As the pandemic completes a year, cruise ship passengers are recollecting the horror of the outbreak on a ship including deaths, confusion and quarantine.
Margrit and Lucio Gonzalez went on a round trip voyage from San Francisco to Mexican Riviera in February last year but their cruise journey turned out to be a nightmare.
They got on the Grand Princess on February 11, 2020, after a 4-hour delay due to the pandemic. The outbreak on the ship ultimately took the life of Lucio.
“I wish we had come back home. He would still be alive,” 82-year-old Margrit said
The Grand Princess was one of the ships that were devastated by a coronavirus outbreak. Many others on subsequent ships were quarantined on the California coast for days.
The surviving passengers of the ship recollect how troublesome it was. The pain, the frustration and constant change in directives as they remain confined to rooms.
But despite all this, more than 100 were infected, of which 8 persons died.
The 73-year-old Lucio Gonzalez was one of them. The couple from California went on a sea adventure that changed their life forever. Lucio fell ill, a few days after the trip and got tested.
“They put him on a ventilator for three weeks and two days, and after that, he died. I never saw him alive again”, said Margrit
The couple deboarded on Feb 21 and within hours the ship sailed with another group on a 10-day Hawaiian tour. However, they had to return to San Francisco after Mexican officials in Ensenada ordered. Apparently, a 71-year-old who was part of the previous trip died of covid.
The tense officials in California didn’t let the ship dock in San Francisco port. The then US President Donald Trump said he didn’t want the passengers to disembark on American soil “because I like the numbers being where they are”. However, he agreed to follow medical advice
So, the ship went into quarantine with passengers restricted to their rooms where meals were delivered and they spent time watching television.
Soon, they were ordered to quarantine in their cabins. Meals were delivered to their rooms, where they watched their ship, and at times themselves, on television newscasts.
Gradually, California Air National Guard members rappelled from the helicopter to drop off test kits. It’s only then things became clear to the cruisers. Until then, most people in America thought of it to be a distant Asian thing.
The ship was finally allowed to dock at Oakland on 9th March and then started the real problem. Passengers were transferred to military bases as part of the quarantine protocol. This took days as passengers were huddled in buses. Many of them jostled for meals at the center and didn’t follow social distancing norms
“There was so much inconsistent information from day-to-day that it felt like we were guinea pigs,” said Miller, of San Jose.
Steven and Michele Smith 10 day voyage turned into a 5-week ordeal at the frontline of the Corona crisis. Many of these people are still in contact through a Facebook group and now they are gearing up to start cruising.
“You can’t live your life based on something that might happen once every 100 years,” Steven Smith said. “You live your life in anticipation of good times and adventures ahead.”
Today they don’t blame cruise liners for the outbreak on the ship.
“The people running the cruise were doing exactly what the government told them to do,” said Schwartz Dever who was on the Princess Cruises.
Lucio’s family on the other hand are suing Carnival Corp the owners of the ship for negligence and wrongful death. Many others have filed litigations.
Princess Cruises said “ our pandemic response was in line with the directives of governments and public health authorities and consistent with industry standards. As new information about COVID-19 became available, we continually adapted our policies and protocols to reflect the latest understanding of the virus.”
The lawyer of the Gonzalez, Mary Alexander said that the ship should not have sailed after the outbreak on another princess ship in Japan
“They knew more than anybody else about what was going on with COVID and what was going on on cruise ships and they should have never sailed. They didn’t take any special precautions to protect the passengers, they didn’t warn them about the virus. People died as a result,” Alexander said.