Cruise line adds Victoria stops, exits Asia over coronavirus fears

Victoria’s cruise ship terminal at Ogden Point will be a little busier this spring as a result of cruise lines changing scheduled sailings to China and around Asia.

Fear of a spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has pushed many cruise lines to change their schedules.

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Celebrity Cruises will now have four extra stops in Victoria.

The Celebrity Millennium has added the calls at Victoria in April and May, said Greater Victoria Harbour Authority chief executive Ian Robertson. “They have been added as a result of ships leaving the Asia market and coming to the West Coast earlier than usual,” he said.

Industry insider website Cruisecritic.com said Celebrity has cancelled the rest of its 2020 season in Asia and instead will offer a series of three-, four- and five-night Pacific coast sailings.

The site said all passengers booked on Celebrity Millennium Asia cruises will receive a refund, plus a 25 per cent future cruise credit, and refunds of any excursions and onboard packages.

Robertson said the GVHA doesn’t expect to see any cancellations in Victoria as a result of the virus, but they are monitoring the situation closely and will be taking direction from the Cruise Lines International Association.

The CLIA’s member cruise lines have implemented precautions by cancelling sailings, rerouting others, restricting passenger and crew boarding, and boosting screening procedures for passengers boarding from Chinese ports or who have travelled in or through China, Hong Kong and Macau.

The cruise lines will be denying boarding to all persons who have travelled from, visited or transited via airports in China within 14 days before embarkation.

They will also deny boarding to those who, within 14 days before embarkation, have had close contact with, or helped care for, anyone suspected or diagnosed as having coronavirus, or who is currently subject to health monitoring for possible exposure to novel coronavirus.

Clipper Navigation has also added a minor screening tool, as a result of consultation with U.S. Customs.

According to the passenger ferry, which operates between Victoria and Seattle, customs will ask passengers if they have been to mainland China in the past 14 days.

If they answer yes and are not a U.S. citizen, they will be denied entry to the U.S.

If they answer yes and are U.S. citizens they will be permitted to enter the country, but the Center for Disease Control will be contacted. That organization may then have follow up questions or procedures.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman told the Times Colonist the additional health screening was initially put in place at five U.S. airports — John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, San Francisco International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Chicago-O’Hare International Airport and Atlanta International Airport, but that has since been expanded to eight additional locations including Seattle.

U.S. Customs officers have also been told to be alert for those who might have come from an infected region.

Canada Border Services Agency says it is working with the Public Health Agency of Canada to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 into Canada.

Geoff Dickson, chief executive of Victoria International Airport, said they are also monitoring the situation and so far there has been no direction from the Public Health Agency of Canada or Canada Border Services Agency to change any procedures.

“Our understanding is that enhanced messaging and screening measures have been implemented at the three Canadian airports with direct flights from China — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver,” he said.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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