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Norfolk artist on stranded Braemar cruise ship says staff ‘just didn’t stop’

PUBLISHED: 09:48 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:20 17 March 2020

The Fred Olsen cruise liner the Braemar, which is heading for Cuba from where passengers hope to be flown home.
Photo: FRED OLSEN CRUISE LINES

The Fred Olsen cruise liner the Braemar, which is heading for Cuba from where passengers hope to be flown home. Photo: FRED OLSEN CRUISE LINES

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An artist who worked in Norfolk for 20 years said staff on a cruise ship on which she has been stranded ‘just didn’t stop’ after five people tested positive for coronavirus.

Passengers enjoying the view from the deck of the Braemar, which is heading for Cuba from where passengers hope to be flown home.
Photo: LINDA  MATTHEWSPassengers enjoying the view from the deck of the Braemar, which is heading for Cuba from where passengers hope to be flown home. Photo: LINDA MATTHEWS

Passengers on the Braemar, a cruise ship run by Ipswich-based Fred. Olsen, have been stuck on board for a week after five people tested positive for Covid-19 and 43 others were put in isolation after showing flu-like symptoms.

The first positive tests were confirmed when the ship docked at Curacao on March 10.

The ship has now set course for Cuba, from where it is hoped the 667 Britons on board can fly home.

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Linda Matthews on holiday last year with husband Paul. The police-officer-turned-artist is hoping to get home this week after being stuck in the Bahamas on board the cruise liner the Braemar.
Photo: LINDA MATTHEWSLinda Matthews on holiday last year with husband Paul. The police-officer-turned-artist is hoping to get home this week after being stuck in the Bahamas on board the cruise liner the Braemar. Photo: LINDA MATTHEWS

Fred. Olsen said it was working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Public Health England to confirm details about onward travel arrangements and health requirements for those on board.

Artist Linda Matthews, who was based in Broadland for nearly 20 years before relocating to France in 2016, has been working as a painting tutor on board the ship.

She said: “A week after joining the Braemar, we were told that two people from the previous cruise had tested positive for Covid-19 after returning home to the UK and that five people who had been in contact with them had been quarantined in their cabins.“

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“Most people’s concern was the unknown timescale,” Mrs Matthews said. “But the high standards of cleaning were upgraded, the staff just didn’t stop, and the captain kept us informed and was determined to get us home as soon as possible.”

Mrs Matthews, who has family in Fleggburgh and Martham, added that while passengers were worried, most of those on board remained upbeat.

“Obviously not everyone is patient or happy, but this is unprecedented and people are making the most of being looked after – they are still dressing for dinner and you can still hear laughter,” she said.

Now on the final leg of an “long and eventful” journey, she is looking forward to returning home to husband Paul.

“Am I worried? No more than I would be at home in France, where we have coronavirus in our village,” she said.

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A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “We are working around the clock to arrange evacuation flights from Cuba to the UK as soon as possible for passengers on the Braemar cruise ship.”

The FCO will support UK citizens who remain in Cuba for medical reasons but strongly advises British nationals to return home via the flights.

People with relatives on board Braemar can call the Fred Olsen support team on 01473 292350 between 8am and 8pm.

- For updates on how coronavirus is affecting Norfolk, please visit our Facebook page here


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