Inside the Cruise Ship Quarantined Over Ebola Fear

Rumors swirled among 4,000 people about why they weren't moving but no one imagined the reason was connected to the world's most terrifying virus.

Christina Mendenhall/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Colorado man aboard the Carnival Magic, quarantined out of Ebola fears, says he first got the notion that something was wrong when he looked over the edge of the ship in his hot tub Thursday night and spotted a security boat circling it.

Eric Lupher, a reporter for Denver ABC affiliate KMGH, says the 12-story ship sat off of the coast of Belize all night long instead of traveling to its intended destination of Cozumel.

Friday morning at breakfast, travelers were buzzing in the elevators about why the ship was still moored instead of out at sea. Rumors were circling: some thought people had been shot during an island excursion; others were wondering if food onboard had gone bad. No one was prepared to hear what the ships captain told them over the PA system.

“The captain said there was a person on board who worked in a lab at Texas Health Presbyterian,” Lupher said. “He never said the word ‘Ebola,’ but we all knew that’s what it was.”

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that the employee, a lab supervisor who has not been named, and a partner boarded the boat October 12. That was several days before the CDC updated the requirement for active monitoring of personnel who may have had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. The employee did not come in direct contact with Duncan, the State Department said, but she may have been exposed to his clinical specimens.

“The captain also said that she had been symptom-free for 19 days,” Lupher said, adding that people are eating at the all-you-can-eat buffet as if nothing is wrong. “They’re trusting the fact that the CDC has cleared them. Everyone is in the pool…and at the computers to find out the latest information.”

Lupher says the Carnival Magic tried to land in Cozumel, but that the Mexican authorities blocked them from the dock.

“They even tried to fly the patient out of Belize, but she is still here on the ship.”

Lupher speculates that the woman, whom he doesn’t know among the 4,000, may be in the health clinic in the basement of the cruise liner.

People aboard the Carnival Magic have another day and a half at sea before they reach Galveston, Texas. Lupher says vacationers are more worried about losing the $100 they paid for their excursions on Cozumel. Each passenger has been promised a $200 refund though.

“Everyone, including me, is not afraid we’ll get sick and die.”