COVID-positive tourists have started their cruises and are heading home on flights and ferries to Alaska

the dock of a cruise ship, with mountains over the water
The Alaska Ferry LeConte departs for Juneau on August 3, 2022. (Claire Stremple/KTOO)

COVID-positive travelers say they were not allowed to board their cruise ship in Skagway this week. Instead, they say Holland America helped them book a trip on a state ferry and then a flight on Alaska Airlines from Juneau — the day after they tested positive.

Diana and Larry Lehrer were scheduled to set sail from Skagway on Holland Americas Koningsdam after a coach tour of the interior and Canada. But they tested positive for COVID-19 when they reached Skagway on Tuesday.

“The first test went well, the second didn’t,” said Diana Lehrer.

The next day, the couple were on the state ferry and sat masked near the front windows. The LeConte was packed with passengers from Skagway and Haines en route to Juneau.

“They wouldn’t let us on the cruise ship because that calls for trouble, so they gave us the option to quarantine here in Skagway or go home,” Teacher said.

Teacher said she was aware when booking the package that if she or her husband tested positive during the bus ride, they would not be allowed on the cruise ship.

“We knew it could happen, but we didn’t think it would happen to us,” she said.

She said Holland America took care of them after they tested positive. The company paid for her hotel and delivered meals to her room.

“They walk you through everything,” she said. “They completely rebooked our return journey. You made it very easy.”

A Holland America spokesman said it was not the company’s policy. It only helps customers reschedule trips after five days of quarantine.

But Larry Lehrer later confirmed in an email that after an isolated night in Skagway, a Dutch staff member had booked their trip. He wrote, “All we had to do was make a call to Holland America’s scheduling number and they worked their magic in less than ten minutes.”

Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata said that ferry or air travel from Skagway for travelers with active COVID-19 cases is not part of the municipality’s port agreement with Holland America.

“I know this happens,” Cremata said.

“There were groups of people with COVID at the airport who were sent home and they’re trying to fly out, and then there are groups of people who were put on the ferry,” he said.

You don’t have to test negative to board any of the state’s ferries or Alaska Airlines flights, but both have a policy that you shouldn’t travel if you’re sick.

Laura Bronk and her husband were on the same tour as the Lehrers – then, after testing positive, they were also on the LeConte. Bronk said her tour guide recommended the ferry via a small plane outside of town.

She said the cruise line offered them five isolated nights in Skagway, but they opted to board the ferry instead. She said Holland would refund them the ferry ticket.

“Your vacation’s over, you might as well go home,” Bronk said.

As for the teachers, the couple is planning flights home from Juneau to the east coast. They say her symptoms are mild – a runny nose and a little cold.

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