After 10 days stranded on a cruise ship off the coast of Brazil as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, 103 U.S. citizens and two permanent residents were finally evacuated Sunday afternoon and flown to Dallas.
They were the last of 318 passengers to be evacuated from the Silver Shadow, quarantined since a Canadian couple tested positive for the coronavirus and was taken to a local hospital on March 12. Nearly 300 crew members remain on the ship, more than half of them from the Philippines.
“Everyone is dealing with serious problems,” said Mimi Bendickson, a Minnesota-based real estate agent whose 80-year-old parents had been traveling on the ship since January. “But we love them and we just want them home.”
The cruise ship, which specifically caters to elderly passengers, was en route from Buenos Aires to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., when it stopped at the northern Brazilian city of Recife.
It was then that a 78-year-old Canadian man fell ill, and and tested positive for the virus, along with his 60-year-old wife. Other passengers were immediately forbidden to leave their rooms.
Families were extremely concerned and filled the cruise line’s Facebook page with questions about what would happen to their loved ones. “They are going out of their minds and we are so worried,” one man wrote.
The Silver Shadow passengers were among thousands stranded in cruise ships around the world, as nations began closing their borders in response to the emerging pandemic. More than 700 passengers were infected on one ship, the Diamond Princess, which sat for days in isolation off the coast of Japan.
American relatives of those on the Silver Shadow grew more concerned Saturday after passengers from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and other countries were flown home, while the Americans’ flight to Dallas was canceled. The American Embassy didn’t provide any explanation for the delay.
On Sunday, the Americans were taken from the ship to a chartered bus bound for the airport. After additional delays, the flight took off.
Bendickson said she doesn’t know exactly how her parents will get from Dallas to Wayzata, Minn., where they live. She was, however, relieved — at least for the moment.
“It’s a 10-day saga coming to an end,” she said. “We are so grateful, but also recognize that one saga ends and another begins.”
Andreoni is a special correspondent.