Coronavirus: Norwegian, Royal Caribbean cruise lines ban China, Hong Kong passport holders

Norwegian and Royal Caribbean International cruise lines announced Friday they would bar passengers holding passports from China, Hong Kong or Macau. The temporary measure is a drastic precaution in the face of the deadly coronavirus, which has spread across the globe and forced multiple cruise ships into quarantine.

Royal Caribbean listed new health screening protocols on its website Friday, noting “these steps are intentionally conservative, and we apologize that they will inconvenience some of our guests.”

This protocols included, “all holders of China, Hong Kong and Macau passports, regardless of residency.”

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Norwegian Cruise Lines updated its coronavirus procedure on its website Friday, also stating, “any guest that holds a Chinese, Hong Kong, or Macau passport, will be unable to board any of our ships, regardless of residency.” This ban extended to crew members as well.

“The safety, security and well-being of our guests and crew is our number one priority,” the website announcement states.

The entire cruise industry is stepping up measures to fight the outbreak, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said Friday. 

All members of the trade group, which make up about 90% of the ocean-going cruise ships in the world, have adopted a policy to fight coronavirus, according to a statement provided by Bari Golin-Blaugrund, senior director of strategic communications for CLIA.

CLIA is now enhancing a Jan. 31 policy to deny boarding to anyone who had traveled through mainland China two weeks prior to embarkation by restricting boarding access to anyone who may have come in contact with coronavirus.

According to the Friday release, member ships are to deny boarding to anyone who has been in close contact with or helped to care for someone suspected or diagnosed with coronavirus. Those who are being monitored for potential exposure to the virus are also to be turned away.

Ships are also to deny boarding to all who have traveled from, visited or been through airports in China within a two-week period prior to embarkation. That includes Hong Kong and Macao in addition to mainland China.

Norwegian cruise line also will not allow passengers who have been to the region, or been in contact with people from the countries, within the last 30 days.

CLIA cruise member ships are to conduct screening before boarding. Enhanced screening and medical support are to be provided by ships as needed to anyone with coronavirus-like symptoms.

Common signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. The coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan, China, has now spread across the globe with more than 31,523 confirmed cases and 638 deaths from the virus as of Friday morning. The majority of the cases are in mainland China. 

Each screening will be conducted on a case-by-case basis and some will include non-touch temperature readings when deemed appropriate. Non-touch temperature screenings are often taken with thermal scanners, non-contact infrared thermometers or tympanic thermometers for minimal contact with the patient, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Crew members and passengers alike are subject to these precautionary measures.

CLIA, which is the largest trade organization in the cruise industry, has 270 member ships, which will be expected to comply with the new policy, according to Brian Salerno, senior vice president of maritime policy at CLIA, who estimated there are more than 300 cruise ships operating around the globe.

As the situation develops, CLIA will continue to modify its policies.

Cruise ships already dealing with coronavirus

Several cruise ships have been dealing with the coronavirus outbreak firsthand. 

As of Friday, 61 people had been diagnosed with coronavirus onboard Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess off the coast of Yokohoma, Japan. Eight of those passengers are Americans. The ship is under quarantine until Feb. 19.

Dream Cruises’ World Dream is also under quarantine near Hong Kong and is still conducting tests on those currently aboard after three people from a previous cruise tested positive.

On Thursday evening, the Hong Kong government released a statement on the quarantine and testing of passengers and crew aboard World Dream, which is owned by holding company Genting Hong Kong Limited. 

One passenger aboard the ship developed a fever and was sent to the hospital for treatment and relevant testing. Eight others had mild respiratory symptoms and are being tested for the virus.

Meanwhile, Holland America’s MS Westerdam cruise ship, which made a stop in Hong Kong last week, has been denied entry to ports in Guam, the Philippines and Japan. 

According to the cruise line, there are no known cases of coronavirus onboard despite reports to the contrary, and the MS Westerdam is not in quarantine. “We have no reason to believe there are cases of coronavirus on board,” Erik Elvejord, Holland America’s public relations director, said in an email Friday morning.

And another ship, Costa Smeralda, had a coronavirus scare at the end of January that turned out to be a case of the flu.