Coronavirus travel: See list of cruise line restrictions and cancellation policies (UPDATED)

By Callie Patteson

Just like the cancellations of airline flights to Asian and European countries, travelers with reservations on several cruise lines may be worried by the growing spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

And it's no wonder. Vice President Mike Pence confirmed on March 6 that 21 passengers on the Grand Princess Cruise ship had tested positive for coronavirus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises "travelers, particularly those with underlying health issues, defer all cruise ship travel worldwide." On March 8, the State Department advised Americans to avoid travel by cruise ship. And on March 11, the World Health Organization officially characterized the outbreak as a pandemic.

In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" on March 8, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was direct in his recommendations. "Say no large crowds, no long trips," he advised to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. "And above all, don't get on a cruise ship."

Friday, March 13, President Donald Trump tweeted major cruise lines have agreed to postpone new trips.

"At my request, effective midnight tonight, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and MSC have all agreed to suspend outbound cruises for thirty days,' he wrote. "It is a great and important industry – it will be kept that way!"

With some travel companies offering steep discounts, the $45 billion cruise industry is taking action. Cruise Lines International Association, the world's largest cruise industry trade organization, announced Wednesday that additional screening measures will be taken in response to the spread of the disease. Cruise lines that are members of CLIA include Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. Effective immediately, these companies and all other CLIA members must follow these guidelines:

  • Deny boarding to all people who have traveled from, visited or transited via airports in South Korea, Iran, China (including Hong Kong and Macao) and any municipality in Italy subject to quarantine within 14 days prior to embarkation.
  • Conduct illness screenings for all people who have traveled from, visited or transited through airports in any destination listed on the CDC's coronavirus disease 2019 information for travel page within 14 days before embarkation.
  • Deny boarding to all persons who, within 14 days before embarkation, have had contact with or helped care for anyone suspected or diagnosed with having COVID-19.
  • Conduct preboarding screening necessary to effectuate these prevention measures.

If you are looking to cancel your trip, be sure to check your cruise line's cancellation policy (or travel insurance coverage). While it varies from company to company, most cruise lines will refund a portion of what you paid. However, the closer it gets to your departure date, the smaller that refund will be, and in some cases, that amount could be zero.

Below is a list of the latest policies by major cruise lines for boarding as well as updated cancellation policies. Find out if your trip might be impacted:

Carnival Cruise Line

As a CLIA member, Carnival is complying with all screening and operational protocols listed above but is extending the restrictions to 20 days prior to embarkation and including Japan and Singapore on its list of restricted countries. Carnival will be taking the temperatures of all guests and crew.

Guests who keep their booking for any departures between March 6 and May 31 will receive onboard credit. The amounts vary on the length of each cruise, but start at a minimum of $100 and will be automatically applied.

Carnival is also allowing guests who are on a cruise departing during March to cancel up to three days before sailing — as long as they made their booking on or before March 5. Guests who are sailing in April and made their booking on or before March 5 have until March 31 to cancel their trip. Guests with bookings for May made on or before March 5, can cancel up to 30 days before departure. If guests made a booking on or before March 10, for trips from June through September, they can cancel 30 days before sailing.

Guests will receive a future cruise credit for the amount of the nonrefundable cancellation fee that must be used within one year of their original sailing date.

All Princess Cruises between March 12 and May 10 that fall under Carnival have been suspended. Scroll to the Princess Cruises section for more details.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises is complying with all CLIA restrictions and will additionally deny boarding to any guest who transited through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Iran or South Korea 15 days before departure as well as guests who came in contact with people who reside in those areas. They updated their website to include a list of European countries as well.

These precautions will remain in place for a projected 30 days. All guests denied boarding due to the restrictions will receive full refunds.

Celebrity Cruises has also adopted a "cruise with confidence" policy. This allows guests to cancel a cruise up to 48 hours before sailing. Guests will receive full credit for the cancellation to use on any cruise in 2020 or 2021. This policy applies to all cruises departing up until July 31.

Guests scheduled to take the March 17 Constellation cruise have been notified that it has been canceled; they will receive a full refund.

Disney Cruise Line

On March 12, Disney announced that all cruises slated to depart March 14 through the end of the month are suspended. The company announcement didn't say if customers who were scheduled to board one of the now-canceled cruises will be reimbursed.

Since March 6, Disney has been offering temporary adjustments to their cancellation policy. At the time, company officials said guests booked on departures on the Disney Magic between now and May 8 can change their reservation up until the day before embarkation and receive a 100% cruise credit to use on a future cruise within 12 months of their original departure date. Guests booked on the Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Wonder between now and May 31 are under the same adjustments.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line is extending CLIA travel restrictions by denying boarding to:

  • Any passenger or crew member who has been in China, Hong Kong, Macao, South Korea, Iran or Italy within 30 days of embarkation
  • Any passenger or crew member who has come into direct contact with anyone who has traveled from, visited, or transited in an airport in the aforementioned countries.

Guests who are denied board will receive a refund of 100% future cruise credit.

For all bookings made between March 10 and Sept. 30, guests may cancel up to 48 hours before their sail date and receive a refund of 100% future cruise credit to use before Dec. 31, 2022. This is also applied to guests who are currently booked for cruises during this same time frame.

Oceania Cruises

Oceania Cruises is extending the CLIA travel restrictions by denying boarding to:

  • Any passenger or crew member who has been in China, Hong Kong, Macao, South Korea, Iran or Italy within 30 days of embarkation
  • Any passenger or crew member who has come into direct contact with anyone who has traveled from, visited, or transited in an airport in the aforementioned countries.

Any guest who is denied boarding will receive a refund in the form of 100% future cruise credit.

Oceania Cruises is offering a travelers assurance program featuring no-penalty cancellations. Guests with existing bookings departing up until Sept. 30 and guests with new bookings through April 30 for trips departing through Sept. 30 can cancel for any reason up to 48 hours before departure and will receive 100% future cruise credit to use before Dec. 31, 2022.

The cruise line has reportedly canceled all cruises in Asia through August.

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises is a CLIA member and updated its health and travel advisory this week to comply with the association's restrictions. Any crew members from China, South Korea or the lockdown areas in Italy will be delayed from joining any ship until further notice.

As of March 12, Princess Cruises is pausing all global ship operations for the next 60 days, ending May 10. Guests who are currently onboard a cruise that ends within the next five days will continue to sail through the end of the itinerary. Guests who have bookings on cruises within this window will have the chance to transfer 100% of the money paid to a future cruise. Princess Cruises is also adding an additional cruise credit benefit, which can be applied to a cruise fare or onboard expenses. If guests cannot use the future cruise credit, they can fill out a form to request a cash refund.

Based on the recent events on the Diamond Princess, Princess Cruises is advising that all guests pack 14-day supplies of extra medication, provide emergency contacts, purchase travel protection, practice healthy travel habits and enable an international travel mobile phone plan.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent is complying with the CLIA travel restrictions and will additionally deny boarding to any passenger or crew member holding a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macao passport.

For all cruises between March 10 and Sept. 30, guests who have paid in full have the option to cancel their trip up to 48 hours before departure and receive 100% of that amount in cruise credit to use on any future cruise up until Dec. 31, 2022.

There are no future itinerary changes as of March 5.

Royal Caribbean International

While a CLIA member, Royal Caribbean is going one step further in health precautions. The cruise line will deny boarding to any guest who has traveled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Iran, South Korea and Italy in the past 15 days. They have updated their site to include a list of European countries as well with the same 15 day time frame. The 15-day limit also applies to people who have come in contact with someone who traveled to the aforementioned countries or had contact with or helped care for someone suspected or diagnosed with having COVID-19.

The cruise line will also perform mandatory, specialized health screenings on the following guests:

  • Any person who reports feeling unwell or demonstrates any flu-like symptoms
  • Any guest who has traveled from, to or through Japan or Thailand in the past 15 days
  • Guests who are uncertain about contact with individuals who have traveled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Thailand or Italy in the past 15 days

Guests with a fever or low oxygen levels in the blood during the screenings will be denied boarding. Royal Caribbean will provide full credit refunds for all guests denied boarded due to these restrictions.

Along with Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean has adopted a "cruise with confidence" policy. This gives guests greater control over their vacations by allowing them to cancel a cruise up to 48 hours before sailing. Guests will receive full credit for the cancellation to use on any cruise in 2020 or 2021. This policy applies to all cruises on or before July 31.

U.S. guests on cruises in Asia with departures before March 23 will be allowed to rebook without penalty at a later date.

Viking River Cruises

As of March 11, Viking River Cruises is temporarily suspending operations of all cruises taking place between March 12 and April 30. The line plans to resume operations May 1, continuing all cruises after that date as originally planned. Guests whose cruise is suspended in this window will be offered a future cruise voucher worth 125% of the amount paid or a refund equal to the amount paid. Guests have 24 months to use the cruise voucher, but if they are unable to, Viking will send an automatic refund.

Virgin Voyages

This newly launched cruise line is currently abiding by CLIA restrictions. Virgin is expanding on the restrictions and will deny boarding to anyone who has been in the following countries within the last 21 days before departure:

  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Macao
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • South Korea

Any guest who has had close contact with people suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19 is also subject to the CLIA 14-day ban.

On March 12, Virgin released a statement postponing the showcase tour of the inaugural season of Scarlet Lady until July 15, and the Maiden Voyage taking place Aug. 7. Guests affected by the changes have the following refund options:

  • 200% in future cruise credit that can be applied to another booking
  • $500 onboard credit if guests rebook before June 30
  • 100% refund and 25% future cruise credit on the value paid to use for another booking

This article was originally published on March 5, 2020.

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