Julie Jester woke up on board the Coral Princess with a sore throat  – and found herself in isolation shortly afterwards.

As she was cared for by the crew, she read reports of the so-called “COVID crisis” on board the ships with incredulity.

It was claimed “thousands were trapped on the ship” despite an assurance from Carnival Australia’s CEO Marguerite Fitzgerald.

Ms Jester has nothing but praise for the way she was treated – and says she preferred to be at sea than at home, despite COVID.

“Three days ago I woke up with a sore throat. I was already aware that there were cases onboard and I didn’t want to take any chances so I phoned the Medical Centre emergency number as requested in the notices given to us earlier.

“A medical technician arrived later that morning and did the PCR test on me plus a RAT on my husband. His RAT was negative so he was allowed to leave the cabin however he was not allowed to eat or drink at any of the bars or restaurants but could bring food etc back to the cabin, such as chocolate ice cream to soothe my sore throat.”

Unfortunately, following this Ms Jester did test positive.

“My initial PCR test was negative but I was required to isolate for 24 hours until a second PCR test was done the next day. Unfortunately, this one was positive. I now have to isolate for around seven days. My husband has to do a RAT every day and report the results to the Medical Centre.”

Ms Jester says she has been well taken care of by the ship’s crew.

“We are being taken care of very well indeed. Both the Medical Centre and Guest Services phone us daily to check how we are and if we need anything. All Covid medical treatment and testing are free.

“Even though my initial PCR test was negative the Medical Centre sent up a strip of throat lozenges in case I needed them although as experienced cruisers/travellers we do carry a kit that is well stocked with over-the-counter meds to cover all situations. I have been prescribed a course of anti-virals which I started last night.”

Ms Jester says the food and service have been excellent in isolation.

“The dining room lunch and dinner menus are delivered each day and we can order meals off those through room service, plus breakfast items that are not on the standard cabin breakfast list.

“The Medallion app is great for ordering drinks (of any kind – tea, coffee, soft drinks, cocktails, wine etc) and we have been told all drinks are free while we are in isolation.

“We are able to get special rubbish bags to empty our cabin bins into, plus bags to put used towels or bedlinen in and, of course, fresh towels and bedlinen is supplied on request but we have to make our own bed – our cabin steward is not permitted to enter our cabin.”
As to whether it’s ruined her holiday, Ms Jester says she’d still rather be at sea than home.
“Is it ruining my cruise? No more so than coming down with a sore throat would do at home or on any other holiday. In fact it’s better than at home.
“I’m getting excellent medical care, can order meals in my cabin, and can enjoy the fresh sea air on my balcony.”
Regarding media coverage of the events, Ms Jester feels the vast majority of what she’s seen is inaccurate.

“The ABC had a very fair and factual report about our port stop in Broome. However, most of the other media reports I have seen have been ridiculous, lacking in facts and high in speculation, designed to put the cruise industry in the worst possible light. Irresponsible journalism at its worst.”

When asked if this experience could turn her off cruising, Ms Jester says there’s no chance.
“Never. We love cruising. We did our first restart cruise on 26th June and our current cruise is our fifth cruise on Coral Princess this year.

“As far as we can tell Princess is following all the Eastern Seaboard and Western Australia Cruise Protocols to protect passengers, crew, and the communities in the ports we visit. Based on previous experience Princess has always placed high importance on the health and safety of passengers and crew and this cruise is no exception.”

Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia president Marguerite Fitzgerald said: “We continue to monitor closely a small number of guests who tested positive for COVID-19 and who are isolated and are being cared for in their stateroom by our medical and support staff.  All cases on board have been asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.

“As of today, case numbers remain relatively steady with a vast number of our 2000 guests continuing to enjoy facilities onboard.

“Unfortunately, Mid West Ports Authority has advised that adverse weather affecting the port, means that Coral Princess will be unable to make her scheduled call to Geraldton tomorrow.

Coral Princess will instead sail directly to Fremantle as planned and is scheduled to arrive on Friday, 28 October. Guests will be able to disembark after undertaking Rapid Antigen Tests to enjoy an extended call at this popular destination.”

Princess Cruises said only a small number of guests are currently in isolation and cases on board have been asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.