Costa Cruises and other lines start offering coronavirus refunds on Asian itineraries

Italian cruise giant Costa Cruises and China-based Astro Ocean have both announced new measures to prevent passengers bringing coronavirus aboard their ships sailing Asian itineraries, while also rolling out refund options.

Astro Ocean says it is offering full refunds to any passengers that have a fever or have been diagnosed with the virus.

Costa Venezia at the cruise terminal in Hong Kong

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In addition, in a statement to Cruise Industry News, the line said for groups departing from Wuhan, where most cases have been concentrated, refunds are available if guests cannot join the trip due to “pneumonia-related management measures.”

Costa Cruises, meanwhile, said it was working with port authorities to strengthen passenger screening procedures for guests that may have a fever. At various airports around the world, additional screening measures such as body temperature checks, have been put in place.

Costa Cruises is likely to do the same, although it didn’t provide details.

The Italian cruise line added that it is also modifying cruise policies to allow for full refunds for guests that have the virus or have a fever; as well as any guest from the Wuhan area.

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Like Astro Cruises, it is also extending refunds to medical staff who cannot travel because of work commitments related to the virus.

For now, it appears cruise lines are holding steady and not removing tonnage from the region as was seen in 2003, when more than 8,000 cases of SARS was reported in 37 countries in the region, with more than 700 deaths.

That epidemic sent Asia-Pacific operators scrambling to move ships, but China has since grown into a major cruise market, according to China Daily, since 2006 the cruise market has grown 40% annually. In ten years it is expected to be even larger than the North American market.

Cruise lines are also likely wary of pulling ships out of the region prematurely. In 2003 it caused major disruption to the travel and tourism sectors, but no SARS cases were reported aboard any ships in the region thanks to stringent screening processes put in place.

Today, the technology deployed to screen passengers is even more advanced, while cruise ships have perfected the procedures for containing viral illnesses onboard, such as norovirus.

The situation is changing daily though. On Wednesday, Chinese authorities asked residents of Wuhan, where the virus started, not to leave the city, and has warned against anyone coming in.

More than 500 cases have been reported, while 17 people had died at the time of writing, according to Sky News.

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