Cuba: Cruise liner passengers will need measles and foot-and-mouth vaccine

Image copyright AFP Image caption Cuba is the only country in the Western Hemisphere where medical visitors do not have to be vaccinated

A large cruise liner that travels to Cuba will require all passengers to be vaccinated against measles and foot-and-mouth disease.

The Crystal Serenity’s passengers are not expected to be selected based on their age, but the reason for the stricter requirement was not provided.

All passengers also need to be vaccinated against typhoid and cholera.

A last month, Cuba was the only country in the Western Hemisphere where medical visitors do not have to be vaccinated.

Passengers, having booked trips to Cuba at the beginning of this year, will be contacted in mid-May to discuss the strict vaccines requirements, according to the Crystal Cruises website.

Images on the website’s FAQ section do not reference Cuba or require passengers to enter the ship.

Previously, only Cuba and the Bahamas required all travellers to be vaccinated against measles, for both medical and health reasons.

New legislation requiring travellers to Cuba to be vaccinated, as well as foot-and-mouth disease being reintroduced in the UK, has come into effect on 1 April.

The costs of the vaccinations and other travel-related health services have meant many medical tourists chose to avoid the countries.

When asked about the issue, a spokeswoman for the firm said: “As a multinational, we will be able to offer travellers all the required vaccinations, while at the same time connecting to a broad network of travel services from various countries.”

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“It’s been a long time coming,” explained travel agent Hannah Wallace.

“For years, people have been taking our pharmaceuticals from the UK without being covered by the new rules.”

Between 30 and 40 million people travel to Cuba every year.

A spokesperson for the British Medical Association (BMA) said: “Patients with a medical condition like diabetes who travel to Cuba for medical reasons would have been advised to be vaccinated by their GP for measles, as well as the human papilloma virus that can cause cervical cancer.

“Now that the government has enabled health visitors to be properly immunised, we hope that they can be offered the same advice and healthcare, wherever they travel.”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn, are due to visit Cuba to celebrate 40 years of marriage this year

This will increase in coming years, when Cuba launches a series of initiatives to attract more tourists to the island.

The Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, which launched the first cruise liner to sail between the UK and Cuba, said it would also help boost Cuba’s national tourism budget.

“It’s been three decades since the last cruise ship sailed from the UK,” said Simon Phillips, Royal Caribbean’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales.

“What that’s meant is that we’ve probably enabled more tourists than any other organisation in recent times to come to Cuba, at a cost that’s more than 20% below the rates that it would have cost before.”

There are 36 cruise ships in operation from the UK.

The number of tourists – domestic and foreign – visiting the island last year was 5.26 million, according to the National Geographic Society, in Havana.

However, the Ministry of Tourism has told the BBC that the number of British visitors was well below this level and tourism chiefs in Cuba suspect the figures could be much higher.

Royal Caribbean was the first cruise line to sail from the UK to Cuba in 2014, with Regent Seven Seas Cruises following last year.

Every cruise liner must spend time in Cuba before they will launch.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn on a 2010 visit to Cuba

“We are extremely proud of our status as the first cruise line to begin sailing from the UK directly to Cuba,” said Ms. Phillips.

“Getting a quick landing in Cuba was a welcome holiday in itself for our guests, and it has led to thousands of travellers taking up the opportunity to see what Cuba has to offer.”

Royal Caribbean operates 13 cruise lines in 27 different countries, including Iceland, Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Thailand and Kenya.

The company said the company’s contracts with the Department for Transport, Transport for London and GDL made changes to the laws regarding medical tourists easier.

The only exception to the rule is British Tour Operators’ Association members.

The UK side of the BMA wants the travel insurers to sign the new health tourism directive signed by the EU in January, which guarantees all medical tourists will have the mandatory vaccinations.

– Follow the author on Twitter: @Kanela

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