Couple stranded in Spain after testing positive for COVID on cruise

After two years of warning people about the risks of getting infected on cruise ships, the CDC lifted its advisory last month.
Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 12:57 PM EDT
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow/Gray News) - After two years of warning people about the risks of getting infected on cruise ships, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its advisory last month.

To bring travelers back, the cruise industry is promoting new health services and cheap fares.

One couple, however, told Hawaii News Now their experience wasn’t as safe or supportive as was advertised.

The pair said they’ve been stranded in Barcelona since Saturday, after contracting COVID-19 while on a cruise in Europe. Travelers returning to the U.S. must test negative for COVID-19.

Craig Visitacion said the 10-day Mediterranean cruise on the Norwegian Star was a much-needed vacation for he and his wife after working on the frontlines during 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, Visitacion 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, Visitacion 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.

Visitacion said he was finally contacted by a Norwegian representative 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.

Visitacion 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.

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