Asia, once deemed to be the cruise industry’s new port of gold, is looking decidedly tarnished from the perspective of cruiseship operators and their passengers.
Fears over the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus on the availability of ports in Asia, and the drop in demand from tourists from outside the region, has led to at least two international cruise lines giving it a wide berth.
Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line has cancelled its entire Asian cruise season, which was scheduled to run between April and December this year.
The company has yet to announce alternative plans for the 75,900-gt cruiseship Norwegian Spirit (built 1998), which was scheduled to perform the cruise programme that was largely centred around China and northern Asia.
The Norwegian Spirit is currently in the Mediterranean, where industry sources suspect it will stay for the upcoming summer season.
Carnival Corp subsidiary Cunard, whose ships call at Asian ports as part of longer world cruises, also announced over the weekend that its 149,000-gt Queen Mary 2 (built 2003) and 90,900-gt Queen Elizabeth (built 2010) would be bypassing Asia on their current voyages.
The Queen Mary 2, which is currently on an eastbound world cruise, will sail directly from Colombo in Sri Lanka to Fremantle in Australia, skipping cruise calls in Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
Additional stops will be made in Australia to make up for the cancelled Asian ports.
After visiting Australia, the Queen Mary 2 will head westwards and return to Europe via the Cape of Good Hope.
The Queen Elizabeth, which is also undertaking a world cruise and originally scheduled to call at a number of ports in Asia before heading across the Pacific to Alaska, has cancelled its calls at Hong Kong and Shanghai.
More Asian cancellations are likely as other ports in Asia, including those in Japan, Philippines and Taiwan, have stopped accepting cruiseships. The Queen Elizabeth was scheduled to call at 15 ports in Japan alone.
Cunard said it would announce a revised schedule for the Queen Elizabeth shortly.
Monitoring the situation
Other cruise lines such as Phoenix Seereisen and Cruises & Maritime Voyages, which have ships scheduled to call at Asian ports as part of longer voyages, said they were monitoring the situation.
Cruise players that have ships based in Asia to cater to international clientele on a seasonal basis have cancelled cruises in northern Asia and shifted their ships to South East Asia. In that region, ports in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia remain open for business.