Couple returning home after being stranded on coronavirus cruise ship
PUBLISHED: 18:36 05 April 2020 | UPDATED: 18:36 05 April 2020
A couple who were stranded aboard a luxury liner are finally expected home tomorrow – two weeks after their dream South American cruise was due to end.
Judith and Wayne Clarke, of Lowestoft, were flying home from Miami in the USA after being left in limbo aboard the Princess Cruises liner for an extra 16 days.
The Coral Princess had been on a South American cruise that was due to end on March 19 in Buenos Aires, before the couple were due to head to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and then fly home on March 23.
Instead, they were stranded aboard the ship alongside more than 1,000 passengers and 878 crew members after being caught up in the coronavirus crisis.
Princess Cruises said seven passengers and five crew members on the Coral Princess had tested positive for Covid-19, as it docked in Miami on Saturday, April 3.
For Mr Clarke, 67, a solicitor, and Mrs Clarke, 63, an experienced nurse who has worked at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston for more than 20 years, it has been a “very stressful” time.
Their son Martin Clarke said: “The holiday was supposed to finish in South America weeks ago, but due to coronovirus no country would let them disembark.
“They have taken it all in their stride, but my mother is an intensive care nurse at James Paget and instead of treating coronvirus patients and working in the NHS, she has been stuck on a cruise ship and confined to her cabin.”
Daughter-in-law Stacey McConville said: “It has just been the unknown, the uncertainty of it all.
“It has been a really worrying time for the whole family.”
Mr and Mrs Clarke flew to Chile on March 3, and after spending two days in Chile they boarded the Coral Princess and departed on March 5 from San Antonio (Santiago) for a South American voyage.
On March 15 the Clarke’s were told by the captain that they may not able to get off at Buenos Aires at the scheduled end of their voyage.
Two days later crew members started taking people’s temperatures aboard the ship.
Ms McConville said: “There was so little information about. They weren’t allowed off on March 19 and had to stay on the ship.
“They went to Uruguay but were not allowed off and then went to Rio but they were not allowed to dock.
“Instead they went to Miami, and for the last five days they have been strictly confined to their cabin after coronavirus was discovered aboard the ship.”
‘A worrying time’
What was meant to be a retirement cruise for Mr Clarke and his wife, in the end it saw the couple also mark their ruby wedding anniversary on March 28 aboard the ship – when they were due to be at home.
Martin Clarke, 39, said: “It was a worrying time.
“At times it was looking like they could be stuck in the Atlantic until the virus cleared.
“Getting back home will be the best thing, and they are looking forward to it.
“But my parents will then be isolated for another two weeks once arriving home, and that will be tough for mum with the work she does.
“That is the most disappointing thing for me – with mum being an ICU nurse, all the additonal hard work that is going on in ICU she could be there.”
Ms McConville added: “They should be landing on Monday, but will be isolated for a further two weeks at home.
“For Judith and the work she does, that will be tough.”
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