Why is Ebola Still Causing Trouble for Cruise Industry in Belize? Our Offshore Injury Lawyer Explains

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

BelizeThough the threat of Ebola remains unclear on land in the United States, the horrific virus continues to cause problems for the cruise industry. Last week, the industry dealt with a mass panic aboard the Carnival Magic, aka the “Ebola Cruise”, caused by a Dallas hospital lab worker’s less than sound decision to board the ship (carrying over 2,000 people) after potentially being exposed to the virus at her job. (Thankfully, she tested negative for Ebola!) And now, the popular cruise port of Belize is reportedly giving cruise lines a bit of a headache after the island nation has decided to impose new and understandably strict measures for screening cruise passengers for Ebola.

According to an article from 7 News Belize, the nation’s Ministry of Immigration announced it will soon require cruise passengers to undergo screenings for Ebola at the Belize Harbor. However, rumor has it that the two cruise industry tycoons, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, have supposedly “threatened to pull scheduled cruises” from Belize as a result. What could possibly be the problem here?

Well, given the cruise industry’s reputation for choosing revenue over safety, the cruise lines’ objections to the port health screenings are likely due to potential of the cruise lines’ loss of money because of the screenings. If the Ebola screenings are imposed, it could mean delays and close-call deadlines for ships arriving and departing Belize. It will add to the inconvenience of passengers. The amount of time it will take for cruise passengers to disembark in Belize will necessarily increase, which will likely leave a lot of travelers irate.

Here, the potential for an irate passenger means an irate cruise line. After all, if it means lengthy port delays – passengers will likely choose a different itinerary or different cruise line altogether to sail with than Carnival or Royal; and it will likely affect not only bookings but shipboard revenue related to shore excursion sales at those ports too!

The concern over the screening is as understandable as the need for the screening, though. Who wants to wait in line to get off the ship? I mean, I certainly wouldn’t want to spend hours upon hours to disembark at a port where there’s barely enough time for exploration without the added delay. As it stands, it can take a pretty long time to disembark a ship at any given port of call, especially in the morning when most shore excursions head out.

But let’s take a step back for a second and seriously analyze the situation. From the standpoint of an offshore injury lawyer, it’s pretty clear why Belize is imposing these new screenings. We are in the midst of a worldwide alarming health concern. Over 5,000 people have fallen prey to the deadly virus, which the World Health Organization explains has a 70 percent fatality rate! Since there is no universal travel bans as of yet, it’s up to individual nations to do something about preventing a spread of Ebola on their own turf. It’s perfectly understandable that Belize’s government would want to put restrictions on who comes in or goes out of the country – especially since the cruise lines aren’t doing anything about it that we know of as of yet.

From what we know, cruise lines aren’t even thoroughly looking into passengers to determine whether they have visited any of the countries in West Africa where Ebola has spread before boarding ships. Belize officials have already imposed their own restrictions in that they have stopped issuing visas for nationals from several West African nations. Unfortunately, the US hasn’t done the same. This means that a US passenger whose been to any of the countries where Ebola has spread in West Africa may easily board a cruise ship without hassle or question. And honestly, can we really rely on people to “voluntarily” disclose this information?

Furthermore, given the recent concerns regarding the lab worker aboard the Carnival Magic, it is understandable that countries may impose their own protocols to stop Ebola-infected people from entering their nations.

For now, Belize is sticking to its guns about the screening. Royal’s Navigator of the Seas called on Belize as scheduled. And we have yet to hear about the cruise line’s reaction straight from the horse’s mouth.

All in all, the safety and health of not just cruise passengers, but everyone in the world, should be top priority. We have to side with Belize on that one because if nations can’t come together and collectively impose travel restrictions to contain the spread of Ebola, individual governments have to step up and do what’s right for their own people. Passengers themselves would likely agree. Yes, it’s annoying to wait in line and get screened, but isn’t the extra hour or two waiting in line worth it when you know you – or anyone else around you – are safer in light of the alternative? Peace of mind is priceless, and when it comes to a deadly virus like Ebola, no one should be taking any chances.

We know very well that if a cruise passenger were to contract Ebola aboard a cruise ship, an offshore injury lawyer would be the first person they’ll be calling for assistance in filing a lawsuit against the cruise line for being negligent in administering strict protocols for screening travelers. Let’s hope it doesn’t get that far.

For now, at least Belize is taking initiative to protect people from Ebola. Hopefully cruise lines will follow suit.