Princess Cruises is suspending its cruise operations for 60 days amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
The cruise line, which has seen several of its 18 cruise ships impacted by the outbreak, announced the decision to halt its fleet Thursday morning. The announcement follows a similar move by Viking River Cruises.
Voyages scheduled to depart between March 12 and May 10 will be affected by the stoppage, but the company anticipates normal operations will resume on May 11.
In a statement, Princess Cruises President Jan Swartz acknowledged the cruise line has been grappling with the “implications of COVID-19 on two continents,” saying that service is being suspended as part of the company’s commitment to the “health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us.”
“While this is a difficult business decision, we firmly believe it is the right one and is in alignment with our company’s core values,” Swartz said in a YouTube video. “Rest assured the long-serving and dedicated professionals at our company will make best use of this time to prepare Princess Cruises’ fleet of cruise ships for a successful return to operation to serve our guests by delivering an exceptional vacation experience.”
The move by Princess Cruises comes four days after the U.S. State Department issued on advisory urging Americans, especially those with existing health issues, to avoid cruise travel until further notice.
One of cruise line’s ships, the Diamond Princess, was quarantined off the coast of Japan in February after 10 passengers were diagnosed with the virus, and nearly 700 of the ship’s 3,700 passengers ultimately tested positive. Other ships including the Caribbean Princess and Grand Princess came under scrutiny as health agencies sought to screen passengers before letting them disembark.
According to Princess, current voyages that are set to end over the next five days will carry on like normal, while voyages that were scheduled to continue beyond March 17 will end “at the most convenient location for guests, factoring in operational requirements.” The cruise line said medical staff will provide monitoring and treatment for guests and crew members.
For those whose trips are impacted by the shutdown, the cruise line is offering to transfer their reservations to future cruises of their choice along with an “additional generous future cruise credit benefit” that can be applied to cruise fares or expenses while on board. Those who do not want credit toward a future cruise can fill out an electronic form to obtain a cash refund instead.