Coronavirus Cancellations: Ditching A Dream Cruise Is A Painful Decision Thousands of people who booked vacation cruises are considering canceling. The federal government has taken the unusual step of advising people not to take a cruise given the coronavirus outbreak.

Ditching A Dream Cruise Vacation Is Painful Call

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

As you can imagine, the coronavirus has hit the cruise ship industry really hard. The federal government is advising people not to go on a cruise, and passengers who got stuck on ships with an outbreak have shared experiences of being quarantined in tiny rooms, not knowing when they'd be able to go home. As NPR's Chris Arnold reports, people who've booked a cruise are now trying to figure out what to do.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Linda Nalbandian is scheduled to go on a cruise ship in April to Bermuda. She and her husband recently got married. They're combining their families and taking their five teenagers on this cruise. It was supposed to be their first big trip together. The kids were excited.

LINDA NALBANDIAN: Super excited. And it was a lot of buildup over the last couple of months - talking about it, planning it. And then coronavirus.

ARNOLD: The trip was a big expense - $6,000 - so as the outbreak spread, they've been grappling with what to do. They didn't want to wreck a great vacation if the odds were really small that there'd even be a problem.

NALBANDIAN: Definitely agonizing. Are you being a bad parent because you're buying into panic or hysteria? Or are you being a bad parent because you're bringing them to a situation that maybe, in retrospect, you'd be like, what was I thinking?

ARNOLD: But now many cruise ship companies are trying to reassure customers that they don't need to panic and cancel now. They can wait to see what happens with this outbreak, and they can even cancel just a few days before their cruise and get credit for another trip later. Linda Nalbandian got an email explaining that from Norwegian Cruise Line this past weekend.

NALBANDIAN: It was a relief, and it definitely left us with a very warm and fuzzy feeling (laughter) towards the cruise line.

ARNOLD: As far as what the right decision is, Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He spoke to NPR on this program yesterday and said since elderly people and people with underlying health problems are particularly vulnerable to this coronavirus, those people should take special precautions.

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ANTHONY FAUCI: You don't travel. You don't go to very crowded places. Particularly, you don't get on a cruise ship because of what we've seen what happened with a cruise ship.

ARNOLD: What's happened so far is several cruise ships have had outbreaks and had to quarantine passengers. Some stricken passengers died after contracting the virus. The State Department issued an advisory on Sunday saying people in general, quote, "should not travel by cruise ship."

STEWART CHIRON: I was very shocked and disappointed. I think it's too far extreme.

ARNOLD: Stewart Chiron has worked in the cruising travel industry for 30 years and books cruises for people through his website called The Cruise Guy. He says to warn elderly people and those with medical conditions seems reasonable, but to tell everybody to stay off cruise ships - he says he'd go on a cruise today.

CHIRON: Right now, there are hundreds of ships sailing around the world that are not having any issues.

ARNOLD: The cruise line industry association says the ships are taking special precautions, including screening people for a fever before allowing them to start a cruise. And some people are deciding that the risks seem small and as worth taking. Others are, of course, canceling - or trying to. Ashley Manning is a nurse practitioner in Knoxville, Tenn. She's decided to cancel her cruise coming up in 10 days to the Mexican Riviera on Carnival Cruise Line.

ASHLEY MANNING: I've called Delta. I've canceled our flights. They were nonrefundable tickets. They automatically refunded everything without even a question. But getting through to Carnival - I was on the phone for about three hours yesterday. I kept calling, and it just never goes to anybody and just is a voice recording. And then it'll disconnect you when you think you're still on the line.

ARNOLD: Carnival says it's ramping up staffing. But as any seasoned traveler knows that when everyone calls at once, it's hard to get through. So if you are going to cancel your cruise, don't leave it till the very last minute.

Chris Arnold, NPR News.

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