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Princess Cruises, Viking Cruises temporarily suspending operations due to virus concerns

FILE - Carrying multiple people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the Grand Princess maintains a holding pattern about 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco, Sunday, March 8, 2020. The cruise ship docked at the Port of Oakland on Monday. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Two cruise lines have announced they're immediately suspending operations globally because of the COVID-19 outbreak

Princess Cruises has suspended all operations for 60 days -- until May 10

Viking Cruises has suspended operations until May 1

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Princess Cruises and Viking Cruises have announced they are temporarily suspending all operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The move comes as the virus continues to spread globally and after several cruise ships were forced into quarantine due to outbreaks.

“In proactive response to the unpredictable circumstances evolving from the global spread of COVID-19 and in an abundance of caution, Princess Cruises announced that it will voluntarily pause global operations of its 18 cruise ships for two months (60 days),” a statement from Princess Cruises reads.

The cruise line has a fleet of 18 ships, and the suspension will impact trips from March 12 to May 10.

“Princess Cruises is a global vacation company that serves more than 50,000 guests daily from 70 countries as part of our diverse business, and it is widely known that we have been managing the implications of COVID-19 on two continents,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises.

“By taking this bold action of voluntarily pausing the operations of our ships, it is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us, as well as those who do business with us, and the countries and communities we visit around the world,” Swartz added.

Princess Cruises’ decision will impact five sailings that are part of Vancouver’s cruise season, including the first on April 2 with the Grand Princess. The Grand Princess was formerly placed under quarantine off the coast of California because of COVID-19 infections onboard.

Meanwhile, Viking Cruises said its sailings until May 1 have been cancelled. Viking’s temporary suspension appears to only be impacting one Vancouver sailing so far.

A number of Canadians have been aboard cruise ships that were forced to lock down due to the virus. It was just earlier this week that Canada’s top doctor recommended Canadians avoid all cruise ship travel amid the COVID-19 spread.

Impacts of temporary stoppage

There’s no doubt the decisions by the cruise lines to suspend operations will have an impact on Vancouver, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“But it’s one of many big decisions that are being made that are affecting supply chains and affecting tourism and travel that are impacting small businesses,” CFIB Executive Vice President Laura Jones said. “So people are concerned, obviously, that in some cases business is down. In some cases those impacts are moderate, but in other cases they’re a little bit more serious.”

On one end, she noted there are some Chinese restaurants which have seen 50 to 80 per cent declines in business.

With more drastic measures being taken amid the COVID-19, Jones anticipates businesses will continue to be impacted.

The cruise ship season in Vancouver sees more than 230 vessels dock in the city every year. According to Tourism Vancouver, each ship stimulates nearly $3-million in economic activity.

It’s unclear just how badly the recent sailing suspensions will hit small businesses.

“I think small businesses tend to be a pretty level-headed lot, but like most people, I think they’re watching the news and people are worried about it,” she said, adding the CFIB has seen some business owners take “reasonable precautions” like stepping up sanitation efforts.

Tourism accounts for a large chunk of revenue for businesses in the retail and restaurant industries.

“I think the uncertain question is, ‘How long will this go on?’ Because one-time shocks that are shorter term in nature are easier to recover from than longer term blows,” Jones said. “But one thing we know about business is that business are  very resilient and very creative when times are tough, and this isn’t the only tough times that most business owners have experienced — that’s not to minimize it at all. But I think there’s just a lot of uncertainty, and that’s really, really difficult for everyone.”

-With files from Martin MacMahon