WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. — Central Florida residents Laura Gabaroni and her husband, Juan Huergo, left Orlando earlier this month on what was supposed to be a 14-day cruise through the southern tip of South America. But since Sunday, the 48-year-old couple has been confined to their cabin and not sure when their rollercoaster adventure will end.
“We have been quarantined since the 22nd without being able to go outside,” said Gabaroni.
The couple along with more than 1800 passengers and crew members are stuck on board the Zaandam Holland America cruise line somewhere in northern South America, she told us Thursday morning. The cruise liner left Buenos Aires on March 8th for a 14-day excursion through the southern tip of South America. But several days into the trip, South American countries started closing their borders and ports due to COVID-19.
“When we left Orlando there was only one known case of COVID-19 in Argentina and only about two case in Chile,” said Gabaroni. “So when we left on March 4th it seemed like a very safe place to vacation,” she said.
According to Holland America, at least 77 passenger and crew members have reported flu-like symptoms. As a result, everyone is being confined to their cabins.
“We don’t know what the situation is and if it’s related to COVID-19 or not,” said Huergo.
The couple may soon find out. According the latest updates posted on the cruise ship’s web site, the liner will be connected with a sister ship to restock supplies and food. COVID-19 tests kits will also be dropped off.
What makes matters more alarming, the cruise line is scheduled to dock in Ft. Lauderdale on Monday March 30th, but it’s not known if local, state and port authorities will allow the ship to dock. Officials in South Florida are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Customs & Border Patrol on a plan that can ensure the safety of healthy passengers while properly attending to sick passengers, according to Ellen Kennedy with Port Everglades in Broward County.
Laura Gabaroni wants authorities to remember “we are not just numbers. We are people. We are human beings who need the help of our fellow human beings,” she said. “Please help us so we can go home and be a part of the rebuilding process this country will need when this pandemic is finally over.”