FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — U.S. citizens should avoid traveling on cruise ships because of the risks of coronavirus, the State Department said in an advisory Sunday.
The extraordinary statement came on the day a cruise ship due to dock at Port Everglades after a Caribbean tour was held off Fort Lauderdale beach for hours while two crew members were tested for the rapidly spreading virus.
“U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” the State Department advisory said. “CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment.”
Port Everglades spokesperson Ellen Kennedy would not comment on the State Department’s advisory or its impact on cruise ship schedules, saying only that “this is a bigger issue because of tourism.”
Concerns about the impact of the virus on the cruise industry have been heightened recently. Last month, the world followed the sad plight of Princess Cruises’ Japan-based Diamond Princess, which was quarantined after hundreds of passengers tested positive.
Early Sunday, the Regal Princess cruise ship was directed by the U.S. Coast Guard to remain offshore instead of docking on schedule in Fort Lauderdale. Officials were awaiting coronavirus test results from two crew members.
Although neither of the crew members was showing symptoms of the virus, authorities were concerned because they had transferred more than two weeks ago from Grand Princess, a cruise ship in California that had 21 passengers and crew test positive for the coronavirus.
The Regal Princess was cleared to dock in Port Everglades just before 7 p.m. EDT Sunday night.
The State Department advisory is the latest jolt to Florida’s mighty cruise industry, which has seen ships turned away from ports throughout the Caribbean since late February.
A worker at Port Everglades — home port for some of the largest cruise ships in the world — was one of three people who have tested positive for coronavirus in Broward County.
The State Department urged passengers who have booked cruises to contact the cruise company for more information.