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They Got Stuck On A Cruise Ship In 2020. Here’s Why They Went On Their Honeymoon

(CNN) — It wasn’t the honeymoon they had planned. Instead of exploring the South Pacific on the cruise of a lifetime, newlyweds Jay and Carmen Martinez found themselves stranded at sea with no end date in sight.

The Martinezes boarded Norwegian Jewel on Feb. 28, 2020. Before departing, the couple — two Texans in their 20s — had some hesitation. The coronavirus was becoming more pervasive and was also already synonymous with cruise ships – earlier that month all 2,666 passengers aboard the Diamond Princess ship were quarantined in Japan amid fears of hundreds of cases of Covid on board.

Jay and Carmen considered changing their plans, but Norwegian Cruise Line said they were locked in.

“Until the day we left, that wasn’t an option,” Jay told CNN Travel in March 2020. “And with us having so much money invested in our honeymoon, we didn’t have a no choice but to board the ship.”

Less than two weeks after the Martinezes embarked on the Norwegian Jewel, the cruise industry body Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) – which represents 95% of the world’s cruise fleet – announced the suspension of operations since US ports of call for 30 days. period. A day later, the CDC issued a No Sail Order for cruise ships in the United States.

Ships rushed to bring passengers home. Many ships were turned away from port after port, as nations closed their borders and viewed ships with suspicion.

The Norwegian Jewel has been denied entry to French Polynesia, Fiji and New Zealand.

The ship spent almost a month at sea in limbo. Unlike some ships, the Norwegian Jewel reported no Covid cases, but those on board were still panicking.

“The world stopped, and it sort of became floating in the sea,” Jay recalls today.

Jay kept himself busy by working remotely from the ocean and trying to educate the media and politicians about the ship’s plight. And he and Carmen, as some of the youngest and most social media-savvy guests on board, helped the ship’s older passengers connect with their loved ones back home.

The unexpected turn of the journey led, in turn, to unexpected connections. Friendships were forged, and when the ship finally landed in Hawaii and the passengers parted ways, they vowed to keep in touch with each other and the crew.

At the time, Jay said the experience was “a cruise, vacation and honeymoon like no other, and for good reasons and for terrible reasons.”

Back on the pitch, the couple focused on their jobs — he’s in public affairs, she’s in public health, so they’ve both been pushed to respond to the pandemic.

About two years have passed, and vaccines and new safety protocols have revived the dormant cruise industry. And as 2022 wore on, Jay and Carmen began to consider a honeymoon — they had received a 110% cruise credit in recognition of their interrupted voyage, which was due to expire in March 2023.

The couple opted for a South Pacific excursion aboard the Norwegian Spirit cruise ship. This November 2022 trip promised to make some of the stops missed in March 2020.

“We were comfortable enough having been vaccinated and taking extra measures and precautions on this ship, that we thought this was going to be a good opportunity for us to go on this once-in-a-lifetime cruise and try again from this honeymoon,” says Jay.

Twice in a lifetime

Jay and Carmen enjoyed their honeymoon aboard Norwegian Spirit, pictured here docked in Moorea.

Jay Martinez

From the minute they boarded the Norwegian Spirit, Carmen and Jay were hit with deja vu. It was surreal.

“I mean, just being back on a Norwegian cruise ship and cruise ship was quite an experience,” Jay says.

And while in many ways the world has changed irrevocably since March 2020, the ocean view has remained unchanged.

“I just remember the uncertainty around it all in 2020. And this time, just a bit more joyful, but still with just the lingering doubts of ‘Okay, I really hope something unforeseen does. won’t happen this time around, because I’m really having fun,” Jay says.

Although the pandemic is no longer as severe as it once was on cruise ships, ships can still be affected by the virus – in November the Majestic Princess ship docked in Sydney with 800 Covid-positive passengers.

And the cruise industry is still recovering, both reputationally and financially, from the hiatus in shipping. In 2020, crew members reported mental health issues as they remained on board long after travelers disembarked, while some passengers struggled to get refunds for canceled cruises.

The return to cruising has also been fairly stop-start in many areas, as cruise passengers and passengers have adapted to new safety protocol and new modes of operation.

Jay took this photo of the sunset from the Norwegian Spirit.

Jay took this photo of the sunset from the Norwegian Spirit.

Jay Martinez

Jay and Carmen say they kept up with the bumpy waters of cruising for the past few years, but ultimately had no worries about cruising again. The couple enjoyed cruising before the pandemic, and while they had some frustrations associated with their experience in 2020, they have nothing but praise for how the Norwegian crew handled the situation on board.

They say the same was true of their recent trip. When they mentioned their honeymoon story to the staff, they ended up with surprise champagne delivered to their specially decorated room.

The couple joked about the irony of still being “on honeymoon” nearly three years after their wedding.

“I like to say, now we’re on honeymoon forever,” Carmen jokes.

The couple were also ready for anything, packing numerous Covid tests. Jay also took several laptops – just in case he ended up working remotely from the ocean once more.

But their honeymoon remained Covid-free. There was an itinerary change due to the Hawaii Mauna Loa volcanic eruption – as the cruise line opted not to stop at Kahului on Maui – but otherwise everything went according to plan.

Unexpected connections

Jay and Carmen took this selfie on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Jay and Carmen took this selfie on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Jay Martinez

Jay and Carmen’s second honeymoon surpassed the original in almost every way – the couple got to see every destination they dreamed of, including Bora Bora and Fiji. They swam in turquoise waters, surrounded by sea creatures and enjoyed spectacular sunsets. And they weren’t plagued by health or travel anxiety.

But on the second voyage, Jay and Carmen realized there had been unexpected positives to the troubled first cruise.

On the second voyage, there were only polite chats with fellow passengers, not emotional quests to help stranded strangers connect with loved ones. The two realized that sometimes emergencies bring people together in a way that doesn’t happen when things are going well.

“We didn’t really connect with people like we did in our 2020 experience,” says Carmen.

In turn, the couple realized how much the unlikely relationships had meant to them on the first cruise. They have stayed in touch with many other stranded passengers, with Jay saying he considers them “friends for life”.

“It wasn’t just the other passengers,” adds Carmen. “We also made friends with the staff.”

On the second cruise, the two focused on each other, enjoying the break from busy work and taking a moment to reassess their lives, nearly three years after their marriage unexpectedly began.

Carmen says Jay’s commitment to bringing the couple home on the first ship has enhanced her sense of safety and security in the relationship – a feeling she says she’s felt since the two first met. in college and then started dating after graduation.

“He was up all day and all night with this laptop and the phone calling people and trying to get us home. I had a brother who was battling cancer at the time so he’s been going through these operations and their families asked when we were coming home and we just don’t know,” she says.

The two now believe that how they did their best to make the most of their troubled first honeymoon and to support each other and others on board set the tone for what was to come.

“It’s kind of a running theme of what those early years of our marriage brought,” Jay says. “We have had heartaches and significant changes in our lives. We have lost family members and it has not always been easy. But thanks to the love and support we have one for the other, we were able to kind of weather those storms.”

“I think we set the tone, like a month into your marriage, if you go into a global pandemic and you’re stuck at sea – if you can somehow get through this if you can get through this storm, I think you’ll be okay.”

Top photo of Jay and Carmen in Bora Bora taken by Stephan Debelle / Bora Bora Photo Video.

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