Two young Canadian women and an older man enjoyed a luxury cruise, documenting their visits to pristine beaches in French Polynesia and Bermuda, before berthing in Sydney where authorities found more than $23 million of cocaine in their luggage.
The drug bust was the largest ever recorded in Australia aboard a cruise ship.
The trio travelled to North America, including a stop in New York, before touring the Caribbean and parts of South America, including Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, aboard the $15,000-a-head MS Sea Princess.
One of the women — Melina Roberge, 22, — shared pictures drinking from coconuts and posing in front of turquoise waters in her bikini. She was travelling with Isabelle Legacé, 28. Andre Taminé, 63, was also on the cruise.
“Monday mood,” Ms Roberge wrote beneath a picture of her feet in crystal-clear waters four weeks ago.
A day earlier, at Manta, Ecuador, she posted a picture of herself above cliffs by the ocean. She wrote: “In my top five for sure.”
She got tattooed in French Polynesia and rode a quad bike in Peru, but the holiday of a lifetime could be her last.
The trio’s dream cruise ended in Sydney on Sunday night — the last stop on the voyage — when Australian police and border control officers raided the ship and found 95 kilograms of cocaine in their luggage.
The Australian authorities had been exchanging information with the Canadian Border Service Agency and the US Department of Homeland Security.
The two women were travelling together and left a detailed record of their journey on social media. Australian investigators have not determined if all three alleged smugglers were working together. The three suspects were identified by the Australian Border Force as “high-risk travellers”. All three are originally from Quebec.
Australia has a reputation for having higher local prices for cocaine and the authorities estimated that the value of the drugs they discovered was more than $23 million, a record seizure from a cruise ship in the country.
“The maximum sentence for this charge is life in prison,” the border force said in a press release, which made reference to an international drug syndicate that is still subject to investigation and could lead to other arrests.
Beneath a post on Ms Roberge’s Instagram account on August 27, after news of her arrest, followers mocked her. “Currently travelling to prison,” one wrote. “Nap with one eye open in prison,” another posted.
Investigators are trying to determine through which port the drugs were brought onto the ship. The three travellers boarded the ship in England in early July, but the cruise later travelled to several ports in North America, the Caribbean and South America — notably Colombia and Peru, two countries known for cocaine production.
In 2014 a UN report said that Australia had the highest proportion of recreational drug users in the world , leading Dr Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, to say that Australia’s appetite for illicit drugs was fuelled by both a cashed-up and unfettered new generation and an economically disadvantaged underclass.