You invested a major chunk of money to take a cruise, paying far in advance. How were you supposed to know the coronavirus would become a major health concern?
The two-week quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where approximately 700 cases of the coronavirus were diagnosed as the boat was moored off the coast of Japan, is a sobering thought for travelers.
"I started to realize that going on a cruise during a growing epidemic, even though the probability of having a person with an infection is relatively low, it's actually not a smart move," Kasia Hein-Peters, a Denver-based doctor, told KDVR.
Should you cancel your cruise? And if so, will you get a refund?
If you were headed to Asia, the cruise lines have already responded. In February, the companies canceled those trips and refunded passengers their money, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
As for other destinations, it could get expensive. So far, cruise lines have not canceled voyages to Europe, the Caribbean and Alaska. So, without buying “cancel for any reason” travel insurance, passengers will forfeit the money if they decide to skip the cruise if the company does not cancel, the newspaper reported.
Chris Gray Faust, the managing editor of cruisecritic.com, said the decision to cancel a cruise is a personal one.
"I'm boarding a cruise in the Caribbean in less than two weeks and am not concerned," she told the Sun-Sentinel. "But there are certainly travelers out there who are reconsidering travel plans."
The Cruise Lines International Association, the Washington, D.C.-based trade association, has been working with cruise lines on matters concerning canceling voyages, rerouting others and restricting passenger and crew boarding, according to cruisecritic.com.
A spokesman for Cruise Lines International Association responding to the Sun-Sentinel, said, "Our priority at all times, and especially now, is the health and safety of our passengers and crew."
According to a statement released by the CLIA in early February, member companies are required to have “robust” outbreak and response plans, including procedures to isolate and care for passengers and crew members. Screening measures are in place to deny boarding to passengers who have traveled from, visited or passed through airports in China, Hong Kong and Macau within 14 days of embarkation.
In addition, the statement said persons will be forbidden from boarding a cruise liner if they had close contact with -- or helped care for -- anyone suspected or diagnosed with the coronavirus. Members of the CLIA also will provide enhanced screening and initial medical support to anyone exhibiting symptoms of “suspected” coronavirus.
Erika Richter, communications director for the American Society of Travel Advisors, said concerns over cruise passengers being more vulnerable to infection are overblown, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
“Our message has been to keep calm and keep cruising,” Richter told the newspaper Thursday. “There’s still time to take advantage of (seasonal) deals and prices. It’s important to know that fear is contagious.”
Some passengers, like Hein-Peters, did not have travel insurance but decided against taking a cruise. That meant she and her husband received a 25% refund, but Hein-Peters said the safety concerns outweighed the financial loss.
"Probability may be low. But because consequences for us may be high, we decided to cut our losses—because we cannot sit on a ship or CDC-facility for weeks, after one week," Hein-Peters told KDVR. "Our jobs don't allow it."
Passengers still concerned about cruise safety can find information about the coronavirus on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Passengers also can research information about obtaining vaccinations before cruising, and how not to get sick during a cruise.
Planning a trip in the future? Prospective passengers can research insurance quotes at InsureMyTrip.com.
For a comprehensive listing of cruise line cancellation and refund policies, travelers can go to allthingscruise.com.