Simone Jacques, who is on the Costa Victoria with her husband Brett, claims to be “absolutely terrified”. (Provided)
The federal government has been asked to rescue over 200 Australians stranded on a cruise ship bound for Italy that has just registered its first coronavirus case.
- Passengers on board the Costa Victoria were told to stay in their rooms
- Australian passengers include an 87-year-old woman
- DFAT fears that the ship may dock in Italy, the country most affected by COVID-19
Costa Victoria passengers were ordered to stay in their rooms while the ship sails to Venice, where it was due to dock this weekend.
“We are terrified, we are absolutely terrified. It is obviously very stressful, we simply don’t know what is going on,” said passenger Simone Jacques of Victoria.
Ms. Jacques and her husband Brett joined the cruise in late February.
They said the captain had not been willing or unable to dock anywhere in the past two weeks due to the closure of European ports in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday night, news came that a passenger had tested positive for COVID-19.
“We are doing well at the moment, but there are many older people on this cruise, most of whom are over 70 years old,” said Ms. Jacques.
Jacques said there were no hand sanitizers in their rooms and that passengers were desperate not to land in Italy, the country most affected by the virus.
“We are hearing screams from the outside, listening to people on the balcony, discussing different languages, so the tensions are high and will increase,” he said.
The couple’s daughters look helplessly at the crisis taking place at home.
“They are literally trapped in a room on a boat with no communication and practically they have been told that they will go to Italy, which from what we know in Australia is one of the worst places in the world [for coronavirus]”Said Elise Jacques.
Fear for 87 years stuck on a floating “disaster story”
Marilyn Rose Veil, of St Kilda, said her 87-year-old sister and mother were aboard the ship.
He said he had “a good cry” when he learned that a passenger had had coronavirus.
“My mom’s husband passed away last year,” Veil said.
“She was very stressed and my sister and mom thought it would be a good idea to go on a cruise.
“It was just a disaster story from day one.”
Western Australia’s Barbara Ann Pocklington and Rosemary McMillan Brown are also among the stranded passengers. (Provided)
The ship affected by DFAT can dock in Venice
Elise Jacques said the federal government needs to do more to help Australians stranded on the ship.
“Where are these Australians going, who is helping them? Will the embassy come in and take care of them? Or will they be completely blocked?” she said.
Stay up to date on the coronavirus epidemic
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it monitors more than 30 cruise ships with over 3,000 Australians on board.
The department was particularly concerned about the prospect of the Costa Victoria docking in Venice.
“We raised our concerns about the suitability of Venice as a port for Australians to land at this point in time, given the serious problems associated with the impact of the coronavirus in that part of Italy,” said a spokesman.
“We are therefore working with the Italian authorities to identify an alternative port where passengers can safely disembark and return to Australia.”
Costa Cruises has been contacted for comment.