Cruiselines have cancelled port calls to Mexico following UK Foreign Office and US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention advice to avoid non-essential travel to the country as the swine flu death toll continues to rise.
Princess Cruises suspended all calls to Mexico this week and throughout May, replacing them with additional ports or extra days at sea. Calls at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas on a seven-night cruise departing on May 2, have been replaced with San Diego and Catalina in California.
In a statement, Princess Cruises said: "We hope our passengers will understand these changes were beyond our control and that we have provided them with an attractive, alternative itinerary."
Royal Caribbean International, which had four ships making regular stops at Mexican ports and two visiting Mexico on repositioning cruises, has changed all its itineraries. Ships will make alternative port calls or spend an extra day at sea. Mariner of the Seas will sail a revised Canada and the US West Coast itinerary instead.
One Celebrity Cruise repositioning voyage on Celebrity Infinity has been affected, as have five Holland America Line ships due to visit Mexico now and in May. Holland America said new ports of call would be announced as soon as they were confirmed.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines' Balmoral was due to visit Acapulco on May 6 and 7 as part of its world cruise but the ship will now be staying longer in San Diego and a day in Puntarenas in Costa Rica has been added to the itinerary.
Fred Olsen director of planning Matt Grimes said: "The FCO is now advising against all but essential travel to Mexico, so it would be irresponsible of us to put any of the persons on board Balmoral in danger."
Carnival Cruise Line has cancelled all Mexico port calls until May 4, replacing them either with extra days at sea or days in Key West, San Francisco or Nassau, Bahamas. It said passengers who do not like the revised itineraries will be able to reschedule their cruise.
Shares in Carnival Corporation, which owns the Carnival and Princess brands, shed more than 7% of their value within an hour of trading on Monday morning as traders feared the impact a swine flu pandemic could have on the cruise industry.
Although the virus has not been identified near the Mexican coast, it is spreading fast, with cases reported as far apart as the US, New Zealand and the UK. There have been no reports of swine flu among cruise passengers.
Princess and Royal Caribbean are screening passengers and crew embarking its ships and will isolate anyone showing symptoms. Passenger are also being asked to use hand sanitisers around the ships. These are all procedures cruiselines have developed to contain outbreaks of norovirus, the so-called vomiting bug.
- Updates from TW and the web at travelweekly.co.uk/swineflu
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