Cruise lines have adopted new pre-boarding policies to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus on their ships.
Many cruise lines are also allowing passengers with upcoming cruises to rebook their trips for free.
Still, plenty of people who identify as healthy, low-risk travelers have no plans to cancel their spring cruises.
Insider spoke to cruisers with upcoming trips who aren’t letting fears of the coronavirus put a halt to their vacations.
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The spread of the novel coronavirus — and fears surrounding it — has led cruise lines around the world to ramp up their pre-boarding health screenings and make it easier for travelers to rebook their trips.
But many future cruisers who feel they’re healthy and don’t identify as being at risk of catching the COVID-19 virus, which the World Health Organization declared as a pandemic on Wednesday, have no plans to cancel their oftentimes long-awaited cruise vacations.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of State recommend “travelers, particularly those with underlying health issues” to “defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.”
“Recent reports of COVID-19 on cruise ships highlight the risk of infection to cruise ship passengers and crew. Like many other viruses, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships,” the CDC states on its website.
In light of reports of the spread of the coronavirus on cruise ships, the CDC recommends passengers and crew members take extra precautions by washing their hands for at least 20 seconds and using hand sanitizer when hand-washing isn’t available.
Unrelated to COVID-19, the CDC recommends the same sanitary measures and frequent hand-washing in general on cruise ships to prevent the spread of other viruses or respiratory illness.
Major cruise lines around the world, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean (which also owns Celebrity Cruises and four other international lines), Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and others are complying with rules from the CDC and the World Health Organization that require health and temperature screenings before boarding, and denying some passengers and crew members from boarding based on their travel history.
For example, most lines are denying boarding to guests who traveled from, to, or through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, some parts of Italy, Iran, or South Korea in the past two weeks (or a varying amount of days, depending on the cruise line).
Guests who show flu-like symptoms or are not feeling well, who have been in contact with people who traveled to the above countries, or who helped care for someone diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19, may also be denied boarding, based on updated cruise line regulations.
Cruise lines seem to also be giving refunds in the form of future cruise credit to people who are denied boarding due to health reasons. Details about embarkation and health protocols can be found on the websites of respective cruise companies.
While each cruise line has varying cutoff dates for their options to rebook an upcoming trip for free, major lines have made it easier for travelers to reschedule their trips in light of fears surrounding the coronavirus.
For example, on Norwegian Cruise Line, passengers can cancel their trips up to 48 hours in advance for sailings through September 30, and they’ll be able to use those credits to book a future cruise through 2022.
The same policy applies for Royal Caribbean customers, who can cancel any trip set to sail by May 31 and get a credit to book a cruise through 2021.
Carnival Cruise Line has a similar cancel-and-rebook policy, but it’s also rewarding travelers who don’t cancel their upcoming trips by giving them free onboard credit, which is essentially ship “cash” that can be used for drinks, spa treatments, and excursions.
Passengers who aren’t canceling their Carnival cruises that set sail through May 31 get $100 per cabin for three- and four-day cruises, $150 per cabin for five-day trips, and $200 per cabin for six-day or longer itineraries, according to a letter obtained by Insider that the company sent to travelers.
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Ashley Montgomery, a 24-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, and her fiancé are set to board the Navigator of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship, in Miami, Florida, on Monday. The five-day cruise visits Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island, and Nassau, Bahamas.
Montgomery told Insider that she and her fiancé don’t want to cancel the trip because it’s a pre-wedding gift from a friend and is celebrating a special occasion, and they’re young and healthy.
“I don’t feel like I’m the target for the virus. I’m healthy and I’m not immunocompromised,” Montgomery said.
That being said, she expressed that she’s “not 100% sure” if going forward is the right decision because of the potential to be quarantined.
She said to curb her fears about what could go wrong, she’s doing what she can to prepare before leaving.
“What worries me more is the idea of being quarantined, so I’ve made some contingency plans,” Montgomery said. “If I can’t get home for 14 days, who’s going to take care of my pets? And I told people at work, ‘If I don’t reach out to you by next Monday morning, just know I might be stuck on a cruise ship.'”
Jessica Stoop, a part-time nurse from Louisiana, Missouri, said that she and her husband aren’t canceling their March 22 cruise, which is a four-day trip on the Carnival Valor. They’re also bringing their two kids.
“We’re fairly young, we’re healthy, and we don’t have any underlying conditions that we’re concerned about,” Stoop, 35, told Insider. “We’ve been planning this trip for probably about 10 months and it’s hard for us to get away, so we have everything covered and we don’t want to cancel if we don’t have to.”
Stoop added that she happens to not be scheduled to work her nursing job a few weeks after she’s set to return from the cruise, which she said alleviates some fears about the potential of being quarantined and barred from working in a medical environment.
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Lisa Godfrey from Tyler, Texas, is in a similar situation, as she has no plans to cancel her annual mother-daughter trip, a Carnival cruise that sets sail in late May and travels to Mexico from Galveston, Texas.
“We don’t want to break tradition because sometimes that’s the only time my oldest daughter, who’s a teacher, can take time away,” Godfrey told Insider. “She’s also married and has children. It’s our special time away to destress and debrief. You never know when we’ll be able to do this again.”
Godfrey also just returned from the Carnival Vista on a Caribbean cruise that docked in Galveston on Sunday.
The passengers who boarded the Carnival Vista after Godfrey disembarked were the first travelers to board the ship under Carnival’s updated COVID-19 screenings and precautions. But Godfrey said she felt that crew members during her trip were taking extra sanitary measures that gave her “peace of mind.”
“They were wiping down the casino slot machines way more often than I’ve ever seen them being cleaned, and they did have more of the hand sanitizers accessible,” Godfrey said of her March 1 to March 7 cruise onboard the Carnival Vista. “They were keeping [hand sanitizers] full, and on some other cruises I’ve been on, you use them and they’re empty, so yay for that.”
Becky Bohrer, File/AP
“We can’t let fear stop us,” said Daniel Hausman, a 28-year-old from Atlanta who’s going on a cruise in May with his wife.
They’re boarding the Emerald Princess on May 24, which leaves from Seattle and travels throughout Alaska.
“Luckily, my wife and I are not in any of the high-risk groups, so I will take my chances,” Hausman said.
“I am keeping the plans for a few reasons,” he continued. “My wife and I love Princess Cruises and have had nothing but great experiences. We also love cruising. The biggest reason, though, is that we can’t let fear stop us. We can catch the virus anywhere. We live in a big city, we travel in other methods, and we go to sporting events.”
“Life must go on, so we take the precautions and we continue to live.”
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