MIAMI - It’s been a long journey for passengers aboard the Coral Princess. Over 270 people are still waiting to disembark the ship after it docked in Miami over the weekend.
At least 12 onboard tested positive for COVID-19, and so far three of them have passed away.
Richard and Judy Bourns set out for the trip of a lifetime, but instead, it turned into a nightmare, and for the last two weeks the Clear Lake couple have been trying to find a way back home.
“We take maybe a cruise every one or two years, and we had never been to South America before,” Richard Bourns said.
On March 5, Richard and his wife Judy, of 43 years, set sail for a two-week cruise of South America. With just a few days remaining on their trip, ports that they were supposed to visit started to close.
“People started getting very sick quickly, and then it really shakes you to your core that ‘wow’ this is really serious,” said Bourns.
The ship docked off the coast of Argentina while figuring out how to get all the passengers off.
“Every time it seemed like we were ready to, to be able to make that happen, something happened at the last minute, and then we had to turn around again, and so it was extremely frustrating."
The crew had no choice but to go to the Port of Miami. On March 31, all guests were required to stay in their rooms.
The Bourns took images of the dining rooms, the empty deck during the afternoon hours, and abandoned halls.
For nearly a week, the couple has been confined to their room, thinking of those who lost their lives. “That especially hit home that people that were healthy through shore excursions and be up in the Andes mountains in Peru, and then within just a few days that had passed away, so it’s just a really difficult situation.”
Now they wait for the day, they are finally allowed off the ship.
“I think the main issue now for Princess to get us off is working through all the different federal, state, and local rules that they have to follow to get us off the ship,” says Bourns.
Princess Cruises issued the following statement to FOX 26:
"Princess Cruises can confirm 545 guests disembarked Coral Princess yesterday, April 5 and a further 139 guests disembarked this morning. Meanwhile, 274 guests remain on board. Disembarkation continued today prioritizing those who departed on a chartered flight to Canada, in addition to chauffeured ground transportation for local Florida residents - all of which were arranged by Princess Cruises. Additional domestic charter flights are being coordinated and are scheduled to depart tomorrow, April 7. All guests requiring shoreside medical care have been disembarked and are being treated at a facility pre-arranged by Princess Cruises.
Princess continues to work with several federal, state and local authorities including the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States Coast Guard (USCG), the Office of the Governor of Florida, the Florida Department of Health, the Office of the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, PortMiami, and others.
In order to protect the safety and welfare of our guests, as well as the population of other communities, authorities have dictated several requirements and protocols. We are required to follow these requisites without variance, and when they change, we must adjust our plans. We continue to work through the CDC’s updated recommendations regarding post-disembarkation travel for cruise passengers, which includes no travel via commercial flights nor shared air or ground transportation with non-cruise guests. We again must express our continued gratitude to our guests for their patience and understanding as we navigate the unique and complex logistics required to manage this situation."