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Couple cheerful about cruise ship quarantine


April 28, 2020

A local couple seems to be cheerfully looking on the fact they ended up in several weeks of quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic as some extra vactaion.

Bear Paw Mountain ranchers Bettie and Frank Barber, who arrived home a few weeks ago after being quarantined on a Grand Princess cruise ship after several people including a number of crew members tested positive for COVID-19, said they had no fear during their quarantine.

The couple said Princess Cruise Lines treated them extremely well during their extended stay on the ship, and praised the staff of the ship for their efforts to keep people happy.

“They treated us like royalty,” Frank Barber said, “They did everything they could to keep us occupied, keep us fed. I mean we were confined to our room, but we had a deck we could walk out on to get out and get some fresh air.”

Bettie Barber said they weren’t afraid during the eight-day quarantine, that it was just something they had to deal with.

“Frank and I are extremely positive people, almost to the point of being fatalistic,” Barber said, “I mean not to the point where I’m going to step in front of a bus just to see if God’s going to let it hit me.”

She said they were fortunate to have had a room with large windows so they could appreciate the view while confined to their room where they spent much of their time playing cribbage and cards. Although, their traveling companion was not quite as fortunate.

“Our niece actually came with us on the trip, and that poor child, she had an inside cabin, no windows no nothing, it was like being in a huge closet,” she said.

Barber said the ship’s TV network had trivia competitions, origami lessons, and other activities, doing everything they could to keep people occupied and happy, as well as providing free wifi so people could stay in touch with people outside.

“Princess Cruise Lines bent over backwards then twisted around,” Barber said.

She said the company refunded the money for the cruise itself, the excursions, airfare and hotel rooms for those who needed it. She said since the cruise had already made its major stop in Hawaii, they looked at the situation more positively than others might.

“It was a totally free vacation,” Barber said, “They even gave you back the excursion money, and Frank and I had bought the alcohol package which was $1,000 each, and they gave us that back, and believe me, we drank our alcohol.”

Even when they learned that the ship wouldn’t be let into San Francisco the couple found something to laugh about when they looked at the ship’s route on the TV screen.

“The mayor of San Francisco would not let us dock, so we went back out to sea, but it was really funny. I took a picture of the TV screen just showing us how we were floating around in circles and triangles and squares,” Barber said.

The ship would eventually reach land after the mayor of Oakland gave permission for them to dock at a commercial shipyard. After docking, the couple and many of the other passengers were taken to Dobbin’s Air Reserve Base in Georgia, where they had a non-virtual reunion with their niece.

The couple said they were treated equally well after arriving at the base, and were given two bedrooms, and large bathroom and a kitchenette to prepare food for themselves during their 14-day stay at the base.

She said they were given so much food that they couldn’t possibly eat it all.

Barber said they were happy to be able to move around more and enjoyed their time conversing with the others quarantined on the base. Though she said social distancing was taken very seriously.

“You could go outside and walk around and enjoy the sunshine, and talk people, but the social distancing and the masks were very strictly enforced,” she said.

Barber said she was impressed not only with how well they were treated, but the sacrifices that their caretakers were making just to keep them happy, particularly one woman they met who worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This is how sacrificing those people are, that work for FEMA, she went to work on a Tuesday morning and she didn’t even get to go back home,” Barber said, “She got shipped out immediately to come take care of us. I believe she was from Florida, and she didn’t even get to say goodbye to her family, and she was there for two weeks taking care of us.”

Barber said the experience of being on the base was very weird, but much like on the ship, the couple was never afraid.

She said while they were on the base they were even able to virtually attend a fundraiser for Cody Farmer whom they were close with.

“We really wanted to be there but we couldn’t be, but his sisters, we Facetimed and they took us around the fundraiser… it was kind of cool,” Barber said, “You were there but you’re still not there.”

After two weeks on the base the couple returned to their home south of Chinook. The Barber’s said that after returning home they used some of the money refunded by the cruise line to buy stock in the company, which Frank Barber said he hopes will be able to weather the financial fallout of the pandemic.

“That’s how impressed we were with them,” Bettie Barber said.

Although she also said she would not want to risk infection any time soon.

“I mean, I don’t want to do that again, don’t get me wrong,” she said.

She said the company also gave them a free cruise to be booked by March of next year, and that she and her husband intended to use it, provided the pandemic ends before then.

“Everybody says, ‘Would you go on another cruise?,’ and Frank and I are like, ‘Definitely yes,’” Barber said.


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