Wednesday Wisdom Series June 2, 2021
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June 2, 2021

Following is the latest Wednesday Wisdom article from the Family Assistance Foundation, reminding you that a fully integrated approach for assisting survivors of traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D., and distributed by the Family Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., Reprint is available with written permission from the Foundation.

2021 Member-Partner Meeting: September 29-30, 2021

A Preview of Two Presentations

    The Foundation will hold the 2021 Member-Partner Meeting on September 29-30, in Meridian, Idaho, near Boise. The first day, and morning of the second day presentations by survivors and responders will featured. On the afternoon of September 30th, attendees will be transported a few miles away to Kerry Hill Winery, for the official kick-off of the new FAERF Institute. The Kerry Hill Winery is owned by survivor, Mindy Mayer who serves on the Survivor Advisory Board of the FAERF Institute.

    In this summer’s Wednesday Wisdom series, speakers for the upcoming meeting will be announced along with an overview of their presentations. This month’s article features stories about two couples who were among the 2,850 guests and 1,200 crew members aboard Celebrity Cruise Line’s ship, the Eclipse. They were unable to leave the ship for over two months as they waited for their native country, Columbia and Argentina, to open borders and allow them to return home.  

    While they were frightened and anxious much of the time, their stories are filled with examples of the great care and support they received from crew members and others who attempted to help them. The survivors share many lessons that all who serve the public during crisis times, can benefit by hearing.

Ivan and Juan Pablo

The men felt a mixture of feelings, including fear and anxiety over the unknown.

    Ivan and Juan Pablo boarded the Eclipse in Buenos Aires on March 1, 2020, with great excitement over celebrating Ivan’s sixtieth birthday. On the evening before the scheduled debark, March 15, they surrendered their suitcases to the crew and prepared to leave the ship the following morning. Like all on board, they were unprepared for the 6 AM announcement from the captain that it would not be possible to debark due to the Coronavirus. The men felt a mixture of feelings, including fear and anxiety over the unknown—and of even greater concern, panic over the limited amount of medication they had brought on board.

    Ivan takes daily medication for hypertension and cancer. While he boarded with an ample supply for his trip, he did not have enough for an extended period away from home. Ivan was relieved to learn the medical team on board had secured a supply of his prescriptions, but he would only be able to take one pill per 48 hours, as opposed to the ideal of 1 dose per day. This offered at least a temporary reprieve to Ivan’s medical concerns.

    On March 16, the captain announced that the Chilean government would allow guests to debark. But to their disappointment, only those 80 passengers holding Chilean passports would be allowed into the country. Ivan and Juan Pablo were not allowed to set foot on the soil of their neighboring country. This would be one of many disappointing announcements that the men would hear over the next several weeks.

“We appreciated the many things the crew did to help the guests cope.”

    Unable to debark at Chile, or any ports near their home country, the men were surprised to hear that the ship was being sent to San Diego, CA, a trip that would mean twelve days at sea. Ivan and Juan Pablo appreciated the many things the crew did to help the guests cope while unable to leave the ship. The internet was open to all guests. The theater and other entertainment areas were available for all, and the crew members were attentive and courteous to everyone. As difficult as it was, the captain and crew did all within their power to create an environment where everyone on board felt safe and secure in their care.

The captain briefed the guests daily—even when there was nothing new to report.

    Around March 18, the guests on board began to understand how serious the pandemic was becoming. When news broke out about borders closing around the globe and by March 24, Ivan learned that the Columbian government had closed all borders. The captain tried working with the Embassy and government officials to help the guests leave the ship—but all efforts at that time failed. The captain briefed the guests daily—even when there was nothing new to report.

    On March 30th, when they reached San Diego, it was announced that ALL but South American passengers were allowed to debark the ship. By then all South American countries had closed the borders. Only 500 passengers were left onboard and rumors started circulating that some of the passengers who debarked had COVID-19. That same night everyone was asked to semi-quarantine. 

    By the morning of March 31, one passenger who debarked the day before was confirmed positive to COVID-19. That is when the full quarantine started. Everyone had to stay in their rooms and could not go anywhere.

    April 2, Ivan and Juan Pablo thought they might be able to leave the ship and travel to Sau Paulo, however that morning, Ivan started feeling unwell with COVID symptoms and on April 3rd, both Ivan and Juan Pablo were confirmed positive to COVID-19. Now, they could not debark the ship. 

    This was a very emotional time as there was no way of knowing their fate, or how long it would be before they would return home. They were 32 days in isolation, and only the last 10 days were they allowed to leave their rooms and walk outside for 45 minutes at a time. They were waiting for Colombia to approve their flights. 

They did not blame the crew for this as they knew it was not their fault—it was a result of the pandemic.      

    Celebrity sent information to the Embassy and tried to help the men travel to Columbia. The Columbian Consul from San Diego had arranged for them to be treated in a local clinic, but they decided to stay on ship hoping they would feel better soon. Now, knowing they would be on the ship for an indefinite amount of time, the cruise line moved the distressed passengers to suites to provide some comfort. However, the men were in separate rooms, communicating only over the phone and internet. Their meals were left at their doors, leaving them to feel like prisoners in their rooms. They did not blame the crew for this as they knew it was not their fault—it was a result of the pandemic.

    Looking back at the 63 days on the ship, Ivan remembers April 9-11 as the worst days. During that time, he feared he would die. By April 12 Ivan’s fever broke and he began to feel better. By May 4, the men travelled to Bogota. Once in Bogota, they were quarantined for two weeks, and then transferred by car for 9 hours to reach their home. When Ivan and Juan Pablo arrived at their house, Ivan remembers going from room to room experiencing joy over finally arriving home. 

Ivan looks back on the experience and feels gratitude toward the captain and the crew.

    Ivan belongs to a Facebook group, along with other survivors who experienced the ordeal of being trapped on the ship due to the Coronavirus. One Celebrity crew member who is Columbian is also a member of the group. Ivan looks back on the experience and feels gratitude toward the captain and the crew. They all faced enormous pressure together, and he knows the Celebrity team did the best they could under circumstances that most could never imagine.

Angeles and Enzo

    On March 1, 2020, Enzo and his wife Angeles boarded the Eclipse with the intention of celebrating his birthday on board. They intended to visit different ports in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile and return home on March 15. Instead, when that day came, they learned along with the other guests and crew that the Chilean government would not allow them to debark. At that point negotiations and circles began at sea.

    Like Ivan, Enzo had concerns about medication and was relieved when he learned that the medical center could help him and the other guests with medication during the time they were unable to leave the ship. Like Ivan and the other Argentines on board, Enzo and Angeles were gravely disappointed when they learned that the borders were closed to them. During the time the ship remained at sea, Enzo worried about his elderly mother, his grown children and grandchildren. While he and Angeles were able to communicate with the family at home, he had no good news to report to them.

    Enzo and Angeles appreciated the free entertainment, and the food which he reported as generous and tasty, along with the courtesy of the crew members who served them. Enzo also found the constant communication from the captain, and he felt confident that the leadership of the cruise line was doing all they could to help the guests and crew. With all that he and Angeles felt positive about, they also had constructive feedback to share.

    One of the most challenging issues that the couple faced during all the days at sea involved translations. There were two Spanish speaking crew members on board who assisted the guests—but the translators were not stationed in the infirmary, where Enzo felt they would have been very helpful. Once, when Enzo had a high temperature, the doctor used a word to describe this condition, but Enzo would only learn later what the doctor was saying. This was very alarming due to everyone’s fear of being diagnosed with the Coronavirus.

    The need for information became complicated when the Spanish translation of the updates and announcements made over the public address system were much shorter than those made by the captain. Enzo knew enough English to realize that in addition to the difference in the length of the announcements, some of the words were not the same.

    Other observations pertained to the lack of protocol on board the ship in general and especially around food service. Every guest on board was afraid of becoming ill and the longer they stayed on board, unable to debark, the more they noticed any risk that might put them in danger. Able to access media reports, Enzo and Angeles were aware that many on land were wearing masks and social distancing. The guests talked among themselves about the need for similar practices.

    It was of great importance to Enzo, Angeles, and the other guests when they realized as they started home, that protocols had been established. As they began to debark the ship and all the way home, social distancing was enforced, and masks were required. The guests felt safe and once again saw that the cruise line was concerned for their wellbeing.


One regret that Enzo carries, even now that he is back at home, is that he reached out to the media to ask for help.

    One regret that Enzo carries, even now that he is back at home, is that he reached out to the media to ask for help. From March 15, when he realized that borders were being closed around the globe, Enzo contacted the media and provided their story. Desperately hoping that government officials would assist them in their plight, this effort brought negative messages on Facebook and other social media. Complete strangers were not sympathetic to the stories they read in the media. He received negative remarks and downright attacks from people safe in their own homes who could not relate to the threat Enzo and Angeles felt being far away from home with no end in sight.


“In general, I do not notice an angry situation.”

     It is important to note that when Enzo communicated with the press about the situation on board, he made a point to report that there was no anger about their situation directed at the company or the crew. One quote read, “In general, I do not notice an angry situation.” It was clear to those on board, that the problem was outside the power of the authority of a captain or cruise line leadership.

     In their interviews, both couples provided insight as to what was helpful as well as suggestions for improvements during difficult times when any guest or customer is unable to leave a ship or a vehicle, building, or similar circumstances. Knowing the areas where the company did a good job for the guests, as well as specifics where improvements can be made is the purpose of hearing from survivors and the purpose of the Foundation’s educational programs.

    While I have attempted to share highlights from each of the interviews, those who are able to hear the interviews directly from the men at the upcoming meeting will receive far more than what can be captured in a brief article. We hope that members can join us at the Fall meeting and share with us the beginning of the new FAERF Institute. See you in September!  

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