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Cruise with suspect COVID19 case skips Cyprus

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A Bahamas-flag cruise liner with a suspected coronavirus case on board decided not to anchor off Limassol port in an emergency stop but sailed to Malta after Cyprus said none of the 800 passengers could disembark.

The cruise ship, with 1,000 passengers on board, had been returning from Jordan’s Aqaba resort port when it was denied anchorage in Israel to treat the patient.

Cyprus Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos told state radio CyBC on Friday morning that “the ship’s owner had requested a stopover at Limassol port. President (Anastasiades) gave clear instructions that the cruise ship remains in the port’s anchorage and that the necessary treatment is provided to the patient.

“The ship’s owner then decided for the cruise ship to continue on its journey towards the next destination, which is Malta,” the minister said.

Unlike major international cruise operators that are pondering suspending all trips until the coronavirus scare dies down, Marco Polo’s owner, Essex-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), has decided to brave the crisis and will continue with all its schedules onboard it’s fleet of 6 cruise ships.

“Currently, all upcoming CMV cruises will be operating as normal and there are no itinerary changes,” it said in an announcement.

It is also offering ‘price buster’ discounts of 60% to 75%, including on Marco Polo’s next voyage from homeport Bristol, a 14-night cruise to the Azores, Madeira and Portugal departing on March 24 that has been slashed by 70% GBP 2,129 per person to 599.

On Friday, CMV announced that they “are currently receiving a high volume of calls into our call centre following the recommendations from the British Prime Minister.

“As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve around the world, our customer services teams are firstly focusing on dealing with passengers who are due to cruise imminently within the next 7 to 14 days.

“We are continually monitoring and assessing the impact of the latest developments and health advisories, as well as various travel and entry restrictions which are increasingly impacting cruise ship itineraries and connecting travel. We are actively seeking to mitigate these risks to our passengers and crew and are making appropriate adjustments to our operations to protect all on board our ships.”

The company said that “heightened precautions have now been imposed in numerous ports of call, including Singapore, India and New Zealand. As a result, measures being implemented include pre-boarding screening in all embarkation ports.”

“Passengers and crew who have travelled from or through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, South Korea, Iran or Italy within 30 days of embarkation will not be permitted to board our ships.

“All persons who, within 30 days before embarkation, have had close contact with anyone suspected or diagnosed as having coronavirus, or who is currently subject to health monitoring for possible exposure to coronavirus, will not be permitted to board our ships.

“If a passenger arrives at the ship and shows symptoms of Coronavirus, then they will be refused boarding.”

On Thursday night, Karousos had tweeted that the ship was heading for Cyprus, but “On the instructions of President Anastasiades, the cruise liner will remain in anchorage, therefore there is no question of the passengers disembarking,”.

He told the Financial Mirror, the Marco Polo was informed that it could anchor off Limassol port, but passengers would not be allowed off.

“On hearing the decision of the government, the ship decided to change course,” Karousos said.