Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Asia is impacting deployment and operational procedures of both local and international cruise lines.
With the greatest incidence currently in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, SARS is of particular concern to Star Cruises. Star has experienced cancellations and a drop in its share price as a result of SARS fears. According to a statement by the company, crew members have been ordered to remain vigilant and report any individual seen displaying symptoms of SARS; in addition, crew are being restricted in their shore leave. Star is also increasing its shipboard medical staff and ensuring a temporary shipboard quarantine space is available.
Other cruise lines are deciding to leave the region immediately. Residensea's The World turned around en route to Singapore and sailed back to Australia.
Radisson Seven Seas Cruises has banned all visitors from the Seven Seas Mariner during its deployment in Asia.
According to a spokesperson for Seabourn Cruise Line, "We just dodged the biggest bullet. The Seaboum Spirit called in Singapore on the 29th (of March), then we left the region. We told our staff to avoid visiting any medical facilities when ashore."
Not so lucky is Crystal Cruises, with two upcoming cruises between Beijing and Hong Kong aboard the Crystal Harmony. Crystal has decided to give people the option to cancel their cruise and sail at a later date as a result of SARS. According to a Crystal spokesperson, 10 to 15 percent of passengers booked on those cruises had cancelled at press time.
Both the World Helath Organization and the Centers for Disease Control have suggested travelers reconsider all non-essential travel to Hong Kong, China and Vietnam. Yet as the spokesperson for Crystal noted, "The insidious thing about Norwalk was that it was transmitted by touch - but SARS is not transmitted by touch."