Hawaii couple stranded in Spain after testing positive for COVID on cruise
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After two years of warning people about the risks of getting infected on cruise ships, the CDC lifted its advisory last month.
To bring travelers back, the cruise industry is promoting new health services and cheap fares.
But one Oahu couple says the experience wasn’t as safe or supportive as was advertised.
The Kaneohe residents say they’ve been stranded in Barcelona since Saturday, after contracting COVID-19 while on a cruise in Europe. Travelers returning to the US must test negative for COVID.
It was a much-needed vacation for Craig Visitacion and his wife ― a 10-day Mediterranean cruise on the Norwegian Star ― after two years of working on the frontlines of the pandemic.
The hospital medical technician said he trusted Norwegian Cruise Line to have safety protocols in place, but had concerns when he saw passengers clustered together without masks or distancing.
“From the time we stepped on the ship, we kind of noticed, felt kind of funny about it but you know I’m not at work, I’m on vacation, so I kind of put it to the side and just try to focus on having a good time,” Visitacion said.
The day before the cruise was scheduled to end in Barcelona, Vistacion took a required COVID-19 test and his result came back positive. He quarantined in his cabin and said crew members told him Norwegian representatives would help when they disembarked.
“We went out. no vans, no NCL personnel, no one,” he said.
“To say that they’re going to house us and bus us to a certain hotel, to tell you to the truth, I don’t even know if there was any shuttles because nobody was there.”
Unable to fly back to the United States, Vistacion said he and other cruise passengers who tested positive felt abandoned.
“We stayed overnight in the airport, not knowing what to do and where to go because we didn’t have a hotel situated at the time,” Visitacion said.
He said he was able to find a hotel for two nights, but had to move to another one due to unavailability. He added that he called Norwegian for four days but couldn’t get any help.
“When things was going good, everything was good. But when they started turning bad, they just turned to in the shoulder and just forgot about us,” Visitacion said.
He said he was finally contacted by a Norwegian representative today who told him his travel insurance would cover 150% of his expenses.
“I think they waited too long to reach out. I had my sisters at home in Hawaii trying to help us out, because in a foreign land with people, the locals seldom speaking English, it’s very hard to communicate with them,” he said.
His sister, Charleen Karimoto, said she took two days off from work to focus on getting her brother home and making sure he can refill his medical prescriptions in Barcelona. She says she spoke to a manager from Norwegian over the phone, but was hung up on.
“Is this how you treat your your passengers, how you just leave them high and dry once they are tested positive?” she said. “It’s a horrible experience and feeling. I never went through anything like that, but just trying to get them home is the goal here.”
Visitation shelled out thousands of dollars on hotels and booked new flights to get back to Hawaii hoping he tests negative in the next few days.
HNN reached out to Norwegian Cruise Line for information on how positive COVID-19 cases are handled, but did not receive a response.
The company’s website says its health and safety Program ensures “ultimate safety” but did not list guidance for infected passengers.
Visitacion says his discounted cruise is no longer the deal he booked.
“The fares was good. It was like a two-for-one special,” he said. “I don’t know, hindsight, maybe shouldn’t have done it. You pay for what you get.”
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