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Coronavirus Threatening Cruise Industry, But Tampa Seeing Limited Effects

While fears about the coronavirus are leading to fewer bookings of Asian cruises, the effect at Port Tampa Bay is not as bad. CREDIT: JONAH HINEBAUGH/WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Diamond Princesscruise ship is currently quarantined in Japan because of 175 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the infectious disease the World Health Organization is calling COVID-19, raising questions about the future of the cruise industry.

The question is important for Tampa, a port for six cruises lines and over one million passengers annually.

But Janice Sinardi, the owner of Cruise Planners Travel Agency in Temple Terrace said that she hasn’t seen major repercussions here.

“It has not affected the bookings out of Tampa,” said Sinardi, “because Tampa's cruises go down to Mexico and the Western Caribbean. It seems to be affecting the West Coast of the United States more than anything else.”

Sinardi added that her agency has even seen an increase in cruise bookings for European destinations, Alaska and the Caribbean, probably because travelers currently view those destinations as safer.

Another cruise liner, Holland America's MS Westerdam, has been denied entry at five different Asian ports, even though there have been no confirmed cases of the virus on board.

Companies are also trying to keep cruise goers as healthy as they can.

“Cruise lines take a lot of precautions,” said Sinardi. “The safety of the customers, the guests onboard, the crew, the shop, the cleanliness and sanitizing of the ships is an ongoing program."

Sinardi said most cruise companies are trying to keep travelers updated on the situation.

“Each line has issued a similar, yet their own policy in reference to how they’re handling this,” she said, adding that some are sending letters to both travel agencies and people leaving on cruises in the next few weeks.

As for how lines are handling a potential dip in bookings, Sinardi said, “what they may do is pull out of an area for a while and maybe not go to the Orient or to Asia in particular, and they might redirect some of their ships.”

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Tristan Dodd is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for spring 2020. He is currently a senior at USF, where he is completing his bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Production.