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Cruise lines prohibit Chinese passport holders because of coronavirus fears

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines prohibit passengers from their cruise ships with passports from China, Hong Kong or Macao “until further notice” due to the corona virus outbreak, the businesses announced Friday. Norwegian tells The edge it also prohibits crew members who hold one of those passports.

In addition, Royal Caribbean says it will not allow a guest or crew member on board one of his ships if they have traveled “from, to or through” China, Hong Kong or Macao in the last 15 days regardless of nationality – or someone in contact come with someone who has been to those places in the same period. Allegedly Carnival follows a similar guideline from the trading group of the cruise industry, but said after this article was published that it does not prohibit passport holders.

Norwegian Cruise Lines goes even further and says that it does not allow guests or crew members to board if they have traveled to those places in the last 30 days. Only Carnival said it offers a full refund to affected passengers who have already booked a trip; Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have not responded to questions as to whether they offer customers any form of refund.

The news comes after at least three cruise ships have encountered coronavirus outbreaks or fears in recent days, two of which were quarantined.

Early Friday 27 Chinese nationals were screened for the virus on one of the Royal Caribbean ships, the Anthem of the Seas, after docking in New Jersey. Four of those passengers were sent to a local hospital for further observation, although no coronavirus cases were confirmed.

The anthem of the seas would leave on a new journey on Saturday, but that is now delayed; Royal Caribbean offers passengers on that journey “a 1-day refund in the form of a credit on board” plus “a pro-rating credit” if passengers have “purchased packages such as drinks, internet or dining in advance.” Both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line did not immediately respond to questions about what they are doing for customers who have been banned but who have previously planned trips.

Anthem of the Seas passengers have so far outperformed those on Carnival’s Diamond Princess ship, which is currently being quarantined until February 19 off the coast of Yokohama, Japan after 61 cases of the new corona virus were confirmed. A third ship, owned by the tourist branch of the Malaysian conglomerate Genting, is currently quarantined outside Hong Kong after at least eight coronavirus cases have been confirmed.

There have been more than 30,000 confirmed cases of the new corona virus since the outbreak began in late January, with the majority in China. At least 638 of those people died, while more than 1,700 people recovered.

In the weeks since the outbreak broke out, the US government tried to limit travel to China and set up screenings and quarantines to reduce the risk of the country becoming infected. The US Department of Foreign Affairs initially warned Americans not to travel to China and told citizens who were already there “to consider leaving with commercial means”.

The US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar has since declared a public health emergency and the government has begun to route flights from China to the US to seven airports for advanced screening. President Trump followed that movement with a proclamation that any alien who tries to enter the US within 14 days of his trip to China will be rejected.

In turn, all major US airlines operating routes to and from China have suspended these flights, as well as a number of international airlines such as Lufthansa and Air Canada.

None of these airlines went so far as to refuse travel to China, Hong Kong or Macao passport holders before suspending their flights. But airlines also operate in a much more diverse and competitive global market. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines meanwhile make more than good together 30 percent of the total global cruise ship market, behind the carnival alone, and are therefore in a much more powerful position to take such drastic steps.

Update February 8, 11:53 AM ET: Added information from Carnival Corporation about its limitations and refunds.