February 07, 2022

Day 6 - Leaving The Ship

I am awakened by the noise and vibration of the bow thrusters as the ship pulls into dock before  sunrise. We are docking at terminal 6 instead of terminal 3 where we departed from. We were informed of this change before boarding last week.

More of an industrial dock than a cruise terminal, the view from the porthole reveals a high wire fence and a handfull of SUVs just behind it in a paved parking area.

Cereal for breakfast and nothing to do but wait.

The ship is cleared, and disembarkation begins about 15 minutes early. Group by group passengers leave. The hazmat team arrives. They want our luggage, not us.

Shortly after 9 there is an announcement for all passengers remaining on the ship to proceed to deck 4. Does that mean me?  A call to the front desk. No, that means everyone except you. We will come get you when it is time to leave.

It is now my time. Hazmat arrives and escorts us to the crew exit on deck 3 which leads directly to the dock. Our luggage is just in front of us on a small cart. My sea pass card is scanned to officially indicate I am no longer on the ship. An officer standing back from the door just asks if we have passports. I indicate we do. He takes our word and doesn't want to see them.

As we stand on the dock, a driver approaches and asks our name. We are not who he is looking for, but we are passengers he needs to transport.  There is much discussion about someone taking the wrong vehicle earlier, and who was going to go where. In a few minutes we are on our way to the parking garage.

We are dropped off, and are given directions to the elevator. Greatly appreciated. This may not seem like much, but I didn't park the car originally, and I have no idea the layout of the parking facility. Unfortunately we eventually learn that we are at the wrong elevator, in the wrong section of the garage.  No big deal, there  is an opening in the fence and the car is located on the other side. 

The others have made it to their waiting car. I never did see them as we were taken of the ship one party at a time. 

We are on our way home. Well almost. I am the first car at the crossing gates, sitting for 20 minutes for a CSX freight train.

The rest of the trip is uneventful. After unpacking, laundry and the normal after trip routines, I make appointments to be retested to verify Omicron has run its course. Until then I will remain isolated, but on my terms not those of the hazmat team.

In summary, I most likely contracted covid several days before I boarded. It was not yet detectable at my preboarding covid testing.

My symptoms were very mild, at most a cough, which was masked by the fact that allergies have been very bad in Florida this season.

Did Royal do what they needed to do? Yes. Could they have done a better job? Yes, especially in communicating to the passenger. They knew exactly what was going to transpire from the moment of the first positive test. That could have been communicated to the passenger but it wasn't.

Will this event stop me from future cruise travel? No. Another cruise was booked while I was on board.

Day 5 - Sea Day

The decision is made to get our covid test out of the way before breakfast. The word on the ship is that appointments don't matter, they can handle people as fast as they arrive.

The rumors were correct. Probably less than 3 minutes from walking into the room until leaving. The usual verification of ID, and the nasal swab that we are all used to. It appears that testing is being done by an outside firm, not Royal.

The day is cloudy, rain looks possible. Plans are made for a miniature golf round in the afternoon. I head to the Diamond Lounge, my first visit there this cruise.

The lounge is empty. Occasionally someone pops in attempting to get coffee. None is to be had. Normally a perk of having lounge access, but not available now because of covid protocols.

There are some people in the pool, others lounging on the deck. No concerns about sunburn, the clouds are getting darker. Soon it starts to rain and most passengers are driven inside. I say most as some elect to lay in the rain.

Suddenly a voice comes over the loudspeaker requesting that I call a certain extension. I have no idea who or what department is calling.  There are few public house phones, so I elect to return to my cabin to investigate.

I am met by a security officer that verifies my name as I approach my cabin. Lynn is in the cabin. I call as requested.

"You have tested positive for covid and both of you are confined to your cabin....." The presence of the security officer is now clearly understood. I will be physically restrained if I try to leave my cabin. Handcuffs? I won't attempt to find out.

"A member of the medical team will be in your cabin shortly to do a confirmation PCR test."  The process has begun.

"Who have you spent more than 15 minutes with in the past 48 hours?"

"Have you had lunch? You may order from room service, which will be complimentary...."

Over the next few hours, numerous phone calls, and several visits from the medical staff, and the picture is getting clearer. I'm considered toxic!

Contact tracing has begun. Armed with printed pictures, security tracks down the 4 other guests that we dined with the last two nights. They are not paged, but physically sought out by security and taken to their cabins where they are instructed to remain. This way other passengers are unaware that some of us are disappearing from public view.

Everyone except me tested negative this morning, but all will be tested again, this time a PCR test. More accurate, and more sensitive.  I think mine was the first one the technician had ever administered. She was being instructed step by step, and didn't appear to have any clue as to what she was doing. Everyone has to learn somewhere.

We are all in lockdown awaiting more test results and information. Time passes slowly.

Information is hard to comeby. Everyone says some other department is making the decisions. The front desk says its the Medical department, Medical says it is Security, Security says it is Customer Relations, etc. The buck gets passed.

The ship doctor calls and visits several times. His vist is 99% social. I guess so he can make the observation that I look and act 100% healthy and I am not in medical distress.  He has worked for Royal since September, a career change as the result of total burnout dealing with covid shoreside.

He sees no need for me to be moved to the isolation area, but it is not his decision. No surprise, I get it. One set of procedures to follow with no one having to make any decisions or judgement calls. Despite how illogical it seems, it really makes sense from the corporate viewpoint.

It is soon obvious that there is another covid passenger in the next cabin, and another a little further down the hall. But silence prevails, no one will give us any information. The only thing I do know is that only the 67 back to back passengers were initially tested.

A cheese plate and glass of wine for lunch and all we can do is wait.

The calls I have been waiting for. After about an hour it is confirmed that I am still testing positive, and Lynn is testing negative.  No word about the other 4.

I need to pack as I am being moved to an area of the ship that is used for crew and passenger isolation. Exactly where is not divulged. 

Two staff in full hazmat suits come to the door to take me and my luggage. The entire corridor is blocked for other passengers. The service elevator is being held for us. Move me as quickly as possible. Don't let anyone see anything.  Sightings of men in full hazmat suits would likely start rumors. Luggage is sanitized and enclosed in plastic. We are whisked into the waiting elevator and transferred to the isolation area. We have no idea where we are.

This cabin is substantially smaller. There is no table and most of the other amenities are missing like tissues and drinking glasses. I risk further constraints by peaking out to see what cabin I have been put in. 3526 on deck 3.

There is no doubt that I will be denied boarding for the next cruise. But what about the others?  After nearly 3 hours of waiting they still have not been told the results of their PCR testing.

We have a car that will seat 4 in Tampa, but there are 6 of us. Pann and Terry have a plane ticket at the end of the week, not tomorrow.

Nothing is spelled out in writing. Only phone conversations.

Eventually it is learned that all 6 of us are being denied boarding for the next cruise. Me because of my positive covid test, the other 5 because of their association with me.

We are all in confinement. Lynn and I in the isolation ward. The others in their cabins.

We are given extra internet access, presumably so we can make whatever shoreside arrangements are needed. I was told assistance would be provided to make alternative arrangements. Having a car, I need little, just get me to the garage.

Pann and Terry need assistance, but could get no help in trying to rebook flights back to Cincinnati. They ultimately decide to stay in Clermont and use their original flights home.

We all should be given a prorated refund for the time we were put in isolation, and for the cruise where we have been denied boarding.

In checking our accounts, many people did not get the word that room service was free. Face it, it is the only way we could get anything to eat or drink.

Three or four calls to guest relations and I think the billing is straightened out. The small customer relations staff recognizes me by my voice as I have had to call so many times.

Housekeeping has the Rum we bought, expecting us to be on the ship for another 5 days. We didn't have a chance to look at the photos that were taken by the ships photo staff.  Just more details to be addressed by the front desk and the hazmat team.

We get our rum, and the photo department just gives us all the photos that I am in, regardless of quality.

I can only guess that regular staff does part of the transfer and then it is handed over to the hazmat team to bring to  our cabin.

Adrienne made arrangements for a friend to pick up the four of them in tampa. I will use my car to return home. It takes several phone calls to get the hazmat team to transfer the keys from Adrienne to me. I doubt we will see each other getting off the ship.

We end the evening with the knowledge that there will be no back to back this time. Chitchen Itza will have to wait for another day. Instead of being one of the first off the ship, I will exit after all others.

But look at the positive side. They carry my luggage, and there is supposed to be a car to take me from the ship to my car.  We will find out.