The cruise industry has admitted being “surprised” by a US advisory discouraging Americans from taking cruise holidays due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Trade body Clia will today respond by presenting the US administration with an industry plan to manage any serious coronavirus outbreak on an ocean-going cruise ship on a stand-alone basis.
The strategy will build upon already enhanced protocols, including further enhanced screening, shipboard protocols, quarantine and monitoring arrangements, plus support for onshore medical care.
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Initial measures were outlined at a meeting between cruise industry executive and US vice president Mike Pence in Florida on Saturday.
However, the sector was caught unawares 24 hours later when the US State Department issued an edict that citizens should not travel by cruise ship, particularly those with underlying health conditions.
Grand Princess coronavirus tests
The advisory came as 19 crew members and two passengers were tested positive for coronavirus on board Grand Princess.
The Princess Cruises ship had been held off the coast of California since Wednesday with 3,500 people on board including 140 Britons but was allowed to start disembarking passengers after docking in Oakland yesterday.
Two Grand Princess sailings have been cancelled to date.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We continue to work closely with the US authorities to repatriate British nationals on board the Grand Princess.
“The US are currently planning for a flight to leave tomorrow evening, returning to the UK on Wednesday afternoon. We remain in contact with all British nationals on board and will continue to offer support.”
Princess Cruises is refunding the full cruise fare including air travel, hotel, ground transportation, pre-paid shore excursions and gratuities due to the “extraordinary circumstances” on board Grand Princess. Passengers will also be offered a future cruise credit, have tips refunded and on board incidental charges waived.
The incident followed Diamond Princess being quarantined in Japan last month after an outbreak of coronavirus on board and other ships having to alter itineraries in Asia after being barred from entering ports.
Clia president and chief executive Kelly Craighead said in a message to members: “We came away from the meeting with vice president Pence believing that the US government very much wants us to succeed in this effort, and work is already underway in this regard, led by member lines who have volunteered to help identify supply chains to meet the logistical challenges facing the industry.
“We are moving forward with a positive, proactive approach.
“One of these challenges is that the US State Department has posted an advisory that cautions against long plane travel and cruise travel.
“We are surprised at the advisory, but are moving forward and remain focused on development of an aggressive, responsive plan as agreed to during the meeting with vice president Pence that goes beyond the already significantly enhanced protocols that are in place.
“We look forward to submitting our plan to the vice president imminently.”
She added that Clia’s first priority was to protect passengers, crew and the communities where lines sail to.
“This includes more stringent boarding procedures, adding additional on board medical resources and temperature screenings at embarkation,” Craighead said.
“We look forward to working with the vice president and the federal agencies represented on the White House Covid-19 Task Force on a robust plan.
“This is a time unlike any we’ve seen before. We will respond with teamwork like never before.”
Meanwhile, P&O Cruises is reviewing its transfer and cancellation policies with details expected to be confirmed by Wednesday.
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