Britons ‘being held prisoner’ on cruise ship sailing to coronavirus-hit Italy

UK nationals on board a cruise ship have been told they must sail to coronavirus-stricken Italy after the Spanish and French authorities refused to let them disembark.

Guests are “being held prisoner”, according to the son of one of those on board.

Costa Pacifica, operated by Italian-firm Costa Cruises, departed Argentina on March 3 for the transatlantic cruise.

Some passengers were due to leave the ship in Barcelona, Spain, but the port was closed due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

They had been told they could get off at the next port, Marseille, but only French nationals were allowed to disembark.

The ship, which can hold up to 3,780 guests, is now making its way to Genoa, Italy.

This is despite the country recording 3,405 deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus.

Fraser Mullen, 36, from Redhill, Surrey, is deeply concerned about his elderly parents, Douglas and Elisabeth, who are on board.

He told the PA news agency: “We’re really worried. My brother is beside himself.

“My parents are completely in the dark about what’s going on and what’s going to happen when they get to Italy.

“I know it’s an incredibly difficult situation for everyone but I can’t understand how the best plan is to sail a cruise ship full of healthy people to the centre of a global pandemic.

“All indications are it’s a healthy ship. No-one has said anything to the contrary.

“They’re being held prisoner on that ship.”

Mr Mullen said he has been unable to contact anyone at Costa Cruises, while the Foreign and Commonwealth Office could not provide information about what will happen next.

He added: “We’ve just got to hope that there’s some means of getting my parents and everybody else home.”

British passengers on board coronavirus-hit cruise ship Braemar flew back to the UK from Havana, Cuba, on Thursday.

Passengers from the Covid-19-stricken Braemar cruise ship return to Heathrow Airport in London
Passengers from the Covid-19-stricken Braemar cruise ship return to Heathrow Airport in London

The ship, operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, had 667 Britons on board.

Three flights containing healthy passengers landed at Heathrow on Thursday.

A fourth flight, carrying those who had tested positive for Covid-19 or had flu-like symptoms, touched down at MoD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.