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Cruise lines suspend China operations over coronavirus fears

Coronavirus latest: China on alert as deadly virus spreads

International cruise operators are suspending service in China over mounting concerns about the deadly coronavirus. Costa Crociere, Genting Cruise Lines, MSC and Royal Caribbean have all halted operations in the country on advice of the Chinese government and in an effort to contain the virus. 

The virus, which disease researchers have dubbed the "2019 novel coronavirus" (2019-nCoV), has killed at least 81 people in China and infected more than 2,700 others in at least a dozen countries around the world. The outbreak is believed to have originated in Wuhan, capital of China's Hubei province. 

Royal Caribbean Cruises said it is canceling its January 27 and January 31 sailings of "Spectrum of the Seas" — its only ship with a home port in China. The company said it would provide full refunds to guests with reservations on both sails. 

"The health and safety of our guests and crew is our primary concern, and we continue to work with the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and government health authorities to monitor the situation," Royal Caribbean said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

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Costa Crociere has also suspended all Chinese cruise operations until February 4, citing concerns for the health of its passengers and crew. It has cancelled multiple trips on four cruise ships — the "Costa Serena," "Costa neoRomantica," "Costa Venezia" and "Costa Atlantica."

Costa is also giving passengers with passports from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong a "pre-boarding health questionnaire." Medical staff are on hand to conduct additional screenings on passengers and crew as necessary, Costa Crociere said in a statement.

In following guidelines from the Chinese government, MSC said it has canceled a cruise on "MSC Splendida" from Shanghai that had been scheduled to depart on January 28. Guests can choose between a full refund for their cruise tickets and port charges or rebook their trips and receive a credit that can be redeemed onboard. 

The coronavirus outbreak comes at peak travel season in Asia, as revelers celebrated the Chinese New Year on Saturday. 

Chinese travel agencies have been ordered to cancel group trips, which make up the bulk of cruise lines' business. And regional governments have restricted travel from Wuhan, putting a serious dent in local travel. Officials estimate that Thailand — a popular Lunar New Year destination — could potentially lose up to $1.6 billion in tourist dollars this season. 

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Major cruise line stocks could take a hit as they suspend multiple itineraries. UBS said if operations continue to be disrupted, Royal Caribbean could see earnings per share drop 6% to 7%, while Costa Cruciere per share earnings could fall 5% to 6%, the investment bank said in a research note. 

Royal Caribbean in particular counts on Chinese tourism. The company's stock price was down nearly 6% Monday, while airline shares also fell.

By contrast, shares of companies that make rubber surgical gloves and face masks have risen as public officials enforced safety precautions at airports and other public gathering places. 

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