Cruises Cancel South Korea Calls Due to MERS Outbreak
PHOTO: The newly arrived Quantum of the Seas is one of four RCCL ships changing itineraries in the wake of the MERS outbreak in South Korea. (Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International)
The MERS outbreak in South Korea now is impacting the cruise industry, with several ships canceling calls to Busan, Jeju Island and Incheon, the port for Seoul.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has canceled calls to South Korea for Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas and SkySea Golden Era, the former Celebrity Century. These port calls were replaced with an alternate port or a sea day.
“We’ve been closely monitoring all developments regarding the increase in the number of cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome, also referred to as MERS in South Korea,” RCCL said. “Health authorities from a variety of nations are investigating the situation and we remain keenly attuned to their progress.”
Carnival Corp. said it is also is updating its pre-boarding health questionnaire but that itineraries “have largely remained intact.” Its Sapphire Princess, under charter to Chinese travel giant Ctrip, replaced originally scheduled calls at Busan and Jeju with a visit to Okinawa, Japan, according to a recent story in WantChinaTimes.
Royal Caribbean also has strengthened its passenger and crew screening procedures on ships sailing in the region. The line said anyone onboard who shows symptoms can be isolated and treated with anti-viral medications that are stocked on all ships.
A viral respiratory illness, symptoms of MERS include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC on June 5 issued a low-level alert for South Korea, which means travelers there are urged to “practice usual precautions.”
Royal Caribbean passengers are receiving letters regarding MERS, including a description of symptoms, and ways to prevent the spread of the disease. Hand sanitizers are available throughout the ships, and the line asked guests to wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water often. It also recommended covering mouths and noses with tissue when coughing or sneezing and to dispose of used tissues in wastebaskets. If tissues are not available, it is recommended to cough or sneeze into upper sleeves, not one’s hands.
“Like our guests, we take all health matters seriously and we’ll continue to closely follow all developments regarding MERS,” RCCL said.
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