Asia’s largest cruise ship company switches home port from China to Taiwan due to coronavirus
02/03/2020 // Ethan Huff // Views

In a major announcement, the Spectrum of the Seas cruise line, which is Asia's largest, has indicated that it will soon be switching its home port from Shanghai, China, to Taiwan due to the escalating coronavirus crisis.

The Taiwanese news outlet LTN says that Spectrum of the Seas no longer wants to port in China because it knows that potential customers will be leery about booking a cruise that goes anywhere near the coronavirus-stricken communist country where it's currently based.

The switch will reportedly occur in mid-February, with an official announcement soon on the way. Meanwhile, the company is offering price discounts to customers who already booked future cruises that, at the time, were supposed to have departed from Shanghai.

The Chinese brand of Royal Caribbean, Spectrum of the Seas had previously been proud to call Shanghai its home. But as the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow, the company has decided to withdraw from China completely and instead dock in Taiwan, Asia's second-largest cruise market.

The Innovation Travel Agency, which represents Royal Caribbean, confirmed that Spectrum of the Seas is, in fact, moving its home operations to Taiwan in the next few weeks, and could stay there as late as April, depending on the severity of this epidemic, which could turn pandemic.

According to Innovation Travel Agency Chairman Li Qiyue, Spectrum of the Seas had originally planned to come to Taiwan eventually. But the coronavirus crisis sped up the decision, just as it did for multiple other cruise ship operators that have likewise decided to leave China for safer ports.


The consensus seems to be that coronavirus is completely out of control in China, but that the few reported cases of it in Taiwan are manageable and soon-to-be no longer an issue.

Each lost cruise costs a cruise line up to $4 million in lost revenue, says expert

Such decisions are having to be made because each lost cruise voyage, according to James Hardiman, the managing director of equity research for Wedbush Securities, translates as up to $4 million in lost revenue for a cruise line.

In addition to Royal Caribbean modifying its Spectrum of the Seas voyages, Carnival has also canceled four of its scheduled trips in the region of China.

"I think with every passing day it is becoming a – it's creating a materially negative impact on the earnings at some of these cruise companies," Hardiman is quoted as saying.

If the spread of coronavirus doesn't subside in the very near future, he further warns, then all cruise lines that operate in Asia are "going to have to be extra conservative in terms of how they guide 2020."

It's not just cruise lines: Airlines are also suffering due to coronavirus

The travel industry at large is taking a massive hit from the coronavirus crisis, with United Airlines, British Airways, and Finnair all deciding to suspend some of their normal flights in and out of China. Others are offering full refunds to travelers who already booked now-canceled trips.

It remains to be seen what the full impact of coronavirus will be on the travel industry. Though it's not an apples-to-apples comparison, the 2003 SARS crisis cost the global economy more than $40 billion – and that was at a time when companies had much less exposure to the Asian market. In today's world, in other words – and considering the fact that coronavirus is shaping up to be far worse than SARS – the impact could be substantially larger.

"... back then, you know, early 2000s, most of these companies, whether it's the cruise names or the online travel names that we follow, neither of them had anywhere near the exposure that they have today with respect to China and broader Asia," warns Hardiman.

"I think that the impact is going to be widespread."

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