Kingsport couple aboard cruise ship unsure about return to the U.S. amid COVID-19 concerns


KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Tri-Cities couple on a cruise ship in the Caribbean is waiting to see if they’ll be allowed to get off the ship in Florida.

Suzi and Jeff McKee of Kingsport are on the Emerald Princess Cruise Ship. They’re in good health, and so are the approximately 3,000 other people onboard.

“It’s been an amazing trip, especially the twelve-hour passage through the Panama Canal,” Suzi McKee said via a video call from her stateroom.

But with travel bans increasing by the day and intensifying efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, the McKee’s are among the latest Americans to get caught up in travel troubles related to the spread of the virus.

Thursday, Princess Cruises announced it would pause all cruises for 60 days after a coronavirus outbreak on two of its ships.

“We began to realize we are in the middle of a news story,” McKee said from her stateroom in a video call with News Channel 11.

A few days after they set sail from Los Angeles, the US Government advised Americans to stay off cruise ships.

The McKee’s got the word while sailing in the Pacific Ocean. “There wasn’t much we could do at that point,” Suzi said.

The McKee’s said they first noticed a disruption related to Coronavirus concerns in Panama City, Panama.

“They would not let us anchor where we were supposed to anchor, and then they brought medical and military staff on board to check everyone,” McKee said. “And then this morning (Thursday) we were not allowed to port in Cartagena.”

“When it was announced we would not be allowed to port in Cartagena, you could see the concern on faces,” Suzi said.

Their big concern now is what will happen when they arrive at a port in Florida on Sunday.

“We are a little concerned because if anyone on this ship tests positive for COVID-19, we will all be quarantined,” McKee said. “We think we will be tested when we get to Fort Lauderdale.”

The McKee’s say they’re prepared to learn specifics at the last minute before they disembark.

Until then, they’re enjoying an extra day at sea with sunshine and high temperatures in the mid-80’s.
Buffet lines are closed. Staff are serving everyone and wiping down tables and chairs immediately after they’re used.

The McKee’s are seasoned cruise vacationers. “We’ve done this before but it’s never been anything like this,” Suzi said.

You can find complete coronavirus coverage on HERE.

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