In a written advisory issued yesterday, the State Department officially (and finally) warned U.S. citizens to avoid cruise ships as the number of cases of COVID-19 worldwide climbs past 100,000.
“U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” it reads before citing CDC research that shows an increased risk of coronavirus infection in a cruise ship environment.
But beyond wanting to warn people about the potentially fatal health consequences of cruising in the age of coronavirus, the State Department statement also evinced a concern that American citizens who choose to embark on cruises could end up stranded abroad.
“In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking. In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures.”
The warning comes after hundreds of passengers on ships around the world have contracted COVID-19.
The Italian Coast Guard blocked a Carnival Cruise from leaving Civitavecchia after a passenger exhibited symptoms of the virus. A Princess Cruises ship en route to Yokohama, Japan, became host to the largest concentration of coronavirus cases outside of China. Another Princess Cruises ship is currently being held off the coast of California, its passengers soon to be transferred to a two-week quarantine on a military base.
The State Department also advised travelers that, while the federal government has arranged for repatriation flights for some of these cruise ship passengers in the past few weeks, “repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.”
In other words, if you choose to ignore us and get stuck somewhere, you shouldn’t count on us to get you home.
The statement is remarkable because the Trump administration has until now resisted taking steps that might cause further harm to the travel industry, particularly stock market losses that might imperil the president’s economic argument for reelection.