Bonnie Michaels, a Portage resident, and some of her family have been aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship that was quarantined on the coast of California due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
She said via phone Wednesday they will soon disembark and will be under further quarantine, likely in Texas.
The ship docked in a port in Oakland on Monday, where passengers and crew members who needed immediate medical attention were unloaded, according to Associated Press reports. As of Monday, 21 people aboard the ship had tested positive for the virus, two passengers and 19 crew members.
Michaels, who is retired, was traveling with 13 members of her family on vacation. Six have already disembarked the ship and have been taken to Miramar Military Base in San Diego for testing and an additional quarantine before they will be allowed to return home to Montello, Endeavour and Augusta.
Michaels, her mother, sister and niece and her family remain on the cruise ship and have been told they will disembark by Wednesday night, and will be taken by chartered bus and airplane to San Antonio Texas, where they will be tested and placed in quarantine for up to 14 days.
The group has not yet been informed when they can return to Wisconsin.
“I think we’re one of the last few groups of people to get off the ship,” said Michaels. “We’re told two weeks, but they told us it depends on our health. We would rather be home, of course, and self quarantine.”
Michaels said no one in her family is currently sick or showing any symptoms of coronavirus, and none of them have been tested.
Michaels said she and her family have tried to keep anxiety and frustrations at bay.
“We were a little anxious in the beginning about what they were going to do with us, because we had no idea, and they didn’t really know,” said Michaels. “There were tears and a little frustration, but that passed. I think for the most part we’ve kept our spirits up, we’ve kept our sense of humor, because what else can you do?”
During the quarantine, Michaels said passengers were required to stay in their cabins at all times. Meals were delivered to each room three times a day. Michaels said passengers can request coffee, snacks or drinks from the bar at any time in addition to their meals. The cabins had TVs as well.
“We have been cooped up in our rooms for about a week,” said Michaels. “They have let people a few at a time go out to get a little exercise. We were lucky enough to have a little balcony, so we are able to go outside on our balcony whenever we want.”
Passengers on the ship have been able to stay in touch with friends and family off the ship, and have been able to use their cell phones since they have docked. Michaels said her family has started a Facebook group to provide updates and stay in contact with those not on the ship
The trip was intended to be a two-week cruise, which embarked from San Francisco and traveled to the Hawaiian Islands. The ship was scheduled to visit the coast of Mexico but that was cancelled because of the quarantine, Michaels said.
Michaels said Princess Cruise Lines has reimbursed all passengers for the trip and will cover the costs of buses, airplanes and hotels until they have returned home from the trip and any additional quarantines.
Additionally, the cruise line has provided passengers a trip voucher, which will cover another trip up to the price they paid for the current trip.
Michaels said she plans to use the voucher.
“We already have another cruise planned for next May. We are going on a cruise to the Caribbean. And I will be cruising on Princess again. I will take advantage of that offer,” Michaels. “I will not let this stop this, as long as they let us travel. We’re going to keep cruising because that’s what we like to do.”
Overall, Michaels said she and her family have been happy with the how the cruise line and government officials have handled the situation.
“I am very satisfied with how Princess cruises has handled all of this,” said Michaels. “We understand this is not an everyday situation. I can’t say anything bad about how we’ve been treated.”
There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County, and the county’s Public Health Officer Susan Lorenz does not think the return of Michaels and her family to the county will change that.
Lorenz said the health department is encouraging people to practice containment and preparedness precautions in similar ways they would for influenza, such as rigorous hand-washing and increasing distances in social interactions.
Follow Nicole on Twitter @Nicole_Aimone