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Coronavirus: What Cruisers Need to Know (Photo: shaneinsweden/Shutterstock)

Coronavirus: What Cruisers Need to Know

Coronavirus: What Cruisers Need to Know (Photo: shaneinsweden/Shutterstock)

March 18, 2020

Cruise Critic

In light of the worldwide pandemic of novel coronavirus, Cruise Critic answers some of the questions travelers have. Read on to learn about what the virus is, how cruise lines are handling the unfolding situation, where it's safe to visit and whether travel insurance will cover you if you cancel.

What is coronavirus?

The outbreak of the deadly virus known as the novel coronavirus (or COVID-19) has been traced to a market in Wuhan, China. There have been nearly 2 million cases of the respiratory illness identified worldwide, across six continents and more than 180 countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a pandemic and a public health emergency of international concern.

Which countries are affected?

The novel coronavirus has now been identified in more than 180 countries and the CDC has implemented a Level 3 global warning -- meaning that travelers should avoid all non-essential travel, both in and outside of the United States.

On March 17, in an unprecedented move, the European Union and its 26 member countries closed its borders for 30 days to all non-EU nationals from visiting the bloc (except long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats, cross-border and healthcare workers, and people transporting goods).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include fever, cough, respiratory infection and shortness of breath. According to the CDC, the symptoms may occur two days to more than three weeks after exposure. Not all cases of coronavirus are severe, and some people with the virus might not even know they have it.

How does it spread?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is believed the spread of the virus is mostly through close contact, specifically "respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread."

Have there been any cases on cruise ships?

Yes, passengers infected with Covid-19 have been confirmed on at least a dozen cruise ships, with some ships having large outbreaks.

What are cruise lines doing about it?

All cruise lines have temporarily suspended their cruise seasons, and are creating robust plans to protect passengers and crew once cruises start up again.

In order to start sailing in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC is requiring cruise lines to create policies that cover everything from onboard monitoring of COVID-19 or flu-like illnesses, laboratory sampling and testing, onboard mitigation and prevention strategies to daily and weekly reporting, disinfection protocols, onboard hospital-level emergency-care facilities, personal protective equipment, crew training and repatriation of foreign nationals.

Should I cancel my cruise?

All cruises have been canceled at this time, with most saying they will return to service anytime between May and August. Here is a full list of when lines are expected to resume service, subject to global factors.

Most cruise lines have introduced highly flexible cancellation and modification policies allowing you to make changes right up to the day before departure.

Here is our advice on how to cancel or reschedule your cruise, as well as a Q&A with a travel advisor answering questions about cancellations and rebooking.

For those looking to their government for advice on whether to consider a cruise, the U.S. Department of State

has issued recommendations

to United States citizens regarding cruises.

The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office

issued its own recommendations

for British citizens, and the Australian government has also issued its own

recommendations for overseas cruises


How will I be affected on my cruise?

No cruises are operating at this time, however, you can expect new requirements once cruising resumes. Additionally, when cruise lines do return to sailing past cruisers can expect to see changes onboard. Asia-based Genting Cruise Lines' released a new set of health protocols that might point to the future of global cruising.

I have an upcoming cruise, and I’m concerned about coronavirus. Should I still buy travel insurance?

Travel insurance companies are continuing to update their position statement in regards to this dynamic situation. For those with an upcoming cruise, travel insurance will only provide limited coverage for coronavirus if you purchase a basic comprehensive travel insurance after the outbreak was first declared.

Does my travel insurance cover me if I cancel my trip?

An outbreak of virus is not covered under most travel insurance plans for trip cancellation purposes. If you purchased a Cancel for Any Reason optional upgrade, however, there should be some level of trip cancellation protection available but only if you cancel your trip at least two days prior to departure.

Find out why you should always consider a "Cancel for Any Reason" insurance plan when cruising.

Does travel insurance cover if I get sick while traveling?

You might be able to claim benefits under the trip interruption coverage and the emergency medical coverage. The medical coverage should reimburse you for medical expenses incurred during the trip. It is important to keep all receipts and detailed documentation related to medical care received while on your trip.

You can read more in our cruise travel insurance primer.

Does travel insurance cover me if I'm quarantined?

Policy definitions can vary regarding what constitutes a quarantine. You'll have to check your specific plan to determine whether or not you're covered.

Does travel insurance cover me if the cruise line cancels my sailing?

Cruisers who have "cancel for any reason" coverage might be able to get back a portion of their nonrefundable trip costs if the cruise line cancels the entire cruise prior to departure. However, cruisers should first work with their cruises line to see if refunds are being offered, including for airfare and nonrefundable hotel reservations.

It’s worth noting that if airfare and hotel reservations were booked outside the cruise line (independently, or by a travel agent), the cruise line has no obligation to provide any sort of refund. Those details would have to be worked out with individual airlines and hotels in conjunction with their current policies.

Take a look at the 10 surprising things travel insurance won't cover on your cruise.

What will happen to cruise itineraries long-term if the disease continues to spread?

Cruise lines will reposition ships and modify itineraries as needed.

More Information

You can find information about coronavirus on the

U.S. Centers for Disease Control website


You might also be interested in information about travel vaccinations and how not to get sick on a cruise.

Still have travel insurance questions? Chat with experts from InsureMyTrip on our message boards.

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