, such as flights, pre and post hotel stays and excursions, plus a future cruise credit.
The cruise line has amended MSC Bellissima's 28-night Grand Voyage, sailing from the Gulf to Asia, on March 21. Port visits to Shenzhen, China; Hong Kong; and Keelung, Taiwan have been cancelled, and Laem Chabang for Bangkok; Phu My for Ho Chi Minh and an extra day in Kobe, Japan have been added. The ship will also call at Sir Bani Yas Island, UAE instead of Khor Fakkan, UAE. The cruise ends in Yokohama, Japan, on April 18 but passengers are being given the option to disembark the cruise earlier, in Singapore on April 6, or they can cancel the cruise if that's their preferred option.
The Telegraph, London