Gay Cruise Accused of ‘Corporate Greed’ while Sailing during Coronavirus Pandemic
The world’s largest LGBT+ cruise line has come under fire for reportedly refusing refunds for an upcoming trip during the coronavirus pandemic.
The UK government’s latest travel advice states that people over 70 and those with pre-existing health conditions should avoid cruises after a number of ships around the world were locked down because of COVID-19 outbreaks onboard.
Several major cruise companies have cancelled trips with a full refund. Others have opted to continue running but will give a full refund to customers who choose not to travel.
But Atlantis, a cruise line that charters all-gay vacations with Celebrity, did not offer customers the same.
On March 9 Atlantis changed its cancellation policy “to provide our guests more flexibility in these uncertain times” – but it only agreed to offer customers company credit if they cancel a minimum of 60 days before their ship departs.
“We hope this temporary policy change provides you with the peace of mind that your payments are safe and that we understand your concerns,” the statement said.
It’s no consolation to those who are booked on Atlantis’ southern Caribbean cruise from San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is due to depart as planned on March 21, next Saturday.
Furious customers shared their concerns in a Facebook group set up for the cruise, with one accusing Celebrity and Atlantis of “corporate greed during the most unprecedented pandemic of our generation”.
LGBT+ people are more vulnerable to the coronavirus due to the prevalence of smoking in the LGBT+ community, higher rates of HIV and cancer, and barriers to healthcare. Add this to the fact that the average cruise-goer is aged 55 or older, and many customers were desperate to cancel.
One cruiser aged 73 booked the cruise with his husband, 67, before the pandemic began. “I’m requesting the ability as every other normal cruise customer has of being able to cancel, with a rain check for a future cruise,” he commented.
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Others were worried about infecting loved ones on their return. “When everyone gets off the ship, we would likely be responsible for putting in danger thousands of people by carrying/spreading a virus that, while it will not kill us, could harm or kill some of our family members,” one man wrote.
Atlantis’ vice president of marketing, Jim Cone, clarified the cancellation policy to LGBTQ Nation.
In an apparent contradiction of the company’s previously stated travel advice, he claimed that the cruise line will refund all customers who can’t travel to the US because of the European travel ban, those on Celebrity’s restricted list, and medical professionals who regularly work with patients.
He said refunds will also be given to elderly customers and those with a respiratory problem or other “significant health issues”.
“We have contacted most of these guests already, but if they fall into one of these groups, they should contact Atlantis directly to make the appropriate accommodations for them,” Cone said.
“Most of these guests have travel insurance and we will work with others on a case-by-case basis.”
This information is not listed on Atlantis’ website, nor is there any advice on the risk of the ship being quarantined, or the potential need to self-quarantine after the trip.