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Eugene couple back home after month on cruise ship

Donna and Jim Anderson were expecting a relaxing cruise ship vacation down to South America. Now, after weeks stranded at sea due to Coronavirus, they are finally back home in Oregon.

Posted: Apr 4, 2020 7:58 PM
Updated: Apr 6, 2020 3:57 PM

Eugene, Ore. -- For Donna and Jim Anderson, "it's good to be home" means a whole lot more after weeks on a cruise ship, one charter flight and another from San Francisco that landed just this morning.

"I'm a native Oregonian and I've never been so happy to be home in my whole life in Oregon," said Jim Anderson. 

What was supposed to be a relaxing cruise around South America turned upside down as the coronavirus spread rapidly around the globe. Within a week of their March 7 start date, complications with the trip began.

"The first week of the cruise, we were stranded," Anderson said. "None of the South American would permit the ship to dock."

"But we could still walk around the ship at that point," Donna, his wife, chimed in. 

"And it all changed very dramatically once we were quarantined," Jim said. 

Confined to their staterooms with meals being provided like room service, the mood on the ship changed. The Zaandam continued it's trek up the west coast of South America looking for a friendly harbor. Then things took a drastic turn.

"Around the time we came to Panama, they made the announcement that four people on the ship had passed," Jim says. "And this kind of changed the whole atmosphere."

Two of those four deaths were directly related to COVID-19. Holland America, the cruise ship company, dispatched another of their ships, the MS Rotterdam, to offload asymptomatic passengers. Both ships then traveled to Florida where they were initially met with resistance from the state government.

"I thought, 'what if he keeps this from happening? What do we do then?'" Donna said. "I had one bad night like that but other than that no."

Eventually the state and federal government agreed to allow both ships to dock. Donna and Jim were then allowed to take a charter flight to San Francisco, with customs agents cheering them on.

"(They were) wishing us safe travel and saying, 'Oh we'll see you when you get off tomorrow and welcome home and stuff,'" Donna said with a smile. "That was very heartening."

"When we finally took off everybody was cheering," Jim concluded with a laugh. 

After weeks at sea and two days in transit, the Andersons are home and not looking to leave anytime soon.

"There's an old Grand Funk Railroad song that says I'm your captain, I'm your captain and I'm feeling mighty sick,;" Donna joked. "And he says, 'If you return to me to my home port, I will kiss you mother earth.' I knew what it meant after that."

As for now, they're getting some much-needed rest, and will they go on a cruise again? They both say yes, maybe just not one as long this time.

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