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Grand Princess passengers from Marysville detail life in 81 sq-ft quarantine

Sheila Worthington finds ways to stay amused when confined to their cabin for a week. (Photo courtesy of Rick and Sheila Worthington)

It began with a sunset sail under the Golden Gate Bridge and went on to the shining turquoise waters of Oahu. Rick and Sheila Worthington of Marysville thought they were going on the trip of a lifetime when they boarded the Grand Princess from San Francisco to Hawaii and back.

For the first 10 days, it was paradise on Earth.

But on the trip back from Hawaii to California, the Worthingtons began to notice changes. News channels on TV began reporting about coronavirus cases with more frequency. Passengers were no longer able to serve themselves at the dining room buffet on board, and were instructed to keep some distance from one another.

Last Thursday, during lunch, an announcement was made telling passengers to go to their cabins as soon as they had finished eating and to wait for further information.

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“That was a really good indicator that we were into a pretty serious situation,” Rick said.

In the week since, Rick and Sheila have spent just 20 minutes outside of their room. With 21 people on the Grand Princess diagnosed with coronavirus, passengers were ordered to stay in permanent isolation.

There was no hope of getting fresh air, and little hope of getting exercise.

“I’m retired United States Air Force, I can’t afford some of those suites, … but it was a mistake on our part not to get a balcony,” Rick laughed. “We had an indoor cabin, literally 9 feet by 9 feet with a full-size bed in there.”

Their only contact with people was when meals were delivered to their door.

“They’d knock on the door, and then I think they’d run away real quickly,” Rick said.

Sheila tried to keep busy by doing crafts. The couple tried to make a game out of counting their steps and trying to move around as much as possible in the small room.

“He was starting to drive me crazy because it was like watching a caged animal pacing,” Sheila said.

They compromised, and Sheila would go into the bathroom with a book when Rick did his pacing.

“Luckily my wife and I have been married for 46 years and we love each other dearly — but eight days in that little room were a great test,” Rick chuckled.

The retired airman found it challenging to be left alone and in the dark when it came to updates.

“I had a lot of command positions, and I was used to being in charge and knowing what was going on,” he said. “And this one, trust me, I had no information.”

But, he continued, “20 years in the Air Force taught both of us that we know what it is to serve, we know that decisions are being made for the greater good. And if that meant that we had to suffer a little bit, it’ll all work out in the end.”

Rick and Sheila were finally let off the Grand Princess on Thursday and put onto buses so they could make their way home via Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The state of Washington chartered a plane to come get them, Rick said.

“We’re doing great now, and to be out here in this sunshine right now — Princess has done everything they could to make everything good,” Sheila said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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