What would happen if you hadn’t set foot in China for 10 years, live in sunny California and wanted to go on a long awaited cruise, but have a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau based passport? Answer: you’d be denied from boarding a Royal Caribbean cruise, at least for now. While flights have been cut from many reaches of the globe, no travel brand has gone as far as to discriminate against one group, based purely on the origin of their passport, and not just their residency or proximity to the outbreak.

The question is: are travel brands, or countries going too far in handling Coronavirus?

For Royal Caribbean, it’s hard not to say a resounding “yes”. Here’s their new policy

“Until further notice, all ships in the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. fleet will adopt the following health screening protocols:

1. Regardless of nationality, we will deny boarding to:

a. Any guest who has travelled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau in the past 15 days.

b. Any guest who has come in contact with anyone from mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau in the past 15 days. The CDC characterizes contact with an individual as coming within six feet (2M) of a person.

c. All holders of China, Hong Kong and Macau passports.”

Playing devils advocate, rules a, b seem fair enough and somewhat in line with quarantine and other policies from governments and airlines abroad, if not a bit o-t-t (over the top). Rule c however, I find appalling.

Unfortunately, Crystal Cruises has also followed with an identical policy.

Citizenship for any given country can entail an incredibly lengthy process, and it’s possible for someone to be as American as apple pie, as British as a cup of tea or as Japanese as tempura while not yet holding a passport for that country, on account of a lengthy process to citizenship. Basically, having a passport from Hong Kong, Macau or China hardly means that you’re an inherent threat for Coronavirus.

Perhaps someone moved from Hong Kong to the United States 8 years ago and haven’t set foot in Asia since.  In the eyes of Royal Caribbean, through their updated policy, they’re now persona non-grata until further notice.  It’s blanket discrimination against all Chinese, Hong Kong and Macau based passport holders beyond any and all reasonable merit or fear for safety.

It’s just-plain-discrimination.

Royal Caribbean is the first travel brand to go off the deep end – no pun intended – with their policy, but countries themselves were amongst the first to set unfortunate precedents with travel bans that extend beyond reasonable remit. From extreme quarantines to travel bans on certain nationalities, there’s a fine line between health concern and xenophobia.

Stopping the spread of Coronavirus is a vital global concern; and one of incredibly high stakes, but this seems like a step too far. There’s nothing royal or dignified about this move from the cruiseliner.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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12 Comments

    1. This case proves differently, as Gilbert illustrates in his example. If you haven’t set foot in China in years as a Chinese citizen, the only reason to be discriminated against is racism. Racism is the opposite of common sense.

      1. “Racism” that’s the ticket & problem w/ everything , LOL. 😂Literally has NOTHING to do w/ it as usual. 🤪

  1. Royal isn’t the only cruise line not allowing people with China passports to board. Crystal Cruises per their 2/4 update https://www.crystalcruises.com/coronavirus-update

    “◈ Guests with a People’s of Republic China (PRC) passport will be denied boarding on Crystal’s fleet as many countries on our itineraries have established a no clearance policy for those traveling with PRC passports; these guests will receive a refund of monies paid to date, if they do not have insurance; “

  2. I would say “fear and stupidity” is more like why take a change in a rapidly expanding virus today? Now the percentage of deaths versus infection is low around 2% much less than SARS?MERS never the less do you really want to take the chance today, in a world when things are spread at the blink of an eye?

    Racism ? where the hell did that come from? This is a HEALTH issue geez some people just can’t see this for it is. So tell me Christian where is racism in all this?

    China has it’s self to blame for this rapid spread and its inability to rapidly contain this virus. I do agree that they informed the world sooner than than the case of SARS.

    1. How is a Chinese citizen who hasn’t been to China in years a threat? They’re not. That makes this racist. If you prefer, we can call it ethnocentric bias or whatever, but it’s the same thing.

  3. That’s disgusting. I hope they get sued. They are trying to cover for their own stupidity over the past weeks in letting people who had been in the region of China that has active infection on their ships. Time to get some people to work on their twitter telling them they are racists!

  4. Consider this (numbers accurate as of Feb 8, 2020):

    HK has 26 cases and 1 death for a population of 7.5 million people.
    Singapore has 40 cases for a population of 5.6 million people.

    That’s a 0.00036% for HK vs. 0.00071% for Singapore. Meaning Singapore’s rate of confirmed cases is TWICE that of HK.

    By not including Singapore in the prohibited nationalities list, the case towards discrimination/xenophobia/whatnot against Greater China citizens (which includes HK) by Royal Caribbean and Crystal becomes even stronger.

    What’s more, they’re replacing affected ports with Singapore. I don’t understand this at all.

  5. Or perhaps, because citizens of those countries do not have their passport stamped when traveling to and from them, the cruise lines can’t confirm the passengers haven’t been there during the proscribed time frame?

  6. From purely a business perspective, this is an interesting situation. In my view, Royal Caribbean is willing to put itself in a position to be labeled as racist (or discriminatory) in an attempt to stabilize/maximize their profitability. I’m certain RC has reviewed the analytics, and they know the geographical demographics of their clients. They 100% know the financial impact of denying those customers their services. They likely came to the conclusion that disallowing people from China, HK, Macau, etc to board their ships at all will likely incentivize their other clientele to feel safer about booking a cruise on RC (or keeping their current booking intact). On some level, they might suspect that it’s possible to get a positive bump in their numbers by taking such a rigid stance. It’s well known/believed that cruise ships are notorious for spreading illness, so if they can mitigate that risk in their customers’ minds, I suspect they believe it’s going to help their business.

    In the end, I think their decision has more to do with their own profitability than passenger safety. I’m not stating any of this is morally correct or anything like that, we all know it’s not. I think RC knew the PR risks when they made this decision, and they chose this path for their business. Much of it is based on what they think their customers believe moreso than anything to do with actual facts relevant to the risk of contracting the virus.

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