'We are ready to go home'; Colorado passengers stuck onboard cruise line amid coronavirus outbreak

Grand Princess docked in Oakland, Calif. Monday
Posted at 1:41 PM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-09 15:48:02-04

DENVER — Sherri Pe'a and Tom Gray have spent the last four days stuck inside their room together aboard the Grand Princess, which docked Monday in Oakland, Calif.

"Good thing we like each other," Pe'a joked.

The cruise started off great for the Colorado-based sister- and brother in-laws as they enjoyed the gourmet food and the beautiful sunsets. But the coronavirus sent the Grand Princess back to California. At least 21 people aboard the ship have tested positive for COVID-19. Pe'a, Gray and the rest of the 3,500 passengers on board were contained in their room before the ship returned to port Monday.

There is an 11-acre fenced-off area at the port and authorities are making plans for flights and buses to carry the passengers to military bases or their home countries for a two-week quarantine.

"It’s not perfect but at least we have a balcony. We can get outside and get fresh air and sunlight," Pe'a says of their arrangements on the ship.

They spent spent part of their Saturday talking to other people through their balcony. Since Thursday, that's been the only face-to-face contact they've been able to have with anyone else.

"We are ready to go home. We want to go home. We miss our spouses. We miss our family. We have lives, too. But if we sit here and stew about it, it’s not helping anyone," Pe'a says.

Supplies were brought in via boat. Pe'a and Gray say a helicopter flew a passenger out for health reasons.

The cruise line slipped fliers under the door the detailed ways for people to improve their mental health during the ordeal. The cruise line also offered ounselors to speak to over the phone with people aboard the ship.

During our interview with the two, the captain went over the intercom to tell passengers they would be allowed on deck for a short time. Passengers in the middle of the ship were the first allowed to leave their room.

Pe'a told Denver7 the captain came back on the intercom to tell passengers they would start getting off the ship Monday. After docking, the first passengers off the boat will be those who need medical assistance.

The out of state passengers will be taken to military bases in Texas and Georgia for their quarantines. Pe'a and Gray don't know which one state they will be going to or for how long.

Princess Cruises said Monday that it would refund the full cruise fare for all guests and that guests wouldn’t be charged for any incidental charges incurred during their time on the ship. They will also give guests credit for a future cruise equal to the ones they had already paid.

“All of us at Princess Cruises offer our sincere gratitude and appreciation to the federal, state and local authorities who are coordinating, collaborating and activating resources and personnel in support of this response to provide care and attend to the health and well-being of our guests and crew,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, in a statement.