PATASKALA, Ohio (WCMH) — As Carnival Cruise lines announce their plan to start sailing in early August, amid coronavirus concerns, one central Ohio couple is sharing their harrowing story of a dream cruise turned nightmare vacation.
John and Lyn Hamilton live in Pataskala, and left on a South American dream cruise with Holland America cruise lines, a subsidiary of Carnival Cruise in the early days of March not knowing a pandemic would soon take over the globe, and their ship.
“We are very fortunate to get home alive,” John Hamilton said.
Not long into their cruise off the South American coast, an outbreak of coronavirus on board stopped it short.
“The new captain came on and said this is no longer a pleasure cruise, but a humanitarian one,” John said.
As dozens fell ill, Carnival’s Holland America Cruise line brought in a second cruise ship to separate the sick and healthy. But the ships were refused port repeatedly because of the pandemic. Passengers were quarantined inside their rooms for weeks.
“My wife was getting sicker,” John said. “We were seeing more and more people get sick. I was thinking ‘Oh my God I hope we don’t die.'”
Eventually, Broward County in Florida let the ships dock in early April after city officials debated and President Trump called on Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis to allow it.
Of the ships passengers, at least four people died related to coronavirus and hundreds fell sick. John Hamilton tested positive for the virus, although he showed no symptoms. Lyn tested negative, but developed pneumonia and the couple wonders if it was a false negative.
“She is doing much better,” John said of his wife’s health.
The couple is sharing their story as Carnival Cruise lines plans to set sail August 1st with only eight ships and safety protocols in place.
In a statement the company said: “We are committed to supporting all public health efforts to manage the COVID-19 situation. We are taking a measured approach, focusing our return to service on a select number of homeports.”
“Personally, I think it’s too soon. I would give it six months,” John said.
John, a former marine, is asking cruisers like him to use common sense and listen to health care professionals.
“Honestly, I don’t think we want to see a cruise ship for two to three years,” John said.
Holland Cruise Lines offered the couple a refund or future cruise credit. They chose the refund.