Family stuck on cruise as passenger checked for COVID-19
When Simone Jackson and her family embarked on a cruise two weeks ago, they had no idea that they would be stuck in port for an additional 24 hours before being allow to disembark out of caution for a passenger who may have contracted COVID-19.
The family's seven-day luxury cruise along the Mexican Riviera aboard the cruise Ship Carnival Panorama two weeks ago, all the news about the spread of COVID-19 wasn't as dire.
When the Jackson family — Simone, her husband Paul, daughter Nichole, son Brett and Nichole's boyfriend, Austin — left the Long Beach, California port on Feb. 29 and headed for stops in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta, it was just another vacation.
"It changed when we were out at sea," said Simone Jackson, a registered nurse with Legacy Health Systems and a Tigard resident for the last 30 years. "Because when we left, the biggest concern was in the China/South Korea area."
But by Tuesday night, that had all changed with news of the spread of COVID-19 throughout the world.
"There was nothing on the cruise, no announcement that indicated that there were any issues," Jackson said. "On any cruise, you're going to see passengers that look like maybe they shouldn't be on that cruise."
After a nice little trip to the Mexican port of calls, the luxury liner headed back to port in Long Beach on Saturday, March 7. Jackson said everyone gathered up their things that morning and prepared to disembark when they sensed something was wrong.
That morning, 8:30 a.m. came and went and at 9:30 a.m., a voice came over the loudspeaker: "There's been a delay, and we haven't been cleared by port authorities to disembark. So we appreciate, you know, your patience and we'll keep you posted, shouldn't be too much longer and we'll be getting off the ship."
"It was that kind of stuff," Jackson said.
Deciding to wait on the sunny deck outside, she started to get suspicious about the delay, thinking maybe the staff was checking infirmary records or something. But then came the rumor that there was an ambulance and fire truck on the pier carrying someone off the ship.
"So, I think the ship got word that people were watching, and they had to inform us that somebody had to get off for medical reasons…," she recalled.
Which was a little unusual since they initially said there's no reason for concern because it was only a medical problem. However, that quickly changed to something more complex.
"And then another hour goes by and then they're saying, 'now this person needs to be tested' … out of precaution," Jackson said.
Soon, 11:30 a.m. became 12:30 p.m. before the passengers were told that someone was being tested for COVID-19 and that it would take another six hours, so Jackson and her family returned their staterooms.
"You know once they had us all back in our room and they opened up the food, (the crew was serving it) instead of dinner-buffet style … in masks and gloves, and they were wiping things down a lot more diligently, cleaning things, not allowing any of the passengers to touch anything that was food- or drink-related," said Jackson.
Along the way, the passengers spotted news crews filming the ship with Jackson's son's girlfriend taken an online screenshot of the docked cruise ship, saying, "I think I see you guys."
After four hours, the family made plans to take a later flight home.
"So, we were not quarantined in our rooms, but nobody could get off that ship," said Jackson. It wasn't until about 9:30 p.m. that they "got an announcement in our room that (the patient was) cleared, that the test came back negative."
Since it was late in the evening and the port wasn't staffed at night to process that many passengers, the Jacksons and thousands other spent another night on the ship, getting up the next morning at 6:30 a.m. to leave.
"We were so grateful," she said, although she said they had to wait a long time to catch a very expensive flight back to PDX. "We're hoping Alaska Airlines helps us out with all of it."
Jackson called the ordeal "a very, very frightening, unsettling, nerve-wracking experience."
While anxieties ran high, her ultimate fear of pandemonium among the passengers never materialized.
To celebrate, the Jacksons recently took their motor home and went to Beverly Beach with no fears of contracting COVID-19 at their remote campsite.
"We were all alone," said Jackson.
So, would she go on another cruise?
"Not for a while," she said. "We'll have to get over this one."
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