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Cruise Lines Cancel Sailings in China Due to Coronavirus Outbreak



Travelers scheduled to set sail in China over the coming weeks should be aware that at least five cruise lines have canceled departures amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

According to The Mirror, Astro Ocean Cruises, Costa Cruises, Genting Cruise Lines, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean have all canceled itineraries that included China as health officials try to contain the coronavirus in the Wuhan area.

Royal Caribbean spokesperson Jonathon Fishman said the Spectrum of the Seas ship—the cruise line’s only China-positioned vessel—has canceled voyages from Shanghai on January 27 and 31.

“We are working with our guests to provide full refunds for the cancellation,” Fishman said in a statement. “The health and safety of our guests and crew is our primary concern, and we continue to work with the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and government health authorities to monitor the situation.”

Officials from MSC Cruises also announced a January 28 departure of the MSC Splendida from Shanghai was canceled as a result of the viral outbreak, with customers able to receive a full refund or rebook another cruise later this year and receive additional onboard credit.

As for Costa Cruises, the company has canceled upcoming sailings for four of its ships, including the Serena (January 31), the Atlantica (January 27 and 31), the Venezia (February 2) and neoRomantica (January 30 and February 2).

Costa’s Venezia ship returned to port in Shenzhen Monday, with medical teams boarding the vessel and evaluating all 4,973 passengers and 1,249 crew members. Four passengers were sick and required further coronavirus evaluation, while the 148 passengers from Wuhan were isolated for a “stricter screening.”

Last week, several of the top carriers in the U.S. announced they would waive change fees for travelers flying to airports in Wuhan, Beijing and Shanghai, including American, Delta and United. Change fees will be waived through March.

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U.S. State Department Stops Issuing Passports Amid COVID-19



The U.S. Department of State has scaled back its Passport Agency operations and will no longer be issuing new passports in view of the situation surrounding the still-escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel + Leisure pointed out that the release of this directive in late March coincided with the State Department’s issuance of a Level 4 travel advisory, which warns Americans to avoid all international travel and instructing those outside U.S. borders to return home immediately or risk being stranded abroad for an indefinite period of time.

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The Passport Divisions’ recent policy change mentioned that those who had already applied to obtain a new passport or renew an existing one prior to March 20, 2020, will not have their orders affected. The agency said that it would honor its commitment to fulfilling those expedited-service orders placed on or before March 19 within two to three weeks, door-to-door.

Moving forward, passports will be available only to persons facing qualifying life-or-death emergencies, such as serious illnesses, injuries or deaths in their immediate family, which require them to travel outside the United States within 72 hours’ time.

Such persons will need to not only provide their passport application and supporting documents, and proof of planned international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket or itinerary), but also proof of the life-or-death circumstance. This might include documents like a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional, and must be translated into English.

To make an appointment at a passport center in the event of a life-or-death emergency, one must call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a. m. and 5:00 p.m., or Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST); or call (202) 647-4000 outside of regular business hours.

No indication was given as to when the State Department would again begin accepting passport applications. As is now the case among most organizations that are attempting to respond to the continually evolving pandemic, its future plans remain up in the air. The announcement only stated, “The status of our operations may change quickly. We will update this notice as the status changes.”

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