Cruise ship abruptly changes routes amid COVID-19 concerns

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston couple is among the passengers on board Carnival's Freedom ship that has headed to a new destination.

The cruise line abruptly changed its ports of call away from its original destination in the Caribbean amid COVID-19 concerns.

RELATED: Cruise liner out of Galveston changes course over COVID-19

Carnival told ABC13 the countries scheduled are still working through their screening protocols and guidelines. They wanted to avoid any possibility that the ship may be turned away from the port.

Laura and Justin Jensen are new parents. They said they planned the seven day vacation as an escape.

"Expect the unexpected. We just wanted to get away and sleep. We have a 7-month-old at home, so we just wanted to sleep and relax," said Laura. "I would definitely much rather do what they did and change our port, rather than us get to Grand Cayman and Jamaica and then be stuck."

The Jensens spoke with ABC13 on FaceTime from the Gulf of Mexico. They're now headed to Belize. They say they're making the most of their new itinerary. They did wonder whether Carnival knew about the issue prior to them leaving Galveston.

"It seems like Carnival might've known that this was going to happen before we got on the ship," said Justin. "People were upset that we weren't warned in anyway beforehand or offered to cancel or reschedule for a later date. We were kind of forced into this situation."

ABC13 asked Carnival about their cancellation policy given the growing uncertainty about the virus.

The company released the following statement:

"Protecting the health and safety of our guests and crew is our top priority. We are closely monitoring the evolving situation with respect to COVID-19 and travel advisories. Our medical experts are coordinating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and have we implemented enhanced screening, prevention and control measures for our ships, guests and crew. We are also contacting our guests prior to departure to make sure they are aware of any restrictions or changes to itineraries."

Since the travel restrictions have gone into place, all of Carnival Cruise line ships have been cleared to sail and there have been no operational cancellations. Because our ships are mobile, we can quickly modify our ships' itineraries to include alternate destinations when necessary. Since there are no identified public health issues specifically related to our operations, our ticketing and cancellation policies remain in place at this time.

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