Sharon Schofield was “surprised and shocked” by her quick exit from the vessel on March 19 after being told days earlier there would be a delay as NSW Health conducted checks for COVID-19.
“That’s why we were surprised when we got in that it was very quick because we were expecting to be temperature-tested or something from NSW Health before we got off the boat,” Schofield on Tuesday told an inquiry into the ship’s arrival.
She said there were no health checks on March 19 and noted that leaving the ship was quick compared with the lengthy delays boarding the ship on March 8, as previous passengers were tested as they disembarked.
A NSW Health assessment team boarded the ship on March 8 to collect COVID-19 swabs and perform temperature checks on passengers and crew members who had been part of the previous Ruby Princess cruise.
This process was not repeated when the ship docked on March 19 because the NSW Health assessment panel deemed the ship low risk, allowing 2700 passengers to pour off the vessel.
Ann Kavanagh said she did not recall any mention of the virus on board and agreed the disembarkation was quick.
“There was no queuing, no passport control, nothing, we just got in a taxi, got to the airport … very quick,” Kavanagh said.
She tested positive to the virus after arriving home in WA and spent eight days in an induced coma.
Kavanagh also said she feared she may have contracted the virus after a crew member sneezed while serving coffee.
“I certainly would have never got on that ship had I known we were going to get so sick,” she said, fighting back tears.
Passenger Kristy McMahon told the inquiry she narrowly missed the chance to get a full refund for the cruise.
She said that two days before departure, she received an email from Carnival offering passengers a refund for bookings departing on or after March 9, but requiring three days’ notice.
Her cruise left Sydney on March 8.
A subsequent email revised the refund eligibility for cruises leaving from March 6, but three days’ notice was still required.
It has since been confirmed that all passengers aboard the March 8 Ruby Princess cruise were eligible for a refund.
McMahon further alleged confusing messaging as the cruise returned to Sydney, including about the necessary quarantine period.
On board she was told self-isolation was 14 days from the time of leaving New Zealand on March 15. Later Australian Border Force said the fortnight isolation started from the time they disembarked in Sydney on March 19.
More than 20 COVID-19 deaths across Australia have been linked to passengers who disembarked the Ruby Princess when it arrived in Circular Quay on March 19.
The inquiry continues on Friday.
By Ashlea Witoslawski