Cruise crisis: Passengers stranded in Barcelona

Cruise passengers stranded in Barcelona

MSC Armonia pictured in Santa Cruz de La Palma, Canary Islands. Credit: Frank Vincentz/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

In Barcelona, a Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) cruise ship finds itself anchored indefinitely at the port, its voyage to Croatia stalled by a controversy over visas.

On Wednesday, April 3, the ship, carrying approximately 1,500 passengers, was detained due to 69 Bolivian passengers with documents under scrutiny by the National Police. The issue has so far prevented passengers’ disembarkation in the European Schengen zone.

As tensions continue to rise, the rest of the passengers also face uncertainty about their departure from the Catalan city.

Passenger discontent

Social media has become a platform for airing grievances, with travellers expressing their grievances over the delay.

One passenger named Paul voiced his frustration on Twitter/X, posting a message at 11:58 am on April 3: ‘We should have left yesterday towards Ajaccio and we have been informed several times of changes in the itinerary but each time we are informed we are told that the departure is delayed with a lot of uncertainty and nothing clear.’

He later added: ‘We continue with total uncertainty, sad and angry at not being able to continue our trip as planned. We ask the Spanish company/authorities to find a quick solution to continue with our trip.’

Families in distress

Relatives of the affected Bolivian passengers have gathered at the cruise terminal, many are reportedly distressed over the situation. Some have called for action, urging the Bolivian consulate in Barcelona to intervene and decry what they see as ‘abuse’.

Authorities and MSC Cruises respond

The Spanish and Bolivian authorities are collaborating closely, aiming to speed up the necessary administrative steps. The Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has acknowledged the predicament of its nationals on the MSC Armonia, highlighting their departure from Brazil for a Mediterranean tour.

MSC Cruises have confirmed they are working with Spanish officials to address the issue, stating the passengers’ documentation appeared valid at the time of boarding in Brazil. Despite this, it was later revealed the visas were invalid for entry into the Schengen area.

Complex visa history

Bolivian citizens were once exempt from requiring a visa for short stays within the Schengen zone until 2007, when European governments altered this policy in response to rising migration flows.

Efforts to revoke this requirement have been ongoing since 2015, with the matter revisited in a 2022 high-level dialogue in La Paz. Nevertheless, the visa obligation for Bolivians remains in place.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.