A trip to magical Antarctica has turned into a nightmare for about 20 Kiwis and 150 Australians stranded off the South American coast due to the coronavirus.

Kiwi Nicholas Morales was among those on the three-week cruise aboard the Ocean Atlantic that had gone well until it turned home and was refused admission to its return port in Argentina.

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The ship is now anchored off Montevideo in Uruguay, but passengers are unable to disembark despite having got the all-clear from doctors that there are no coronavirus cases on board.


Morales' husband John Kilgour told the Herald passengers had been cooped up on the ship for at least 10 days.

He said British, French and US passengers were being told they would be able to leave the ship in the next day so they could catch commercial flights home.

Kiwis and Aussies, however, had not been contacted directly by officials from their Government and so were being left to "flounder" in uncertainty at what would happen, Kilgour maintained.

"People are becoming frightened and scared and - according to Nicholas - they are getting quite depressed some of them," Kilgour said.

"There is a lack of medication on board, they are even swapping medications."

"People they have got some pills spare [which] they are giving to others."

Kilgour said he understood there was a global emergency but wanted the New Zealand Government to reach out and talk to the passengers with a plan in mind.

The Herald has approached the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment.


Tourism company Chimu Adventures charted the Ocean Atlantic for the cruise and said it was trying to "get European, North Americans and Asian nationals who are on the ship out via Montevideo in the next few days and onto commercial flights".

"Australians and New Zealanders do not have commercial flight options and we're still working on a possible repatriation flight for them later this week from either Buenos Aires or Montevideo."

"We are at present waiting for final confirmation from the Minister which is the reason for the delay."

The company said it was working with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the ship's owners, port authorities and the Australian embassy in Buenos Aires.

"Things are changing by the hour; we are in touch with the expedition leader, who is keeping us posted in real time," the company said.

"The ship has been recently been reprovisioned to allow for these delays."

Kilgour said Morales was also a French citizen and so was now considering joining French passengers leaving the ship because he hadn't heard from New Zealand and Aussie authorities.


At least in France, he would have access to a better health system than in South America, and some family.

"This is the predicament people are getting in and that is because they don't have much confidence in what is going on," Kilgour said.