Over 2,000 cruise passengers visit southern Vietnam

By Nguyen Khoa, Vi Nguyen   February 23, 2020 | 05:57 am PT
Over 2,000 cruise passengers visit southern Vietnam
Foreign tourists get off the MSC Splendida cruise ship to go onshore after docking at Thi Vai Port in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province on February 22, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Khoa.
Three cruise ships with over 2,000 people on board have arrived at tourist hotspots in southern Vietnam this weekend.

The Panama-flagged MSC Splendida docked at Thi Vai Port in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province on Saturday morning with 1,400 passengers and crew members.

Health quarantine staff checked disembarking passengers’ temperature and told them to wash their hands with disinfectant before going ashore. The global death toll of the novel coronavirus outbreak had reached more than 2,400 as of Sunday morning and infections topped over 78,000 in about 30 countries and territories, mainly in China.

Around 800 passengers visited tourist attractions in Vung Tau, a popular beach town. They then left for Ho Chi Minh City and visited Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, Reunification Palace, and War Remnants Museum. Most of them seemed relaxed and no one was wearing a face mask.

"Passengers on the ship come from European countries and the Americas," Paolo Cartasegna, tour manager of the cruise vessel, said.

Cartasegna added he didn’t feel worried while working on board because he was well informed about the Covid-19 and underwent training on how to prevent the epidemic.

The ship sailed from Busan in South Korea, visited Singapore and Malaysia, and was in Vietnam for a day before continuing on to Thailand.

Tran Thi Thu Hien, deputy director of the Ba Ria - Vung Tau tourism department, said the province wants to send the message it is a safe destination for tourists. "We have measures in place to ensure the health and safety of tourists as well as the community."

The number of visitors in Ba Ria- Vung Tau in the first 20 days of February was down by 31 percent from the same period in January, resulting in falling revenues as many restaurants and bars were bereft of customers.

A medical staff brings devices onboard to check passengers body temperature. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Khoa. 

A medical staff brings devices onboard to check passengers' body temperature. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Khoa. 

On Saturday the U.S.-flagged Crystal Symphony, owned by Crystal Cruises, docked at Hiep Phuoc Port in HCMC with 900 passengers and crew members.

Viet Excursion travel firm, which welcomed the ship, said seven Chinese crew members had to remain on board for health checks.

Passengers went ashore and explored Ben Thanh Market, War Remnants Museum and Central Post Office. After that they visited Cai Be floating market in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang.

The ship will leave Ho Chi Minh City on Monday for another country. The Centers for Disease Control in collaboration with the city Department of Tourism and other relevant agencies have taken measures to check the health of arriving passengers, tour guides, drivers, and staff at tourist destinations to quickly detect suspected cases of Covid-19 infection.

The ship had earlier visited Thua Thien- Hue Province last Wednesday and Da Nang City last Thursday. It set sail from the U.S. and visited Guam, the Philippines and Singapore.

From last Friday to Sunday the Silver Spirit luxury, operated by Silversea Cruises, docked in HCMC with 400 passengers and crew members.

It too had been to Hue and Da Nang, and was in Thailand and the Philippines before coming to Vietnam.

Many cruise ships have recently canceled plans to dock at ports in Ha Long Town, home to UNESCO heritage site Ha Long Bay, but said they would maintain their schedules in southern Vietnam, said Phan Xuan Anh, director of Viet Excursion travel firm.

Earlier, authorities in Quang Ninh had been reprimanded by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam for turning away Italian vessel Aida Vita over Covid-19 concerns.

The ship later decided to cancel its entire trip to Vietnam, which would have started Thursday last week and taken it to Ha Long, Da Nang, Nha Trang, and HCMC.

The arrival of foreign cruise ships has been a positive sign, proving that the country is a safe destination in the context that the number of foreign tourists has dropped, affecting travel businesses and tourism revenues.

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) estimated that the Covid-19 epidemic could cost the country $5.9- $7.7 billion in tourism revenues in the first quarter, or about 25 percent of the industry's total revenues last year.

Vietnam has reported 16 cases of infection so far, 11 in the northern province of Vinh Phuc, three in HCMC and one each in the central provinces of Khanh Hoa and Thanh Hoa. Fifteen have been discharged after treatment so far.

The global death toll of the Covid-19 outbreak had reached more than 2,400 as of Sunday morning and infections topped over 78,000, mainly in China.

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