To Cruise Or Not to Cruise – The Swine Flu Question
Hurricane season is about over and prime cruising season is about to begin. But do you really want to take a cruise this season with the prevalence of the H1N1 Swine flu spreading across the world?
The cruise industry would say that they have prepared for this pandemic and to yes, book your cruise.
Executive Vice President of the Cruise Lines International Association, CLIA, Michael Cyre, explained that the cruise industry is taking proactive steps “to keep H1N1 off of cruise ships and appropriately manage and treat influenza illnesses when and if they occur”.
One of the ways cruise companies are relying on to keep the H1N1 virus off the ship is through the use of mandatory pre-boarding health screening questionnaires. All passengers are required to complete and sign a written questionnaire prior to boarding. If a passenger answers affirmatively to having flu-like symptoms
including fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat a secondary screening will be conducted. A secondary screening will also be conducted if a passenger reports that they have had contact with with a confirmed H1N1 case. In either instance a fully paid passenger may be denied access to the ship.
Some cruise companies have started using thermal imaging cameras to screen passengers for elevated body temperatures. A higher than normal temperature may lead to a secondary screening and denial of boarding.
If you’re planning a cruise this season you should check carefully the company’s refund and insurance policy regarding this issue. You may find that the cruise portion of your fare may be fully or partially refunded if you’re denied boarding but not your pre-boarding hotel and airfare.
But being denied boarding at the outset of your cruise isn’t the only way your cruise vacation may be ruined. If a passenger exhibits flu like symptoms while under sail the ship may be denied docking at their port of call.
On June 10 and June 11, 2009, a Royal Caribbean vessel, the Adventure of the Seas, was denied entry to two Caribbean Islands. Both St. Lucia and Antigua did not let the Adventure of the Seas dock after the ship
reported that three people onboard exhibited flu symptoms. But, after tests came back, it was then discovered that those persons did not have the H1N1 virus.
Last May, the Pacific Dawn, a P&O Australia vessel was denied entry to all of its ports on a 10-day itinerary. This decision was based on the ship reporting flu symptoms experienced by three persons onboard. Tests later came back negative for the H1N1 virus.
Most cruise lines will provide some sort of compensation if an itinerary is severely affected but to what degree is anyone’s guess. Compensation may come in monetary form, credit towards another cruise or a combination of both.
Although the cruise industry is taking rigorous action to monitor swine flu both pre-boarding and while under sail, keep an eye on the news this season to see how it will affect cruise itineraries. With cruise ships reaching the size of small cities today the chances of a passenger slipping through the screening process increases greatly.
If you do choose to take a cruise this season, be sure to thoroughly review both the insurance and refund policies of your cruise line.