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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland cruise ship couple left in limbo as liner docks in Rio de Janeiro

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Heather and David Lynch

Heather and David Lynch

Heather and David Lynch

A Northern Ireland couple on a ship stranded at sea for days were in a state of deep confusion last night after the vessel docked in Rio de Janerio.

Heather and David Lynch, from Limavady, are among hundreds of passengers on the Coral Princess ship that has been blocked from docking at several South American ports.

They had hoped they would be able to disembark and catch a flight out of the Brazilian city.

But because they did not have a flight booked out of the city yesterday, when the ship docked, the couple were not able to disembark and now face a two week journey to Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

They have endured hope, chaos and ultimately disappointment as the luxury cruise vessel has hopped from port to port.

Mr and Mrs Lynch had originally been due to fly out of Rio de Janeiro on Monday to finish a holiday that included the cruise from Chile to Argentina that was supposed to end on March 19.

Approximately 400 UK passengers are among 1,000 tourists on board the ship, barred earlier from docking in several Argentinian and Uruguayan ports. They have been told by representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office it is hoped they will return on commercial flights rather than a repatriation plane.

Some UK passengers did have flights yesterday, but Brazilian authorities said the ship could dock for no more than one day so others, including the Lynches, have no time to make other arrangements with either the travel company, which has so far failed to book any flights, or Foreign Office officials.

"Everyone in the group is really stressed," Mrs Lynch said. "As it is, we think we're doing one thing, then things change, maybe within a few hours." She added: "Passengers have decisions to make, then everything changes again. Jill (a passenger who has emerged as leader of the UK group) thinks that because we are all virus-free and well looked after on board, we are not a priority."

While Princess Cruises, the ship's owners, have announced the Coral aims to arrive in Fort Lauderdale on April 5, there is a hope that a repatriation flight will be arranged to fly out of Barbados in 11 days. Non-US citizens or permanent residents will almost certainly not be allowed to disembark in Florida.

Belfast Telegraph