One of the last cruises at sea now has just 8 passengers left after 4 died of the coronavirus and hundreds abandoned ship. Here's how a 140-day world tour turned to disaster.

·7 min read
artania cruise ship
The MV Artania is seen with "Thank You Fremantle" banners and Australian flags at the Fremantle Passenger Terminal in Australia on March 28, 2020.

Paul Kane/Getty Images

  • The MV Artania is one of the last cruise ships still at sea today, and is traveling back to Germany with just eight passengers and 75 crew members.  

  • During its 140-day journey around the world, the German ship was forced to quarantine in Fremantle, Western Australia, after it reported several cases of coronavirus onboard.

  • While hundreds of healthy passengers were allowed to leave the ship to fly back home, several others had to stay on board.

  • Three passengers and one crew member have died from the coronavirus after being taken to local hospitals.

  • The ship is expected to stop in Indonesia and the Philippines to drop off crew members who are from there, before returning to Germany. The return leg will be more than a month long.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A German cruise ship is currently on its way home with only eight guests and 75 crew members after four passengers died from the coronavirus and hundreds more were forced to evacuate.

It is one of the last cruise ships in the world still at sea.

The eight-deck MV Artania embarked on its 140-day world cruise on December 21, 2019 — when China was discovering the world's first coronavirus cases — but was quarantined in Fremantle, Western Australia, in mid-March after several coronavirus cases were found on board.

Three passengers and one 42-year-old crew member who were on the ship have since died. The crew member was the youngest person to die in Australia.

Scroll down to see how disaster unfolded on the German cruise ship and where it is now.

The MV Artania is a 1,200-passenger cruise ship with 600 cabins, two pools, and a cinema. It is operated by German travel agency Phoenix Reisen.

artania cruise ship coronavirus
Passengers board the MV Artania in Lisbon, Portugal, on June 3, 2016.

Horacio Villalobos#476916#51B ED/Corbis via Getty Images)

Most of the passengers on this tour were German nationals.

There were also 537 crew members on board, according to CruiseMapper.

Source: CruiseMapper

It embarked on its 140-day journey from Hamburg, Germany, on December 21, 2019. In the first two months of its journey, it traveled through countries including the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia.

artania german cruise ship
A screenshot from an official YouTube video tour of the MV Artania's upper deck in 2018.

Cruisechannel/YouTube

Source: Cruise Mapper

It arrived in Sydney on March 12. Around this time, countries around the world had started blocking cruise ships from docking in their ports for fears of contracting the coronavirus.

artania cruise ship
The Artania cruise ship in front of P&O Cruises Pacific Explorer in Sydney, Australia on March 16, 2020

James D. Morgan/Getty Images

At this point, multiple cruise ships had been left abandoned as ports started to shut down all over the world.

The Diamond Princess — which saw a boom in coronavirus cases as it was quarantined in Japan in February — was evidence that cruise ships were hotbeds for the coronavirus to spread.

Source: The Points Guy

While the MV Artania had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the time, it still gave guests the options to fly back to Germany from Sydney. Out of the approximately 1,072 passengers on board, 199 took up of the offer.

artania cruise ship coronavirus
The Artania cruise ship in White Bay, Sydney, on March 16, 2020.

James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Source: The Points Guy

Yet the cruise had every intention to keep going. On March 19, it left for Fremantle, a port city on Australia's western coast, where it planned to make a quick refuel stop before continuing on to Africa, the Suez Canal, and parts of Europe.

fremantle australia
A depiction of where Fremantle is

Google Maps

Source: The Points Guy

But on the way to Fremantle, passengers started showing symptoms of the coronavirus. By the time the cruise ship arrived one week later, seven people had tested positive.

mv artania passenger
A passenger on the MV Artania look out from their rooms in Fremantle on March 27, 2020.

Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

At first, the MV Artania was forced to anchor off-shore because Australian authorities were concerned about the potential virus risk posed by the cruise ship.

mv artania cruise ship coroanvirus
The cruise ship sits anchored off the port of Fremantle near Perth on March 27, 2020.

TONY ASHBY/AFP via Getty Images

State authorities said at the time that only passengers with life-threatening conditions would be allowed to leave, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

Meanwhile, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan called on the Royal Australian Navy to help get the vessel — which had not a single Australian national on board — to leave the country's waters.

Source: ABC

But on March 27, the ship was allowed to dock under the condition it would quarantine for two weeks. One day later, 46 passengers started showing symptoms, with Western Australia's state premier saying the situation had reached a "crisis point."

artania cruise ship
A passenger is attended to by waiting paramedics at the Fremantle Passenger Terminal on March 27, 2020.

Paul Kane/Getty Images

Forty-one of those passengers were taken off the cruise ship and treated in local hospitals, according to ABC.

Source: ABC

In the following days, Australian authorities allowed anyone who was still healthy — 832 passengers at this point — to fly home from the nearby Perth airport on a chartered aircraft.

artania cruise ship
Passengers from MV Artania are transferred with a police escort to Perth International Airport on March 29, 2020.

Paul Kane/Getty Images

Source: Phoenix Reisen, Bloomberg

But some of those who tested positive and were showing milder symptoms of the virus were still quarantined on the ship. At this point, 12 passengers and 450 crew members were left on board.

artania cruise ship
Passengers from the Artania cruise ship are transported from the Fremantle Passenger Terminal to Perth International airport on March 29, 2020.

Paul Kane/Getty Images

Source: The Points Guy

Another standoff between the ship and local authorities ensued on April 1, when the MV Artania refused to follow orders to leave the port and asked to stay another 14 days. They were eventually allowed.

mv artania cruise ship coroanvirus
The MV Artania at the Fremantle Passenger Terminal on March 27, 2020.

Paul Kane/Getty Images

This was presumably to allow any passengers with symptoms to be treated.

The MV Artania was deeply popular among many locals in Western Australia, who claimed that passengers from the ship being treated in the hospitals were taking up capacity that should be reserved for Australians, according to the BBC.

Source: ABC

On April 16, the ship — which now had eight passengers on board and hundreds of crew members — left Fremantle. Groups of people gathered to bid them farewell from the Australian mainland.

mv artania cruise ship coroanvirus
Residents in apartments opposite the Fremantle Passenger Terminal are seen with a banner with a message to the passengers and crew of the MV Artania saying "Travel Safe" on March 28, 2020.

Paul Kane/Getty Images

Source: ABC

The German captain, Morten Hanson, left a video message on Twitter, thanking the authorities and medical teams for assisting the cruise ship as it battled the outbreak.

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The ship sailed to Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 24 to drop off crew members from the country. This left eight passengers and 75 crew members on board.

mv artania cruise ship
Map showing the MV Artania's location on April 24, 2020.

Google Maps

Source: Phoenix Reisen

It now plans to drop by the Philippines to let more crew members disembark before returning to Germany.

map germany indonesia philippines
map germany indonesia philippines

Google Maps

The trip back to Germany will be a long one — the cruise's operator says it will arrive in its home port of Bremerhaven on May 31, which is more than five weeks away.

bremerhaven port
Bremerhaven port.

Fabian Bimmer/Reuters

Source: BILD, Phoenix Reisen

This journey as been a sad one. As of Friday, four people from the ship have since died from the coronavirus.

artania cruise ship
The MV Artania is seen with "Thank You Fremantle" banners and Australian flags positioned on the side of the vessel at the Fremantle Passenger Terminal on March 28, 2020.

Paul Kane/Getty Images

Of these victims:

  • Two passengers died in local hospitals in Fremantle while the ship was still docked there.

  • One crew member died in Fremantle on April 17, a day after the ship left.

  • One passenger, a German man in his 70s, died in Sir Charles Gairdne hospital in Fremantle on April 23.

The crew member — a 42-year-old man from the Philippines — became the youngest person to die of the coronavirus on Australian soil, ABC reported.

Source: ABC

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