Carnival Cruise Line Ship Rescues Stranded Travelers in Vanuatu

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In an unexpected turn of events following the sudden cessation of Air Vanuatu’s operations on May 10, 2024, thousands of travelers were left stranded across the idyllic South Pacific archipelago, famed for its pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and active volcanoes.

Enter Carnival Cruise Line, which stepped in with a remarkable rescue after seeing cries for help on social media. On May 23, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Splendor, a 113,323-gross-ton ship on a 9-night South Pacific cruise, offered safe passage to eight Australians and one New Zealander stranded on Santo, Vanuatu’s largest island.

“Helping these people get home safely reflects our commitment to community support and humanitarian aid,” said Carnival Cruise Line Australia’s vice president Kara Glamore. “We are so pleased to provide this group a safe and enjoyable return home.”

Carnival Splendor Rescue
Carnival Splendor rescues stranded travelers in Vanuatu (Photo courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Splendor, which had departed from Sydney on May 19, continued its voyage with its new passengers in tow, calling in Vila, Vanuatu, on May 24. Carnival Splendor will return to Syndey with its new passengers on May 28.

Originally slated to call in Lifou, New Caledonia, during the sailings, the ship spent more time in Vanuatu than scheduled after political unrest broke out on the French territory located just south of Vanuatu.

The unrest included riots and assaults, which resulted in curfews and the closure of businesses and the international airport. A state of emergency was declared on May 15.

Why were travelers stranded in Vanuatu?

Air Vanuatu, the national airline of Vanuatu, entered voluntary liquidation earlier in May, resulting in the cancellation of all flights and leaving travelers scrambling to find ways off the island to return to their home countries.

The airline, which operated a small fleet of four aircraft, had faced significant challenges, including labor shortages, rising operational costs, and disruptions caused by extreme weather.

Meanwhile, on May 17, P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Adventure extended a similar lifeline to 16 young Australian Rotary members and their chaperones who had been volunteering in Vanuatu.

P&O Cruises' Pacific Adventure  rescues volunteers
P&O Cruises’ Pacific Adventure rescues volunteers (Photo courtesy: P&O Cruises Australia)

“P&O Cruises Australia is delighted to help this inspiring group of students get home,” said Peter Little, P&O Cruises Australia’s senior vice president. “We are proud of our Australian heritage that extends back more than 90 years, and answering a call to help young Australians stranded a long way from home is the right thing to do.”

Read Also: Carnival Ship Rescues 27 People Adrift at Sea in the Caribbean

The 109,000-gross-ton Pacific Adventure, on a roundtrip journey from Sydney, continued its itinerary, calling in Mystery Island, Vanuatu, before returning to Syndey on May 23, providing the volunteers with a much-deserved holiday after 12 days of hard work.

“We were jumping for joy when P&O made their offer, after such a frustrating and stressful few days wondering how we were going to get home,” said Hive Rotary President Kellie Kadaoui. “This will be an exciting and wonderful way to finish our volunteering trip.”

In Vanuatu, efforts are underway to support additional stranded passengers, and other airlines, such as Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Fiji Airways, are working to assist affected travelers.

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