Photo of the pool area of the Pacific Princess cruise ship, taken in March 2020. A single man stands in the pool. It is surrounded on all sides by rows of mostly-empty lounge chairs. In the distance, you can just see a single couple at the far end.

Q&A with James Nordin ’67, one of the last remaining cruise ship passengers still at sea.

When James Nordin ’67 and wife Linda departed Los Angeles for a three-month around-the-world cruise on January 20, they had no idea that COVID-19 would cut their dream vacation short. Though most of the other passengers disembarked in Australia in late March to fly home, the couple opted to remain on board and return with the ship to California. 

He emailed Knox about this unexpected journey from his current location, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

Tell us about your trip so far.

Linda and I left L.A. on January 20 bound for Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore,  Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Madagascar, and South Africa, then across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean and the Panama Canal, and back to L.A. We made it to Australia before the coronavirus changed everything. We visited eight ports in Australia rather than four, then headed for Sri Lanka. We were not allowed to disembark; we could only refuel and restock food. On March 12, the cruise line announced the cruise was terminated, and we headed back to Australia. On the way, we were told that all passengers would disembark in Perth and be flown to their home airport.

How did you make the decision to stay on board?

By this time, we knew there had been deaths from COVID-19 elsewhere and that the infection rate was accelerating. But there was no illness on our ship and plenty of food and water. We had lots to read, and we are pretty good company for each other. We both get sick on long flights, and kind of insisted we stay on board. We had to sign a waiver, but we stayed. 

We were supposed to sail to Sydney for refueling, but Sydney wouldn’t let us dock. Instead, we stopped in Melbourne. Docked there was the 3,000-passenger Golden Princess with no passengers on board. The logistics of moving that many people in a short time span with airlines closing down is mind-boggling.

What’s it like on board these days?

About 500 passengers and 35-40 crew members disembarked. There are now 350 crew members and 115 passengers on board. None of the entertainers left. So we continue to have shows a couple of times a week.

Are you worried about getting sick?

No one on this ship has been ill since we left L.A. 70 days ago, and no one has boarded the ship for more than two weeks. We are a floating quarantine!

What happens next?

We are on our way to Honolulu, where we are supposed to stop to refuel. The captain has alerted us that none of this is certain (as we have learned from the zigs and zags of this adventure). We hope to return to L.A. around April 20. We plan to rent a car and drive back home—assuming we aren’t quarantined in L.A.—and, of course, assuming we are allowed to dock! Meanwhile, we are well, safe, and have a comfortable place to stay. We know the direction we are headed; we just don’t know if that will get us anywhere.