- Title: Lucky cruisers enjoy final days of freedom as they return to life under lockdown
- Date: 13th April 2020
- Summary: SALZBURG, AUSTRIA (APRIL 9, 2020) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) CEO OF CRUISE AND MARITIME VOYAGES, CHRISTIAN VERHOUNIG, SAYING: ''Yes, I think there's a good spirit there. And we always have to make sure when they arrive back in the U.K. that there is something well organized and we are in frequent contact with the authorities. And essentially by now, everything is arranged for their homeward journey. It will take a little bit longer to depart than normally yes because of social distancing rules. Yes, but the no everything is in order. And I think we're looking forward to welcoming them back onboard very soon actually the entire industry to get back to normality soon.''
- Embargoed: 27th April 2020 10:19
- Keywords: CMV cruise Columbus coronavirus cruise cruise ship pandemic the coronavirus
- Location: UNKNOWN LOCATION (AT SEA)/ SALZBURG, AUSTRIA
- City: UNKNOWN LOCATION (AT SEA)/ SALZBURG, AUSTRIA
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA00AC9BQFK7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Passengers on board cruise ship Columbus, which is docking in the UK on Tuesday (April 14), say life under lockdown measures will be ''a smack in the face'' and ''totally different'' to their experience at sea, where they have been able to continue socializing and enjoying the ship's entertainment during their repatriation voyage.
While their world cruise was cut short on March 13th when shipping company Cruise and Maritime Voyages officially stopped all their operations following the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the new coronavirus, passengers have at least been able to have a few more weeks of normal life.
CMV's CEO Christian Verhounig told Reuters on Thursday April 9 there have been no cases of COVID-19 or reported symptoms of the disease on any of their ships, saying they ''have been very lucky.. as a company'' and ''the passengers on board have been lucky.''
After the ship docks at the Port of Tilbury in Essex, England, the passengers and crew face a different world to the one they left behind a couple of months ago and will need to adapt to social distancing rules, that so far they have only seen and heard about.
''It's going to be a smack in the face, totally different to what we have got on here,'' said John, a passenger from Derby.
While Liz from Lancashire said: ''On here we are just in a big bubble, we are so protected on here and we have been all the way through this and it's just what do we do when we get home? Suck it and see.''
Verhounig told Reuters his ''fear'' of the coronavirus pandemic affecting Columbus only eased when all on board, none of whom have been on shore since March 13, were well passed the 14 day incubation period for COVID-19.
Explaining that as it was all unfolding his biggest concern was how to get so many people home:
''So, the biggest worry actually was to see that everything is shutting down, that ports are shutting down that airports are shutting down and taking the decision to actually start the humanitarian mission and bringing people back home,'' he said.
With people on the ship from around the world, the Columbus met another of CMV's ships - the Vasco da Gama - off the coast of Thailand and on March 18th exchanged passengers, so that those headed to Australia were on one boat and those for Europe on another.
None of the crew or passengers have been on or off Columbus since and it's made only technical calls for food and fuel while on route back.
Verhounig said they have been in frequent contact with the authorities in the UK to make sure ''everything is arranged'' for all homeward journeys. While most passengers onboard are British, there are also American, Canadian, Dutch and German passengers, all of whom have had provisions made to get them home.
As well as several cruise liners suffering deadly outbreaks of coronavirus, the whole industry has taken a financial hit from the novel coronavirus outbreak, with trips across the globe either cancelled or suspended and refunds issued to customers.
Despite the challenges, Verhounig remains upbeat about the future:
''People are not going to stop cruising... if I take the period now last year for 2020 and the period today for 2021, we are actually slightly ahead of bookings you know. So it does show that people took the belief in cruising they do believe in our capabilities to deal with situations,'' he said.
Thoughts echoed by several passengers, including Linda from Derby who said the coronavirus ''hasn't changed'' her ''mindset about cruising.''
''I have actually enjoyed it, it's been very very unfortunate in that we didn't get to see the places we wanted to see being on this ship made a real big difference because everything has been just fine, in fact, it's been excellent on here. The food has been good, the staff are amazing, and the entertainment has been great, and it takes your mind off everything else that's happening.''
(Production: Sarah Mills)
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