Coronavirus: Area couple stuck aboard South American cruise

A Darke County couple has been aboard the Celebrity Cruises ship Eclipse since March 1 as the ship has struggled to find a port to welcome them — even though the California-bound Eclipse has no confirmed cases of coronavirus or illness.

Richard and Karen Cline, both 62, hope to be home in Arcanum by or about April 1 (which happens to be Richard’s birthday). They both are healthy, they told the Dayton Daily News in an interview Friday.

For now, the couple said they are being treated well by the ship’s crew and entertainment, and they recently spotted a school of dolphin “too numerous to count” along the western coast of South America.

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“We’re probably in as good a place as we could be,” Richard Cline said. “We’re isolated from the outside world, and there’s no illness yet.”

When the Clines disembark in San Diego, their hope is that their forced stay aboard the ship will be counted as an effective “quarantine” period, and they’ll be permitted to return home as soon as possible.

“We just saw that California remains in a lockdown, so it remains to be seen what we face once we get to California, as far as any quarantine, ” Richard Cline said Friday. “There’s no sickness on this ship.”

According to a Celebrity Cruises update this week, the Eclipse had arrived in Valparaiso, Chile Tuesday, where it was able to refuel and load provisions — although only Chilean passengers were allowed to disembark.

The ship then began its long journey to San Diego, where it was already scheduled and cleared to arrive later this month. That leg of the journey was expected to take about 10 days.

The Clines are hardly alone in their situation. Most major cruise operators were idling fleets as the pandemic runs its course, but some ships remained stranded at sea, trying to secure docking privileges as they deal with fears that some passengers or crew may be infected with Covid-19.

“We’re very happy to be moving again,” Richard Cline said. “It was two days in San Antonio (Chile), where we just circled and weren’t allowed to dock, and then three days anchored off the coast of Valparaiso (Chile), where we weren’t allowed to dock either.”

A stop in Ecuador for medicine is expected for the ship, which carries 2,700 passengers and about 1,200 crew members.

Otherwise, San Diego will soon be in the ship’s sights.

No regrets, the couple reported, and they said they would travel by cruise ship again.

“It’s been a fabulous trip,” he said. “We’ve been down around Cape Horn.”

The crew “is still providing shows, entertainment, all kinds of activities,” Karen Cline said. “You know, it’s another cruise.”

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