A nightmare is unfolding for passengers aboard an Italian cruise ship which docked in Hobart today as the ships’ owners have forbidden anyone leaving the vessel and coming ashore.

Both crew and up to 3000 passengers on the MSC Magnifica, which is part way through a cruise of the Pacific, have been prevented from leaving it amid coronavirus pandemic fears.

The ship, operated by the global cruise line Mediterranean Shipping Company, arrived from New Zealand on Saturday morning at the Port of Hobart and is due in Sydney on Monday.

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A TasPorts spokesperson told the Hobart Mercury the cruise ship company had elected to keep passengers on board to avoid the risk of contamination.

Due to the fact no coronavirus cases have been reported on board, this may be to protect passengers from being infected by Tasmanians.

“The cruise company, MSC Cruises, has made the decision to keep passengers on board while in port, to ensure their health and safety, in response to potential risk of COVID-19,” TasPorts said.

MSC Cruises, which is registered in Switzerland, was founded in Italy and is now part of the world’s second biggest container shipping operator.

The ship sailed from Wellington on Tuesday, cruised through the Milford Sound, is due to sail from Hobart to arrived in Sydney on Monday.

The Magnifica is expected to spend two days and one night in Sydney, but it now seems doubtful passenger will be allowed to disembark in the harbour city either.

After Sydney the ship is due in the New Caledonia, at the Ils Des Pins and Noumea, and then Cairns, where the 15-day luxury cruise ends.

The luxury vessel has nine bars and lounges and speciality facilities including a casino, an underwater children’s playroom, a disco, a poker room, sports centre, tennis, basketball and squash courts, beauty salon, massage room, card room and a bowling alley.

As coronavirus plunges the tourism industry and in particular cruise liners into chaos, Cunard Lines has made an 11th hour decision to cancel its Perth to South Africa cruise.

Due to depart today, passengers booked on the Queen Mary II flooded Cunard with anxious inquiries following Friday’s statement by Scott Morrison.

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In announcing a ban from Monday on public gatherings of more than 500 people, the Prime Minister recommended Australians avoid unnecessary travel.

A relative of one retired couple booked on the ship said her parents had been told on Friday that because it was less than 48 hours before sailing, that if they cancelled they would forfeit their entire cruise payment of more than $10,000.

Around 9.30am on Saturday Cunard pulled the pin on the cruise and offered passengers a full refund or an 150% credit for any future cruises once the pandemic is over.

Cunard is a subsidiary of Princess and Carnival lines which have cancelled all cruises for the immediate future.

The company’s Diamond Princess ship was quarantined at sea off Japan for weeks after a coronavirus outbreak infected more than 700 passengers, some of whom died.

An elderly couple has sued Princess Cruise Lines for more than $1 million after being stuck on the coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess off San Francisco.

P&O Cruises has today announced a 30-day pause in cruise operations due to the impact of the coronavirus.

The company says this is in response to official advice to limit mass gatherings to no more than 500 people and official travel advice that Australians should avoid travel to anywhere in the world at this time.

P&O Cruises President Sture Myrmell said the company has never come across a challenge like this before.