People who booked an Atlantis cruise for next week are getting angry that the company hasn’t canceled the cruise and won’t refund them if they don’t go, even though other major cruise lines are canceling due to coronavirus.
Coronavirus is now a pandemic and public health officials are asking organizers of large events – where viruses are easily spread – to cancel, and major cruise companies like Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises have canceled cruises or offered customers who don’t want to go refunds.
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Atlantis is an LGBTQ cruise company that charters with Celebrity, but their policy on cancellations during the pandemic is more restrictive: customers can cancel 60 days before their ship departs and get credit with the company, according to a message posted to their website on March 9.
Which isn’t helpful to people going on the Southern Caribbean Cruise from San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 21, next Saturday. And those customers are getting upset on social media.
Cruisers are posting frustrated and angry messages to a Facebook group set up for the cruise, worried about contracting the virus if they spend a week in close quarters with others.
One cruiser accused Celebrity and Atlantis of “corporate greed during the most unprecedented pandemic of our generation” in an angry post.
Another cruiser said that he’s 73 and his husband is 67. They booked the cruise before the pandemic and now worry that, as gay men over the age of 65, that they are at particular risk of getting coronavirus.
“I’m requesting the ability as every other normal cruise customer has of being able to cancel, with a rain check for a future cruise,” he wrote in the Facebook group, which is not run by Atlantis.
Atlantis Vice President of Marketing Jim Cone gave an explanation of their cancellation policy this afternoon. They are refunding customers who are not able to travel to the U.S. because of the ban on travel from Europe, those on Celebrity’s restricted list, medical professionals who regularly work with patients, and elderly customers and those with a respiratory or other “significant health issues.”
The company had not previously said that the elderly could get refunds if they canceled and that information is not published on their website.
“We have contacted most of these guests already, but if they fall into one of these groups, they should contact Atlantis directly to make the appropriate accommodations for them,” Cone said. “Most of these guests have travel insurance and we will work with others on a case-by-case basis.”
LGBTQ people have a higher risk of getting the virus than cisgender, heterosexual people, and cruise ships already have a bad reputation when it comes to spreading infectious diseases.
Earlier this year, the Diamond Princess made international headlines when coronavirus broke out on board. 696 people caught the virus on the ship and seven died.
“If you’re a person with an underlying condition and you are particularly an elderly person with an underlying condition, you need to think twice about getting on a plane, on a long trip,” said Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on Meet the Press this past Sunday.
“And not only think twice, just don’t get on a cruise ship.”
Others had concerns beyond their personal safety. One customer wrote a long post about how he worried he would infect others after the cruise if he picked it up.
“When everyone gets off the ship, we would likely be responsible for putting in danger thousands of people by carrying/spreading a virus that, while it will not kill us, could harm or kill some of our family members,” he wrote.
Some had more practical concerns, especially about the possibility of being forced to self-quarantine for 14 days after the cruise since the ship is scheduled to visit multiple countries in the Caribbean.
“I can’t afford a month of no work unpaid… I work in a hospital so I do not want to bring a bug to my coworkers and patients,” wrote one person, referring to how the Diamond Princess was quarantined for a month.
Others pointed out that the cruise was expensive, and just not going means that they will lose on thousands of dollars that they saved to take a vacation.
“The Atlantis Southern Caribbean Cruise is planned to operate as scheduled and any updates to that will be immediately communicated to our guests. Guests who are unable to travel to the United States as per US Coronavirus Travel Bans, will receive a future cruise credit for any one of our 2020 or 2021 vacations,” said Cone.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include another quote from Atlantis Vice President of Marketing Jim Cone.