Monthly Archives: April 2009

Cruise Ships Divert To San Diego; So Does Swine Flu

The swine flu outbreak in Mexico is causing several cruise ships to divert to San Diego, where it’s hoped that passengers will drop a lot of cash, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

These ships are diverting from ports on the West Coast of Mexico where, so far, there have been no reported cases of swine flu. See Google’s swine flu mashup for details.

There have been two fatal cases in Tijuana, right on the U.S. border. But no other cases have been reported down the coast (yet) in Cabo San Lucas, Ensanada, Mazatlan, Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta, the Mexican ports on the West Coast that cruise ships are avoiding, as CruiseMates points out..

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed swine flu cases in California has reached 14, with seven in San Diego County. Twenty-nine more cases are suspected, including eight in San Diego County, according to the California Department of Public Health.

I’m not saying that the West Coast of Mexico is safer than San Diego, or that the cruise lines have acted unreasonably. The Centers for Disease Control has warned against nonessential travel to Mexico, after all.

The flu is certainly not widespread in California at this point, and symptoms in cases there have been less severe than in Mexico. Nobody has died. Furthermore, we don’t know how thoroughly, accurately and quickly statistics are being reported, in any country.

But we can be reasonably sure that viruses care nothing for borders and that, in any event, the swine flu has already spread into all three countries of North America. This is not a “Mexican” flu. It’s the world’s flu, and we’re all going to have to cope with it, whether we want to or not.

Meanwhile, if you have a cruise planned to Mexico, Gene Sloan at USA Today’s Cruise Log is keeping a thorough tally of itinerary changes.

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Airlines Waiving Change Fees On Mexico Travel

The Centers for Disease Control is advising postponement of nonessential travel to Mexico, and all major U.S. airlines are allowing ticketed customers to postpone their trips or change their destinations, at least for the next few weeks.

European airlines are doing the same, Bloomerg reports.

Nobody is offering refunds because of the swine flu. But most airlines are permitting passengers who hold tickets for travel to Mexico within a specified period (which varies by airline) to reschedule the same routing or to apply the value of the ticket to a new destination within one year. In other words, if you’re not sure what you want to do, you can cancel the trip in return for a voucher equal to the cost of the ticket and good for one year.

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Passengers Drop Deck Furniture On Pirates

It is deeply disturbing that the seas are not safe from piracy in 2009, but somehow heartening to read about cruise ship passengers throwing tables and chairs onto the pirates trying to board their ship.

The Australian newspaper The Age reports that passengers “threw plastic tables and chairs at AK-47-wielding pirates who were trying to board” the MSC Melody off the East Coast of Africa over the weekend. The ship’s security forces returned fire from the pirates, who were driven off.

A Spanish warship responded to the cruise ship’s distress call, chased down and captured nine Somalis suspected in the attack and turned them over to the Seychelles Coast Guard, according to Reuters.

The attack occurred 650 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, outside the area where pirates normally operate. The CEO of the company that owns the Melody said it will no longer route ships along the East Coast of Africa, The Australian reports.

Travel Stocks Dropping On Swine Flu Fears

The stocks of airlines, hotels and other travel-related companies are dropping on Wall Street this morning after similar declines in Asia, the Associated Press reports:

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. fell 8.7 percent; Carnival Corp. fell 8.8 percent; and AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, fell 14.4 percent.

It’s not clear why U.S. residents who have the disease, many of them during travels in Mexico, have all contracted relatively mild cases. None have died, even though the disease is suspected of killing more than 100 people in Mexico.

The effect is likely to be devastating on tourism in Mexico, which is already being hammered by the recession and concerns about drug-related violence, the British newspaper The Guardian reports.

Not helpful in that regard is the suggestion from an Israeli health official, reported by the Associated Press, that the virus be called “the Mexican flu” in deference to who find swine offensive for religious reasons. While the flu might have originated in Mexico, it was first identified in the United States and is now popping up worldwide.

A Visitors’ Guide To Driving In Southern California

A guest entry from the kid, Kate Symmonds:

freeway-800-042609If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Southern California, you’ll need to rent a car.  And you’ll need some survival tips.

After three years in Montreal, I figured that moving to San Diego would make me a happier, more relaxed person.  And I really have almost forgotten what it feels like to step outside in negative 40-degree weather and have tears of pain freeze to my face. I’ve noticed, however, that I can’t get into my car without tensing up. This is because my personal hell is driving on the freeways of Southern California. And I do it every day.

So if you’re coming to Southern California (which I would vaguely define as anywhere between and including San Diego and Santa Barbara counties), I have some advice.

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