Vail Valley couple make the best of their California coronavirus cruise ship quarantine
Bonnie and Buddy Sims were among the last 270 passengers to disembark the virus-stricken Grand Princess
OK, being stuck on a cruise ship is nothing like prison, but Bonnie and Buddy Sims could see Alcatraz from the Grand Princess cruise ship where they were quarantined off the San Francisco coast.
The Vail Valley couple was among the last 270 passengers to disembark the Grand Princess cruise ship after the coronavirus was diagnosed among the 2,500-plus passengers. They had been isolated in their cabin for eight days and will remain quarantined at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, they said.
“Why must my wife and I, with no symptoms, have to spend 14 days in quarantine at a military base after already being in quarantined for eight days on the ship,” Buddy Sims said in an email. “We are healthy and well at this time.”
Their cruise ship cabin window afforded them a panoramic view of the Oakland dock, and room service helps pass the time, but they have a question.
“Can we get credit for time served?” Buddy Sims asked.
Disgruntled but disembarked
After California Gov. Gavin Newsom finally let the ship dock in Oakland on Monday, 550 passengers left the ship one day, and 1,000 more the next day, Buddy said in a phone call from the ship. Bonnie and Buddy were not among those first groups, but they’re philosophical about that.
“Oh well, more room service and cold beer to keep us going,” Buddy said.
The couple were among those who finally disembarked Thursday morning in Oakland. A full charter flight soon winged them and the other remaining Grand Princess passengers to Miramar, they said in emails.
Miscommunication and the CDC
Buddy, a Lt. Colonel retired from the U.S. Air Force, served in three wars: Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was recalled to active duty for Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom and knows how government operations work when worked properly. This isn’t it, he said.
“I’ve been in three wars for the USA but the CDC in this operation is completely incompetent!!!!” Sims wrote in an email to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Office of the Inspector General under the heading: “Total Fraud/Waste/Abuse.”
The ship’s captain told the passengers what the CDC tells him — practically nothing, Buddy Sims said.
“CDC has provided very little information on this emergency to the ship’s captain so the guests have no idea when we will get off,” Sims said in his email to the CDC.
Sims said there are only three processing stations on the dock to help process the thousands of Grand Princess passengers. Cooperation between government agencies might have made everyone’s lives easier, beginning with the agencies themselves. He suggested asking the U.S. Army Chemical Corps and doctors on the West Coast to help set up processing stations.
“The U.S. government has allowed hundreds of us to stay on this ship for over eight days confined in our cabins with no fresh air,” Sims said. “We started with 21 positive coronavirus guests five days ago, and as a result of not taking us off the ship quickly, we estimate over 100+ positives now.”
The ship’s United Kingdom passengers were sent back to Great Britain, and will be isolated in their homes, Sims said.
“Why not send us Americans home and put us in isolation if we get negative tests with no symptoms?” Sims asked. “We will be exposed to many more personnel on buses, airplanes, and on military bases versus just sending us home.”
After waiting eight days to get off the Grand Princess, Buddy and Bonnie’s flight to Miramar was delayed two and a half hours because of Bay Area fog, an irony not lost on Buddy.
“This fiasco was started because the California governor would not let us dock. San Francisco is a sanctuary city and has banned over 2,011 Americans from docking, but allows any person in the world in without a flu test,” he said.
The Sims boarded the Grand Princess around 4 p.m., Feb. 21, in San Francisco. They said they were not told that anyone on the ship had the flu prior to boarding.
“We probably would have walked away if we’d had that information,” Buddy said.
A Northern California patient on that ship became California’s first corona-virus death. The patient had underlying health conditions and had “developed symptoms while on a Princess cruise,” Placer County, California, Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson said during a press conference.
Princess Cruises announced it had ceased global operations of its 18 ships for two months, until May 10. In making the announcement, Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, called it “bold action,” and a “proactive response to the unpredictable circumstances evolving from the global spread of COVID-19,” and an “abundance of caution.”
The cruise line offered customers a credit and upgrade for future cruises, or they could apply online for their money back.
To sue or not to sue
Charles Lipcon, a Vail homeowner and Miami attorney, has decades of experience suing cruise lines.
“We handle more cruise lines than any other firm,” Lipcon said Thursday in a phone interview from his Miami offices.
His advice? Enjoy your vacation.
“If they don’t have the coronavirus they should enjoy themselves,” Lipcon said. “Hopefully people who get it will make a quick recovery without any problems.”
Passengers who are still on the ships have already contacted his firm, he said
To have any chance, plaintiffs would need to show the cruise lines failed to show proper care. Cruise lines are being ordered what to do by local authorities, Lipcon said.
Several lawsuits have already been filed, Lipcon said.
“That’s not our approach. Our approach is to investigate and determine the facts,” Lipcon said.