Norwegian Cruise Line suspends voyages to Asia, lifts Chinese passport ban
An ambulance takes a patient from the cruise ship Norwegian Escape to a local hospital Sunday, March 3, 2019 in Port Canaveral, Fla. Several passengers aboard the Norwegian Escape cruise ship were injured Sunday when what cruise officials described as a "sudden, extreme gust of wind" caused the ship to suddenly list. (Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today via AP)
TORONTO -- As the cruise industry grapples with the new coronavirus, one major liner is pulling back its most controversial restriction.
Norwegian Cruise Line lifted its contentious ban on Chinese, Hong Kong and Macau passports on Thursday, a policy considered “discriminatory” by many, including some travellers who spoke with CTV News.
“Given the more stringent immigration, customs and health screening protocols and regulations now in place by countries around the world, the company has announced the relaxation of its previous policy prohibiting guests that hold a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passport to board its ships,” a Norwegian spokesperson said in a statement.
Last week, a 32-year-old permanent Canadian resident with Chinese citizenship cancelled a family vacation on the company’s Norwegian Escape ship because of the policy.
“I told them Chinese people do not equal coronavirus,” said Ming Yang on the phone from Ottawa.
The company apologized and refunded her trip, she told CTVNews.ca on Friday.
Royal Caribbean had previously announced a ban on guests with passports from China, Hong Kong and Macau, but lifted the policy on Feb. 10.
All major cruise lines still have various coronavirus protocols in place, prohibiting guests to board if they have been in close contact with someone showing virus symptoms or if they have travelled to China, Hong Kong or Macau within a certain window prior to departure. The number of days varies depending on the cruise line.
A London, Ont., resident cancelled a trip earlier this month because of the Norwegian Cruise Line policy. In an interview with CTV News London, Emma Chen said her Canadian citizen husband and son wouldn’t go on the trip without her. “I feel very discriminated against, and just because I hold a Chinese passport,” she said.
Norwegian, along with several other cruise lines, also suspended all voyages to Asia through the end of the third quarter this year. Some trips have been “modified” or “redeployed,” a statement said. The cancellations amount to 40 cruises across its three brands, including Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.