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Local family members felt like “prisoners” after being quarantined on cruise ship due to coronavirus onboard

Tracy Brunson wearing a mask after she’d been taken off the cruise ship and put on a bus. | Courtesy Tracy Brunson
IDAHO FALLS — Three Idahoans planned to enjoy a tropical cruise, but instead, they felt like “prisoners” after crew members and passengers contracted the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus or COVID-19.
Tracy Brunson from Darlington, her sister Cynda Larson from Firth and their 85-year-old mom Carol Skillings from Idaho Falls, boarded the Grand Princess cruise ship Feb. 21. CNN said the ship was on a 15-day trip and was scheduled to return last Saturday. But they said it was cut short after news broke last Wednesday that a California man who’d traveled on that ship previously had contracted coronavirus and died.
“We were quarantined in our room for six days,” Brunson said.

The room Tracy Brunson, Cynda Larson and Carol Skillings were quarantined in. | Courtesy Tracy Brunson
CNN reported that as of Friday, 21 people aboard the Grand Princess tested positive for COVID-19. Out of the 21 people, 19 were crew members and two were passengers.
In late 2019, reports of the mysterious illness emerged in China, CNN reports. Since then, there’s been over 124,000 confirmed cases and more than 4,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
“Those of us that aren’t sick, we just feel like it’s a great injustice,” Brunson said while quarantined in her room.
The ship spent three days near the San Francisco coast but the ship was unable to dock, Brunson explained.
“They (the ship) was going around in circles. Nobody wanted to take us. Nobody knew what to do with us,” Brunson said.

The map showing the routes the ship took while waiting near the San Francisco coast to dock. | Courtesy Tracy Brunson
Passengers were forced to stay in their rooms while the captain waited to hear from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on when they could open the deck “for fresh air and exercise,” CNN said.
“It’s been very challenging. We really kind of felt like prisoners in our rooms because if we opened our doors, we got scolded (by the crew) to shut our door, but then we saw the entertainers that they have hired to entertain us on this ship, we saw them walking up and down the halls with no masks on at all,” Brunson said. “And the people that smoke got to be taken out of their rooms and go have cigarettes, six, seven times a day. We didn’t get to come out at all.”
They tried to keep busy by playing cards, reading, watching tv and calling family. One thing they looked forward to the most was receiving meals, but Brunson said the food service quickly went downhill.
“They’d bring (food) to our door and at first we were getting a choice of a couple of different things. Then (we started just getting) what they brought us, and they were usually cold,” Brunson said.

The view from outside the cruise ship where personnel were suited up. | Courtesy Tracy Brunson
On Wednesday, Brunson, Larson and Skillings were released from the boat, put on a bus and then on a plane. She said there’d been very little communication about the entire process. For a while, they weren’t sure where the bus was taking them.
“We were told we could get out and go to the bathroom in a porta-potty and get right back on the bus,” Brunson told “We really are being treated like prisoners, like we did something wrong.”
The three family members arrived at Miramar Marine Air Station in San Diego late Wednesday evening, where they’re currently being quarantined for possibly 14 days.
Despite their vacation taking a turn for the worse, Brunson said she isn’t worried about the coronavirus.
“Even if I got it, I wouldn’t be worried about it,” Brunson said. “They’re portraying it as something really horrible, so people are worried about it…my personal opinion, don’t be freaked out from the coronavirus.”
Princess Cruises announced Thursday they’ll stop global operations of its 18 cruise ships for two months.

Tracy Brunson, Carol Skillings and Cynda Larson posing for a picture. | Courtesy Tracy Brunson

The view from the families balcony where they could see San Fransisco in the distance. | Courtesy Tracy Brunson

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