Cruise industry in choppy seas as coronavirus fears swell

In recent days, several of the most renowned companies have halted some of their European operations, including Princess Cruises, Virgin Voyages and Saga.

On Friday, shortly after United States President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, he tweeted: “At my request, effective midnight tonight, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and MSC have all agreed to suspend outbound cruises for thirty days. It is a great and important industry – it will be kept that way!”

The industry was thrust into the spotlight in early February, after a coronavirus outbreak on board the Diamond Princess in Yokohama, Japan. Seven hundred people on board were infected with COVID-19 spreading through the ship’s corridors during its two weeks of quarantine, leading to seven deaths.

Coronavirus fallout: Cruise industry takes a battering (02:20)
The news caused a wave of cancellations and tanked stock prices.

Shares in Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line, have plummeted 53 percent this year, with competitors Royal Caribbean and Norwegian down 61 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

“The cruise industry has been hit particularly badly by [the coronavirus outbreak] and I would only imagine that it is going to get worse. We are seeing more people cancelling, cruises looking for alternative itineraries,” Lloyd Figgins, a travel risk expert, told Al Jazeera.

“Within Europe, what’s happened is there’s been a knock-on effect from what we’ve seen in [Asia Pacific] and also the Americas,” Figgins said.

Italy’s dramatic decision to impose a nationwide lockdown earlier this week has effectively closed several of Europe’s biggest cruise ports, tearing apart itineraries that were planned months or years in advance.

Liners bound for Venice, Naples and Civitavecchia, near Rome – which together take more than five million cruise passengers per year – will have to find new ports of call.

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