Princess Cruises cancels all sailings for 60 days due to virus

Princess Cruises is halting service on all 18 of its cruise ships for 60 days in response to the spreading coronavirus. Departures scheduled between March 12 and May 10 have been canceled, the company said in a statement Thursday. 

“By taking this bold action of voluntarily pausing the operations of our ships, it is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us, as well as those who do business with us, and the countries and communities we visit around the world,” Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said

Swartz also addressed customers in a video posted on YouTube in which she apologized to any travelers unhappy by the action to suspend cruises. “This is perhaps the most difficult decision in our history, because we understand the incredible impact it has on countless people,” she said. 

Shares of Carnival Cruise Line, which owns Princess Cruises, dropped 17% after Princess announced the suspension. Also on Thursday, Viking cruise lines announced it is suspending all river and ocean cruises between March 12 and April 30. 

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The coronavirus outbreak has infected more than 100,000 people worldwide, while more than 4,600 people have died. 

Cruise lines have been hit particularly hard by the virus, with Princess Cruises struggling to contain outbreaks on its Diamond Princess and Grand Princess ships. Nearly 700 people contracted the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess, where they were quarantined in a Japanese port. At least 21 passengers on the Grand Princess tested positive for the virus while the ship was moored off the coast of California.

Princess Cruises customers whose trips are canceled will be issued credit that can be used on a future cruise though May 1, 2022, the company said. They also may request a cash refund. Viking customers will also receive either a credit for future use or a full refund. 

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The State Department this week advised Americans to avoid cruises in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also urged people to “defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.”

Hawaii congresswoman and Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard on Thursday called on President Trump to suspend all cruise line operations in the U.S. until more coronavirus test kits become available.

“It is imperative that the cruise ship industry in the United States halt all service to prevent community spread for the foreseeable future. An outbreak of COVID-19 aboard a crowded ship unquestionably presents high-stakes difficulties,” she wrote in a letter to the President, referencing the disease caused by the pathogen. 

In a sign of the financial battering the cruise industry is taking, Royal Caribbean told CBS MoneyWatch it is laying off contract workers for “special projects” in order to “reduce operating expenses.”

Categories: National, US & World News

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