Cruise ships and coronavirus: Princess Cruises, Viking cancel trips

Viking and Princess cruise lines announced Thursday that they would temporarily stop sailings and give refunds and future cruise credits because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The actions are unprecedented in an industry that has been hit hard by on-board outbreaks and the US State Department advising travellers against taking a cruise right now

Other cruise lines earlier said they would allow passengers to cancel their voyages, some with as little as 48 hours' notice, and receive a full credit for a future sailing, depending on the dates you are scheduled to sail. These include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara, Silversea, Oceania, Disney and Carnival.

Viking will halt river and ocean cruises from Thursday until April 30. Passengers can get a refund.

Those who prefer to postpone their cruise will receive a cruise voucher worth 125 per cent of the amount they paid. Passengers will have 24 months to use the voucher for any river, ocean or expedition trip. If you don't, you'll get an automatic refund.

Princess Cruises will halt sailing of its 18 ships from Thursday through May 10. President Jan Swartz in a statement said: "Princess Cruises is a global vacation company that serves more than 50,000 guests daily from 70 countries as part of our diverse business, and it is widely known that we have been managing the implications of COVID-19 on two continents."

Current Princess cruises underway for the next five days or shorter will complete their itineraries. Others sailing beyond March 17 will disembark "at the most convenient location for guests, factoring in operational requirements," the statement said.

Princess also is offering a refund to passengers. The company asks passengers not to call but to fill out an online cancellation form or contact their travel agent.

The cruise line also will give passengers a future cruise plus extra on-board credit if they postpone their journey. It's good for sailings through May 1, 2022. The offer applies to passengers who paid for their fare and cancelled their cruise on or after Feb. 4.

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The move comes after Princess was criticised for its handling of outbreaks aboard two of its ships. The Diamond Princess, which was quarantined off the coast of Yokahama, Japan, last month, had 696 cases and seven deaths related to the virus.

The Grand Princess, which had about 3500 crew and passengers on board, was temporarily stranded along California's coast before being allowed to dock in Oakland, California, on Monday. On that ship, 21 crew members and passengers had tested positive. Passengers have been sent to quarantine sites in California, mostly on military bases.

Richard Branson's new cruise line, Virgin Voyages, has delayed the launch of its first ship's cruises until July 15, offering passengers a refund or a 200 per cent voucher for a future cruise.

Celestyal Cruises, which specialises in trips around the Greek Islands and Mediterranean, has also suspended cruises until May 1 and is offering refunds or a voucher worth 120 per cent of the original booking value.

The State Department on Sunday advised Americans not to take a cruise. "US citizens, particularly travellers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship at this time. CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment," the advisory says.

The Australian government's Smart Traveller website advised cruise passengers, particularly those with underlying health problems, to "reconsider the need to travel" on overseas cruises..

Los Angeles Times

See also: Here's how you can still get travel insurance coverage for coronavirus

See also: Eleven things to know about travelling during the coronavirus outbreak

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