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The AIDAvita cruise ship. Photo: Twitter

Coronavirus: Vietnam ‘blocks two cruise ships from docking to keep out infection’

  • The AIDAvita, a German-owned cruise liner, had made stops in the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, state media said
  • The Norwegian Jade was also denied permission to dock, passengers on board said in social media messages citing a letter from the captain
Vietnam has blocked two cruise ships from docking amid fears of coronavirus infections on board, according to state media, ship tracking websites and messages posted to social media by passengers.

Authorities in Quang Ninh province, home to the Unesco World Heritage Site Ha Long Bay, decided on Tuesday not to allow passengers of the German-owned AIDAvita cruise ship to disembark on Thursday, the state Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

“The vessel has docked in the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, which have all reported coronavirus cases,” VNA said.

“Not allowing AIDIvita’s passengers to disembark [in Vietnam] is just a temporary solution to prevent the intrusion of diseases,” VNA cited a local official as saying.

AIDA Cruises, the German owner of the AIDAvita, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. AIDA Cruises is a subsidiary of Miami-based Carnival Corp.

The cruise liner left the Philippines port of Coron on February 10 bound for Vietnam via the South China Sea, according to data published by the Marine Traffic ship-tracking website.

It had been expected to visit Ha Long Bay, in northern Vietnam, on Saturday, then proceed to the ports of Da Nang, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City from Sunday through Thursday, according to CruiseMapper, a website which tracks cruise ships.

As of Friday evening, the AIDAvita was 176km (109 miles) south of the Thai capital Bangkok, according to Marine Traffic.

The AIDAvita cruise ship. Photo: Twitter
Because of the coronavirus, many cruises in Southeast Asia are being cancelled while others currently sailing are being diverted, skipping originally scheduled stops in mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Norwegian Jade, operated by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, was also denied permission to dock in Vietnam, passengers aboard the ship said in Twitter posts, but its captain said there were no virus cases on board.

“We have very strict protocols in place, there is no illness on board the ship and no guests or crew members on the ship who hold Chinese, Macau or Hong Kong passports or have visited or transited through any of these areas,” captain Frank Juliussen said in a letter sent to passengers aboard the Norwegian Jade.

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“Still, the port has proven to be unreasonable during this process and late last night informed us that despite previously approving our calls and despite the actions we’ve taken to accommodate their new protocols, that they are denying our upcoming calls,” Juliussen said, according to a copy of the letter posted on Twitter by a passenger.

It was not known which Vietnamese port he was referring to.

Norwegian Cruise Line did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vietnamese port management authorities refused to comment and referred calls from Reuters to local port authorities in Vietnam, where telephone calls went unanswered.

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On Friday evening, the Norwegian Jade was heading for the port of Laem Chabang in Thailand, according to data published by the Marine Traffic ship tracking website.
The ship had been sailing north in the South China Sea along the coast of southern and central Vietnam as recently as Wednesday until it reversed course and embarked on a new heading toward Thailand, according to the data.

The coronavirus has killed more than 1,380 people, mostly in mainland China, where the outbreak originated, with one each in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan.