Crisis meetings to turn away Italian cruise ship

Saturday February 29, 2020 Written by Published in Economy
The 13-deck MSC Magnifica can carry 3223 passengers and 1038 crew. 20022826 The 13-deck MSC Magnifica can carry 3223 passengers and 1038 crew. 20022826

A luxury liner carrying passengers and crew from Italy – the European nation worst hit by coronavirus – is to arrive at Rarotonga tomorrow, then Aitutaki on Monday. 

Aitutaki wants a ban on cruise ships scheduled to visit the island this coming month amid growing coronavirus fears.

Prime Minister Henry Puna and top officials held an urgent meeting on Aitutaki yesterday, after island leaders asked to cancel the cruise ships visits.

Community meetings were still underway late last night.

MSC Magnifica is scheduled to visit the Cook Islands for the first time this weekend. The ship is to call at Rarotonga tomorrow, then Aitutaki on Monday.

Aitutaki is also to receive three more cruise ships on March 5, March 10 and March 23.

The Magnifica, which has the capacity to carry 3223 passengers and 1038 crew, is one of the favoured cruise ships for Italian tourists and is carrying a significant number of Italians on this trip. Its sister ship MSC Meraviglia was this week turned away by both Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Cook Islands has placed a ban on travellers from Italy following more than 400 cases of the deadly coronavirus there, and 21 deaths – but there are no plans to turn the Magnifica away from Rarotonga tomorrow.

The cruise ship, operated by MSC Cruises, left Italy on January 4 and has made 19 stops in France, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Peru and French Polynesia before its scheduled arrival here.

Of those, only Italy is on the 16-country travel ban put out by Cook Islands government on Thursday night.

MSC Cruises yesterday announced sweeping measures to ensure the ship remained free of the virus, including denying boarding to anyone from high-risk areas including China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Singapore and central northern Italy.

“This restriction does not apply if guests have only transited in sterile areas of relevant Singapore, Japan and South Korea airports as coming from other non-affected areas,” the cruise line said.

Yesterday Destination Management Cook Islands, the shore excursion handling agents for the cruise ship, said they had been working with MSC Magnifica on the bookings for the past two years. If the cruise ship was turned away, they were worried all their hard work in arranging bookings with local resorts and tour companies would go to waste.

There are already indications that the latest coronavirus travel ban will hit the local economy hard.

Chamber of Commerce chairman Fletcher Melvin said the country faced potential recession.

“I would say it is going to be one of the biggest challenges the country has faced in many, many years,” he said.

“We don’t know the extent of damage this will do because we don’t know when this will end. This is something new so we cannot just pick up a book from the shelves and solve it.

“Everyone in the country relies on tourism. Every sector in the economy, from building to hotels to government, rely on this industry because without it, none of us can operate. Some of us will feel the effect faster than other, that’s the only difference.”

Halatoa Fua, chief executive of Cook Islands Tourism said most of the banned countries were in Asia, a market that contributed less than 1 per cent of visitor arrivals. “Italy is a key source market for us however this is their off peak travel period particularly for honeymooners.”

Fua said Europeans coming via Japan and Singapore are affected and their international teams are liaising with key travel partners. “We are ensuring communication goes out to our partners to make the necessary changes with the affected customers.”




  • Comment Link Corona virus will wipe out our small nation,  tourism  our small nation has gone thru recession in the 90s  recovered Monday, 02 March 2020 09:22 posted by Corona virus will wipe out our small nation, tourism our small nation has gone thru recession in the 90s recovered


  • Comment Link Mike Sunday, 01 March 2020 18:14 posted by Mike

    This is lazy reporting with a one sided view of the situation and no fact checking to get a headline Think about the times and countries this cruise has visited and tell me how any of the passengers could have contracted the virus.

  • Comment Link raymond sauvan Sunday, 01 March 2020 14:49 posted by raymond sauvan

    Please do not let any passengers disembark from this cruise ship. The Cook Islands have placed a total ban on travelers from Italy so what is the difference? This cruise ship was turned away from two major ports so why not the Cook Islands. Bare in mind what this could do to the Island's economy and the future of tourism.
    Papa Ray

  • Comment Link Rere Toru Saturday, 29 February 2020 23:49 posted by Rere Toru

    Please don't choose profit over health, Cook Island such as Aitutaki and Rarotonga don't have the medical resources to care for our people. To our Cook Island government its not worth the risk, protect the people from this deadly virus while you still can. Please do the right by the people.

  • Comment Link Fabes Saturday, 29 February 2020 22:47 posted by Fabes

    I cancelled a Asia trip becos of this virus and opted for Rarotonga instead. I leave in 5 days. Now your island had the potential to be infected as you let the Italian cruiseship board..tourism is more important than your people? It will only take One droplet and your people will be wiped out! All for the love of money! Island people know how to survive without money! Living off the land as our ancestors once I'm in a panic and may change plans again.. KEEP them out!

  • Comment Link Rere Ngametua. Saturday, 29 February 2020 18:12 posted by Rere Ngametua.

    Kare tatou ekes atu ana I ta ratou booking e ka kaimoumou to tatou taime I te rapu anga Kia tae mai ratou ki to tatou pae moana.Kia Kore ra to tatou iti tangata Kia tu ia e teia virus .Noatu e ka akaranga ratou e kare e kino ana teia maki.E mei te flu rai. Eaa I reira te tangata I mate Mate aere ei .Kare tatou e inangaro I te reira.Just ban that ship.from reaching our shores.Dont think about the money Think abt the lives of our people.

  • Comment Link Miriam Dol Saturday, 29 February 2020 15:55 posted by Miriam Dol

    Please please do not take the risk the Cook Islands is not equipped to handle any such virus which would decimate the population. It is not worth the risk refuse entry to these cruises.

  • Comment Link if the government has any concerns for he local...just stop the boat from coming to Saturday, 29 February 2020 13:45 posted by if the government has any concerns for he local...just stop the boat from coming to


  • Comment Link Maringikura Campbell Saturday, 29 February 2020 12:14 posted by Maringikura Campbell

    There would be no financial gains if people contracted this virus. It is NOT worth risking our Cook Island peoples health.

  • Comment Link Pakiara Strickland Saturday, 29 February 2020 10:31 posted by Pakiara Strickland

    It is better to be safe than regret later. Ban the cruise ships for now. Lives are of more value than $$$

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