The Maasdam, carrying 1000 passengers, had left Avatiu on Wednesday night bound for Papeete – when it received word overnight that cruise ships had been banned.
It spend the night eight miles off the coast and, yesterday morning, returned to Rarotonga.
The 100 passengers were supposed to fly out from Tahiti International Airport, but the country yesterday went into lockdown after the Pacific’s first case of the Covid-19 virus was diagnosed there.
Kairangi Samuela, the principal immigration officer, said they received a request from the cruise ship to allow entry to some of their passengers who were supposed to disembark in Tahiti.
Since the Health Ministry had given them the clearance, Samuela said they agreed to allow in those passengers.
The visitors left the cruise ship on a tender. They boarded local tour buses from Avatiu harbour for the airport where they were processed to enter the country.
Kairangi Samuela said the passengers underwent the normal immigration and biosecurity checks at the airport.
Some of them managed to book on the Virgin Australia flight to Auckland last night, she said.
“The remaining passengers have booked their accommodation on the island and will be leaving in the next couple of days when they get the next available flight,” Samuela said.
Samuela said the cruise ship would probably leave again today, once the passengers “who wanted to voluntarily leave the ship from here” had disembarked.
She said rough seas made it difficult for them to bring the passengers on shore.
Cook Islands has banned all cruise ships to the outer islands for the next two months following the coronavirus outbreak.