The unique transfer (industry's first-ever) was originally slated to occur at Phu My Port (Saigon Vietnam), where the two vessels were scheduled to load provisions and refuel while exchanging passengers. However, CMV announced on Tuesday, March 17, that it had been granted permission to carry out the operation off Phuket's coast instead.
CMV said that in light of the continued flight cancellations and border closures, to repatriate all cruise passengers as close to their home country as possible as well as ensure a safe onwards trip they would transfer European nationals from CMV Vasco da Gama to CMV Columbus, as well as transfer Australian and New Zealand nationals from CMV Columbus to CMV Vasco do Gama.
Vasco da Gama will then proceed toward Fremantle Australia to finally disembark its passengers on March 27. Columbus will proceed toward Tilbury-London UK to disembark its passengers on April 13. Due to port closures, there was no option for passengers to disembark the vessel in any other port than London or Fremantle-Perth.
CMV said it was working with the government and the Border Force of Australia, and it had the understanding that the ship would be exempt from Australia's port closures. There are currently no suspected Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases aboard either ship. One cruise passenger aboard Vasco Da Gama was medevaced in Phuket on March 13 and checked for Coronavirus. The passenger tested negative, and the ship was cleared to depart.
CMV Vasco da Gama was on 71-day World Voyage from Fremantle to Tilbury-London (itinerary February 12 - April 23). CMV Columbus was on 120-day "Grand Round the World Cruise 2020" (itinerary January 6 - May 5) roundtrip from Tilbury-London.
For Coronavirus updates on cruise ship quarantines (infected passengers and crew) and top-pandemic countries (COVID-19 cases and deaths, daily updated statistics) see at CruiseMapper's Norovirus page.