Canadian cruisers depart Coral Princess in Florida for Toronto amid COVID-19

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OTTAWA –
As Canadians said goodbye to the Coral Princess cruise ship hit by COVID-19 on Monday for their long voyage home, other recently repatriated ocean travelers have experienced emotional exhaustion from their new normal on firm ground.

A day after Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne said on Twitter that the Canadians aboard the Coral Princess would be returning home, their long journey with two stops in the United States began.

There were 97 Canadian passengers on board the ship, which departed Santiago, Chile on March 5 and docked in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Friday.

The Canadian Press contacted two couples traveling on the ship, who said that the passengers were cleared to leave and that they were on a bus to Miami airport.

“We just hit the ground in Toronto,” said North Vancouver resident Sanford Osler in an email Monday evening, about two hours after a charter plane carrying the Canadians was due to land.

A press release from Princess Cruises says 139 guests left the ship Monday morning in an effort that prioritized “those who left on a charter flight to Canada”. He said 274 passengers remained on board.

Earlier Monday, Gary and Sue Lyon said in an email that they were waiting on a charter flight to Toronto via Columbus and Newark.

“We all feel relieved, happy and excited to return home. We will go home and isolate ourselves for 14 days, ”they said.

“We appreciate the entire crew and staff of the Coral Princess who have done for us during this very difficult time. We wish them all the best. “

Osler, who was traveling with his wife, Betty Ann, said all of the passengers were wearing masks and gloves and that he felt physically healthy.

“Physically, I feel normal … Emotionally, I’m relieved to be off the ship, of course, and on my way home. Although we still have other uncertainties, “said Osler by phone from Florida before the return flight.

Osler said he was receiving “mixed signals” about whether he and his wife should be quarantined in Toronto for 14 days before moving to Vancouver.

Champagne tweeted on Sunday that those who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 could return home on a charter plane on Monday.

“Upon arrival, they will be screened again and subjected to a mandatory 14-day self-isolation,” wrote Champagne.

Two people aboard the ship died and 12 tested positive for COVID-19, said Princess Cruises. Still others experience flu-like symptoms.

Cruise ships have essentially become floating petri dishes for the new coronavirus.

Last week, Canadians aboard MS Zaandam and MS Rotterdam arrived in Canada on an aircraft chartered by operator Holland America.

Friday, Catherine McLeod and her husband, Paul, returned from Rotterdam, physically and mentally exhausted. They began their 14-day isolation from the comfort and security of their own home.

“Isolation is not difficult because we are too mentally exhausted to want to do anything,” McLeod said in an email. “We are in shock because we can now reflect on the danger we are facing and how lucky we are to get out of it in good health.” “

She congratulated the captain of the ship for acting quickly to lock it in and prevent the spread of the virus.

“Isolation is a small price to pay given the possible consequences of not doing so. People who have not isolated themselves are incredibly selfish fools, ”she said.

McLeod urged the other returning passengers to persevere.

“Try to be patient on the way home because there are a lot of people who just don’t understand the severity of this virus and the lack of social distancing drives me almost crazy,” she writes. “Moronic behavior. “

Global Affairs said it was monitoring the progress of 49 Canadians and eight crew members on seven other ships.

The ministry says it is unaware that any of them have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The ships are the MS Albatros, the Viking Sun, the MV Columbus, the Costa Deliziosa, the Pacific Princess, the MSC Magnifica and the Queen Mary 2.

In February, the largest cruise ship outbreak occurred on board the Diamond Princess, also operated by Princess Cruises.

The Diamond Princess was quarantined for two weeks in Yokohama, Japan, while 700 of the 3,700 people on board were infected.

The federal government evacuated 129 Canadians from the ship and brought them to eastern Ontario for quarantine on February 21, but 47 Canadians infected with the virus had to stay in Japan for treatment.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is telling Canadians to avoid traveling on cruise ships, but issued a firm warning on March 9, a few days after the Coral Princess departed.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 6, 2020.

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