A Kelowna couple is now back home after they were stuck on the Holland cruise ship MS Maasdam as ports shut down due to COVID-19.
Al Janusas and Heidi Adhofer started their trip on March 1 in Auckland, New Zealand. Janusas said the cruise was to finish in Papeete, Tahiti. But as the COVID-19 outbreak worsened, passengers were told they were barred from nearly half of the ports there were to visit.
However a port in Hawaii was to accept two cruise ships including the MS Maasdam, so the Holland America cruise ship started towards the island, where the passengers could try to arrange ways to get back home.
Janusas said they were very lucky, as no one on his cruise had COVID-19 symptoms, unlike others aboard the MS Zaandam, where several passengers contracted the virus and tested positive for the virus.
“Our trip was extended by 12 days… but we weren’t sick and no one on our ship was sick. We were lucky.”
He said all the Canadians on board decided to work together to ask the Canadian government for help in getting them all home. He claimed it was much harder to ignore a large number of people asking for assistance.
“We acted cooperatively, had meetings and shared some ideas. We found out that it was much more effective to get a hold of the government if we worked together.”
“We didn’t ask for a free trip. Everybody paid for their passage home,” he added.
He said the government then arranged with Air Canada direct flights from San Diego to Vancouver and Toronto. Janusas said MS Maasdam then sailed towards San Diego, where the passengers were allowed to disembark.
Now, Janusas and Adhofer have just finished their quarantine.
“We’re very fortunate to have friends and neighbours who were able to get us groceries. Other people who don’t have friends or family nearby would’ve had a harder time than we did,” he said.
In the end, he said they were grateful for the friends and neighbours who helped them through their isolation and kept them fed and healthy. He said they’re now trying to return the favour with other friends who need their help.
However, there remains a lingering issue for Janusas. He is asking for more compassion during this unprecedented time especially for those who are coming back or who were unable to get back home quickly as the pandemic worsened.
“Please try to understand that these travel arrangements were made before the virus broke out. And it wasn’t until around mid-March that the government of Canada itself said ‘get back home as quickly as possible’. Prior to that, the stories were ‘this is the situation in other countries’. It was ominous and it might be a problem in the future for us, but nobody that we talked to on the ship was too concerned about it,” he said.
We were supposed to finish the cruise on March 15. But then everything changed and we got stuck. It wasn’t like we had many options before us at that time. There were a lot of the comments saying ‘they should’ve known better and shouldn’t have gone’… you might’ve known, but at the beginning, there were no warnings until March.”