April 22, 2003
In a move that's raising the eyebrows of travelers and cruise industry professionals alike, Crystal Cruises has announced that, as a preventative action, it has expanded its denied-passenger-boarding-policy to include travelers (and crew) from Toronto, Canada. Toronto is the one of the top cruise travel markets in North America. In a statement posted on its website, Crystal outlines the new policy: "For cruises departing in May, we will deny boarding to guests and crew from the designated affected areas. According to WHO, an "affected area" is an area in which local chain(s) of transmission of SARS is/are occurring as reported by the national public health authorities. At this writing, these areas are Hong Kong and mainland China; Hanoi, Vietnam; Singapore; and Toronto, Canada." Spokeswoman Mimi Weisband says the rationale about adding Toronto to the banned-from-boarding policy was a matter of fairness. "When Toronto was added [to the WHO's affected area list] we couldn't in all good conscience deny boarding to guests from the Asian areas affected without addressing Toronto." The new policy, she says, which is effective immediately and runs through the end of May, impacts under 20 Toronto-based folks. Those passengers were offered the option of a refund or a rollover to another cruise though there was no additional compensation. Ultimately, she says, "We're not looking to eliminate any potential travel market. But we had to look at the risk versus the benefit and while we hate to give refunds we felt it was in the best interest of everyone." The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today did issue a travel alert on Toronto; it recommends only that U.S. citizens traveling there take certain precautions --- avoiding health care facilities where SARS patients are being treated, frequent hand washing, and avoidance of large groups, among others. At this point, other cruise lines we contacted -- including Princess, which had put a very aggressive policy into place for its Regal Princess Asia cruises -- all say they have no plans to bar passengers from Toronto.