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Coral Princess voyagers return to Bermuda

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Bermudians marooned on a dream cruise, which turned into a nightmare after a Covid-19 outbreak, are back on home soil.

Twenty-two people, whose ship was denied entry to ports in the southern hemisphere, returned on two private jets and said they were delighted to be back at last.

Pamela Maybury, the travel agent and one of the passengers, said: “We were all very relieved when the plane touched down. We were happy, thankful and everything else. It was a good feeling,”

She added: “A big thank you to the Premier, David Burt, the Government, the regiment, Travel Edge, and anybody else that helped us in any way to get back.

Mrs Maybury added: “All of the prayers and messages we received was unbelievable. We were getting messages from people we never even heard of or thought of. That, too, helps your spirit.”

She was speaking after the group flew from Miami, Florida, on Wednesday after they disembarked from the Bermudian-registered Coral Princess in Florida.

They were tested for the virus on arrival and escorted to a quarantine centre, where they entered the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Mrs Maybury said: “We knew coming in, this is what we need to do and everybody was well aware and fully accepted it.

“We are prepared mentally and are stronger for it because we have already spent several days in a cabin, so we knew what to expect when we got home.”

The Coral Princess set out from Santiago, Chile, on March 5 for a 32-day cruise around South America and the Caribbean.

The ship got as far as the Falkland Islands, but was denied entry to other ports, because of the pandemic, including its final destination in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the weekend.

Mrs Maybury said: “When we left home, the virus was out there, but it wasn't full-blown like it is now and it wasn't anywhere down South America.

“It wasn't until we got around the tip of South America, we started hearing about the virus being in these countries and that's when we started getting pushback and not being able to go into the ports.”

There were 34 Bermudians on the ship at first, but 12 managed to catch a flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina. They travelled to the airport in a bus escorted by police, after the ship was granted permission by Argentine authorities to enter port.

The rest missed another flight because of a delay in the return of the bus to the ship to pick up the remainder and were stranded on board.

An unsuccessful attempt to disembark passengers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was also made.

The ship visited Bridgetown, Barbados, last Tuesday.

No one was allowed on shore, but samples were sent for tests while the vessel was in port, after some passengers showed “flu-like symptoms”.

It was later reported that 12 people on the ship had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Two people died on board as it approached Florida.

Another passenger died last Saturday at a Miami-area hospital after an hours-long wait to be transported ashore.

The Bermudian passengers remained in quarantine in their cabins for seven days.

Mrs Maybury said: “It was very confining and the saving grace is that we all had balconies.

“Some people didn't initially start the cruise with a balcony.

“But once people started taking sick, and then, when they let off people in Florida, they moved anybody that had an inside cabin or ocean view cabin to a balcony cabin.

“We had that added space so basically you were still able to go outside.”

Many in the group, despite their ordeal, said their appetite for travel had not diminished.

Mrs Maybury explained: “They were not complaining on the ship and when we got off of the flight most of them asked ‘what trip are we doing next?

“So, to me, it hasn't left any lasting effect.”

Mrs Maybury, who works for Hamilton-based travel agent Travel Edge, said: “It definitely will not deter me.

“It might deter a few others, but I think in time people will get back to cruising.

“Already we have cruises booked for next year, so I guess it depends on how the rest of the year goes.

“Most people look to do a vacation one way or the other and so, in time, this too shall pass.”

Mrs Maybury added her industry had taken a major hit from the coronavirus.

She said: “As long as the flights and cruises are not operating it definitely affects us tremendously. I think a lot of businesses might downsize or close.

“It's going to be rough for a lot of people and I really feel sorry for the general public because a lot of people are not prepared.

But she asked: “How do you prepare for something like this?”

Bermudian passengers arrive at LF Wade International Airport after their nightmare on board the Coral Princess finally came to an end (Photograph supplied)
Bermudian passengers make their way home after their nightmare on board the Coral Princess finally came to an end (Photograph supplied)
Bermudian passengers arrive at LF Wade International Airport after their nightmare on board the Coral Princess finally came to an end (Photograph supplied)

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Published April 11, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 11, 2020 at 9:00 am)

Coral Princess voyagers return to Bermuda

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