Alan and Sharon Podrid's journey on the Coral Princess cruise ship had been a pleasant one from the get-go – but they said a series of failed disembarkations, lack of communication from the cruise line and illness and death onboard due to coronavirus has turned the trip into a nightmare.
"Get us off this ship, so we can get home and let them deal with these sick people," Alan Podrid, 70, of Marietta, Georgia, told USA TODAY over the phone Monday.
The cruise ship is docked at Port Miami after it was turned away at the nearby South Florida port in Fort Lauderdale.
The Podrids have been quarantined in their approximately 180-square-foot room for six days and are thankful they have a balcony. Both feel healthy, with no fevers or coughs or other common symptoms of the novel coronavirus. They pass the time by watching movies and using their phones.
"It's a struggle," Alan Podrid said.
Disembarkation of the Coral Princess at Port Miami began Saturday and is likely to span several days. Three passengers from the cruise died, and USA TODAY reached out to Princess Cruises for updates on the status of the disembarkation and health of the passengers still onboard.
Sunday, passengers set for flights departing for the United Kingdom, Australia and California got off the ship, but the cruise line has since said there will be further delays for the rest of those onboard because of policy changes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends those who get off the ship not travel on commercial flights nor should they share transportation with noncruise guests.
There were 1,898 people on the cruise – 1,020 passengers and 878 crew members – before Saturday.
Podrid said the cruise line offloaded the couple's luggage two days ago to disinfect it, and they have been without their belongings since. They were told to keep two changes of clothes. They were instructed to fill out a health questionnaire and hand it in, and they were under the impression they would then receive their luggage and board coaches. That didn't happen.
"We don't know where we stand right now," Podrid said.
Podrid is used to cruising; this was one of about 45 cruises he's taken over the past decade or so.
He said passengers were notified during the sailing that an unusually high number of people went to the medical center with "virus-type respiratory issues." That didn't concern him.
"It's not uncommon for people to get sick on cruises," he said.
Around March 31, he and his wife heard that about a dozen sick passengers were tested for coronavirus, and several crew members tested positive. Then came the news that two passengers had died and that all passengers were to be quarantined in their cabins.
"I didn't feel that the cruise line had been truthful with us. We had left Buenos Aires and had been sailing for a week or 10 days, and then they decided to notify us of possible coronavirus onboard. They kept telling us that everybody was healthy," Podrid said. "When they told us that two people had passed away, everybody was really saddened, surprised and concerned. I don't think people realized how this virus was transmitted, that people could be asymptomatic."
If Podrid had his way, he'd be on his way to Atlanta by car.
"I can get off; I can rent a car; I can drive it up to Atlanta, which is where I live, and I can be out of here," he said.
The mood on the ship is ever-changing, he said.
"People are upbeat, they're hopeful, but they're scared," Podrid said. They can talk to each other via phones in their rooms. Every day, the story from Princess and the captain changes, he said.
"Every day, my hope seems to wane," he said.
Contributing: Morgan Hines and Rasha Ali, USA TODAY; The Associated Press