Anybody with a modicum of travel sense and even a passing interest in current events knew this weekend was coming. Anybody with a hint of common sense knows the question was just hanging there: “When will ebola affect cruising?”
This weekend, it did.
There has not, at least so far, been a cruise passenger with ebola. However, there has been a Carnival Magic passenger who had contact with an ebola victim. There have been two port calls missed because the countries (Belize, Mexico) refused to allow the Magic to dock. There has been a change in the security questions you’ll be asked the next time you get on a ship. And there has been an impact on the travel companies that trade on the stock market, including cruise lines.
And now there are questions:
• How many people are canceling cruises because they fear this deadly disease is out there waiting to touch them, as difficult as that is?
• Did the Carnival Magic have to undergo a decontamination before people would step on her decks again, even though there is no evidence of contamination?
• Is there going to be a drop in cruise fares because of cancelations?
• Are cruise officials going to find that it’s an exercise in futility trying to convince clients there is no logical reason to fear cruising when there are still illogical traits associated with ebola?
• What will passengers say if they see their cruise ship is “registered” in West Africa (yes, there are some), even when the ship hasn’t been near West Africa for months or even years?
The major cruise lines — Princess, Royal Caribbean, Carnival — have already announced tougher screening on embarkation, which will add to the annoyance of passengers if they’re already annoyed by the check-in process. The new protocol for all cruise lines is to ask if passengers have been to the ebola hotspots in Africa or have had contact with somebody who either has ebola or who has been in contact with an ebola patient. Beyond that “contact screening” is recommended and cruise lines can “deny boarding” to any guest, which they’ve always had the right to do anyway.
Meanwhile, it had to be Carnival.
The “ebola contact person” could have boarded any cruise ship, but it was one from Carnival, which has just completed rebuilding its brand and image from a series of problems. This one makes Carnival an innocent victim.
Here’s how Carnival, this decent and completely innocent victim, responded:
All passengers on the Magic were given a $200 onboard credit. All passengers will receive a 50 per cent discount on a future Carnival cruise.
Remember when it was norovirus that caused panic?
Today at portsandbows.com: On the rivers of America