The first impact of swine flu on cruising has been to send shares in the two major companies plunging today. On Wall Street Carnival Corporation’s shares were down almost 10 per cent to $25.62 while those in Royal Caribbean Cruises fell15 per cent to $2.22.
Several Carnival ships call at Mexican ports on their Caribbean cruises from Florida, and the line’s newest and biggest ship, the 3,000-passenger Carnival Splendor, started sailing this month on regular voyages down the Pacific coast from Long Beach in California to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.
Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas also carries 3,100 passengers each week from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera.
Fred Olsen’s Balmoral, currently sailing down the west coast of America, is scheduled to make a two-day stop in Acapulco next week, before heading through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean and back to Dover on May 29.
A spokesman for the company said they were monitoring the situation closely.
Stock market analysts are comparing the situation with the 2003 SARS outbreak, when major hotel shares dropped by as much as a fifth.
More than 100 Mexicans are reported to have died from the swine flu virus, and public buildings, schools and even churches have been closed in an attempt to stop the infection spreading.
The European Union health commissioner has advised against non-essential travel to Mexico and north America. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged American citizens to exercise caution but her aides stopped short of issuing a travel warning.