Hamilton family sits tight in port as Royal Caribbean tests cruise passengers for coronavirus
Cruise line bans anyone with Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passport from boarding
A Hamilton family is playing the waiting game at a New Jersey port after their cruise was delayed to screen passengers for coronavirus.
Holly Lejeune and her family were scheduled to leave aboard Royal Caribbean's ship Anthem of the Seas on Friday, Feb. 7. But when they woke up that morning, there were reports people had been removed from the ship to be screened for the coronavirus.
Lejeune said she started receiving emails from Royal Caribbean saying that their boarding time had been delayed. When the family checked out of their hotel and arrived at the dock, they found out that the ship wouldn't be leaving after all.
Phil Murphy, the Governor of New Jersey, confirmed on Twitter that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) boarded a ship in Bayonne, New Jersey to screen 27 passengers that recently traveled from mainland China. He said 23 people were cleared, but four people were being evaluated in hospital.
The hospital is following proper infection control protocols while evaluating these individuals. New Jersey currently has no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus and the risk to residents remains low.<br> <br>For more information on novel coronavirus visit:<a href="https://t.co/XoWMvzv6Rv">https://t.co/XoWMvzv6Rv</a> <a href="https://t.co/ED30tFMx0r">pic.twitter.com/ED30tFMx0r</a>—@GovMurphy
In a letter given to passengers, Royal Caribbean says that none of the four guests being tested showed signs of the coronavirus. One person, they said, had the flu. All had not been in China since January 26.
Though cleared to leave, the ship is delaying its departure until February 8 when it receives the final results.
Cruise line bans certain passport holders
Royal Caribbean also said it would be adopting what it called "health screening protocols," which includes banning any guests that hold a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passport from boarding — regardless of the last time they were in those countries.
"We have been working with medical experts, public health authorities, and local government, and in alignment with new stricter CDC protocols, we are tightening our measures to protect guests and crew," the cruise line said in its letter.
"These steps are intentionally conservative, and we apologize that they will inconvenience some of our guests."
Anyone who has visited those countries fewer than 15 days before their sailing are also banned, as are people who have been in contact with those who have travelled there. They've been told to contact Royal Carribbean or their travel advisor.
The cruise line will conduct mandatory screenings on guests unsure of who they've been in contact with and people who report feeling unwell. Anyone with a fever or "low blood oximetry" in the "specialized health screenings" will be denied boarding.
In the meantime, the Lejeune family and all other passengers are now waiting for their name to be called so they can be assigned a hotel.
As of Friday afternoon, their cruise is scheduled to dock in Port Canaveral outside Orlando on Monday before heading to the Bahamas.
Lejeune and her husband Robert, and their two kids Sydney (12) and Isabella (8) are sitting tight during what she calls their "unscheduled port excursion."
She said her kids are being troopers, playing checkers and passing the time, and also says updates from the cruise line have been pretty regular.
And while she hopes the ship manages to get out at some time — they have non-refundable tickets at Universal Studio, which Sydney is most excited about — she acknowledges that there isn't much else they can do.
"What can you do? The situation is completely out of our control. We just have to make the best of what we got," she said. "So we're going to go see New York — we've never seen it — [and] if we're just in Universal Studios for a couple hours, then so be it. At least we're privileged enough that we get to go...that's alright."
She said other passengers are doing fine, scrolling on their phones and waiting for some more information.
Also in the letter, Royal Caribbean says they will be sanitizing the ship before and after sailing, ensuring special sanitizing of high traffic areas, adding extra medical staff, providing complimentary consultations with medical experts, and two daily announcements with health reminders.