Taking a cruise during the pandemic is risky.
Despite that risk, Kelly and Luis Cotto decided to celebrate their recent 25th wedding anniversary trip aboard the Norwegian Gem cruise ship. But their celebration ended suddenly on day two, with a call and letter ordering them to quarantine in their cabin.
"We went to one of their shows, and when we got back, we got the call that we were quarantined because we came in contact with someone who was sick," Kelly Cotto said.
They were stunned because they were both vaccinated and had gotten their booster shots. They had also tested negative twice before boarding the ship.
"The rapid test came back negative, and so did the PCR test," she said.
But for the next four days, the Cottos said they became house prisoners because the cruise determined they had been in contact with someone who had COVID-19.
"The hard part was when we docked in Bermuda because we knew we weren't getting off," Kelly Cotto said.
"When you get there, and you can't leave the ship, it's not a great night," Luis Cotto said.
What are your rights on a cruise?
Can a cruise line force a person to stay in a tiny cabin for days?
It turns out cruise ships on the open sea can make their own laws. Once at sea, U.S. law does not always apply.
Michelle Couch Friedman, the executive director of the non-profit consumer group Elliott Advocacy, is trying to get the Cottos a refund. But she says getting any help from Norwegian has been difficult, as she wrote in a blog article about the ordeal.
"Basically, you give up a lot of rights when you get on a cruise ship. The captain has the final say on everything," Friedman said.
Norwegian Cruise Line did not respond to a request for comment, but a spokesperson did speak with Elliott Advocacy.
"Due to Bermuda's policies, all guests identified as a close contact with an individual with COVID-19 must be quarantined until the end of the voyage," the spokesperson said.
So, what should travelers do?
Like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Friedman says people may want to avoid taking a cruise for a few months.
"Right now, with all the variants, the CDC said you shouldn't be cruising right now," she said.
The Cottos want you to know the risk of having a cruise ruined, so you don't waste your money.
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