Houston couple returning home after being stuck on Coral Princess cruise ship for a month

HOUSTON – A relaxing two-week South American Voyage has turned into a nightmare for a Houston couple.

Willie Kinnear and his wife Patricia have been stranded on the Coral Princess Cruise for nearly a month.

"We're stuck in this room. No going out," Kinnear said.

The couple boarded the cruise ship March 5 in Santiago, Chile. The trip was supposed to conclude in Buenos Aires on March 19. However, the coronavirus pandemic altered the plans.

Kinnear said he tried to cancel weeks in advance but was told he would not be able to cancel without losing everything.

He said he called Princess again two days before the departure but was informed he couldn’t cancel. But within a day or two, Kinnear said they were informed they could cancel. But, it was too late, the company had already arrived for the trip.

While the trip started out great, another challenge came up.

“We were told that the ship would not be allowed into Argentina..and that we would have to go directly to Buenos Aires, but we couldn’t go there until we had been on the ship for 14 days,” Kinnear said.

So they waited, and on March 19, they finally made it to their final destination. They booked flights. However, more bad news came their way.

"All the flights were canceled," Kinnear said.

Some passengers came back on the ship.

Kinnear said they then set off to Rio, Brazil and then eventually Fort Lauderdale. However, no country would allow passengers to enter to get back to their home countries.

Then, the couple said they received an unsettling message from the ship’s captain.

"We heard, 'I don't know how we're going to get you off or where we're going to get you off,'" Kinnear said.

Later, they learned 12 people tested positive for COVID-19, meaning all 1,200 passengers had to stay inside their cabins for weeks.

"I watched more movies than I have in my entire life," Kinnear said.

After two more weeks, they got word of something tragic.

"Two people had died overnight and that we were going to Miami," Kinnear said.

Saturday, the shipped docked at the Port of Miami.

However, Kinnear said more could have been done to prevent what happened.

“If they took steps earlier, they could have stopped all of that,” Kinnear said.

Princess Cruises issued this written statement:

Princess Cruises can confirm that Coral Princess will arrive in Port Miami this morning, April 4. Disembarkation of guests is expected to take several days due to limited flight availability. Guests requiring shoreside medical care will be prioritized to disembark first.

Disembarkation for guests who are fit to fly is anticipated to begin on Sunday, April 5. These guests will transfer direct from the ship to Miami International Airport for flights home.

Those with any respiratory symptoms, or who are still recovering from being ill previously, will remain on board until medically cleared by the ship’s doctors.

There are 1,898 people onboard including 1,020 guests and 878 crew members.

Coral Princess departed March 5 from San Antonio (Santiago) for a South America voyage which was scheduled to end in Buenos Aires on March 19. In response to the global spread of COVID-19, Princess Cruises announced a voluntary 60-day pause of operations on March 12, becoming one of the first companies in the leisure travel industry to take this proactive measure.

We appreciate that the operations underway for Coral Princess would not be possible without the coordination and resources of many federal, state and local government agencies. We thank all those involved for their assistance in managing this very complex and fluid situation.