Passenger slams ‘appalling’ treatment


A cruise ship passenger now in quarantine in a Melbourne hotel has slammed her "appalling" conditions in a fiery interview on the Today show.

Jan Richards was a passenger on the Greg Mortimer Antarctic cruise, which spent a fortnight stuck off the coast of South America after being ravaged by an on-board outbreak of coronavirus.

The ship's operator Aurora Expeditions confirmed this week 128 of 217 people on-board the Greg Mortimer had tested positive for the coronavirus. A repatriation flight carrying stranded Australians - including Ms Richards - landed in Melbourne yesterday.

One day into her enforced two-week hotel quarantine, Ms Richards told Today hosts Karl Stefanovic and Ally Langdon she wasn't happy.

Karl and Ally speak to returned cruise ship passenger Jan Richards.
Karl and Ally speak to returned cruise ship passenger Jan Richards.

"I'm not speaking for everybody. I'm only speaking for myself, (but I) feel very let down by our government," she said.

"We're now stuck in this hotel. I have no real idea of what my expectations was other than I thought it would be clean and we would have access to fresh air. Well, the hotel rooms are dirty, I mean really dirty. We have no access to fresh air. I'm not expecting five-star. I do expect some level of compassion from our own government. It's been a nightmare of a journey."

"I wholeheartedly sympathise with your journey," Stefanovic told her. "I know it's upsetting for you. The Prime Minister and every medical officer will say, 'I'm sorry (but) you have to go through it in order to protect Australian people'. You do get that, don't you?"

"One hundred per cent," Ms Richards said. "Not one of us would ever want to pass this on to anybody. But I do think we should be treated like Australians and be given a clean environment. No one is asking for five-star. We expected to do this. We want to do this. We certainly don't want to pass it on to anybody. But this treatment is appalling."

Stefanovic then asked about cruise operator Aurora Expeditions' decision to embark on the cruise four days after the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus as a pandemic.

"We know this cost you $35,000 not including airfares. The company told you there would be no credit or refund. How do you feel about the way they have treated all of you in this?" he said.

Ms Richards said she felt she'd been treated "appallingly."

Crew in protective clothing board the flight bringing Greg Mortimer passengers back to Australia.
Crew in protective clothing board the flight bringing Greg Mortimer passengers back to Australia.

"They made a decision on commercial basis. We had to pay all upfront 90 days before the cruise. The world was not the crazy place it is now. Quite a few of us rang the company to say, 'Are you cancelling this trip?' We were all concerned. They said 'No'. Cancel (and) you lose 100 per cent of your money.

"When we got to the port, when all the other boats were cancelled, we were the only ones leaving. The CEO of the company was there confirming that it was perfectly safe. We were about to be in the safest place in the world."

Stefanovic said in his view the cruise operator was "100 per cent" to blame for the situation.

"Some of these cruise ships, a small number have done the right thing. There have been others that blame lay squarely on them and they need to accept responsibility for that. They need to accept responsibility for the complaints you're making," he said.

The Today hosts' chat with Ms Richards comes after an awkward on-air clash with another quarantined returned traveller earlier this month. Stefanovic and Langdon spoke to mum-of-two Sarah Greig in her Brisbane hotel room on April 2 - and their guest accused them of trying to paint her as a "whinger" when they asked about her complaints with her quarantine accommodation.


Originally published as Passenger slams 'appalling' treatment