“A large, floating Petri dish:” that’s how a reader referred to cruise ships last week, which was a particularly bad week for cruises. The new corona­virus which sprung from Wuhan, China, named COVID-19, wreaked havoc on vacationers.

Passengers on the Diamond Princess were stuck off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, unable to disembark because some were confirmed to have the virus — and then more fell sick. The number had surpassed 200 at press time.

Holland America Line’s MS Westerdam finally docked in Cambodia after four other governments turned it away.

Norwegian Cruise Line canceled all Asian itineraries for its Norwegian Spirit from April to December.

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas ship was delayed in New Jersey while passengers were tested for COVID-19; all results were negative.

Confidence in cruising may be taking a hit, but whether that translates to depressed sales remains to be seen, though stock prices of cruise lines have all tumbled.

“Cruisers are cruisers,” said Sandy Anderson, president of Riverdale Travel with offices in Minneapolis and Coon Rapids, referring to the die-hards who adore a water-based vacation. No one has called her agency to cancel a cruise. “Cruises are pretty resilient because they can always go somewhere else,” said Anderson, who noted that cruise lines with Cuba itineraries simply sailed elsewhere after the Trump administration restricted travel there.

Cruise lines are hoping to bolster business amid the public relations nightmare by offering deals. Norwegian Cruise Line’s website declares, “Biggest sale of the decade.” Princess Cruises uses punctuation to emphasize the point: “Best. Sale. Ever.” Both are offering free drinks.

No word about sterilizing rubbing alcohol.


Contact Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com.