The 2,000 passengers allowed to disembark starting Monday from the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship faced a well-organized gantlet of officials garbed in gloves, face masks, eye protection and, in some cases, protective suits as part of a process expected to continue today, a passenger on board and the state said.
Honolulu resident Cameron Salony, who was on the detoured cruise with his wife and three young children, said passengers were told they couldn’t even use bathrooms in the cruise port terminal or airport as they were bused directly to charter flights.
“They didn’t let anyone use any of the facilities in the terminal, and they said, ‘You will not use the facilities in the airport, either. (You are) going straight to the tarmac, so go to the bathroom on the ship,” Salony said after he and his family and other Hawaii residents were able to disembark at about 9:45 a.m. Monday.
Probably not that many passengers cared.
>> Photo Gallery: Norwegian Jewel passengers leave Pier 2 for Honolulu airport
“I never knew that Hawaii could look even more beautiful, but it does. It’s amazing,” Salony told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser by phone. “We’re so happy to be home, and our friends and family here are so excited to have us back. I’m just glad it’s over.”
The Salony family — Cameron, Heather and kids Roderick, 7, Zander, 4, and Adelaide, 18 months — have to self-quarantine after being part of a cruise that saw multiple port rejections and schedule changes due to the fast-moving coronavirus outbreak.
There are no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 associated with the Norwegian Jewel, the state Department of Transportation said. Passengers embarked Feb. 28 in Sydney and were last able to disembark on Fiji on March 11.
All passengers are screened by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In addition, they had an enhanced medical screening, including a temperature reading and medical questionnaire review, DOT said in a release. Doctors and paramedics were on-scene to provide additional evaluation.
Asymptomatic passengers proceeded directly onto a chartered bus that took them to the Honolulu airport’s south ramp, where they boarded chartered flights. “Throughout the entire process, they were completely separated from other travelers not associated with the cruise ship,” DOT said in the release.
The chartered flights by Norwegian Cruise Line flew to Los Angeles; Vancouver, British Columbia; Sydney; London; and Frankfurt, Germany. Additional flights may be scheduled.
The ship arrived in Honolulu on Sunday. The disembarkation process began Monday morning and will continue through today, according to the state. The passengers scheduled to leave today were required to stay on the ship overnight.
Salony said about five immigration officers came aboard with masks, eyewear and gloves.
“We got specific instructions: There’s a red line, one person from your party, come up to the table, hand just your passports and then step back immediately beyond the red line,” Salony said.
Salony said when his family came off the ship with other Hawaii residents, there were some officials and workers in “personal protective equipment,” including a few in protective suits.
“It was empty” in there, he said. “You could hear a pin drop.”
Hawaii residents were shuttled directly to their residence to begin 14 days of self-quarantine. “Neighbor island residents will be flown on a chartered flight to their home airport. There are 25 Hawaii residents on the ship, with 13 from Oahu, eight from Maui, three from the Big Island and one from Kauai,” DOT said.
The approximately 1,000 crew members will stay on the ship “until further notice,” the state said. The ship experienced propulsion problems that required repairs, and the ship was routed to Honolulu.
Salony said he inquired about cancellation weeks before his family left due to initial indications of the new coronavirus. At the time, NCL said it was following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization protocols and “were not saying defer travel,” he said.
NCL added it didn’t have a cancellation policy and that he would lose thousands of dollars in booking fees, he said.
“So here we are,” Salony said. “And again, if you can think back to what, like 5-1/2, six weeks ago, we weren’t in the same situation we are today.”