A Honolulu family of five stuck on the cruise ship Norwegian Jewel desperately wants to disembark when the ship arrives Sunday — but they were concerned Thursday they might have to sail to the West Coast and try to fly back to Hawaii because passengers are banned from getting off during the food-restocking and fuel stop here.
“We just heard that the U.S. Department of State issued a direction for overseas Americans to return home ASAP or risk staying abroad for an extended period of time,” Cameron Salony said in an email from the ship. “If turned away by Hawaii we fear we won’t make it to the mainland before the ban goes into effect. I’m not sure how the state of Hawaii can turn its back on its residents like this.”
The Salony family — Cameron and Heather and their kids Roderick, 7, Zander, 4, and Adelaide, 18 months — are willing to self-quarantine at home after being part of a cruise that saw multiple port rejections and schedule changes due to the fast-moving coronavirus outbreak.
The state Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 held its first meeting Thursday, and late in the day sent out a summary seeming to indicate the Salony family — and some other Hawaii residents — would be able to disembark.
“Cruise ships are being allowed to come into Hawaii ports to refuel and resupply, but only Hawaii resident passengers will be allowed to disembark,” the group reported.
Tim Sakahara, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said earlier in the day that “discussions have been ongoing to determine if Hawaii residents would be able to disembark in Honolulu. We will make an announcement as soon as possible.”
No coronavirus cases have been reported on board the Norwegian Jewel, Cameron Salony said. “Everyone appears asymptotic,” he said. Approximately 10 Hawaii residents who are on board all “desperately” want to get off in their home state, he added.
Some passengers are running low on medications, and “it is going to be demoralizing to sail away from home if it comes to that,” he said.
The state Department of Transportation Harbors Division said in a release Wednesday that two cruise ship arrivals were expected at Honolulu Harbor to refuel and restock on food and supplies.
“However, passengers will not be allowed to leave the ship,” DOT said in the release.
All cruise ship operations to and from Hawaii are on a 30-day pause in operations that took effect Saturday. At the time, two ships — the Maasdam, operated by Holland American Line, and the Norwegian Jewel, operated by Norwegian Cruise Line — were already at sea.
The Maasdam, with about 850 aboard, is scheduled to arrive at Honolulu Harbor Pier 2 today and is scheduled to depart Saturday. The Norwegian Jewel is scheduled to arrive Sunday with about 1,700 passengers on board.
“There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on either ship,” DOT said.
“The health and safety of all people in Hawaii is always at the forefront of operational decisions. Presently, all state resources are focused and directed towards containing the spread of COVID-19. Allowing more than 2,500 passengers and crew to disembark will further strain these resources,” DOT Director Jade Butay said in the release. “HDOT and the state are allowing the ships to dock at Honolulu Harbor so they may refuel and restock. Neither ship had originally planned to make Hawaii its final port and both will carry on to mainland destinations, where more resources can be marshalled to handle the passengers and crew properly.”
Salony said his family’s Norwegian Jewel cruise was supposed to be 21 days with six days at sea. As of Sunday it would be a 24-day cruise with 19 days at sea.
French Polynesia refused entry March 12, and the ship was to go back to Fiji, but then it was announced the passengers would go to New Zealand.
But that nation closed its borders to the ship, “so we were to go to Fiji again, but then we were refused and then we were supposed to go to Hawaii,” he said.
For several days “we were just drifting aimlessly at 8 knots per hour because the captain didn’t know where to go,” he said.
His family’s final stop was supposed to be Papeete, French Polynesia, today, with some other cruise passengers ending a longer leg of the trip in Honolulu on April 3.
The Norwegian Jewel stopped in American Samoa on Monday to get food and fuel, but “portions are getting smaller and they have run out of some food items (some fresh food and meats),” Salony said.
He added that people “are getting very testy.” There is limited WiFi and phone capability on board.
“People are panicked and there are so many rumors going around,” he said. They “just really want to get home. I can tell the staff is really stressed, they’ve been working so hard to keep the ship clean and sanitized for all of us, but I wonder if they are being stretched too thin and maybe at a breaking point. We just heard (Thursday) that they are rationing the staff’s food.”