News Coronavirus ‘Difficult business decision’: Cruise lines halt ships as virus spreads

‘Difficult business decision’: Cruise lines halt ships as virus spreads

cruise lines cancel
Carnival Cruise Lines, operator of the stricken Diamond Princess, has suspended all cruises until mid May. Photo: Getty
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Two of the world’s biggest cruise companies are cancelling operations until May because of the global spread of coronavirus.

Carnival’s Princess Cruise lines said it would halt its 18 ships until May 10, while Viking is to suspend river and ocean cruises until May 1.

Carnival said the cancellation was “a difficult business decision”.

It operates the Diamond Princess, which was stranded in Yokohama in February while COVID-19 spread through passengers and crew in one of the worst early outbreaks of the virus.

Eventually, many nations – including Australia – evacuated their citizens from the ship. Those who had already tested positive for the lethal virus remained in isolation and quarantine in Japan.

Carnival also operates the Grand Princess, which was finally allowed to moor in California earlier this week with 21 confirmed cases of coronavirus on board.

Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said the cancellation was intended to reassure passengers, staff and those who did business with the cruise line.

“It is widely known that we have been managing the implications of COVID-19 on two continents,” she said.

The company said on Friday that Princess cruises ending in the next five days will continue as normal. Those beyond March 17 will be concluded at specified locations.

People on board ships that will end cruises in the next five days will not experience disruptions.

Viking chairman Torstein Hagen also described the move as a difficult decision. But he said the global coronavirus pandemic had made travel “exceedingly complicated”.

“An increasing number of ports, including Venice, Monte Carlo and Bergen, have temporarily closed to cruise ships; major attractions such as the Vatican and other museums have been closed; and some countries are imposing restrictions on public gatherings and visitors,” he said.

Viking had also had a passenger in South-East Asia exposed to the virus while in transit. She – and the cruise’s 28 other guests – is in quarantine.

“The situation has now become such that operating as a travel company involves significant risks of quarantines or medical detentions,” Mr Hagen said.

Viking’s cancellations apply to cruises that were to depart between March 12-April 30.

The cruise industry is among those hard hit economically, and US President Donald Trump has pledged to help airlines, cruise ships and other travel companies.

Travel companies and airlines have also been hit hard in Australia. On Friday, Flight Centre said it would close 100 branches within months, while Virgin Australia announced more cuts to its flights and passenger capacity.

-with AAP