PARIS (AFP) - Costa said on Friday (March 13) it was suspending all of its cruises around the world until April 3 over the coronavirus outbreak as governments step up measures to contain the outbreak.
Several of the Italian company's liners have been blocked in recent weeks over suspected or confirmed cases of the coronavirus and it has already halted cruises in the Mediterranean.
"Costa Cruises announces today that it will voluntarily put on hold the global operations of ships, impacting voyages until April 3," the company said in a statement.
The aim is to "protect is health and safety of guests, crew and destinations," it added.
Costa is part of Carnival Corporation, the world's biggest cruise line group, which announced on Thursday it would halt voyages on the 18 ships of its Princess Cruises for two months.
Costa, whose 11 cruise ships have capacity for thousands of passengers, said safe and smooth operations had "become significantly complex" with challenging logistics and increased restrictions adopted by several countries.
It said cruises under way will end "only to allow guests to disembark and return to their home," adding it was informing travel agents and next customers about the cancellations and that they will be refunded.
The cruise sector has enjoyed strong recent growth and had forecast it would carry close on 32 million passengers worldwide this year.
But the coronavirus outbreak has hit it amidships, with 3,711 people aboard the Carnival Corporation-owned Diamond Princess notably forced into quarantine off Yokohama, Japan, in early February and around 700 passengers becoming infected.