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‘It was the worst Christmas,’ says cruise ship disembarking passengers positive for COVID

 | News Today

‘It was the worst Christmas,’ says cruise ship disembarking passengers positive for COVID

| News Today | Local News

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida. Michigan’s Holbrook family walked out of Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas frustrated and angry after the cruise ship they were on returned to Port Everglades after its eight-night trip.

Christopher Holbrook, 49, tested positive for COVID-19 on board and spent New Years Eve and Christmas Day in his room in isolation. “It was the worst Christmas,” Holbrook said, packing his bags into his truck to begin his long drive home.

Holbrook, who is vaccinated, said he learned he was exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the ship’s music hall / nightclub. By the time he was tested for COVID-19 two days later, he was sweating profusely and had a headache. As the cruise line confined him to his room, his fiancee, Teresa Walatkiewicz, who shared his cabin, said she was not asked to quarantine, and that she was only tested for 2 and a half days after Holbrook learned he had COVID-19. “I still don’t have the results,” she said.

During its trip from Fort Lauderdale, the cruise ship struggled to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 on board. On Thursday, the Odyssey of the Seas had 55 confirmed positive cases among guests and crew, or 1.1% of the total number on board, the cruise line said Thursday. No update was provided by Royal Caribbean, but passengers said a public announcement on the ship said the number had risen to 69 confirmed positive crew cases and 18 passengers.

The Sun Sentinel contacted the cruise line for comment early Sunday, but did not receive a response.

Nancy Holbrook, Christopher’s twin sister, also from Michigan, said she too was swabbed on Saturday night, even though she had been with her brother for most of the cruise. Holbrook said she was upset that she couldn’t have spent Christmas with her brother, but was not confined to her room or tested by the cruise line until Saturday night.

“They told us they did 600 tests last night. People get off and on planes and they don’t know the results, ”she said. “I love cruising but will wait a bit before doing it again.”

Signs of health problems appeared at the start of the trip.

The ship docked at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, on Sunday, but then returned to Port Everglades to disembark a passenger with COVID-19 a day after its initial departure from Fort Lauderdale, Lyan Sierra-Caro said, spokesperson for Royal Caribbean. USA today. The cruise left the port on December 18.

The passengers said the captain announced, as they left the private island of the cruise company, CocoCay, that they would return to Fort Lauderdale to have a sick passenger disembark.

“The guest, who was showing symptoms before boarding but did not notify us, presented to the medical center and then tested positive for COVID-19,” Sierra-Caro said at the time. “He and his close contacts have been quarantined and disembarked in Fort Lauderdale to return home. “

But Holbrook said that doesn’t explain how dozens of crew members tested positive for COVID-19. Royal Caribbean said in a statement that 95% of passengers and crew aboard the Odyssey of the Seas were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The wearing of masks by passengers was not imposed from day one. … That was the most surprising and frustrating part given the number of cases and the fact that they kept us at sea instead of bringing us home, ”said a passenger from South Florida. “I reported this to ship security on a number of occasions, as well as to the captain of the hotel, and was greeted nonchalantly. We just stayed at sea and became a floating incubator.

A dozen passengers disembarking on Sunday told the Sun Sentinel that many shows and activities planned on the ship had been canceled. The two remaining stops on the eight-day cruise were supposed to be Curacao and Aruba, but the ship remained at sea.

“The decision was made with the islands out of great caution due to the current trend of COVID-19 cases in destination communities as well as crew and guests testing positive on board,” the cruise line said. in a press release.

The ship can carry over 5,500 guests and over 1,600 crew members. Although it was not operating at full capacity, “it felt crowded, especially for six days in a row,” said Alicia Silver, who sailed with her husband and three children. Silver, from Orlando, said the family had been on cruises before and believed the ship would sail with reduced capacity. “We are all vaccinated, so we took a chance,” she said.

The Sutherland family, from Canada, said they too spent the last night, Christmas, in quarantine after learning they had been exposed to someone who tested positive. “We will try to get a PCR test,” Kim Sutherland said Sunday. The family plans to stay in Florida until they hear the results.

PCR, or polymerase chain reaction test, is considered by experts to be the most reliable COVID-19 test.

Kim Parker, of Kentucky, said she enjoyed the cruise and said she observed that most passengers obey the rule of wearing masks indoors. “It’s probably as safe as going to the local grocery store,” she said.

Barb Paulsen, 78, of The Villages in Florida, said she felt the same way. “When someone tests positive, they isolate themselves,” she said. “We have another cruise booked for the end of February and we are going.”

This is the second coronavirus outbreak on a Royal Caribbean ship in less than a week. Royal Caribbean has a similar COVID-19 episode on its Symphony of the Seas which has sailed from Miami. The cruise line said 44 people on that ship tested positive for COVID-19 after it left on December 11. The ship returned to the Port of Miami on December 18 after a seven-night Caribbean cruise.


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