Elderly British couple stuck on cruise 'terrified' of flying home from Italy

An elderly British couple stranded on a cruise ship havebeen told they have to disembark in Italy amid the coronavirus crisis.

Joyce, 80, and Trevor Starkey-Jones, 83, started their Costa cruise from Brazil to Spain on March 6, and were supposed to fly back to the UK from Barcelona today. But just days into their trip, the Spanish authorities closed their ports, forcing them to spend 12 days on-board the ship without going ashore.   

The couple have now been told the only way for them to get to the UK is by flying from Genova, Italy – the country at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic. Today Italy’s death toll went up by a further 793, meaning a total of 4,825 people have now died in the country.

Mrs Starkey-Jones told Metro.co.uk she felt ‘terrified’ by the prospect of travelling through Italy to fly home. She claims the captain is still yet to have any communication with passengers on-board the ship.

She continued: ‘It’sa nightmare, it really is. We’ve had no notification whatsoever about what ishappening to us.

‘[Italy] is the epicentre. It’s worse than China now. I was looking over the balcony today, at others taking their luggage off with masks and gloves on, and just thinking, what are we in for?

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‘We’re bothelderly and well in the vulnerable age category if anything did kick off. It’sterrifying. But what do we do? We want to go home.’

The ship, which has around 200 British passengers on-board, docked in Marseilles, France, before arriving in Italy, but Mrs Starkey-Jones says only French nationals were able to disembark.

The couple have now been forced to rely on their family in the UK to find out information. Costa has told their granddaughter, Jemma Sharpy, that British passengers would have a ‘sterile channel’ through Italy before catching their flight.

 Mrs Starkey-Jones said: ‘I don’t know how they can guarantee a “sterile channel” or what that is supposed to mean.

‘There willstill be bags needing loading and what have you. You don’t know that it’ssterile. The ship is currently virus free.’

Yesterday, the couple wrote an email to Costa and the captain of the ship, along with other passengers on-board, requesting that their ‘safe transportation to a safe airport’ be guaranteed. They say they are yet to receive a reply.

Ms Sharpey told LBC News her family had been ‘tearing our hair out’ trying to get her grandparents home safely.

She continued: ‘Wecannot understand why they being told to get of there. It’s mind boggling.

‘The death rates in Italy are astronomical and they’re taking these vulnerable peopled making them get through.’

A spokesperson for Costa said there is ‘no other option’ but for the British passengers on-board the ship to disembark in Italy.

They said: ‘Because of restrictions to voyages imposed by most of the EU countries, including Italy, France, Spain etc, Costa Pacifica (as all passenger ships) is not allowed to leave anymore with passengers onboard. 

‘So there’s no other option. Health precautions are being taken for the flights and transfer.’

They added that operations to help the passengers leave the ship had already begun.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been contacted for comment.

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