WARREN, NJ - Warren couple Rick and Wendy De Pinho arrived home safe after being stranded on the MS Rotterdam Cruise ship. "Of all the days confined to our cabin it was our first day of disembarking that was our most STRESSFUL DAY!, Rick said."
Rick De Pinho provided the following account of their experience:
The most grueling and stressful day was the day we disembarked the Rotterdam!
The plan for us didn’t work very well. As we left the ship we boarded a bus that waited an hour for a police escort with people that weren’t able to social distance. People got to the airport tarmac and had to wait another hour - it was cruel.
When we finally boarded the plane it also took more time as they searched for two missing passengers. The charter plane took off late and we landed late in Atlanta after 3 pm. Luggage took forever to be unloaded from the charter flight to the point it put us in a precarious situation to catch our flight. We checked in at 4:50 pm for our 5:35 flight! No one cared but one guy made sure our luggage beat the 45 minute bag check in policy. We had to pay $60 to check our luggage too!
TSA was a mess enforcing social distancing and we wound up getting to our gate at 5:27 pm only to find out our 5:35flight to Detroit for the connection to Newark had already left!
Running to a gate with a mask on and us not having hydrated properly most of the day because of wearing a mask was challenging. This was cruel! The gate agent told us we have to go to a service desk. Thoughts of having to sleep in the airport went through our mind. How could we be dumped in Atlanta so cruelly?
After walking back to a service center our best option to get home was to take a 9:30 flight to the epicenter of the corona virus in the world known as JFK airport in Queens! Given the now long wait for our flight we went to have dinner at Gordon Biersch. How did we go from people dressed around us with haz mat suits in the morning to being in a restaurant where servers were not wearing masks? It was an epic failure to put us in the general public - a risk to those serving us and even to us given the spread of the virus.
Given the situation we had to remove our masks to eat given the potato chips we had been given on the charter were not enough. While waiting at dinner our mobile received a call from Berlin Germany with talk about a car service pickup that we had to explain would now have to be from JFK and not Newark! We explained and were told we would get car service but have to pay $80 extra since JFK was farther away! We agreed.
We made our way to the gate around 8pm- with gloves we got from Gordon Beirsch! While sitting at the gate a regular passenger showed up who was sweating profusely and obviously wasn’t feeling well. She was receiving calls from presumably her family and friends and said she hadn’t gotten her test results yes. It wasn’t like we were eaves dropping, but she was using her speakerphone! The person almost fainted twice boarding the plane. It seemed maybe she was more of a risk than us!
When we landed at JFK we had to go to baggage claim because our bags flew without us! Our bags were in Newark but we were at JFK! It just made a long day longer! When we exited the baggage area no car service was to be found. We were alone at 12:15 am and the only option was a pricey Uber (almost $200) back to home to New Jersey.
It really was a cruel hoax - but our only option was to get into the Uber and hope it was safe - the driver only opened the back of his Pathfinder. We finally got home at 1:30 am!
Of all the days confined to our cabin it was our first day of disembarking that was our most STRESSFUL DAY!
Holland America sadly dropped the ball!
This was Holland America Line’s response when asked why Rotterdam and Zaandam passengers were put on connecting commercial flights after they got off their charter flights:
“All of our travel plans have been approved by Broward Unified Command which includes the U.S. CDC. The use of charter flights actually exceeds what is required by the U.S. CDC for these guests who are fit to travel per their guidelines. The CDC considers them no higher risk for air travel than the general public who are traveling. They have been in self-isolation for 12 days, which is not the case for most people traveling through the commercial air system today.”
Director, Public Relations
Does it make sense to go from having a police escort and people in hazmat suits while going from the ship to the tarmac and charter plane. What magical transformation happened during the charter flight to Atlanta to allow us to be set free with the general public? It must be time for bed cause I’m missing something.
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