Carnival Corporation boss Arnold Donald has refuted suggestions the cruise industry was “slow” to react to the outbreak of coronavirus.

He argued that cruise is actually one of the best-placed sectors of travel to cope with anticipated stricter health and safety protocols in the future.

The chief executive of the nine-brand cruising giant said: “The cruise industry put a pause on cruise before anybody else did. Before hotels or restaurants and other places of social gathering.

“Cruise ships are not the cause. Neither are they the reason for the spread.”

Commenting on the outbreak on board Diamond Princess which was held in quarantine off Yokohama by Japanese authorities, Donald said: “This was an evolving situation. There was very little knowledge early on, in February and early March.

“But we did exactly what we were told to do. We co-operated fully with the Japanese Ministry of Health. They decided to hold the ship and put a quarantine in place, so we complied with that and at the same time, we tried to make it as comfortable as possible for our passengers and crew.”

And he added: “If you listen to our guests on Diamond or Grand Princess, you’ll hear lots of plaudits for our crew and our corporation. Our guests feel strongly that we did our best.”

Asked if he blamed authorities of the destinations and ports that wouldn’t allow ships with confirmed cased of Covid-19 to disembark passengers, Donald said: “I won’t sit and judge anybody at the moment. We all need to focus on helping.

“There were certain situations where we had ships with people on board that needed medical attention – not even Covid-19 related – that couldn’t get it in the timely manner they would have normally. That was unfortunate. There’s no question that happened and we tried to give assistance where we could. But I will not judge.”

Donald concluded: “So people say we were slow, but we were first [to suspend operations] – before all the other social gathering venues.”

And he added that cruise was well-placed for the future when stricter health and safety protocols are expected to be introduced across the travel industry.

“I don’t think there’s anything unique to this that particularly ascribable to cruise alone. In fact, in many ways, cruise is better set up to handle this than society in general,” said Donald.

“We already do isolation, deep cleaning, hold medical records, do temperature scanning, use hand santitisers and promote regular hand-washing. We also document a lot of passenger information. So we’re uniquely suited in some ways.

“Airport terminals? Not so much. Subways? Not so much. Hotels? Restaurants? Not so much,” he said.

But he added: “Covid-19 has its own epidemiology. Whatever the medical experts deem is necessary to deal with it in the future, we will cooperate and implement.”