“That could have been us,” explains Catalina Llinás, a retired woman and a tireless traveler. “I am not going back to African countries.”
Llinás was visiting the ruins of Carthage with her husband, Plácido Sedal, when the Islamist attack on the Bardo Museum took place on Wednesday.
The two cruise ships that had taken Spanish passengers to Tunisia as part of a tour package returned to the ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca on Friday.
The operating companies, MSC and Costa Cruceros, have cancelled their Tunisian stops following the terrorist attack in the north African country.
We were lucky that we missed the museum tour”
The Costa Fascinosa, owned by Costa Cruceros, arrived in Palma de Mallorca at 5.45am from Tunisia, where five of its passengers – four Italians and a Russian – were killed in the attack. Eight more tourists – seven Italians and a Russian – were injured and are currently hospitalized in Tunis.
The cruise ship operator confirmed that all the Spaniards who bought the package were back on the Costa Fascinosa when it departed Tunisia at 1.55pm on Thursday with 3,148 passengers aboard.
Many of the passengers said they felt disconcerted, and had a sense that they'd had a close brush with death. “Luckily” was used often in conversation.
“I’m not going back to Turkey... oh wait, Tunisia,” said Teresa Pizá, a Majorcan woman who was looking pale and sleepy. Her boyfriend Sergio Martín confessed that he learned of the attack “through the loudspeaker system. They told us all excursions were off and activities were also being canceled as a sign of respect. It was my first cruise.”
This couple had opted out of the museum route and chosen to go shopping instead.
Patricia, an Ecuadoran woman who lives in the Italian city of Palermo, was on the ship with her husband Salvatore. Both explain that they were planning to take the tourist bus that was attacked by the terrorists, but missed it and took a taxi instead.
“I decided to get off in Tunis, but now I regret it,” says Patricia. “I didn’t really want to get off the ship there. Now we are nice and quiet here in Palma.”
“We were lucky that we missed the museum tour,” adds Salvatore. “We found out what had happened when we got back. We saw the survivors and first-hand witnesses get back on board. They were in a state of commotion.”
Many passengers feel that they have had a close brush with death
Meanwhile, the MSC Splendida arrived in Barcelona around 8am carrying 27 fewer passengers than it had departed with. Nine people who were traveling aboard were killed in the Tunis attack, including a retired couple from Catalonia. Twelve more passengers were injured and four remain unaccounted for. Two more tourists, a couple of newlyweds from the Valencia region who were found safe and sound after hiding in a storage room for 23 hours, are still in Tunis.
The Spanish government was hoping to bring back the bodies of the two Spanish victims – Dolors Sánchez and Antonio Cirera – on Friday if all the paperwork gets completed in time, said diplomatic sources.