NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A Nashville couple is speaking out about what they say was a traumatic experience onboard a cruise ship during the pandemic. They are now part of a Class Action lawsuit against Holland America/Carnival.
A voyage on the seas turned into a nightmare.
“I wouldn’t put my worst enemy through what I had to go through,” Nashville resident Carl Zehner said.
Carl Zehner and his husband Leonard Lindsay opened up to News 4 about their experience onboard the MS Zaandam.
“I didn’t know whether to plan a homecoming or a funeral,” Lindsay said.
“Before they boarded this ship, Carl and Leo were promised safety first, and that didn’t happen here,” said attorney Kenny Byrd.
Zehner and Lindsay were two of more than 1,000 passengers sailing on the cruise in March.
“We started out on our trip and everything was fine. We started out in Buenos Aires and there was supposed to be no coronavirus in South America,” Zehner said. “And so, we felt safe from everything we were hearing from Holland America.”
But just a few days into the voyage, the couple said things took a turn. Passenger and crew members started getting sick.
“We were in Chile when the cruise line actually told us that the cruise was over, and Holland America was just suspending operations,” Lindsay said.
It wasn’t long before Zehner joined the list of ill passengers.
“By the time we got to the Panama Canal, Carl had been sick for about 10 days, and he had a fever. He was getting weaker and weaker. He was having chills,” Lindsay said.
It would take days before the couple arrived back to the states. Zehner was flown to a hospital where he finally received treatment in Orlando, FL. The couple said he tested positive for COVID-19 and was on a ventilator for three weeks.
Now the couple is part of a class action lawsuit against Holland America and Carnival Cruise Corporation.
“The problem here is the decision making by the company to do business as usual during a pandemic like this, with passengers on the line,” Byrd said.
News4 Investigates obtained a copy of the complaint. The suit claims that on March 3, four days before Lindsay and Zehner boarded the ship, they were informed that all guest boarding would be “subject to pre-boarding health reporting and enhanced screening at check-in.”
However, a few days later, on March 7, the suit said, “defendants did not require plaintiffs to take their temperature,” and “did not provide any mechanism that would allow passengers to do so.”
The suit also said the ship “Made no COVID-19 specific efforts to prevent or contain contagion.”
The suit said one week after they were denied entry to South American ports, guests were then asked to isolate themselves.
“They were well aware that they needed to put heightened protections, better practices, something to prevent this from happening, not only to Leo and Carl, but all passengers throughout the ship,” Byrd said.
News4 reached out to Holland American about the lawsuit. The company issued the following statement:
“Our response throughout this process has put the safety and well-being of our guests and crew as the top priority and has been informed by guidance by leading government agencies, including U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, as well as the evolving understanding from the medical community on best protocols. Holland America Line does not comment on pending litigation.”
After spending 70 days in the hospital and losing more than 30 pounds, Zehner is still recovering at home in Nashville. The couple is hoping the lawsuit leads to change so other passengers looking for paradise on the ocean never have to experience their ordeal.