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Cruise operators postpone trips as virus spreads

By August Graham, PA City Reporter

Cruise companies have begun cancelling trips as coronavirus continues to spread.

Princess Cruises, which had two ships affected by the virus, said it was cancelling all trips for its 18 vessels for the next two months.

And Sir Richard Branson announced that the inaugural season of his new Virgin Voyages cruise line was also being postponed.

The first Briton to die after being diagnosed with Covid-19 was a passenger on the Diamond Princess, one of the Princess Cruises fleet.

Almost 700 passengers and crew on the ship tested positive for the virus and seven have died after it was quarantined in Japan.

Meanwhile 21 passengers on the Grand Princess, off the coast of California, tested positive for Covid-19.

Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said: “By taking this bold action of voluntarily pausing the operations of our ships, it is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us, as well as those who do business with us, and the countries and communities we visit around the world.”

“Never in 55 years … have we been tested in the ways that we have been tested over the past 40 days,” Ms Swartz said in a video posted to YouTube.

“We have battled this virus on two continents,” she added.

“We have been asked – and we’ve asked ourselves – why Covid-19 seems to be impacting Princess so heavily.

“We don’t really know.”

Passengers on Princess cruise liners will be able to continue as usual if their journeys end within the next five days.

People with future bookings can re-book for a later date or claim a refund.

Princess is owned by London-listed Carnival, whose shares dropped by a fifth on Thursday.

Meanwhile Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages chief executive Tom McAlpin said: “Our team has made the very difficult decision to postpone the Showcase Tour launch and inaugural sailing season for Scarlet Lady until July 15, 2020, with our Maiden Voyage taking place August 7, 2020.”

The company said there have been “no health concerns” aboard the new Scarlet Lady vessel and the decision to postpone was made proactively.