Cruise: Online forum teams up to help rescue elderly couple stranded amid coronavirus cris

Cruise: The couple were aided by an online community as they made the 30 hour journey home (Image: Cruise Critic member Kindergirl / Deb Kinder / Getty Images)

Cruise ship enthusiasts have been working tirelessly together on a global forum to help a vulnerable, elderly couple return home after their world cruise holiday came to an abrupt halt due to the coronavirus crisis. The couple were enjoying a four-month cruise onboard the Holland America line’s Amsterdam ship when the global pandemic forced the ship to dock early in Fremantle Australia, 11,200 miles away from their home in Sarasota, Florida.

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Jim and Cathy Lee were enjoying the Grand World Voyage when all cruise lines were told to end journeys early, and disembark passengers at the nearest port.

However, for the 87 and 89-year-old, both of whom had health concerns, the journey was a troubling scenario.

The pair boarded and were anticipating disembarking in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but now faced a journey home of more than 30 hours, combined with multiple flight connections.

However, it was at this point that teamwork and human decency came into play, with hundreds of cruise enthusiasts flocking to help the frail couple return home.

The Lee’s anxious daughter, who is based in Ottawa, Canada, rushed to a Cruise Critic website to try and find out how she could ensure her parents were given the support they needed, but the response blew her expectations away.

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Cruise: Jim and Cathy Lee were met at LA X by ex-cruise security officer John Prins (Image: Cruise Critic member Kindergirl / Deb Kinder )Cruise: The couple had been on a Holland America global cruise (Image: Getty Images)

In an initial post, under the pen name Kindergirl, their daughter Deb Kinder wrote: “My parents are on the GWV. She is 87 with lung issues and he is 89 and uses a walker.

“I am really struggling with how they will manage getting home.

“Even if someone in the family goes to help them return, it is still a 30+ hour flight with stops. And, doing all that and keeping them free of COVID seems an insurmountable challenge.

“I’m thinking the best idea would be for them to ride it out there, as crazy as it sounds. “I don’t know if that’s possible in regular times, never mind now.

“Has anyone had experience being stranded part way through a cruise? I’m wondering how much help is offered. I realise the possibility is remote, but has anyone been in this situation before? How did you manage?”

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Deb says she considered flying to Australia herself to aid her parents.

Speaking to GoodMorningAmerica she said: “I felt airports and planes were a source of spread and it’s not really good when people their age get this virus.”

However, in the days that followed, the post amassed 750 comments and 55,000 views as hundreds of cruisers shared advice and information, helping source flights for the Lee’s, track journey times, and even meet them in person to get them from one flight connection to another.

The couple embarked on 30 hours of flights, travelling from Pert to Sydney, then onto Los Angeles and finally to Tampa, Florida.

Cruise: The Amsterdam ship was forced to dock early in Australia (Image: Getty Images)

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All of the flights were arranged by Holland America, however it was the kindness of strangers, including one ex-policeman, that truly made the difference.

John Prins, an ex-police force and cruise-security officer, drove 30 minutes from his home to LAX airport to ensure the couple safely made their connection.

“I figured the least I could do was offer some assistance because no one else would be waiting for them when they arrived,” he said.“When I read this whole saga from the beginning, I felt bad for these people.

“I knew the flights were long, they were going to be dead tired. I knew there was going to be nobody else waiting for them out there.

“So, all that combined was my main reason for doing it.”

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Prins waited with a sign for the couple, before escorting them both in wheelchairs to the correct gate, even helping them out when their airline – Delta – began cancelling flights amid the chaos.

The ex-police officer even donned a safety mask and medical gloves to ensure the vulnerable couple were as safe as possible.

At the new terminal, Delta booked the couple on a flight to Tampa via Atlanta, where their daughter was waiting for them at the other end.

Cruisers in the community. have now commended the group’s compassion.

“A lot of people have thanked me. I personally don’t see it as a big thing,” Prins said. “My goal was just to help these folks get back home to Tampa and then a reunion with their daughter.”

Meanwhile, Kinder shared her thanks with the forum in the 33-page forum, saying: “There is much kindness in the world. We are all going to need to hang on to that over this rough time.

“There are always silver linings even in awful situations. Thanks everyone for being a silver lining.”

Adam Coulter, UK Manging Editor of Cruise Critic commented: “This story just goes to show what can be achieved when a global online community pulls together. The kindness and determination of a group of strangers, from all parts of the world, certainly contributed to this happy ending. There were plenty of members that felt part of the story as it unfolded, and huge relief was voiced when the couple returned home safe.”

Express.co.uk has contacted Holland America for comment.