Reefton group stuck on cruise returns to NZ

The five Reefton women and a relative from Blenheim stuck on a cruise ship since mid-February, arrived safely back in New Zealand on Sunday after a harrowing experience at sea.

Bernadette Snowden and five others embarked on a trip of a lifetime cruising from Singapore to London five weeks ago but did not get to dock in any ports due to Covid-19.

"The Kiwis left the ship in Fremantle to be greeted by police, border patrol and army," Mrs Snowden told the Greymouth Star.

"We were whisked off to the airport in a convoy of five buses, accompanied by police cars.

"The army took our bags. The Perth airport was empty apart from us, police and airport staff and media with cameras flashing!"

About 110 New Zealanders were evacuated from the cruise ship.

Mrs Snowden said there had been a slight drama as they were heading for the departure desk when her sister, Julia Dawkins from Blenheim, became faint and felt sick.

"Actually, it was motion sickness and having stood up after a doze [this] was probably the cause. She was given the third degree by anxious officials. Imagine our feelings at this point? Will she be kept back?"

Mrs Snowden said they had all been checked by officials in the morning and given the all-clear. Luckily, Mrs Dawkins had been well enough to travel on with the party.

The group returned to Auckland on an Air NZ flight which mostly contained cruise ship passengers as well as a few extras.

"We are now settled into a fabulous hotel in Auckland ... actually, we can walk outside, just respecting the 2m rule," Mrs Snowden said.

The group has yet to hear of any further plans for getting home, but at this stage they are just relieved to be safely back in the country.

 - Rose O'Connor

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