Ivan and Pamela Carr boarding the Costa Luminosa. Photo: Supplied
Ivan and Pamela Carr boarding the Costa Luminosa. Photo: Supplied

Elderly Cape Town couple’s dream cruise turns into Covid-19 nightmare

By Chad Williams Time of article published Mar 25, 2020

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Cape Town - A Cape Town couple is among 40 South Africans currently stuck in Rome, after their cruise took a turn for the worse amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Ivan Carr (77) and Pamela Carr (71) from Brackenfell in Cape Town have been married for 51 years, and their Mediterranean cruise on the Costa Luminosa was meant to celebrate that milestone.

According to their son Randall Carr, who is in Cape Town frantically trying to get his parents back to South Africa: “My dad is an avid cricketer and always wanted to visit the West Indies, while my mother longed to visit the Vatican, this cruise afforded them both the opportunity to tick these destinations off their bucket list, they’re pensioners and they deserved this holiday”.

The Carr’s left South Africa on February 22 and travelled via Dubai to Fort Lauderdale in Florida where they boarded the Costa Luminosa just days later. The 26-day cruise that was meant to end in Savona, Italy, soon turned into disaster for many on board.

According to Robyn Terbrugge, a family member of one the passengers on board, a passenger was disembarked by cruise liner operator Carnival Corporation & plc on February 29 in the Grand Cayman Islands after showing symptoms of Covid-19. 

At this point, all passengers on the Costa Luminosa were completely oblivious to what was happening. 

According to daily publication the Miami Herald, a 68-year-old Italian became the Grand Cayman Islands' first Covid-19 patient, and the country’s first virus related fatality. It later emerged that the female passenger from Northern Italy had been evacuated from the Costa Luminosa with pneumonia, along with her 70-year old husband.

The woman’s test was run in Puerto Rico’s newly-established public health laboratory; the man’s results were reported by the United States' Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The publication further reported that the Costa Luminosa management was later notified by the Puerto Rican authorities of the positive Covid-19 cases, but at this point no passengers on the cruise liner were alerted to the situation.

The cruise continued on its course despite passengers possibly being exposed to Covid-19.

On March 8, a further two people were evacuated off the boat in Puerto Rico. They too were showing symptoms of the virus. 

According to Terbrugge, as of March 18, passengers were confined to their cabins, with limited wifi access and only able to send text messages. 

At this point passengers were still in the dark as to what was happening on board, ultimately causing mass panic.

Randall Carr said his father - currently in quarantine in Rome - described the ordeal as feeling like he and his wife were prisoners in their cabins.

The Carr’s, along with the rest of the South African's on board, were confined to their rooms for a few more days before setting sail for Savona on Saturday, with food being delivered to their doors.

The Costa Luminosa left the Port of Marseille on Saturday, towards Savona, a journey many of the family members of the South Africans stuck on board tried to stop, because Italy has the most recorded cases of Covid-19 infections outside of China. 

In a statement issued to passengers on March 23, the cruise line said, “Dear Guest, Costa Luminosa has registered positive cases of Covid-19 to which you may have been exposed. International and national health authorities require that you undergo a 14-day quarantine for your safety and to avoid spreading of the virus”.

The statement further said: “Unfortunately, the scenario of air and inland transportation is characterised by a high level of uncertainty and complexity due to the restrictions imposed by all countries worldwide. This critical scenario is making our attempts to arrange the repatriation for some of you more difficult, if not impossible.

“We regret this decision which as we are sure you will understand does not rest with us, but has been taken by the health authority which is applying a decree of the Italian government and abiding to World Health Organisation directives. The location of your quarantine will be a hotel accommodation in Rome.”

According to Ruth Freemantle, 57, who is another one of the South Africans stuck in Rome, on March 23 all passengers were called to a common area to have a final temperature check and everyone had to complete a form stipulating their quarantine was effective from March 20 to April 4.

After remaining docked at the port in Savona for a few hours, the passengers disembarked and were told that they were going to be transported by bus to a hotel in Rome, which is a six hour drive from Savona.

According to Randall Carr, the condition of his parents has deteriorated mentally and physically after being confined to a very small cabin for days.

Mr Carr suffers from high blood pressure and cholesterol. 

“My parents are now exceptionally weak and living on rehidrate sachets and running out of this fast, their health is definitely taking a dive.

“Being stuck in a 17m2 room is mentally challenging and my parents have been confined to this space for nine days now”.

 “My mom has literally aged 20 years in the 10 days,” said Randall. 

 The South Africans also said that the food the hotel was providing was of poor quality. 

 Ivan Carr said that they received one apple, a bottle of water and a slice of bread for lunch.

“I tried ordering Uber Eats for my dad, but the police wouldn’t allow the food into the hotel. Police have cordoned off the hotel," said Randall. 

 Another passenger said her husband was a diabetic and was fast running out of chronic medication. 

According to a spokesperson for South Africa's department of international relations, Lunga Ngqengelele, the department was aware of the South Africans that are currently stuck in Italy, and the matter is being handled by embassies in the area. 

“Our mission colleagues in Paris are in contact with the authorities," said Ngqengelele.

African News Agency

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