Tour operators ‘closely monitoring’ coronavirus impact on Europe

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The map above shows the affected areas.

Tour operators are braced to react to travel restrictions as the impact of coronavirus spreads across Europe.

Fears the virus, which has caused the deaths of more than 2,600 people in China, was becoming a pandemic heightened with 80,000 cases worldwide.

More than 20 deaths had been confirmed from 1,200 cases outside of China on Tuesday night. Eleven were in Italy, which had 323 cases – the largest number in Europe, and where more than 50,000 people were quarantined in 11 towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions, home to Milan and Venice.

Austria, Croatia, Spain, Switzerland and Algeria said new cases involved people who had been to Italy.

The Foreign Office last night advised against “all but essential travel” to the 11 towns in northern Italy.

The chief medical officer Chris Whitty said people with underlying health conditions might want to rethink travel plans for northern Italy but added that it was reasonable for anyone else to go because “there’s nothing in this world where there isn’t risk”.

He told The Times: “We’re not recommending changing travel advice for Italy at this point.”

A hotel in Tenerife was quarantined after an Italian tourist who had coronavirus had been identified on the island. About 1,000 guests at H10 Costa Adeje Palace were placed on lock-down. Jet2holidays stopped sales to the hotel after it was placed under quarantine, with holidaymakers due to stay at the property transferred to other accommodation.

Consumer group Which? warned that a lack of clarity was creating confusion for travellers. Insurance companies will only payout on a cancelled trip if the FCO has advised against travel to that area.

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Tour operators, including Kuoni, Cosmos and Titan Travel, said they were keeping a close eye on developments in Italy and monitoring Foreign Office advice in case of warnings against travel.

Exodus Travels said no one was affected on its current trips in Italy and nearby Austria.

A spokesperson said: “At present, all itineraries are scheduled to operate as normal, however, they are in constant contact with their trusted operators that work in all affected countries, and will monitor the situation closely.

“As always, Exodus Travels works hard to ensure the safety of their staff and customers at all times.

Newmarket Holidays starts its Italy tours in April. Chief operating officer David Sharman said the operator was “monitoring the situation extremely closely”.

He added: “As with all incidents that impact on travel we follow Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) as a source of good practice, with our customers’ health and wellbeing our top priority.”

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A school in Northwich closed for the week after students returned from a ski trip in Italy and another, in Nantwich, shut its sixth form.

Agents were fielding questions from concerned customers “instantly”, said Miles Morgan Travel chairman Miles Morgan, who added: “24/7 news coverage means clients become 24/7. As the operators say, it goes on the FCO advice – but agents can shine by answering our clients’ questions.”

Louise Thomas, of Tailor Made Travel, said: “The phone was ringing quite heavily this morning. It’s difficult to anticipate the outcome.”

Greek airline Aegean waived rebooking fees for passengers due to travel until March 20 across its network.

“Also be advised that our company will continue its regular flight schedule to all destinations, including Italy, until further notice,” the carrier added. “Naturally, we will continue to cooperate with the relevant authorities for any further steps that may be required.”

New Seabourn expedition ship to be christened in London

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Seabourn’s first expedition ship Seabourn Venture will be christened in Greenwich before its maiden voyage.

The 132-suite ship will call into the London port in June 2021 before sailing on to Oslo.

It will visit more than 150 destinations through to April 2022.

Seabourn Venture will operate a pre-inaugural sailing to London from Lisbon after it has been delivered by shipyard T.Marriotti in Italy.

UK managing director Lynn Narraway revealed the christening location to Travel Weekly at an event in London on Friday.

More:  New details of expedition ship revealed by Seabourn

Senior vice president, global sales and marketing, Chris Austin, also gave more details about the line’s second expedition ship due in 2022.

He revealed that the vessel’s debut programme would go on sale in “four to six weeks” and that the name would be announced in February.

“We are trying to get our itineraries out much earlier,” Austin said, adding that the line had recruited a second member of staff to its itinerary planning team.

He added that the US ban on cruises to Cuba had got “in the way” of deployment planning.

“We had planned five [Cuba] itineraries so we had to plan five more,” Austin said.

“[Cuba cruise ban] was probably the biggest obstacle we have ever had.”

Extended MSC Seashore to be the longest ship in MSC Cruises fleet

Extended MSC Seashore to be longest ship in MSC Cruises fleet

More than 40% of new ship MSC Seashore has been redesigned and enhanced as a “significant evolution and improvement” over its two sister ships.

The differences to MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview include 200 extra cabins, a larger ‘ship within a ship’ MSC Yacht Club and an additional double-deck lounge at the rear.

The latest MSC Cruises’ vessel, due to enter service in June 2021, will have 10,000 square metres of additional deck space with a 16-metre extension to 339 metres, making it the longest vessel in the fleet.

Features include 28 more terraced suites and two suites with private whirlpools.

The expanded MSC Yacht Club will include two new cabin categories – 41 deluxe grand suites and two owner’s suites with whirlpools.

A ‘cluster cabin’ concept for families – where two or three adjoining cabins can be linked to accommodate between six and ten people – will be introduced, while 75 larger cabins for disabled passengers are added.

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Two new restaurants are planned alongside a new location for five speciality dining outlets to allow for al fresco waterfront seating on the ship’s boardwalk.

The interior has been redesigned with two central meeting points positioned at the middle and forward part of the ship, as well as specific measures to improve passenger flows.

MSC Seashore will have a bigger casino and 20 speciality bars.

The ship will feature a new design of its aft swimming pool, an enlarged indoor pool and a new waterpark. Clubs for young children and teenagers have been separated from a larger kids’ zone.

A range of environmental protection measures is to be installed including a selective catalytic reduction system designed to help cut nitrogen oxide by 90% through advanced active emissions control technology.

Wastewater will go through a purification and filtration process that transforms it to “near tap-water” quality.

The new-build will also be fitted with shore-to-ship power connections while in port to reduce emissions.

The details emerged at a keel-laying ceremony for the ship at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.

MSC Cruises’ executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said: “Today’s ceremony marks another key milestone in the construction of one of our most innovative all-around ships yet.

“Most importantly, MSC Seashore – which will feature the latest and most advanced environmental technology currently available – represents another proof of our long-standing commitment to preserving the environment in our ongoing journey to minimise and continuously reduce the impact of our operations.”

Fincantieri CEO Giuseppe Bono added: “The beginning of drydock works of MSC Seashore, the largest ship so far built in Italy, is for us a source of great satisfaction.

“It is a real challenge in terms of structural and managerial aspects, which powers the impressive workload for the shipyard and the local area.”