The local tribal chiefs of Lifou, Mare have closed the ports to cruise ships in response to fears of coronavirus spreading to the islands.
Lifou and Mare have informed all cruise lines on January 31, that all visits to the islands have been cancelled until further notice as a precautionary measure.
Over the weekend, guests on the Carnival Spirit had last minute changes to their South Pacific cruise, visiting Port Vila and Mystery Island in Vanuatu as replacement ports.
“We know how much you were looking forward to our visits to Mare and Lifou Isle and apologise for this unexpected change. Carnival shore excursions purchased for Mare and Lifou will be automatically cancelled and refunded to your Sail & Sign account,” writes Captain Ettore Bovo in a letter to Carnival Spirit guests.
Guests of Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas which departed Sydney on January 30 for the Pacific Islands have also been affected. Instead of Lifou and Mare, the revised itinerary calls at Noumea, Port Vila, Luganville and Mystery Island.
The Isle of Pines is the latest island to shut their ports. According to Cruise Critic, Carnival Splendor’s Captain Iemmi stated in a letter sent to guests that the decision was made without any consultation or input from the ship.
“Officials from Isle of Pines made the decision to not allow this ship (or any others that might be calling in the near future) to dock and disembark. We respect their decision — just like we respect any decision by public authorities — but our ship, our crew and our guests pose no specific or identified public health issue,” writes Captain Iemmi.
“Although the risk to our guests and crew is low, we are closely monitoring the evolving situation with respect to Coronavirus. Our medical experts are coordinating closely with the Australian Government Department of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) and we have implemented enhanced screening, prevention and control measures for our ships, guests and crew.
“We also continue to work closely with the relevant health and port authorities at our destinations to manage the impact to our cruises of any steps that they may take with regards to public health.
“We know that not being able to visit Isle of Pines is disappointing. But it should not be a reason for concern and you should continue to enjoy your cruise knowing that your health and safety remain our top priority.”
The Voyager of the Seas is originally scheduled to call at Mare and Lifou next week. The Carnival Splendor and Spirit is also scheduled to call at Mare next week.
Vote in this year’s special Readers’ Choice Awards
No doubt 2020 will go down in cruise history as the year of the pandemic – a once in a generation event. And this year’s Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards will reflect it.