Coronavirus: What Cruisers Need to Know


Originally posted February 6th 2020 | Updated March 11th 2020 18:00

As the coronavirus continues to spread, cruise lines are taking extra precautions to contain and protect passengers and staff onboard their ships. 

Latest Updates

  • COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by the WHO
  • Current reported COVID-19 Cases: 124,910
  • Current death toll: 4,585
  • Current recovery rate: 67,050
  • Travel restrictions for people who have recently visited or transmitted through China and Italy within the last 14-28 days
  • The whole of Italy is in lockdown as on 9 March
  • Sweden reports its first death
  • Ukraine closes schools and bans large gatherings
  • Hungary declares state of emergency
  • Restrictions on UK citizens entering Vietnam

At Cruise1st, we are dedicated to ensuring that our customers health and safety remain the number one priority. Due to the high-profile reporting of COVID-19 that has dominated the media over the past two months, it has put the travel industry in particular in huge contention.

To help our customers learn more about the virus, and what to expect, read on.

What you need to know about the virus

As this is a new outbreak, there are ongoing investigations to determine more information. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a respiratory virus first detected in Wuhan, China. In the early stages, many patients in Wuhan reported to having a link to a large seafood and animal market, which suggested that the virus was first introduced through animal-to-person contamination. As the virus is now spreading quickly to people who have not had exposure to the animal markets, it’s been discovered that it is now spreading person-to-person. 

While some western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease. WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for COVID-19.

How it spreads

The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.

Typically, most respiratory viruses are thought to be contagious when they are most symptomatic, however, there have been reports that the virus has spread from an infected person who has yet to develop symptoms. 

The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease. It is therefore possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.  


The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.

Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

If you are somebody with a pre-existing medical condition (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) it is more likely that you will develop serious illness more often than others. 


Currently, there is no vaccination preventing the infection. It has been advised to avoid exposure and keep up everyday preventative actions such as: 

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; before eating, after visiting the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing and/or sneezing. 
  • In the event of no soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay at home if you become sick, or have visited Italy or China in the last 30 days
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue as quickly as possible.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using regular household cleaning spray or wipes. 

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed a new laboratory test kit for use in testing patient specimens for the Coronavirus, called: “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panel.”

It has also been reported that the “CDC’s test kit is intended for use by laboratories designated by CDC as qualified, and in the United States, certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) to perform high complexity tests. The test kits also will be shipped to qualified international laboratories, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Influenza Surveillance Response System (GISRS) laboratories.”

There is currently no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms. People with serious illness should be hospitalized. Most patients recover thanks to supportive care. 

Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.

Current Information for Cruise Passengers

ABTA Destinations team continue to monitor the situation. More info can be found in the ABTA website

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.

Cruise Line Statements 

Celebrity Cruises are complying with all CLIA restrictions and have said introduced a ‘Cruise with Confidence’ policy. This allows guests greater control and allowing cancellations up to 48 hours before sailing and will receive full credit to be used on any cruise in 2020 or 2021. This applies to all cruises on or before July 31.

Costa Cruises have said: “no guests, visitors or crew members of any nationality who have travelled from, to or through mainland China in the last 14 days will be allowed to board Costa ships. 

Measures that the company has already been adopting for the past few weeks include the introduction of a medical form for embarking passengers and pre-boarding health screening, with temperature checks for persons whom, for any reason, appear or identify as symptomatic (respiratory or fever symptoms).

Any reports or detection of symptoms of illness during pre-boarding screening can be managed by medical professionals to allow for informed decisions on a case-by-case basis whether a guest or crew  member will be unable to board. 

All ships in the fleet are equipped with medical facilities with dedicated staff, available 24 hours a day, and can count on advice and support from professionals and external medical facilities. The cruise industry is one of the best equipped and experienced in the field of health protection.”

For more information, please read here.

Royal Caribbean has warned that any guest or crew member, regardless of nationality travelling from, to, or through mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau less than 15 days prior to their sailing will be unable to board any Royal Caribbean ships.

In addition to this, they’ve tightened their health screening requirements and the following guests will need to undergo extra screening to ensure safety at the cruise terminal: 

  • Anyone that has been in contact with individuals that have travelled from, to, or through mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau in the last 15 days.
  • Anyone that holds a Chinese, Hong Kong, or Macau passport – regardless of when they were there last.
  • Anyone that feels unwell or demonstrates flu-like symptoms.

To find out more from Royal Caribbean, please click here

Norweigan Cruise Line will deny boarding to anyone who has visited mainland China in the last 30 days. These guests will receive a refund for their cruise, provided they provide proof of travel in the form of airline tickets or similar. Please note that mainland China does not include Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan.

There has also been an implementation of non-touch temperature screenings for all passengers embarking in Hong Kong. Any guest who registers a body temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius or higher, will not be allowed to board. These guests will be advised to open a travel insurance claim with their insurance provider.

What to do next

If you have concerns about your upcoming trip, please refer to our help page here or contact us the cruise line you are due to travel with directly. 


About Author

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Darcy is a writer and blogger, with a passion for travel. When she's not exploring somewhere new, or writing about her experiences, you'll most likely find her on the field-hockey pitch, or indulging in a good book!

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