Carnival just announced its intention to reinstate cruises to Mexico based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, which is no longer recommending against non-essential travel to Mexico. The umbrella marketing group, CLIA, (Cruise Lines Industry Association) for the North American cruise industry also released a statement today (May 15, 2009) clarifying that while all cruise lines are anxious to return to Mexico, they want to assure that it is done in a safe manner.
Carnival Cruise Lines will resume visits to Mexican ports of call once all voyages with previously modified itineraries are completed in mid-June with the exception of the Holiday (out of Mobile) which was modified through late May
Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Line, said “The health and well being of our guests and crew is our highest priority and we are returning to Mexico after careful evaluation and consultation with the CDC. It is important to note that the concentration of H1N1 flu cases in Mexico has been inland rather than in the coastal resort areas where our ships visit.”
The cruise industry works closely with U.S. public health officials in the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program to develop extensive policies and procedures to mitigate illness aboard cruise ships. Along those lines, expect all the cruise lines to follow CDC guidelines for cruise ships, including pre-boarding health questionnaires for all guests and crew, along with secondary screening by shipboard medical professionals when necessary. Cruise ships will stock influenza test kits and anti-viral medications.
Naturally, Mexico is an important destination for the cruise lines, and for many U.S. citizens, and to lose it for an extended period of time would be a shame, financially and in other ways.
I think it is safe to say that when the cruise lines return to Mexico they will be very serious about screening passengers, as they should be. Although H1N1 did not turn out to be the “eminent pandemic” some of the news channels promoted it to be, there is still a significant amount of concern about the virus in the public psyche.
We all want ships to return to Mexico soon. In fact most of the outbreaks that have occurred in Mexico have been less severe than we were initially led to believe, and few of them occurred on the West Coast where the most port-intensive Mexico cruising occurs.
So it is highly unlikely, under current conditions, that a significant outbreak could somehow occur on a cruise ship. But if it did happen it would be a setback for Mexico tourism, including cruising, that would be hard to recover from.
Therefore, when ships start returning to Mexico we hope and expect that they will be careful and generous in screening pasasengers traveling there. If you are on a ship and you come down with flu symptoms while you are in Mexico, please report it to the ship and do not complain if you are quarantined.
We also hope that of a cruise line has to quarantine a passenger that they will be generous in making up the cruise to the passenger as long as they agree to cooperate with the health staff on the ship.
The cruise industry and the travel industry in general needs Mexico, especially with current laws that require cruise ships to make a stop in a foreign port before they proceed on any cruise transporting U.S. citizens. Let’s all tread carefully to get Mexico cruising back to a normal state.