The choice for 300 Australians: stay on cruise ship with possible Covid-19 cases or disembark in Italy

More than 300 Australians on the Costa Victoria cruise ship face a choice between staying on board the potentially Covid-19-stricken vessel, or disembarking in Italy, now the global centre of the virus outbreak.

International flights are being cancelled by airlines across the globe – Qantas is set to stop all international flights by the end of the month – meaning those who disembark in Italy could be stranded there for weeks if repatriation flights can’t be organised.

Many of the Australians on board the Costa Victoria are elderly, and some have underlying health issues, putting them in the highest risk category for a severe infection.

At least one passenger on the ship tested positive while on board. The man disembarked in Crete.

Cruise ship passengers to be quarantined on Rottnest Island in Western Australia

The Italian-flagged Costa Victoria, at sea for a fortnight, docked in Civitavecchia, a port town on the Tyrrhenian Sea 60 kilometres north-west of Rome on Wednesday (Italian time).

Australians Brenda and Dave Rondo say while the ship has docked, they have still not been allowed off.

“We have to stay in the cabin, they knock on the door and leave food and they step back. The staff has gone from lovely to now, if you ask nicely for milk for your coffee in the morning, they yell at you and say ‘no!’

“We have heard different things, but not from the Captain, that we may go to Rottnest Island in Western Australia for quarantine, but … the last we heard we will have to stay in Rome in a motel for two weeks.”

Costa Victoria passengers may be mandated to follow a similar isolation course to passengers from the Costa Luminosa which docked in Savona in northern Italy earlier this week. The ship also had confirmed Covid-19 cases on board.

Passengers from neighbouring European countries were allowed to travel home to isolate, but Australians, South Africans and others from more distant nations were forced to remain in Italy to isolate for a fortnight.

Confirmed cases of Covid-19 were left on the ship in Savona, while other passengers were put on buses and driven to Rome, more than 560km away.

However, some passengers say the hotel rooms, which they will be unable to leave for two weeks, are worse than the ship.

“It’s smaller than our cabins, no hanging space and barely room to walk around,” said Ivan Maronian.

Others have complained of no pillows, taps not working and only tiny meals being provided. Many have been unable to wash any clothes since the ship entered lockdown weeks ago.

Even worse is the fear of what might happen if they get sick.

“It’s completely terrifying because if he got coronavirus on there I’m really not sure what kind of medical care he would be getting, given the situation,” said Laura Bendlin, whose father was on board.

“Worst-case scenario, he dies.”

Italy has now surpassed China for total Covid-19 deaths: nearly 75,000 cases have been confirmed, and more than 7,500 people have died.

But cruise ships have posed acute problems for health authorities around the world. The inescapably confined nature of the vessels has seen them become rapid incubators of Covid-19.

For several days in February, the ill-fated Diamond Princess which was put into isolation in Yokohama Port, Japan, after isolated cases were detected on board, was the second-largest outbreak site for coronavirus in the world, behind mainland China.

During a two-week enforced quarantine on board, nearly 700 people were infected, and seven died. The quarantine was abandoned and crew and passengers ultimately disembarked (most were placed into a further fortnight’s quarantine in their home countries).

Currently, on board the Zaandam – carrying about 100 Australians and stranded off the west coast of South America – at least 80, and reportedly up to 140, passengers and crew are sick with flu-like symptoms. A quarter of the crew is reportedly quarantined and passengers are said to be “terrified and stressed”.

Anatomy of a coronavirus disaster: how 2,700 people were let off the Ruby Princess cruise ship by mistake

The ship is being replenished by another ship, Rotterdam, which will bring extra supplies, staff and Covid-19 test kits aboard (there are none at present). The ship intends to sail to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to disembark by the end of the month.

Even ships without any Covid-19 cases are being treated with extreme caution by ports around the world.

The Norwegian Jewel was turned away from four countries – including Australia – before being allowed to dock and passengers disembark in Hawaii, despite being at sea for weeks and having no suspected or confirmed cases.

Stung by the excoriating public reaction to infected Ruby Princess passengers being allowed to disembark unchecked in Sydney – Australian governments have tightened all movements for cruise ship passengers.

NSW has said no ships will disembark in the state until new protocols are established, while the federal government has taken nearly 300 Australian passengers from the Norwegian Jewel flown back into Sydney from Hawaii overnight, into quarantine in a Sydney motel, guarded by police.

Around the world, 3,000 Australians are stranded on more than 20 cruise ships because countries have shut their borders because of coronavirus.

The Australian government says it is aware of the dire situation faced by many of those onboard: the lack of ports for ships to dock and the rapidly shrinking avenues for repatriation once ashore.

A Dfat spokesman said the department had raised concerns with Italian authorities about cruise ships disembarking passengers in areas already hard-hit by Covid-19, urging authorities to find safer alternative ports.

The foreign minister Marise Payne said her department was working “around the clock” to help Australians home. She said the government was speaking with Qantas and Virgin about launching repatriation missions for stranded Australians, but has conceded it will be impossible to reach all Australians who wish to come home.

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Two words that could cost you thousands

As the travel industry tries to fight against the global fright that is coronavirus, tens of thousands of travellers both across Australia and around the world are now questioning their holiday plans.

With the coronavirus situation evolving so quickly, and more cases being added to the global tally each day, holiday-makers have been left with the decision of whether or not they should be making changes to plans booked in the coming weeks and months.

But as the awareness of the virus grows, holiday-makers could be left thousands of dollars out of pocket if they decide to cancel their plans simply because of two words in their policy: known event.

The coronavirus has made things difficult for travellers, especially if they want to cancel their trip. Frederic J. Brown / AFPSource:AFP

RELATED: How coronavirus will impact your travel plans

When it comes to travel insurance. navigating a policy isn’t always straightforward. There’s codes and clauses, phases and fine print that can sometimes have even the most seasoned traveller questioning whether they’re covered.

In a nutshell, taking out travel insurance generally covers you in four key areas – trip cancellation, trip interruption, medical evacuation, and emergency medical costs.

Unfortunately, travel insurers are unlikely to cover claims relating to the outbreak – especially if a holiday is not directly affected by the coronavirus, Compare Travel Insurance director Natalie Ball told

“In most cases, travel insurance does not cover for fear or changes of mind,” Ms Ball said. “As well, many insurers exclude cover for pandemics and epidemics, events known in the mass media, and anything that you were aware of that may give rise to a claim at the time of purchase.

Tourists are being warned that their travel policy will unlikely cover them for cancelled holidaysSource:News Corp Australia

RELATED: Follow our coronavirus updates

“Travel insurance policies vary, so you may be entitled for compensation should the Australian government DFAT issue a level-four ‘do not travel’ travel warning for the country you are visiting. This would largely depend on which insurer you bought your policy with and when you purchased your cover. All customers are always entitled to lodge claims for formal review, which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.”

Because DFAT has only advised against travel to China and Iran so far, cancellations in other destinations are unlikely to be covered or refunded by a service provider.

However, travellers may be eligible to claim for nonrecoverable expenses if the Government upgraded its travel advice after a policy was purchased, Ms Ball said.

The two words that could void your travel insurance.Source:Supplied

But the real challenge for claims will be the people who purchased insurance policies in the days, weeks and months after coronavirus became a “known event” in Australia on January 23, 2020.

Essentially, “known events” can take many different shapes and forms – from disease outbreaks to natural disasters. On paper, these are big events that could affect a traveller’s holiday plans and a traveller could have reasonably been aware of before booking their trip.

“Currently, people are worried about travel in general,” Ms Ball adds.

“Mostly, travellers want to know if they’d be covered for cancellation. The reality is, the majority of travel insurers have cancellation and trip amendment exclusions for claims that relate to epidemics, pandemics and the likely threat of an infectious disease.

For those who have yet to purchase travel insurance, it may be too late to purchase cover for Covid-19 due to the well publicised nature of the outbreak.

“Regardless of your coverage, if you were to buy insurance now there is unlikely to be cover for cancellation,” Ms Ball said.

“Insurers apply cut-off dates to events that are considered widely known and omnipresent. There is not usually cover for events that are known in the mass media or anything that you were aware of at the time of purchase that may give rise to a claim. Most insurers have clear statements on their websites outlining their policies response to the novel coronavirus. If in doubt, you should contact your insurer directly.”

Ball says that the key message for travellers would be to invest in travel insurance sooner rather than later, and understand their policy terms prior to purchase.

“In short, travel insurance provides cover for ‘unforeseen’ events, which you were not aware of at the time of purchase,” she said.

According to Mozo, one of the best ways to identify “known events” is through travel warnings issued by DFAT’S Smartraveller website. If there is a “known event” in the area that you’re planning to travel to, it’s important to double-check your insurance policy will provide you with enough cover should you still choose to go.

“Travellers need to be extremely vigilant with ‘known events’ when purchasing travel insurance and make sure they know where they stand before taking off,” Mozo director Kirsty Lamont said.

“Epidemics, pandemics, outbreaks of diseases and viruses or any other significant widespread health crisis might also be considered to be ‘known events’ by your insurer and could see them deny you when it comes time to claim.”

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New United Club lounge opens in New Orleans International Airport

a kitchen with a table in a room

United Airlines recently expressed renewed proactivity to bolster its United Club lounge network. It announced a one-of-a-kind lounge coming to Newark Liberty International Airport by 2021, and brand-new lounges in Washington, D.C., Phoenix and Honolulu on the way.

On February 29, 2020, United yanked the shroud from its first new United Club lounge of 2020. It’s a sizable 6,000-square-foot space that lives beside Gate C7 in the brand-new terminal of the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).

a screenshot of a cell phone

© The Points Guy

As expected, the 95-seat lounge offers high-speed Wi-Fi and scads of power outlets. You’ll also find region-influenced cuisine such as “muffuletta and pimento cheese sliders, gumbo and rice, Cajun pepper dip and Creole egg salad,” as well as complimentary alcohol such as Abita Amber beer and Southern Comfort, beer, wine and a variety of cocktails, per United.

New lounges like this slowly continue to increase the value of credit cards like the United℠ Business Card. It comes with a limited time offer of 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. But the card also comes with a number of ongoing benefits, such as two annual United Club one-time passes. More lounges mean more opportunities to use your day passes!

For more information, read our ultimate guide to United Club access. And for more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Featured photo courtesy of United Airlines.

SPONSORED: It’s vital to have the right travel credit card in your purse or wallet so that you’re not missing out on great travel rewards. While there are lots of terrific credit cards for travel out there, the reality is that the best one for you should suit your specific travel needs. 

In this guide, The Points Guy reviews all the details, including bonus offers and perks such as Global Entry fee credits and Priority Pass lounge access, to bring you a list of the very best cards. Remember that travel rewards can add up quickly, especially when a welcome bonus is involved, so it’s important to apply and start earning as soon as you can to maximize your points and miles.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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5 museums you might not know in Athens – A Luxury Travel Blog

Every traveler who visits Athens usually has one main goal: to see the Acropolis. Climbing up this Athenian hill to view the majestic Parthenon in person is almost every visitor’s first stop, followed by a trip to the splendid Acropolis Museum.

While the sprawling Acropolis Museum shares deep insights into the history and daily life of the ancient Greeks, there are many lesser-known Athenian museums most travelers rarely visit. To get a glimpse into other facets of Greek culture and history, and experience fewer crowds and lines, you should visit the following five museums.

The Museum of Cycladic Art

Don’t let the name fool you; though the Museum of Cycladic Art certainly has plenty of Cycladic artworks on display, the exhibits are much more expansive than the name implies. This museum contains some of the most carefully curated and detailed exhibits in Athens.

In addition to Cycladic Art, which differed from the styles of mainland ancient Greece, you will also explore Cypriot antiquities and learn about the historic relations between Cyprus and Greece. Take your time to observe them all, as the Museum of Cycladic Art contains over 800 objects from ancient Cypriot civilizations alone.

Greece’s mountainous terrain and the existence of over 200 different inhabited islands formed geographical boundaries that often led to the formation of different cultures and artforms throughout the country. Visiting this museum will help travelers gain an understanding of the different styles and civilizations that could be found in Greece in ancient times.

Benaki Museum of Greek Culture

The Benaki Museum is actually a collection of six separate museums in different locations, though almost all are a short walking distance from one another. The central museum of the collection is the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture, which covers the different eras of Greek history from ancient Greece to the mid-20th century.

Established by wealthy Antonis Benakis in 1930, who donated the Benakis family mansion as well as 37,000 Islamic and Byzantine objects to create the museum, the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture is situated opposite the National Garden. An avid art collector, Antonis created the museum in memory of his late father, Emmanuel Benakis, a prominent politician and businessman.

When you enter, you initially walk through ancient statues and Byzantine art all the way through to paintings and drawings of a barely populated Athens in the 19th century. The displays are arranged in such a way that they are almost in perfect chronological order as you wander through the museum. One of the most popular, don’t-miss exhibits at the Benaki Museum displays traditional, colorful Greek styles of dress from the different islands and regions of Greece.

Benaki Museum of Islamic Art

The Benaki Museum of Islamic Art was founded in 2004, in order to contain all the Islamic artifacts originally housed in the main Benaki Museum. The original Benaki Museum encompassed many unrelated areas of interest, from Greek culture to Islamic art and even including a toy museum, so the main Benaki Museum wanted to refocus on Greek culture and move most of its non-Greek artifacts to other buildings.

Though Greece Is predominantly Christian, its proximity to North Africa and the Middle East means it has usually maintained close relations and trading partnerships with predominantly Islamic countries. Within the museum you will find displays of intricately woven carpets, detailed ceramics, gold, and metalwork, dating from the 8th to the early 20th century.

The museum complex surpasses 1,000 square meters, and contains one of the most important collections of Islamic Art in the entire world. Displays include artifacts from ancient Persia, India, Arabia, and Mesopotamia. Best of all, after you have finished viewing the exhibits, the rooftop café provides a breathtaking view of the Kerameikos neighborhood.

Athens War Museum

With exhibits that span from the era of Alexander the Great to modern times, the Athens War Museum can seem intimidatingly vast. However, a visit to this enormous museum, which houses plenty of informative and eye-catching exhibits, is definitely worth it.

Situated next to the Byzantine and Christian Museum on the heavily-trafficked road of Vasilissis Sofias, the Athens War Museum is located in the center of Athens, within easy walking distance of several other museums on this list.

In addition to maps detailing Alexander’s routes of conquer, visitors are treated to information regarding many important events and major figures from Greece’s War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire. You will also learn a lot about Greece’s involvement during the Balkan Wars and the country’s occupation and hardships during World War II.

The museum’s guides recommend that visitors start on the top floor and work their way down. As a final stop outside in the yard, visitors will find real retired Greek army planes on display dating from the beginning of the 20th century onwards.

Numismatic Museum of Athens

Situated in a famous three-story private residence on Panepistimiou Street called the Iliou Melathron, the Numismatic Museum of Athens houses a rich collection of coins spanning from ancient to modern times. Though originally established in 1834, the museum moved to its current address in 1999. It contains a staggering collection of over 500,000 objects, including not only coins but also medals, dies, and stamps.

The oldest coins in the museum date back to the 6th century BC. Impressive displays help visitors understand not only the coins of the ancient world, but also how coins were created and minted in ancient Greece, and in various regions of the world throughout time as well.

If visitors wish to brush up on their knowledge of coins, they will also find a library with over 12,000 books focused solely on coins and the study of coinage. Thanks to its enormous inventory, the Numismatic Museum of Athens is currently considered one of the most important numismatic museums in the world.

These lesser-known museums show visitors a deeper, more complex view of ancient and modern Greek history. Visit these incredible buildings to gain fascinating insights into Greek culture and society, while venturing into Athenian neighborhoods you might not have otherwise encountered.

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