travel

"I feel really let down.” Jan went on a $35,000 cruise. Now she's in hotel quarantine.

A cruise ship passenger now in quarantine in a Melbourne hotel has slammed the “appalling” conditions and says she feels let down by the Australian government.

Speaking to the Today show hosts Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, Jan Richards recalled being trapped on the Greg Mortimer Antarctic cruise ship, which spent a fortnight off the coast of South America with more than half of the people on board testing positive for COVID-19.

Richards returned to Australia yesterday on board a repatriation flight, and one day into her mandatory two-week hotel quarantine, she told Stefanovic and Langdon while she was “extremely happy to be home”, she felt let down by Australian authorities.

“It’s bittersweet really, because we were stuck in a country [Uruguay] where the people were kind and compassionate and we couldn’t have asked for more help,” she said, explaining that after being allowed off the ship they were waved off by Uruguayans who had lined the streets to wish them well.

“Of course it was a long arduous trip to come home. I personally, and I’m not speaking for everybody, I’m only speaking for myself, I feel really let down by our government. I didn’t get the same care and compassion I believe that I received when we were in Uruguay.

“We’re now stuck in this hotel. I have no real idea of what my expectations was other than I thought it would be clean and we would have access to fresh air. Well, the hotel rooms are dirty, and I mean really dirty, and we have no access to fresh air. I’m not expecting five-star. I do expect some level of compassion from our own government. It’s been a nightmare of a journey. We’re at the end of it now, but, we’ve got two weeks here.”

Three ways Australian quarantine may end. Post continues below audio.


Stefanovic told her he and Langdon “wholeheartedly sympathise” with her journey, but she had to expect it given the circumstances.

“I know it’s upsetting for you and we appreciate you talking. The Prime Minister and every medical officer is going to say ‘I’m sorry (but) you just have to go through it in order to protect Australian people’. You do get that, don’t you?” he asked.

“One hundred per cent,” Richards replied.

“And not one of us would ever want to pass this on to anybody. But I do think we should be treated like Australians and be given a clean environment. No one is asking for five-star. We expected to do this. We want to do this. We certainly don’t want to pass it on to anybody. But this treatment is appalling.”

Langdon asked how Richards felt about the cruise operator Aurora Expeditions, who insisted the trip – which left Argentina on March 15, four days after the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic – go ahead.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We do know this cost you $35,000 not including airfares. The company told you there would be no credit or refund. How do you feel about the way they have treated all of you in this?” Langdon asked.

Richards said she felt she’d been treated “appallingly”.

“They made a decision on commercial basis. We had to pay all upfront 90 days before the cruise. The world was not the crazy place it is now. And quite a few of us rang the company to say, ‘Are you cancelling this trip?’ We were all concerned. They said ‘No, and if you cancel you lose 100 per cent of your money.

“When we got to the port in Ushuaia [Argentina], when all the other boats were cancelled and we were the only ones leaving, the CEO of the company was there confirming that it was perfectly safe and we were about to be in the safest place in the world.”

In response, Stefanovic said he believed the blame laid “100 per cent” with the cruise company.

“Some of these cruise ships, a small number have done the right thing. There have been others that blame lay squarely on them and they need to accept responsibility for that. They need to accept responsibility for the complaints you’re making,” he said.

Cruise ships have been identified as hot beds for COVID-19.

In February, more than 3500 passengers and crew on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined for weeks in Japan after coronavirus was confirmed on the ship.

In Australia, the Ruby Princess, the ship now under police investigation after hundreds of infected passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney to make their own way home, now has a death toll of 16.

In late March, the Australian Government announced new restrictions on arrivals to the country.

Now, all incoming passengers are confined to a hotel room in the city of their arrival for two weeks as a precaution.

You can read more about Australia’s coronavirus situation below:

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, remain in your home unless strictly necessary, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face. If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

00:00 / ???