Cruise lines ease cancellation policies amid coronavirus fears; VP Pence expected in FL for meetings

A Carnival cruise ship is docked at PortMiami, one of five Florida seaports where cruiselines operate. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Cruise lines began softening their cancellation policies this week, reflecting consumer concerns about the global spread of coronavirus and a few, high-profile reports of disease outbreaks at sea.

Several cruise destinations, including locales in the Caribbean, are refusing to receive certain cruise ships to reduce spread of the virus, according to sources including Cruise Industry News. That trade magazine along with Seatrade Cruise News also reported that major cruise lines will meet with Vice President Mike Pence in Florida Saturday to discuss the virus’ impact on the industry, the industry’s response, and the possibility of curtailing cruises as a public-safety measure.

Lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, MSC, Celebrity, Disney, and Princess operate from five of Florida’s 15 public seaports: Jaxport (Jacksonville), Port Canaveral, Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), PortMiami, and Port Tampa Bay.

Cape Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami are among the busiest ports in the nation, according to Florida Seaports Council spokeswoman Jessie Werner.

Carnival announced Friday that passengers may postpone cruises without incurring cancellation fees. Passengers who keep their bookings for cruises departing through May 31 will receive onboard credits of up $200.

Colleen Oliverio, Carnival’s vice president for guest services, said in a published announcement that despite its best efforts at protecting passengers, the company acknowledges many will want to stay home during this global outbreak of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus that emerged from China.

“We continue to implement increased monitoring, screening, and sanitation protocols to protect the health of our guests, crew, and the residents of the destinations we serve. Our measures are designed to be flexible to adapt to changing conditions and recommended best practices,” Oliverio wrote.

Royal Caribbean announced Friday that passengers booked to sail on Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara, and Silversea may cancel up to 48 hours before departing and can reschedule through 2021 without incurring fees.

The announcements did not address how many cancellation requests the cruise operators are receiving.

The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association lists these cruise lines operating in or near Florida: AIDA Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line Ltd., Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises (USA) Inc., Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Pullmantur Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Seabourn, TUI Cruises, and Virgin Voyages.