‘Cruise couple’ back after COVID-19 delay

  • Ovidiu and Sondra Deaconescu are seen aboard ship. (COURTESY)
    Ovidiu and Sondra Deaconescu are seen aboard ship. (COURTESY)
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After more than 10 days away from home, Ovidiu and Sondra Deaconescu were finally able to sleep in their own bed Tuesday night after getting back to Columbia County late that afternoon.

They just happened to be on a cruise when the COVID-19 virus was turning the world on its head.

Ovidiu and Sondra, a Lake City couple who had their seven-night Caribbean cruise extended when Puerto Rican officials refused to let passengers disembark from their ship, arrived in Miami Tuesday morning to a “new normal,” at least until COVID-19 is contained.

The couple was traveling on the Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas and when Puerto Rican officials refused to allow passengers to disembark from the ship in San Juan because of coronavirus and COVID-19 concerns, the ship headed to Miami.

“We woke up in Miami and the ship docked around 7 a.m.,” Sondra said in a text message. “I had a little scare  because I was in the shower and heard what sounded like the ship getting ready to take off again, but it was just docking.”

Sondra said port officials didn’t do any screening when the passengers got off the ship.

“The line to disembark was wrapped around the ship, but we got in line around 8 a.m. and we’re in a cab by 8:40 a.m.”

The Deaconescus took a flight to San Juan from Orlando to begin their cruise on March 7 and were expected to end their cruise in San Juan when the ship’s passengers were told for them to be able to disembark, they were going to have to remain onboard at the port for four days, and then passengers would go through screening so extensive that it would have taken days to get everyone off the ship.

By mid morning Tuesday, the Deaconescus had rented a vehicle and were driving back to Orlando to get their car.

“It was an adventure for sure, but it will be good to get home,” she said. “We miss our kids, and Ovidio is very concerned about getting back to his business. It feels like we have been in a time capsule for 10 days. We cruise a lot and the only thing different this time was the extra cleaning  and sanitizing, but it sounds like things back home are definitely not the way they were when we left. There are a lot of changes for us to catch up with.”

Despite the unplanned extended day on the cruise, the Deaconescus say they will continue to cruise and Sondra and her daughter have a cruise planned in April.

Cruises have only been cancelled up to a week prior to their planned trip.

“We are hoping there is no extension that affects our trip, but we also ope we can get back home on time from now on,” she said.