Cruising during the coronavirus outbreak: Should I cancel my cruise? What precautions should I take?

Though cruise companies including Princess Cruises, Viking, Disney and more have canceled upcoming sailings over the novel coronavirus COVID-19, those with future trips booked may be wondering if it’s still safe to sail.

For help with that decision, passengers still planning on hitting the high seas should follow precautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,) guidance from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), and consider heeding a warning from the U.S. State Department.

In this Feb. 11, 2020 photo, the Grand Princess cruise ship passes the Golden Gate Bridge as it arrives from Hawaii in San Francisco. (Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

In this Feb. 11, 2020 photo, the Grand Princess cruise ship passes the Golden Gate Bridge as it arrives from Hawaii in San Francisco. (Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

Is it safe to cruise?

It depends on how safe you feel in doing so. Because cruise ship travel unites large groups of people together in frequent, close contact, respiratory viruses can be easily spread among people of all ages, the CDC reports.

For the time being, the national public health institute has recommended that older adults and people with underlying health issues avoid crowded places, non-essential travel and “especially” avoiding cruise ship excursions.

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Those still determined to set sail should contact their doctor prior to travel. While at sea, passengers should avoid close contact with the sick, practice good respiratory hygiene and frequently wash hands in the fight against COVID-19.

Can I get a refund?

Though some cruise companies follow the CDC’s travel health notices – which are based on the “best available science” and consider “numbers of cases, sustained spread, geographic spread of cases, risk to travelers, and other factors” – in establishing policies, the federal agency, unfortunately, cannot help negotiate refunds for booked passengers who do not want to sail amid coronavirus concerns.

Trip cancellation insurance may protect some itineraries, the CDC said. Guests should contact their cruise line companies for more information given the global outbreak.

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What’s next?

Looking ahead, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) – which counts Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess cruise lines as members, among dozens of others – recently submitted a proposal to Vice President Mike Pence that would potentially restrict travelers of a certain age and those with chronic health conditions from boarding cruises during the outbreak.

Though the CLIA has remained mostly mum on the appeal, a source told USA Today the pitch would deny boarding to any person over the age of 70 unless they are able to present a doctor’s note verifying their fitness to travel.

On March 4, the CLIA also launched new health and safety protocols to protect its members and guests during the outbreak.

“Our focus through this whole crisis has been and continues to be the health and well-being of passengers and crew. The industry has and will continue to make decisions based on that critical filter during this very fluid situation with rapidly changing circumstances,” CLIA spokesperson Bari Golin-Blaugrund told Fox News on Friday.

“To that end, the industry has consistently enhanced our screening protocols as the situation as evolved. With 272 ships in the Cruise Lines International Association fleet, the vast majority of which sail unaffected, we believe this points to the effectiveness of our policies,” Golin-Blaugrund continued. “Still, we realize the situation is changing rapidly, and we are changing with it appropriately.”

More information is available at the CLIA's website.

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What does the government say?

Last week, the State Department warned all Americans, and not just the sick, to avoid getting on cruise ships during the COVID-19 crisis.

"U.S. citizens, especially with underlying conditions, should not travel by cruise ship. #CDC notes increased risk of #COVID19 on cruises,” the department tweeted on March 8. “Many countries have implemented screening procedures, denied port entry rights to ships and prevented disembarking.”

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In this Feb. 11 photo, a reporter walks near the then-quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, near Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

In this Feb. 11 photo, a reporter walks near the then-quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, near Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

How did concerns arise?

Tragically, seven people died from the coronavirus after traveling on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Reuters reported on March 7.

Over 700 other passengers and crew who were on the ship were infected with COVID-19, which had for several weeks marked the largest instance of communal spread while docked in the port of Yokohama, Japan.

Later, the Grand Princess cruise ship unloaded thousands of passengers in California after being held off the coast with nearly two dozens coronavirus cases on board. At least 21 people were confirmed to be infected and 23 people were unloaded at the Port of Oakland in need of extreme medical attention.

Fox News’ Michael Bartiromo, Alexandra Deabler, Frank Miles, Alexandria Hein and David Aaro contributed to this report.