News that the Zika virus is now on the increase in the region – Singapore today said it had 82 cases – means travel agents are facing questions about the dangers to cruise passengers and compensation for those who don’t want to go.
Australia, Taiwan, and South Korea advised pregnant women and those attempting to get pregnant to avoid travel to Singapore after an outbreak of the Zika virus infected more than 50 people in the city-state.
Many cruise lines have already put out warnings about the disease, spread by mosquitoes of the Aedes species, the same mosquitos behind dengue fever and chikungunya.
Cruise lines are responding to concerns about refunds, particularly for pregnant women, to whom the disease presents the biggest risk.
A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean in Singapore told Cruise&Travel Asia: “We are closely monitoring the Zika virus situation and are aware that the CDC has issued a travel alert for certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Royal Caribbean shares health-related information to guests prior to their cruise via email and text messages. Additionally, signage is posted throughout select terminals across the U.S. Our tour operators have also been advised to remind our guests to use mosquito repellent during shore excursions.
“Royal Caribbean will assist any pregnant women who do not feel comfortable sailing to countries affected with the Zika virus by providing alternate itinerary options. This may include providing guests with a future cruise credit valid for two years so that they may re-schedule their voyage for a later date, with no penalty. Guests seeking additional information on the Zika virus are encouraged to contact their primary care physician or visit the CDC and/or World Health Organisation’s (WHO) websites.”
This round-up, compiled from US reports and Fox News four days ago, presents a useful picture for agents:
Carnival Cruise Line, which has 25 ships, will issue refunds to pregnant women and their traveling companions on a case-by-case basis, as will other Carnival brands: Princess, Costa, Holland America and Fathom. They also may give refunds to those trying to conceive.
“We are trying to be flexible and understanding, given the situation,” said corporate spokesman Roger Frizzell when interviewed on Fox News.
Windstar Cruises is also is evaluating refunds on a case-by-case basis.
US Airlines are addressing this issue through direct communication with their customers, said Jean Medina, a spokesman for Airlines for America, which represents the airline industry. Delta and Southwest are among those offering refunds.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s policy is similar. Nothing is being offered on NCL and Royal Caribbean to those trying to get pregnant, unless they have purchased a “cancel anytime” travel insurance policy.
An insurance expert said these policies typically cost 40 percent more, and will cover up to 80 percent of a customer’s non-refundable deposit.
But “fear of contracting Zika is not something that a standard travel insurance policy would cover. The exception would be a female policy holder who becomes pregnant after they purchase their policy and is traveling to an area impacted by Zika,” the expert said said.
What you need to now
Zika is most commonly transmitted through a mosquito bite; Aedes mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters, which is unfortunate for cruise ship passengers who tour ports during the day. Rarely, the virus can be passed from mother to fetus during pregnancy or even during birth.
There is now evidence that the virus can be passed both ways (male to female or female to male) through sexual transmission.
What should you should do on your cruise
Use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and stay in places with air-conditioning or places that use window and door screens. Insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin and IR3535 are safe for pregnant women when used as directed on the product label.