KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 -- What would be an unforgettable 16-day holiday cruise to Antartica went awry when a cruise ship, carrying 16 Malaysians onboard, was stranded at the Port of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday morning.
The group, along with 325 passengers of various nationalities, were stuck in the South Atlantic Ocean after their cruise ship, which sailed from Ushuaia port, Argentina on Feb 28 failed to disembark at Montevideo, Uruguay on March 13 as the country announced a lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The French-based cruise ship then continued its journey to Buenos Aires port, Argentina and was slated to disembark on March 16, but a lockdown announcement was made by the Argentinian government an hour into the ship’s sailing.
However, spirits remained high among Malaysian tour members, and Apple Vacations Sdn Bhd executive chairman cum tour director Datuk Seri Lee Ee Hoe told Bernama that the Malaysians were in the pink of health.
More importantly, all of them, including the other passengers, were COVID-19 free.
“We were worried, especially since our family members are all back in Malaysia and all we want is to be with them during this devastating pandemic,” he said in a WhatsApp reply, Sunday.
Lee said all passengers initially went through phases of emotional roller coaster but at the end of the day, everyone remained positive as safety was their utmost priority.
“The captain was really professional, and always kept us in the loop so we felt very reassured.
“The cruise is really comfortable, with constant supply of food, drinks and entertainment. Furthermore, we can move around freely as the cruise is COVID-19 free,” he said.
However, he admitted that things could change in the next few hours despite being informed by the captain of the ship that they would disembark at Port of Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night.
Nevertheless, Lee and other tour members were grateful to receive assistance from the Embassy of Malaysia in Brasilia and were appreciative of their tireless help and diligence in making sure that the group will get back to Malaysia.
“As a matter of fact, due to their coordination, we will be the first group to disembark from the cruise if everything goes according to plan,” he added.
Meanwhile, First Secretary, Embassy of Malaysia in Brasilia, Norliyana Alias when contacted said the ship was allowed to enter Brazil as they will only start to ban entry of foreigners from selected countries including Malaysia and the European Union beginning March 23.
“The group members are expected to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Tuesday (ETA 1435 Malaysian time) after departing from Rio de Janeiro Airport today (ETD 0235 local time),” she added.
Malaysia National News Agency
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