The blue dot appeared on the door of Jim Lemaire and Helga Myles’ cabin aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship over the weekend.
The Nevada couple soon found out it meant they could not go out on deck and were confined to their stateroom, a windowless box 10 feet long by 12 feet wide by 7 feet tall where they’ve remained since 2 p.m. Thursday.
They weren’t told why they and some other passengers had been targeted for extra coronavirus quarantine measures—and as their cruise finally ends at a heavily guarded pier at the Port of Oakland, there are plenty of other unanswered questions.
The couple, neither of whom are sick or suffering any symptoms, don’t know exactly when they will disembark from the ocean liner, where they will be sent for on-land quarantine, or whether the time they have spent on board will count towards the two-week isolation period. They also don't know if they’ll be able to leave together, or be quarantined in the same place when they do.
But the real mystery, Lemaire said, is why the ship was ordered to idle off the coast of California since Wednesday before being allowed to dock in Oakland on Monday, taking on food and supplies via helicopter and Coast Guard ships.
“I understand why they didn’t want the optics of the ‘death ship’ cruising into SF but they could have gone ahead and let us dock,” Lemaire told The Daily Beast via a WhatsApp call on Monday.
Twenty-one of the 3,500 people on the San Francisco-to-Hawaii cruise have tested positive for COVID-10; 19 of them are crew members. Fewer than 100 passengers have been tested.
President Trump said earlier in the week that he did not want the ship to disgorge passengers because it would instantly inflate the number of people on U.S. soil with the new coronavirus. That did not sit well with Jim Lemaire, a healthy 59-year-old, who has been following the crisis on cable TV and internet provided free in his cabin since the quarantine began.
“He's very insensitive to the actual plight of sick passengers on board,” Lemaire said of Trump. “I don't see how leaving us out at sea helps the situation, unless he's willing to scuttle the ship with the passengers and crew on board."
Early Monday, workers in haz-mat suits began knocking on doors to conduct health assessments. Passengers cheered as the ship pulled into the Oakland port just after 11 a.m. Pacific time, the nightmare only one step closer to being over.
No one getting off the Grand Princess will be free to go home. Anyone sick will be sent to a California medical facility, and California residents without symptoms will be transported to two military bases in the state for the two-week quarantine. Passengers who don’t live in California will end up at bases in Texas and Georgia, authorities have said. Crew will be quarantined on the vessel.
Everyone will be tested.
Lemaire, an Air Force veteran, is looking forward to stretching his legs—vigorous walks help him ward off ventricular tachycardia—and a cool breeze.
“Throughout the cruise this stateroom has been running on the warm side despite the fact that the thermostat is turned all the way down,” he said via email earlier. “This hasn’t been an issue since we could go cool off on deck or in public areas. Stateroom confinement has been like living in Central Massachusetts in the summer time with no AC.”
Remarkably, Lemaire said the ordeal has not turned him off cruising.
“I don’t have any reservations about cruises,” he said. “Right now there’s stigma attached to it, and your cruises can go sideways, and in the future, the cruise industry is going to have to figure out what to do in situations like this.”