Some managers working for a Norwegian Cruise Line have told sales staff to lie to customers about the risk of the 2019 novel coronavirus, the Miami New Times reported. An employee in South Florida told the news outlet that managers were telling staff daily that the flu-like virus, which has killed at least 4,200 worldwide, wasn’t a big deal and was not as deadly as other things. “[They’re] constantly underestimating it,” the employee said. Emails leaked to the news outlet showed that a senior sales manager in Norwegian Cruise Line’s Miami office came up with talking-point responses that staff members could send to customers concerned about COVID-19. For example, staff were told to tell potential customers that the new coronavirus is not a concern in warm Caribbean climates and “can only survive in cold temperatures.” In another inaccurate talking point, staff were told to say that “scientists and medical professionals have confirmed that the warm weather of the spring will be the end of the Coronavirus.” “Team, these are one liner’s [sic] to help you close your guests that are on the fence. DO NOT USE THESE unless the coronavirus is brought up,” the leaked email said. Norwegian didn’t comment publicly on the matter.
The cruise industry has taken a massive hit since the outbreak, with hundreds of confined and infected passengers in ships held off Japan and San Francisco. The State Department has issued a warning to all U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, not to travel by cruise ship due to the high risk of catching or spreading the virus.