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Windstar Cruises Eases Cancellation Policies Amid Coronavirus Fears

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To ease worries about cruising amid a coronavirus outbreak, Windstar Cruises is changing its policy so travelers can cancel up to 15 days before departure and not lose their money.

They will receive a future cruise credit for 100 percent of the cruise fare paid. The credit is good for the cruise fare only on another Windstar departure within one year.

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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

“We recognize some people are hesitant to plan ahead for vacations due to concerns about coronavirus,” said Windstar Cruises President John Delaney. “We want to help people feel comfortable. Our new Travel Assurance plan lets you book now knowing you can change plans up to 15 days before your cruise departs.”

The new policy automatically applies to new and existing cruises departing on or after June 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2021.

Under the current policy, passengers would lose 100 percent of their money if they cancel up to 29 days before departure.

“The new Travel Assurance Booking Policy acknowledges the challenge of booking vacations in advance and aims to allay travelers’ concerns about losing money due to unexpected illness or other world events,” a Windstar statement said. “Windstar believes vacations enrich people’s lives. The new Travel Assurance Booking Policy is an extra effort to ensure travelers feel comfortable booking a well-deserved cruise vacation now without fearing loss should they need to cancel.”

Windstar canceled all Asia sailings in 2020, “out of an abundance of caution,” and updated its screening policy due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Crew travel through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and South Korea has been suspended. No one will be allowed to board a Windstar ship who has traveled from or through China, Hong Kong, Macau or South Korea, or has had close contact with anyone suspected or diagnosed as having coronavirus COVID-19, within 30 days before embarkation. Also, all passengers and crew will be administered a no-touch thermal scan to screen for fever, and anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will not be allowed to board the ship.

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Cruises

Holland America Ship Given OK to Cross Panama Canal

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A Holland America Line cruise ship carrying four dead passengers and dozens of others who are sick – including two who tested positive for the coronavirus – has been given permission to pass through the Panama Canal and return to Fort Lauderdale.

The Zaandam had initially been denied entry into Chile on its South American itinerary and then denied the chance to pass through the Canal to get back to its home port in Florida, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

The media outlet said the boat is currently anchored outside Panama Canal waters, where healthy passengers are being transferred to Holland America’s Rotterdam.

The Panama Canal Authority said in a statement it “supports all efforts being made to ensure an expedited return home for cruise passengers and crew on Holland America’s Zaandam.”

Holland America Line released a statement saying “We are aware of reported permission for both Zaandam and Rotterdam to transit the Panama Canal in the near future. We greatly appreciate this consideration in the humanitarian interest of our guests and crew. This remains a dynamic situation, and we continue to work with the Panamanian authorities to finalize details.”

No timetable was given for when the ships would return to Fort Lauderdale, nor did Holland America offer any information regarding whether the number of sick passengers had grown past the previous update of 138. It normally takes 72 hours to travel from the west side of the canal to the east and then back to Fort Lauderdale.

One American citizen is believed to be among the four deceased passengers. The passengers were ordered to self-isolate in their staterooms since March 22.

Whether the Zaandam will be allowed to dock in Fort Lauderdale for the same humanitarian reasons that officials allowed the ship to pass through the Panama Canal remains to be seen. The Sun-Sentinel noted that several Broward County commissioners were alarmed at the idea of the Zaandam docking at Port Everglades.

Commissioner Michael Udine told the paper Sunday morning that Port Everglades notified county commissioners late Saturday with its mandates for the passengers, including the following:

All illnesses and conditions must be accurately disclosed and documented; the cruise line, at its expense, will provide all protective equipment to all responders; temperature readings are required for all disembarking crew and passengers; and the cruise line, at its expense, will arrange for private ambulance transportation, among other issues.

And, “no less than 24 hours in advance of the start of debarkation, the cruise line will present a security plan for review and approval… how passengers will debark orderly, safely and in compliance with current health advisories (i.e. social distancing). Failure to maintain good order may result in an immediate suspension of the debarkation until the situation is under control,” according to the guidelines.

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