From Title Role Productions

Thursday 2nd July 2020 on ITV 

Pictured : Zaandam Cruise Ship

A NEW documentary for ITV tells the story of how the biggest global crisis in living memory brought the £120 billion pound lucrative cruise industry to its knees and 100s of ships around the world to a standstill across 6 extraordinary weeks.

The documentary will explore the role of cruise ships and the spread of the virus and ask if the well-being of passengers and crew was always put first. With personal insights from passengersÕ onboard ships living through the unfolding crisis along with renowned experts, the film forensically unpacks the events across 6 critical weeks that led to the dream cruise holidays turning into floating horror stories.

The cruising industry has sky-rocketed to over a £100 billion business the last few years with 30 million people taking to the seas in 2019. Now, in a short space of time, this travel industry heavyweight has been brought to its knees.  For the first time in history, the whole of the cruising industry has ground to a halt.  With ships and passengers stranded at sea, rows of liners moored in ports with nowhere to go and routes cancelled.  

We tell the inside story from David and Sally Abel. Enjoying their luxurious cruise around the South China sea when disaster struck on the Diamond Princess.  With personal footage we get to the heart of the drama as both husband and wife end up contracting the virus with David becoming seriously ill in hospital.

Ian and Morvin Rae were on a cruise around South America as the virus spread across the world.  They quickly went from enjoying the holiday of a lifetime to being refused entry to ports and confined to their cabins. 

Elisa McCafferty continued with her cruise around Australia and New Zealand after being told that she couldnÕt cancel her holiday.  Along with her husband, she took her elderly parents on the cruise as the world was going into lockdown.  After being refused entry to New Zealand, the Ruby Princess sailed back to Sydney in Australia and allowed all their passengers to disembark. Subsequently hundreds of passengers caught the virus with some dying. There is now a criminal investigation into the matter by New South Wales police.

(c) Outliers Overland

For further information please contact Peter Gray
0207 157 3046  

This photograph is © Outliers Overland and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the  programme BILLION POUND CRUISES:  ALL AT SEA or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website
The Zaandam cruise ship © Outliers Overland

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Back in February, an elderly couple holed up on the Diamond Princess became minor media stars with their self-appointed mission “to keep the world informed” about the gruelling conditions on the quarantined cruise ship. For those who swiftly tired of David and Sally Abel and their (mostly his) 57 varieties of “This is an outrage!”, be warned; they pop up here too, but at least they look cheerful and healthy now, rather than overheated and disgruntled. 

The Diamond Princess sailed from Yokohama on January 20 with 2,500 passengers on board. In the next 10 days it stopped in Hong Kong and then Taiwan where, during the changing of the guard at the royal palace, the Abels observed people sneezing and sniffling in the crowd. The main thrust of the documentary is that the £120bn cruise industry was far too slow to protect its crew and customers as the pandemic took hold. By the second of February there were more than 14,000 reported cases of infection globally, but still around 145 ships at sea. When passengers stopped off at virus hotspots, the gangplank handrail alone could be a conduit for the disease. 

A Scottish couple aboard the Zaandam on a South American cruise arguably had an even more torrid time than the Abels. When Chile shut its borders, the captain defied an order to spend 14 days in quarantine off Punta Arenas, and took the Zaandam out to sea, earning himself the title of “The Flying Dutchman” from grateful passengers. But as the ship sailed north, country after country refused to allow it to dock, until the only hope left was a dash through the Panama Canal. The news that four Covid-19 fatalities lay in the morgue didn’t exactly raise morale. 

Passengers whose holidays hadn’t even begun were not dissuaded from embarking. Alyssa and her family, having been told refunds were not available, found that their Australia cruise was “a free-for-all”. There was no social distancing, and the film of the crew performing an exuberant conga around the restaurant looks simultaneously fun, sad and scary given the context. Though the programme focuses on the disappointed passengers of what’s been described as “floating Petri dishes”, the plight of the crews is even starker. Thousands of them are still confined on empty liners, and it’s even suggested that some have thrown themselves overboard in desperation. 

It was supposed to be a bumper year for cruising. Richard Branson’s flagship, Scarlet Lady, hasn’t even begun her maiden voyage. According to the Miami Herald’s investigation (many cruise companies are based in Miami), one-fifth of all cruise ships was shown to have the virus. Despite that, a recent survey suggests that regular cruisers haven’t been put off, with some even vowing to cruise even more in future. They’ll be pleased to hear that bargains galore are promised for 2021 as the industry kick-starts. 


‘Billion Pound Cruises: All at Sea’, July 2, ITV

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