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Cruise lines adding enhanced screening at Port Tampa Bay to battle COVID-19

One thing the cruise lines will be doing is taking traveler's temperatures before they get on board.

TAMPA, Fla. — If you’re planning to take a cruise out of Port Tampa Bay, expect to see some major screening changes stemming from COVID-19.

Starting Friday, March 6, Royal Caribbean International said it would be taking each passenger’s temperature before they board the ship.

That’s just part of the enhanced measures that cruise lines said they now have to take to keep passengers and their own crew healthy.

“I will go through it,” said Kimberly Kersainvio, who was heading out with a friend on a Carnival Cruise.

Just hours before Kersainvio was about to leave from Port Tampa Bay, she said she received an email letting her know about enhanced COVID-19 safety precautions now being taken.

She said that made her feel more secure but in some ways a little more nervous too.

“When I got the email, I was like - great - we are getting additional screening,” said Kersainvio. “But behind my head, I’m like, 'is there something that we need to be worried about when we get on the boat? Or something like that?'”

On Thursday, the major cruise lines servicing Port Tampa Bay said passengers should expect an expanded questionnaire asking them whether they’d recently traveled any countries with a coronavirus outbreak, or whether they’ve been sick or caring for anyone exposed to the virus.

If the answer is yes, those passengers would kindly be asked to skip this trip and offered full credit on a future cruise.

“It makes us reassured that we’re going to be okay, and no one is getting on the ship that’s good might be sick,” said passenger Sophie Crowe.

“It’s as a precaution. It keeps everyone safe,” said Anse Lamor, who was leaving on the same trip. “So, why not? It’s not gonna hurt anyone.”

By Friday, Royal Caribbean had taken it several steps further. 

All passengers, they say, will now have their temperature taken with a no-touch thermometer.

Anyone with a reading above 100.4° must undergo a secondary health screening which includes another temperature check, a test to measure a passenger’s oxygen levels, and a medical professional checking for flu-like symptoms or respiratory illness.

Anyone deemed unfit to sail, they said, will get a full credit to be used on a future cruise.

Gay Courter and her husband Phil from Crystal River were among the hundreds of cruise passengers quarantined for two weeks in Japan aboard a Princess cruise ship. The couple then spent two more weeks under observation at a U.S. Air Force base.

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Now, with another ship in limbo off the California coast, Courter said she can see why travelers are concerned.

“The stress of this has been a very big concern to us,” Courter said. “It isn’t healthy to be locked up. So, we’re not going to travel in the near future. Certainly not overseas.”

The cruise lines’ enhanced measures might also stem from concerns about whether passengers are being completely honest when answering basic questions about health and recent travel.

“Well, they have money invested in tickets. They may not have bought travel insurance. And maybe they’re thinking they just have a little cold,” said passenger Ron Breen. “So, they’ll downplay whatever symptoms they might have.”

In an email, Royal Caribbean International also asked any passengers who have recently had a fever or are currently running a temperature to not even bother coming to the port.

“Please contact us or your Travel Advisor immediately and we will happily provide you with a credit for future travel,” the letter reads. “Thank you for your understanding and cooperation while we do everything possible to keep our ships safe for you.”

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