FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The Regal Princess cruise ship is docked once again at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale following a coronavirus scare.
The ship was allowed to dock Sunday night around 10 p.m. after two of its workers tested negative for the coronavirus.READ MORE: New Daily Virus Cases In Florida Lowest Since July
“It was terrible, it really was terrible,” said Victor Lambrecht who described an unnerving hours-long wait.
“Sometime around mid-morning they told us why and two people from Princess Grand had been on our ship and had to be tested,” he said.
The ship was originally scheduled to return Sunday morning, but instead spent most of the day sailing up and down the coast while awaiting the test results for two crewmembers.
The ship can hold roughly 3,500 passengers. It drifted off the South Florida coast at the end of what was supposed to be a 7-day cruise after the U.S. Coast Guard and CDC issues a no sail order until two crew members were tested for the Coronavirus.
One woman told CBS4 News there were no fears about an outbreak onboard and that nearly everyone remained calm. The captain communicated via loudspeaker that the crewmembers had no symptoms and were past the 14 day incubation period for the virus.
Passenger Hal Schwartz says he was more anxious about what would have happened if they couldn’t go home.
“I had an inside cabin and it was the size of a coffin and I thought about being quarantined in there for a week, wouldn’t have worked for me,” he said.
CBS4 News has learned that a nearly identical scenario was playing out Monday with another ship. The Caribbean Princess received a no sail order from the Coast Guard and the CDC, pending test results of two crew members who had previously worked aboard a ship where passengers had tested positive. Princess Cruises said neither crew member was symptomatic.
The Crewmembers had previously worked on the Grand Princess two weeks earlier, that ship docked off the California coast Monday after 21 people onboard tested positive for COVID-19.
The Coast Guard delivered testing kits to the Regal Princess and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “no-sail order” for the ship.
The CDC confirmed the results were negative but it didn’t say how it was able to get results so quickly.
A Port Everglades spokeswoman, Ellen Kennedy, said later Sunday that the CDC had cleared the ship to enter port.
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Guests in need of hotel rooms were allowed to reboard the ship for the night, the statement said, and compensation for “unexpected expenses” would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The vessel’s next cruise scheduled to leave Port Everglades for a seven-day Caribbean trip Sunday was also canceled. The cruise line said guests would receive a full refund and offered $300 reimbursement for one night’s hotel costs.
Meantime, on the Grand Princess, Davie resident Michael Kallman just wants to come home.
“We think it’s very imperative to get off this ship and get off the Petri dish, if you will, and try and get home,” Michael Kallman said.
Kallman and his wife are on board to celebrate his retirement from the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
“This was my retirement cruise. Some retirement cruise. So, it has been the cruise from hell, I’ll be honest,” Kallman said.
He has been isolated in his room and when the ship docks, he says he will be isolated somewhere else.
Sunday, the U.S. State Department urged people, especially those with health issues, to avoid traveling on cruises during the outbreak. They say the virus can easily spread on ships.
The new warning from officials came after Vice President Mike Pence visited Port Everglades Saturday.
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He announced new plans for cruise lines, like having testing kits on the ships and new quarantine standards.