'Last cruise ship passengers in the world' arrive home after six months at sea

·3 min read
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted Artania's round-world cruise - GETTY
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted Artania's round-world cruise - GETTY

The last cruise ship still carrying passengers docked at its final port of call this week, delivering its eight passengers safely to the German port of Bremerhaven and bringing to an end an epic six-month odyssey at sea.

MV Artania, which can carry up to 1,200 passengers, set sail on a 140-day world cruise from Hamburg on December 21, 2019. The voyage went without a hitch – and then the coronavirus outbreak led to the global pause of the cruise industry.

In March, 36 passengers tested positive for Covid-19 following a health check from Australian health officials when the ship anchored in Fremantle, Western Australia, for a scheduled fuel stop.

Cruise operator Phoenix Reisen said that those affected were quarantined in local hospitals. Two male passengers, aged 69 and 71, and a 42-year-old male crew member have since died from the coronavirus, according to CNN.

Passengers and crew who proved to be virus free remained quarantined onboard Artania for a fortnight until their repatriation flights. While the ship was stuck in Perth, crew members received postcards from local school children in an effort to forge a connection between the quarantined crew and a city in panic.

Artania has finally reached Bremerhaven, a port city on Germany's North Sea coast - GETTY
Artania has finally reached Bremerhaven, a port city on Germany's North Sea coast - GETTY

At the end of March hundreds flew back to Frankfurt, Germany, while a handful stayed in a hospital in Australia to recover. Eight passengers decided to travel back home via ocean, rather than by plane. 

Artania was finally allowed to depart Fremantle on April 18, with locals lining the harbour to bid the ill-fated liner farewell – but not before two crew members decided to tie the knot. They were married in a ceremony officiated by Dr Gabriele Maluga, the Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Western Australia.

The vessel’s journey home to Europe should have taken a few weeks but was extended by stop-offs in Southeast Asia, in order to repatriate many of Artania’s remaining crew members in Manila, the Philippines, and Bali, Indonesia.

Around 75 crew members remained on-board until Bremerhaven to ensure the smooth operation of the ship, and Artania’s Norwegian-born Captain Morten Hansen kept those at sea (and on land) in the loop through his Facebook page. 

On Mother's Day the captain, who used to star in German reality television show Crazy for the Sea, took a little detour from his planned route in order to map out the shape of a heart.

Finally, after a months-long saga, Artania and her last eight passengers arrived home on Monday, June 8 – albeit to a world almost unrecognisable from the one they set sail in. Artania was previously better known as Royal Princess when she sailed in the fleet of another cruise line, and was famously christened by Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1984.

Germany remains the only country that has resumed cruising, with a river voyage setting sail earlier this month.

Viking Cruises have raised hopes that Britons may be able to take the water for a cruise around the UK this summer but at this stage the company is still confirming the feasibility of such trips.