April 15, 2003
Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines, which, like other cruise lines, currently have a policy in place that denies boarding to passengers who have traveled through Hong Kong, China, Vietnam and Singapore -- those areas hardest hit by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome -- within the past ten days, have each implemented that policy for the first time. In Princess' case, 37 passengers bound for Regal Princess' 30 day Asia-India-Mediterranean cruise, which departed from Bangkok on April 8, had arrived to board the ship but had passed through one of the four countries under advisory. These folks had traveled to Bangkok independently (Princess had been able to re-route its air-sea folks away from SARS hotspots). The cruise line required those denied-boarding passengers to stay in Bangkok for ten days so the line could be sure they weren't showing symptoms. Princess picked up hotel stays, air fare to the next port-of-call, and offered a per diem based on passengers' cruise fares and spokeswoman Julie Benson says all but a handful elected to sit out the waiting period in Bangkok. Some of these passengers ten-day stints are already over and they joined the ship in Kuala Lumpur. The second group departs Bangkok Thursday to meet Regal Princess in Cochin, India. Those who elected to return home were provided with travel and expense assistance and full refunds. Over at Norwegian Cruise Line, a family of four from Hong Kong was denied boarding on Norwegian Star in Hawaii because they admitted to having recently traveled to a country on the SARS advisory list. Because the cruise was just a seven day voyage -- and the ten day waiting period wouldn't make sense -- they were provided with travel arrangements home and reasonable expenses not to mention a full refund. In both cases -- Regal Princess and Norwegian Star -- cruise officials emphasize that passengers were not infected with the disease. The cruise lines were just following a prevention-minded policy implemented to reduce the chances of allowing a SARS infection onboard.