Royal Caribbean passengers who tried to cancel journey resolve to board anyway

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TAMPA – Ana Trevino’s family trip for 13 shrunk to six when she arrived in Port Tampa Bay on Thursday for a cruise to Cozumel.

With coronavirus in mind, some of the remaining travelers had tried to cancel their tickets for credit. After holding for hours, they said they couldn’t get into Royal Caribbean within the required 48 hour notice.

The options became: cruise now or spend hundreds of dollars on nothing.

“I’m excited but also scared,” said 30-year-old Claudy Berrios before boarding Brilliance of the Seas in Tampa Bay harbor on Thursday. “I really tried to quit.”

The U.S. Department of State advises against cruising during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Cruise ships, especially the elderly and those with health problems, are at higher risk of contracting the new virus due to the proximity of the ships, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Operator Princess Cruises, part of Carnival Corp., announced Thursday that it would suspend its global service for the next two months after two of its ships broke out. That morning in Tampa Port, two baggage handlers wore face masks as they loaded passengers’ bags for the waiting 958-foot ship.

Trevino, Berrios and the four others in their group wore gray T-shirts that said, “Oh, ship! It’s a family outing. “

“Except most of the family is not here now,” said Tevino, 29, from Orlando.

From left: John Tavarez, Crystal Matos, Richard Vazquez and Claudy Berrios come for a cruise with The Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas.  Their original group shrank from 13 cruisers to six when last-minute people were canceled at Tampa Bay Port on Thursday, March 12, 2020 in Tampa over coronavirus concerns. From left: John Tavarez, Crystal Matos, Richard Vazquez and Claudy Berrios come for a cruise with The Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. Their original group shrank from 13 cruisers to six when last-minute people were canceled at Tampa Bay Port on Thursday, March 12, 2020 in Tampa over coronavirus concerns. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

Her father-in-law decided not to come even though he didn’t get the credits. Crystal Matos, 33, said her mother’s rheumatoid arthritis medication lowered her immunity so she couldn’t come. Another relative was pregnant and wanted to be careful.

32-year-old Debra Williams flew to cruise from Missouri with her five children. She also said she tried to cancel the trip for credits but gave up after stopping for hours. The family had been planning the trip for more than a year.

Jessica Montes, 35, is a geriatric doctor based in Tampa. Your bachelorette party was supposed to be a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas, departing from Miami on Friday. She said three of her five friends who wanted to attend were also doctors. Your employers advised against cruising.

Montes was frustrated that she couldn’t get at least a partial cash refund as the virus outbreak was now classified as a pandemic.

“I’m not just canceling to quit,” she said. “I am not allowed to go and I will not endanger myself or my patients.”

Port Tampa Bay did not reveal how many cruise ship passengers have canceled trips. It was said that no cruises were canceled.

“We strive to create a healthy and safe environment at all times,” said a statement from the port. “It’s too early to know if the number of passengers has declined.”

Royal Caribbean started last week offering credits on future cruises to those who wish to cancel their trips by July 31st. Asia cruises have already been canceled or changed. However, passengers must cancel more than 48 hours prior to travel.

The cruise line states on its website that it has “strict medical protocols” for its ongoing voyages including ship cleaning and air filtering. There was no reply to an email looking for a comment.

The Cruise Line International Association, the trading group for companies like Royal Caribbean, has released a number of health screening protocols for its members to completely deny passengers who may have contact with someone affected by COVID-19.

Porters load luggage into waiting taxis for guests arriving in Tampa from their cruise on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas at the port of Tampa Bay on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Porters load luggage into waiting taxis for guests arriving in Tampa from their cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas at the port of Tampa Bay on Thursday, March 12, 2020. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

“We remain in close contact with local governments around the world,” said cruise association president Kelly Craighead in a statement. “Travelers should know that their health and safety is an absolute priority for the industry.”

Trevino’s crew were still in high spirits, hoping a less crowded cruise ship could feel like a VIP experience. Matos upgraded their suite because room rates fell due to cancellations.

Royal Carribean has not disclosed how many trips have been canceled, but by Thursday afternoon stock prices per share had fallen from $ 116 at the beginning of the month to around $ 32.

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