As cruise lines the world are working hard to get remaining passengers back home, there are tales of great resilience emerging.
Around 350 passengers are currently onboard Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen, which is floating off the coast of Chile after the country closed all ports to cruise ships.
The ship was scheduled to dock at Punta Arenas where it was meant to conclude 17-day cruise.
The passenger count includes around 100 doctors and dentists who were on the ship as part of a medical conference.
While guests were initially told they were allowed to disembark on March 16 under strict hygiene protocols, the Chilean government retracted its advice.
Also onboard is travel writer Carolyn Beasley who, despite being on the voyage for longer than anticipated, is making the best of her situation.
“I’m becoming friends with my room steward, Ralph Abaya, and his cheery smile cheers me up, every time. We discuss our joint predicament, and clearly he has so much more at stake than me. He tells me about his wife and seven-year old son that depend on him, and how he is glad they are safely inside the closed Philippines border, even if he is outside,” she wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I’m desperate to get home to my own husband and kids, even with self-isolation. I’m oscillating between frustration, exhaustion, and just plain sadness, but it’s mixed with plenty of laughter too. Photos of penguins are being compared, science lectures delivered, and artistic talents discovered (watercolour penguins, anyone?).
“Like a virus, the positivity is contagious. Ralph is still smiling, and if Ralph can smile, so can I.”
Damien Perry, managing director of Hurtigruten Asia Pacific said that while there is no one with symptoms of COVID-19, and nor does the line suspect anyone could be infected, they are looking at a range of suitable options.
“Our passengers and crew are our top priority and all are well. Our task force’s focus is to get all passengers home as quickly and safely as possible and we are regularly updating our passengers on board with our plans to get them home,” says Damian Perry, managing director of Hurtigruten Asia Pacific.
“The passengers and crew are in good spirits.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was aware of the situation and was ready to provide consular assistance.
At least four other ships with Australians onboard are currently sailing while finding ports to dock as more countries close their ports. Two of which are in a similar situation as Roald Amundsen.
Holland America Line’s Zaandam which has 101 Australians on board, was also turned away from Punta Arenas, Chile on March 16. The ship was sailing a 14-day South America voyage scheduled to end on March 21.
The ship is now en route to San Antonio, Chile, for a service call to take on fuel and other provisions.
“Despite Holland America Line’s positive outlook for disembarking Zaandam guests today at Punta Arenas, Chile, the ship was not allowed to do so by local authorities. Therefore, the ship departed the port this evening and is now en route to San Antonio, Chile, for a service call to take on fuel and other provisions,” says the line in a statement.
“Holland America Line is working on options for guests to disembark and travel home as soon as possible. Updates will be provided when they are known. Zaandam is not in quarantine and there are no known or suspected cases of COVID-19 on board.”
Complimentary internet and phone service has been provided to all guests to communicate with family.
Azamara Cruises Azamara Pursuit with 59 Australians on board are also anchored off Valparaiso, Chile.
The Norwegian Jewel left Sydney last month on a 23-day Australia and French Polynesia itinerary. The sailing was scheduled to conclude in Papeete on March 20 but was modified to disembark in Auckland, New Zealand and later Fiji, which both refused the ship.
“Due to multiple port closures in the area, further modifications were made, and the ship is now expected to disembark in Honolulu on March 22, 2020,” says the line in a statement.
The line has extended complimentary Wi-Fi access onboard so guests can make the necessary travel arrangements and communicate with friends and family.
They are also rearranging impacted flights for guests who reserved their airfare through us and reimbursing any incremental airfare costs for those guests who booked their flights independently.
Another ship with Australians trapped on board is the Costa Luminosa which was turned away from its intended port in Marseilles after French President Emmanuel Macron ordered a lockdown on Tuesday.
The Age and Sydney Morning Herald have been told 39 Australians are among 1400 passengers on the ship.
The ship has several confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more passengers are reporting symptoms.