'We've been warned': Cruise ship cautions keep Manitobans from getting on-board
Cruise lines offering deals, as U.S. and Canadian public health authorities advise against cruise
Manitobans may be dreaming of warmer climes as the final days of winter drag on, but catching sun on the deck of a luxury cruise ship is looking less inviting. Canada joined the U.S. on Monday in advising people not to set sail because of the global spread of COVID-19.
"I've asked Canadians to think twice about going on cruise ships," announced Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, during a press conference Monday in Ottawa.
"The virus can spread quickly on board cruise ships due to the close contact between passengers. People with weakened immune systems are at risk of developing severe disease."
Dr. Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada continues to monitor the development of COVID-19, which she said "could change rapidly."
Some Winnipeggers don't need any further convincing. Jane Kilpatrick says a cruise ship is the last place she wants to be.
"I wouldn't go. Not now," she says. "We've been warned."
Kilpatrick has followed reports on the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess, two massive ships that recently endured long periods of quarantine in Yokohama, Japan and Oakland, Calif. after some passengers tested positive for coronavirus.
Kilpatrick says images of passengers stuck on-board were unsettling.
"That's the worst thing I can imagine. Especially if they're not on a balcony and they're trapped inside. That would be horrible."
Cindy Gaudet specializes in booking cruises at her agency, Fareconnect Travel and Cruise Centre.
She says cruise lines are offering unprecedented deals, as a growing number of sailings are being called off over the virus
"I've had a Silversea client get cancelled in the next couple weeks with full compensation," she says. "Also some good benefits for when they come back, when they're comfortable."
Her client's cruise was one of dozens now cancelled. Major lines such as Princess and Norwegian have also adjusted their cancellation policies, as they deal with COVID-19.
At Norwegian, customers cancelling more than 48 hours before departure can rebook for a future cruise, with full credit. Princess is offering similar options, as well as perks for those who don't cancel, such as onboard spending money.
Meanwhile, Gaudet says prices on new cruise packages have been dropping by thousands, with some cruise lines also throwing in free airfare. The deals might make it sound like companies are desperate to stay afloat, but Gaudet doesn't expect coronavirus to sink the industry.
"There's one thing about cruisers, they're very loyal to cruising," she says. "Cruise companies are [also] being very loyal to their clients, with their new cancellation policies."
She says while flying is a safer way to travel at the moment, it's could be a good time to make plans for a future cruise.
"Book it!" Gaudet exclaims, with a chuckle. "There's a lot of good deals on cruising right now."
She recommends people buy travel insurance, and make their travel plans with the help of an agent.