Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Tampa Bay area. For the latest news on the outbreak, go to our coronavirus page, which we are updating regularly. You also can sign up for our DayStarter newsletter to have the day’s news sent right to your inbox each morning for free.
• • •
As different cruise ships around the world have become hotbeds for coronavirus outbreaks, including in Florida, the State Department released an advisory Sunday that told Americans to avoid traveling by cruise ship.
The advisory stressed an increased risk to travelers with underlying health conditions.
“(The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) notes an increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment," the advisory read. “U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship.”
The State Department said people with trips already booked should “contact their cruise line companies directly for further information.” It also warned American travelers that emergency evacuation flights may no longer be available.
The cruise ship Regal Princess is the latest American ship to be quarantined. It was supposed to dock at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday but is instead sailing in circles off the coast of Florida until coronavirus test results arrive related to two crew members.
The announcement comes at an already trying time for cruise lines, which have struggled financially since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
Shares of Carnival corp., Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings Ltd. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Lt.,d are all down more than 46 percent in 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Those same major cruise companies — Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival — have not yet released statements following the State Department’s announcement.
Some are offering incentives, however, for those who still choose to go on their scheduled cruises.
Carnival announced on Sunday that those who choose to keep their booking as currently scheduled for departures between March 6 and May 31 will receive onboard credits of $100, $150 or $200, based on how long the cruise is. Princess Cruises offered a similar credit reward.
But those rewards may not be worth the increased risk, the CDC warned.
“Recent reports of COVID-19 on cruise ships highlight the risk of infection to cruise ship passengers and crew,” the CDC says on its website. “Like many other viruses, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships. As the outbreak of COVID-19 continues, there remains a risk of infected travelers and crew boarding cruise ships.”
• • •
Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.