Zika virus a concern for cruise travel out of Tampa

- As travelers flock to warmer climates to escape the winter, concern over the spreading Zika virus is causing many people to rethink their cruises.

Cruise lines that set sail out of Tampa each week operate in the regions hit hardest by the mosquito-borne virus, including the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America.

Passengers aboard the Carnival Paradise returned to Tampa Monday morning after fog prevented their ship from docking on the Mexican Island of Cozumel. While sailing for three days without docking was a disappointment for some passengers, others considered about Zika considered it a fortunate turn of events.

"We were prepared with our bug spray. I think the fact that we didn't actually stop at a port kind of made me feel a little better, because we weren't exposed," said Angie Seibert, who was traveling with her daughter and friends.

According to travel agents, February is one of the busiest times of the year to book a vacation, and this year the Caribbean is a hot destination.

"It's our wave season. We have been non-stop since January 5," said Janice Sinardi of Cruise Planners. "A lot of people are booking summer vacations, last-minute vacations and spring break is off the charts."

Several Bay area travel agents, including Sinardi, said that none of their clients have asked to cancel or rebook a vacation out of fear.

"So far none of the mothers have been that concerned either," said Sinardi.

Among the top cruise lines, each is offering accommodations for pregnant women.

Carnival is allowing expecting mothers to switch ships to an unaffected area. Norwegian is allowing them to postpone their cruises and Royal Caribbean is handling passengers' concerns on a case-by-case basis.

Passengers who are not pregnant do not qualify for these alternatives as of yet. Travelers must check with their individual cruise line if they are considering canceling their trip.

Most airlines are also offering full or partial refunds to pregnant customers; however, hotel chains in affected countries are not yet offering refunds.

Travel agents recommend getting travel insurance with a "Cancel for Any Reason" option, in case concerns over the virus continue.

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