Coronavirus: Worthing mother spent life savings on global trip with son - but may lose thousands due to pandemic

A Worthing mother who spent her life savings on a round the world trip with her young son feared she may lose thousands of pounds due to the coronavirus outbreak.

On March 1, Terri Shanks and her son Cameron, eight, boarded the MS Maasdam on a five-week cruise from Auckland, New Zealand, to San Diego in California, with the excitement of visiting several South Pacific islands ahead of them..

Terri and Cameron Shanks, inset, and the MS Maasdam

Terri and Cameron Shanks, inset, and the MS Maasdam

But as the coronavirus pandemic took hold and ports began to close, it has left the pair and their fellow passengers stranded in the Pacific Ocean with dwindling food supplies and their future plans in tatters.

Speaking from the Holland America-owned cruise ship on Saturday, Terri, 49, said: "It is heartbreaking. This was meant to be the trip of a lifetime.

"I spent my life savings so we could go around the world, and now it is down the pan."

The cruise was meant to have 17 stops at different ports, including in Tonga and Niue island, the world's smallest independent nation - but because of the pandemic, they have only been able to stop at four.

Terri and Cameron in Australia

Terri and Cameron in Australia

Among those closed was the port of Papeete in Tahiti, where the ship was meant to take in food and fuel. Other passengers who were meant to disembark here had to pack at a moment's notice and go ashore in lifeboats - something the captain had not seen in his 40-year career, Terri said.

After three days circling the Cook Islands, the ship was recently told the mainland American ports were closed so they are expecting to dock in Hilo, Hawaii on March 20, where from there Terri hoped they could get flights to the US and then home.

But with Donald Trump banning travel from Europe, including the UK, she did not know if they would be quarantined on arrival..

She said: "There are a lot of rumours circling around that the people of Hawaii are asking a flotilla of boats to block us from coming in."

The MS Maasdam

The MS Maasdam

Another cruise they had lined up in Alaska on April 27 also looked unlikely to go ahead along with three others in Asia in June and July, throwing their plans into 'complete chaos', Terri said.

In total, Terri estimated that she had spent £40,000 on their travels.

She hoped she would be able to get a refund on the £9,000 spent on this cruise - but some American hotel chains she had contacted had already refused to refund the rooms she booked.

No-one on board had shown any symptoms of the virus and they had been at sea for 14 days, which hopefully meant they were in the clear.

Cameron in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Cameron in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

But the atmosphere on board was not always upbeat - particularly as food would have to be rationed and Holland America had recently announced it was suspending its voyages during the outbreak, putting the jobs of those on board at risk.

Terri said: "The crew have been absolutely amazing, considering they don't know what is happening about their jobs.

"We have lost a holiday, but they might lose their whole livelihood."

Last year, Terri took Cameron out of education so they could experience the world together. They circumnavigated the globe and returned home to Upton Gardens in Tarring for three months - but had so much fun they decided to do it again, but taking a different route and seeing different sights.

They left the UK in January, and were due to travel until the middle of July, and managed to see Singapore, Australia and New Zealand before their current predicament.

The civil celebrant said that while in Singapore - one of the earliest countries to be affected by the outbreak - the signs of the current crisis were there.

Terri and Cameron in Fiji

Terri and Cameron in Fiji

She said: "There were a lot of people wearing masks and the masks had run out in the chemists, but only four or five cases had been reported at that point so it wasn't a major thing.

"We were in Singapore for Chinese New Year and we went to Chinatown, and it was a ghost town. No-one was there, because they had stopped all the flights between mainland China and Singapore at that time."

But despite their bad luck, when asked if it had put her off travelling again, Terri said: "No, definitely not!"

Terri has been documenting their travels on social media. Follow her at Mums Travel Blog on Facebook, @terrisussex on Twitter and www.mumstravelblog.com.