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Cruise ship passengers not allowed off in Mauritius due to cholera fears

Sailing by: Norwegian Dawn off the coast of Mauritius  (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Sailing by: Norwegian Dawn off the coast of Mauritius (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

More than 2,000 passengers aboard a cruise ship in the Indian Ocean have been refused permission to disembark in Mauritius for several days because of fears of a cholera outbreak on board.

Norwegian Dawn was due to arrive in the island’s capital, Port Louis, at 7am on Sunday 25 February after a 12-day voyage from Cape Town.

A call at Reunion Island was cancelled and the ship arrived in Mauritius a day early.

The vessel is in the harbour but the 2,184 passengers and 1,026 crew members have been told they cannot leave until Tuesday 27 February, as health officials ascertain the cause of an outbreak of gastric illness on board.

The Mauritius Ports Authority said in a statement: “Officers from the Ministry of Health and Wellbeing this morning took samples from around 15 passengers on board the cruise ship Norwegian Dawn due to a health risk.

“These passengers had been placed in isolation on board the cruise ship due to their state of health.

“The decision not to allow the cruise ship access to the quay was taken in order to avoid any health risks. The health and safety of passengers as well as that of the country as a whole are of the utmost importance to the authorities.”

The World Health Organisation says the current cholera outbreak in southern Africa has recorded more than 300,000 cases since the start of 2020, including 5,811 deaths.

A spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line said: “During Norwegian Dawn’s 13 February 2024 South Africa voyage, a small number of guests experienced mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness.

“Upon the ship’s return to Port Louis, Mauritius, the vessel’s management team met with local authorities to confirm precautions and actions were being taken to ensure the wellbeing of all on board.

“Due to additional testing being required by local authorities before being allowed entry, the government of Mauritius has delayed disembarkation for the current cruise and embarkation for the next cruise by two days to 27 February 2024.”

The delayed arrival will play havoc with passengers’ homeward flight plans. One passenger, Rob Hopkins, told The Independent: “Stuck on the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship due to a gastro bug. Ship not allowed to dock into Mauritius since Sunday – another 24 hours at least. Due to fly back to UK Wednesday.”

Assuming the ship is allowed to disembark passengers, Mr Hopkins should make the flight. But many others will have missed departures on Air Mauritius and British Airways flights to London as well as other airlines’ flights to Dubai, Frankfurt and Paris.

The Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson said: “We are assisting guests currently aboard the ship with their modified travel arrangements.”

A further 2,279 new passengers were expected to board the ship on Sunday for a 12-night cruise via Reunion and Madagascar to South Africa. They are currently in hotels on the island.

The Mauritius Ports Authority said: “As the test results will only be known in approximately 48 hours, passengers who were due to board the Norwegian Dawn and begin their cruise from Mauritius today will not be able to do so due to potential health risks.”

The Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson said: “We have deployed additional team members to support the guests scheduled to embark on Norwegian Dawn’s 25 February 2024 voyage from Port Louis, Mauritius, as well as providing them with complimentary hotel accommodations until they are able to board.

“The health and safety of our guests, crew and the destinations we visit is our top priority. We operate at the highest public health and sanitation standards, and encourage our guests to practise good hygiene and to report any illness-related symptoms to the onboard medical team immediately.”

Sanitation procedures aboard the ship are described as “elevated”.