'We are stuck': SA man stranded on cruise ship due to Covid-19 fears

16 March 2020 - 18:18 By BOBBY JORDAN
Several South Africans are among thousands of passengers stuck on a South American cruise that is being refused permission to dock.
Several South Africans are among thousands of passengers stuck on a South American cruise that is being refused permission to dock.
Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

At least six South African passengers are stuck aboard a cruise liner that is being refused entry to San Antonio, Chile, due to fears about the coronavirus.

An undisclosed number of South African crew are also stuck aboard the Celebrity Eclipse, a 3,000-passenger cruise liner that left Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 2 for what was supposed to be a 13-day trip.

The pleasure cruise has since turned into a nightmare after the Chilean government last week prohibited the docking of cruise liners, due to ongoing jitters about the pandemic.

“We are stuck off San Antonio, Chile, and there are major negotiations now taking place at every government level between Chile, the US, the UK etc to work out a solution to get us into port and off the ship,” Brian Kirsch, a passenger from Cape Town, told TimesLIVE via WhatsApp.

“The captain has indicated that Celebrity are working on a possible contingency plan to sail on to an alternate port and even provide chartered planes to collect us if needed. Problem is the nearest international port would be Lima, Peru, which is at least two days sailing further north.

“Of course the ship will have limits to its supplies and fuel as it had planned to replenish in San Antonio. Then with the usual many older people on board, chronic meds can run out as [quantities are] only sufficient for this cruise. All in all, no solution yet - so that’s where we stand.” 

It is unclear whether anybody aboard has tested positive for Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. However, several online media reports published since Sunday suggest there may be no such cases on board.

Celebrity Cruises, the company that operates the Celebrity Eclipse, said it was committed to finding an alternative route home for all its passengers.

In a statement posted on its website, the company said: “The port in San Antonio, Chile, is currently closed. We are working with local authorities to facilitate entry to port and get our guests home. If we are unable to receive permission for Celebrity Eclipse to debark guests, we will find alternative ways for them to safely return home.”

A report in the Irish Sun quoted Irish passenger Marc O'Connor as saying: "I know the rest of the world is in turmoil, but this is just a strange situation. Being on the other side of the world, no matter how bad things might look in Ireland, Ireland looks very, very attractive from down here, it really does.

"We can't wait to get home."