HOUSTON – When Willie and Patricia Kinnear got on a cruise on March 3, they never thought they would be stuck at sea, trapped on a ship where multiple people are sick with what they believe could be the new coronavirus.
Willie Kinnear said he had tried to cancel the cruise on the Coral Princess -- a ship owned and operated by Princess Cruises line -- before getting on board, but because COVID-19 was not wide-spread in South America, the cruise line refused to cancel, so the couple boarded the ship and it set sail.
Three days after sailing, the couple said they got an email saying that the cruise was canceled, but by then it was too late. Willie and Patricia Kinnear were stuck.
Willie Kinnear said their plan was to get off in Buenos Aires, Argentina on March 19 to catch a flight back home.
“That night -- the day we docked – (crews) wouldn’t let us off early in the day,” said Willie Kinnear. “As the day wore on, they did let (people) off but by that point, we had already missed our flight. Then we were supposed to leave the next day but there was a presidential decree that closed the borders and the ship had to leave before midnight for 14 days of quarantine in Argentina.”
According to Willie Kinnear, they had been on the ship for 14 days with no issues.
“Some people got off the ship, went to the airport, didn’t get on the airplane and came back to the ship,” Willie Kinnear said. “I think they brought the virus to the ship then because we had been on the ship basically 14 days before that and we never had any issues. So, we think that happened around Buenos Aires.”
The captain announced Tuesday morning – about 11 days after stopping in Argentina -- that several passengers had respiratory symptoms and by the afternoon, they were asked to return to their cabins and stay there.
After leaving Argentina, the ship sailed to Rio, Brazil but it was not allowed to dock, so the captain decided to set sail toward Barbados, where the ship is currently refueling.
Willie Kinnear said they have been on the cruise ship for 29 days and are now all confined to their cabins with no indication as to how many people may be showing symptoms.
“We’re heading back to Ft. Lauderdale tonight and we should arrive Saturday morning,” Willie Kinnear said. “Now, because of the virus on the ship, we don’t know if we’ll get off at all or what’s going to happen. When the original plan was set, there was no virus on the ship at that time.”
The couple said crews are taking care of passengers as best they can, but the experience is still frustrating.
“They’ve looked after us, but we are still a bit upset at the fact they brought people back because that’s where the virus must have come from.”