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Carnival suspends cruises because of coronavirus, halting all cruises out of Port Tampa Bay

All three cruise lines that sail out of Port Tampa Bay, plus two with plans to bring cruises to Tampa in November, have suspended cruise operations.
Before Carnival Cruise Lines suspended operations, the Carnival Paradise had been sailing on alternating Mondays and Thursdays out of Port Tampa Bay. (Times files)

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TAMPA — Carnival Cruise Line has suspended cruise operations until April 10, following similar decisions made last week by Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

The decision now means that all three cruise lines currently offering cruises out of Port Tampa Bay have stopped sailing in an effort to help slow the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic.

Related: Coronavirus: Norwegian and Royal Caribbean suspend cruises. Tampa airport sees drop in spring break traffic.

Before the suspension, the 2,124-passenger Carnival Paradise had been sailing on alternating Mondays and Thursdays from Port Tampa Bay.

“While Carnival has not had a diagnosed case linked to our operation we realize this situation is bigger than the cruise industry, and we will continue to do our part to support public officials to manage and contain this unprecedented health challenge,” the company said in a statement released on social media Friday night. “We are contacting booked guests directly regarding their cruise and their options.”

Related: U.S. State Department issues warning to travelers with health conditions: Don't take a cruise

In addition, two cruise lines with plans to start cruises out of Tampa in November, Holland America and MSC Cruises, announced similar suspensions.

Port officials supported the cruise industry’s move to pause its operations.

“The decision was made in the interest of public safety,” the port said. “We encourage any impacted cruise passengers to contact their travel agent or cruise line directly for more information.”

Cruise ships bring about 1 million passengers a year to Port Tampa Bay and account for about 20 percent of the port’s operating revenue. Bulk cargo and leases to tenants account for 26 and 28 percent, respectively.

At 5,000 acres, Port Tampa Bay is bigger in area and moves more cargo tonnage, 37 million tons a year, than any other port in Florida. Those factors, plus the port’s recent efforts to build a refrigerated warehouse for produce, invest in new cranes to handle larger shipping container ships and attract three new weekly container ships from Asia, should help it weather the disruption to its business from the pandemic, officials say.

“Port Tampa Bay believes the strong diversification of our port will enable us to be resilient during this global crisis,” the port’s statement said.

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