Cruise Lines Respond to Swine Flu Outbreak

Industry works closely with officials to monitor situation, adjust or cancel itineraries to Mexico

By: By Marilyn Green

Cruise lines have adjusted their itineraries in the wake of the April 27 U.S. State Department advisory recommending that American citizens avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico at this time. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has also added that, while no cases of swine flu aboard cruise ships or in cruise ports have been reported, the cruise industry is consulting closely with public health officials and government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization and the Department of Homeland Security to monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, many cruise lines have posted announcements on their Web sites announcing precautionary measures that range from screening crews and guests to stocking antiviral medication in onboard medical centers in case illness does appear. As cruising remains at the forefront in onboard sanitation, many lines are also stressing guest education.

The following lines have announced itinerary changes:

Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Cruise Lines modified itineraries for 15 of its ships departing between Thursday, April 30 and Monday, May 4, with itineraries including calls in Mexican ports; many of those schedules have been modified, substituting ports in Mexico with ports in Nassau in the Bahamas and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Guests who do not wish to sail on a modified itinerary may opt to receive a refund in the form of a future cruise credit equal to the full amount paid for the voyage. The credit can be applied to an alternate sailing departing through the end of 2010. Compensation for missed ports/altered itineraries (where applicable) for guests who sail varies by itinerary.

The most drastic change to Carnival’s sailings is with its four- and five-day cruises from Galveston, Texas, and New Orleans, both of which are now being converted into seven-day cruises that call in Key West, Fla.; Freeport, Texas; and Nassau in the Bahamas (May 2 and 11 on Carnival Fantasy) or Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands (May 2 and 11 on Carnival Ecstasy). Those guests may opt to receive their refund in the form of a future cruise credit or as money back.

Carnival Splendor’s May 3 seven-day cruise out of Long Beach will now sail up the coast, Carnival’s Web site will continue to post additional itinerary updates as well.

Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Infinity is replacing its port calls in Huatulco, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with alternative port calls that are currently being finalized.

Costa Cruises
To help ease passengers’ minds, Costa Cruises is giving all guests from Mexico, and guest who have recently visited Mexico, a complimentary medical review before embarkation. Bodily temperature and respiratory pathology will be checked in order to verify that influenza or respiratory-connected illnesses are not in progress.

Holland America Line
Holland America Line (HAL) cancelled its calls to Mexican ports in April and early May, the end of the line’s cruising season in Mexico. Of the line’s 14 ships, a total of five — Ryndam, Statendam, Westerdam, Zuiderdam and Veendam — have been affected. HAL has also substituted scenic cruising of Golfo Dulce; Corinto, Nicaragua; and Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, with shore excursions offered in each new port. The line also said that if the CDC travel advisory changes, the cruise line may consider reinstating the original itineraries, if possible.

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) canceled Norwegian Pearl’s final two calls in Mexico on its repositioning cruise on April 29 and May 1, substituting a visit to San Diego on May 2. Apart from this sailing, NCL’s scheduled deployment does not include any other ports of call in Mexico until the end of September.

Princess Cruises
Princess has modified its itineraries to suspend calls to Mexican ports through the remaining cruises of the spring season, which conclude at the end of May.
In total, eight itineraries and 22 calls in Mexico are being affected, with port substitutions including Los Angeles; San Diego; Santa Barbara and Catalina, Calif.; and Ensenada, Baja Calif. Three of the affected cruises were sold as voyages exclusively to Mexico and, as a goodwill gesture, Princess is offering passengers on these sailings a 50 percent future credit on their cruise fare paid for any sailing through April 2011.

Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) suspension of calls in Mexico created the following changes:

•Enchantment of the Seas’ Monday five-night sailings out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will substitute Cozumel port calls with additional time in Key West and an additional day at sea; four-night sailings will substitute extra time in Key West and a call in Nassau. Saturday five-night sailings will replace Cozumel with Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

•Freedom of the Seas’ seven-night sailings from Port Canaveral, Fla. replace Cozumel port calls with additional time in George Town in the Cayman Islands and an additional day at sea.

•Liberty of the Seas’ seven-night sailings from Miami will replace their Cozumel port calls with port calls in Coco Cay in the Bahamas.

•Mariner of the Seas’ seven-night cruises from Los Angeles, taking place through June 14, will sail a fully revised itinerary, visiting Canada and the U.S. West Coast, calling in San Francisco; Victoria, British Columbia; and Seattle. The May 10 sailing will feature a port call in Astoria, Ore., instead of San Francisco.

The line’s special help desk is 800-327-6700.