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Flight home planned for Britons on coronavirus-hit cruise ship

More than 140 British passengers and crew are on the Grand Princess, which is due to dock in California.


The Grand Princess cruise ship about 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco (Noah Berger/AP)

The Grand Princess cruise ship about 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco (Noah Berger/AP)

The Grand Princess cruise ship about 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco (Noah Berger/AP)

Britons on board a coronavirus-hit cruise ship in California could be on a flight back to the UK on Tuesday.

More than 140 British passengers and crew were on the Grand Princess, which is carrying 21 people who have tested positive for Covid-19.

The Foreign Office said it was working closely with the US authorities to repatriate British nationals on the vessel, with plans for a flight on Tuesday which would arrive in the UK on Wednesday afternoon.

Passengers were expected to be allowed to disembark the Grand Princess from Monday – a process the liner’s operator said will take a number of days.

Virus Outbreak California
Workers prepare a wharf in the Californian port of Oakland to receive the Grand Princess (Noah Berger/AP)

Britons on board have described feeling tired and “fed up”, having been confined to their cabins since Thursday.

The ship docked at the port of Oakland on Monday.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We continue to work closely with the US authorities to repatriate British nationals on board the Grand Princess.

“The US are currently planning for a flight to leave tomorrow evening, returning to the UK on Wednesday afternoon. We remain in contact with all British nationals on board and will continue to offer support.”

There are 142 British nationals on board – both guests and crew members.

Those leaving the vessel in Oakland will be tested for coronavirus, and anyone showing symptoms will be provided with treatment in San Francisco.

The repatriation flight is expected to arrive in the UK on Wednesday and Britons will be free to go, rather than forced into quarantine.

Virus Outbreak California
Passengers look out from balconies on board the Grand Princess (Noah Berger/AP)

But anyone who shows symptoms after the flight will be asked to self-isolate in the UK.

A spokeswoman for operator Princess Cruises said: “Disembarkation will commence in order of priority, as defined and directed by both state and local authorities. It is expected to be a multiple-day process.”

The crew will remain on board the ship as it departs from San Francisco Bay once all guests are off, Princess Cruises said.

“Plans for a crew quarantine are still being determined,” the spokeswoman said.

Neil and Victoria Hanlon, from Bridgwater in Somerset, said they are eager to get home.

Speaking before news of the planned disembarkation was announced, Mr Hanlon said he felt “gutted” that they might have to stay on the ship for another few days.

He told BBC Breakfast: “(We’re feeling) very suppressed, very tired, fed up. Just want to get home.”

Mr Hanlon said food is now being limited, and Mrs Hanlon added: “We just want to get back to Britain, really.”

Front to back, Justine and Dave Griffin with friends Sharon and Steve Lane on their balconies on the Grand Princess (Justine Griffin/PA)

Justine Griffin, from Coventry but living in Leicestershire, is travelling with her husband Dave and friends, and renewed her wedding vows on board the ship to mark her 25th wedding anniversary.

She told the PA news agency that news of the flight home had given her family hope.

“It’s just given us a lot more hope because we can work out from that when we will be finishing quarantine and things like that,” she said.

“Our youngest, who we have through special guardianship, is eight and struggles with anxiety when we’re not there as he’s had a lot of upheaval in his life.

“Without scaring him we’ve had to sort of dilute it down to ‘there’s a problem with the ship and we can’t get off and as soon as we can we will be home’ – for him that’s really unsettling and it’s really hard.”

Mrs Griffin added that communication from the Government had been poor and they had received most updates on their situation from news outlets.

“We feel really, really let down,” she said.

“Our Government, until Sunday when we started talking to the press, we had heard nothing at all. They have all these people, why isn’t anyone calling us?”

Princess Cruises also owns the Diamond Princess, which was placed into quarantine in Japan last month.