Coronavirus: Kiwis stranded on cruise ship plea for Government rescue

Seventeen New Zealanders are stranded on a cruise ship which has had passengers repeatedly denied the ability to disembark at various South American ports.

Kiwi Allan Ong has written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters on behalf of the New Zealanders pleading for assistance after their trip on the Coral Princess turned chaotic amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

He says the 17 New Zealanders onboard weren't able to disembark last week at Buenos Aires, Argentina and catch flights home. This came after the Argentine government closed its borders on March 19, forcing the cruise ship to leave unless it and the guests wanted to be trapped in the nation for an unknown period of time. 

The ship, carrying more than 1000 people, then travelled to Montevideo, Uruguay, where it was allowed to pick up supplies, but again, no one was allowed off. 

The next port the ship tried at was Rio de Janeiro. While Brazil closed off its ports, Princess Cruises, which owns the ships, attempted to use diplomatic channels to obtain permission to dock. The company said on its website that it had "received positive responses" and those with flights out of the country could disembark. Not all guests were allowed, however, due to limited flight availability. Ong says the Kiwis weren't able to get off and now the ship is sailing to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.

In an email addressed to Ardern and Peters, Ong says "the window for our timely and safe repatriation back to New Zealand is shrinking daily as borders are being locked down and commercial airline flights cancelled or suspended for the next two to three months".

"We are helpless against the forces that work against our safe and timely return to New Zealand, and we can only rely on our government and elected representatives to rescue us seventeen Kiwi souls from this unforeseen and unprecedented predicament."

He says that he feels assured by reports that the Government will attempt to bring Kiwis stranded across the globe home, but Peters said on Tuesday the Government can't guarantee that

"The feasibility of Government-assisted departure flights is being considered, but there are no guarantees these will be possible in the extremely complex and rapidly changing global situation," Peters, also the Foreign Minister, said. 

Peters called on Kiwis around the world to consider taking shelter wherever they may be. 

Ong said there are about 80 Australians also on board, which he believes could make a joint ANZAC effort feasible, similarly to what happened with getting Kiwis out of Wuhan, China.

Princess Cruises has been providing regular updates on its website about the ship's situation. The latest advisory appears to have been filed while the ship was sailing to Brazil.

"Both internet and guest stateroom telephone service remain complimentary so that guests can stay in touch with family. Updates will be made available as we obtain more information.

"This is an unprecedented situation and we thank our guests for their continued patience and understanding."

Newshub has contacted the company for any new information.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it is in contact with a number of New Zealanders currently on cruise ships and is "exploring all possible options" to help Kiwis.

"Our consular officials are in constant contact with consular counterparts from other countries to share information, and, when possible to work together on solutions to help out our nationals overseas."