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Steve and Laura Philips in Falkland Islands

Steve and Laura Phillips enjoyed their visit to the Falkland Islands, but now they are not allowed to disembark their cruise ship over the coronavirus pandemic.

Steve and Laura Phillips feel fine, don’t know anyone nearby who is sick and are keeping their distances from others as required.

They’re also stuck on a cruise ship docked in Uruguay, wondering when they’ll ever see Citrus County again.

“We’re trying to stay as positive as we can,” Phillips, associate pastor at Gulf to Lake Baptist Church in Crystal River, said in a phone interview Friday. “There’s worse places to be confined to. We’re still being fed very well. Nobody is confined to their rooms. Nobody on board is sick. We’re all very healthy.”

Phillips said Saturday that the captain reported they would be headed to Fort Lauderdale, but not arriving for two weeks.

The Phillips’s, along with Steve’s mother and aunt, planned two years for a two-week cruise of South America that sailed March 5 on the Coral Princess.

Phillips acknowledged he was nervous about taking a cruise with the coronavirus just starting to take hold, even as two Citrus County couples were being quarantined on another Princess ship in Japan. He said he contacted the cruise line and was told there were no plans to cancel the voyage.

“We were concerned but not overly panicked,” he said. “They didn’t see it as any big issue. Oh, how things change in two weeks’ time.”

And, he said, the ship has stayed healthy. He said passengers have their temperatures checked daily and there are no reports of anyone falling ill.

But they still can’t get off the ship because no country will yet allow it.

The Phillips’s came close. On Thursday, with the ship docked in Argentina, there was an announcement that passengers could leave to be transported to the airport to fly back to the states.

His mother and aunt, and their two friends, boarded a bus at 8 p.m. Thursday, with Steve and Laura set to depart at 6 a.m. Friday. But during the night, the ship’s captain said the Argentine government decided the remaining passengers would need to be quarantined for two weeks before being able to leave.

The captain decided instead to leave port and headed to Uruguay.

The ship had about 2,000 passengers, about half were able to leave. That leaves the Phillips’s and their fellow remaining passengers wondering what comes next.

“There’s uncertainty on board. Everybody’s feeling that,” he said.

Phillips said they have spotty internet and see very few live TV. They’ve attempted to contact the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay and U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster’s office asking for the government’s help, but so far no answers.

The Phillips’s are able to video chat with friends and family back home, especially their sons age 13 and 15, who are staying in Jacksonville.

“They’re teenagers, so we miss them a lot more than they miss us,” Phillips said.

They’re not the only Citrus County residents onboard. Once the first version of this story was posted on the Chronicle’s website Friday, the daughter of a nurse contacted Phillips through Facebook and they were able to meet up.

“We met him earlier this morning,” he said of the Bayfront Health Seven Rivers hospital nurse.

While heading to Fort Lauderdale is a positive sign, Phillips said another two weeks at sea is disappointing.

“I surely wasn’t expecting to hear it’s going to take 14 days,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll get a revised schedule.”

They’re not sure how this will end or when, but Phillips remains firm in his faith.

“God has a plan,” and he said, “and I don’t always understand everything.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

(2) comments

KristenCoble

My dad who also lives in Citrus County along with my cousin from Lakeland are on the same cruise ship. I am getting regular updates from him as the plans seem to change by the hour.

PaulAsmart

They appear to be safe on the ship. No one is showing symptoms. Fourteen days on a cruise and in quarantine is better than here Orin an airport being exposed to risk.

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