Grafton couple trapped on ship heading to virus epicentre
A RETIRED couple from Grafton are among the 250 Australians trapped on board a cruise ship as it heads towards the most infectious country in the world, the COVID19 ravaged Italy.
Avid cruisers Ross and Karen McGarvie left Australia earlier this month to under a 22-night cruise taking in place like Croatia, and Greece before arriving at their final destination in Venice, Italy, where things have dramatically escalated since they left home.
Their daughter Danielle said she had recently been able to communicate with her parents via text messages only.
"They can't send or receive photos but it's better than nothing. It puts my mind at ease."
She said the boat has just passed through the Suez Canal heading towards Greece.
"They will be stopping there for a couple of nights but everyone stays on the boat, they haven't been off the boat now for days."
She said her parents were worried when they left in early March but trusted the cruise company when they said the trip was still going ahead as planned.
"Mum said they wished (the company) would have just cancelled it, but they didn't, and I guess there's a lot of money at stake so you believe you are going to okay if it's going to go ahead as scheduled like that."
An enrolled nurse, Danielle said since being able to talk to her parents at sea there hasn't been any official confirmation of any cases of COVID19 on board but was dubious about the way the ship had been monitoring the situation.
"Apparently there's no cases, but my mum said they took her temperature she asked them what it was and they said 32 (celsius). So she said 'oh, I must be dead' (normal body temperature is 37C with variations between 36.1C to 37.2C)."
"Other people they were travelling with, their readings were between 32 and 35 so it's not legit. You don't get a temperature of 32."
She said her parents were not "stuck in their room" but she said from Thursday the dining room was only open for an hour at dinner time.
"And they've taken half the chairs away. There's no more theatre shows, they've closed the library, they've closed the gym and they were told to stay a metre away from each other. This is why I think there may be a case on board."
She said her parents and other passengers had been asking why they couldn't get off the ship earlier and were told by staff they had an "obligation to keep you on the boat until the 28th."
"Last night, apparently they had a meeting with the captain and he said they were going to try and arrange flights and a bus but an hour before that he was not talking to anyone."
Danielle said she has been in contact with the Australian Embassy and they are aware of the ship and the Australians on it.
"I've also spoken to Costa Cruises and they just said they don't know what's happening at the moment. Who knows where everyone else comes from on that boat."
And if the virus wasn't concerning enough for Danielle, an earlier message she received from her parents was also cause for alarm.
"I hadn't heard from them and it was probably about 10 days ago. I got a message from them saying 'we're safe but we're on high alert for a pirate attack'. But don't worry they said, there's security on board with guns to tell us what to do," she said.
"Then I didn't hear from them for a week so I started to panic but they finally got free access to the What's App so we could text one another."
Danielle said despite the drama her parents weren't panicking but they "certainly don't want to end up in Italy which is the talk at the moment".
"And they don't know how to get home because their flights have been cancelled. They have no way of getting back at this stage. They're worried they're just going to be dumped in Italy to fend for themselves."
"I think Qantas has put on a special flight from this Saturday (today) from Rome so I'm hoping that maybe those 250 Australians on board, that's almost a plane full, they can all get on that."