Launched their cruises, COVID-positive tourists return home on Alaskan flights and ferries

The Alaska ferry LeConte traveling to Juneau on August 3, 2022. (Claire Stremple/KTOO)

COVID-positive travelers say they weren’t 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 an Alaska Airlines flight from Juneau — the day after they tested positive.

Diana and Larry Lehrer were supposed to depart from Skagway on Holland America’s Koningsdam after a bus tour through the interior and Canada. But they tested positive for COVID-19 when they reached Skagway on Tuesday.

“The first test went well and the second not,” said Diana Lehrer.

The next day, the couple were on the state ferry, sitting masked near the front windows. The LeConte was filled with passengers from Skagway and Haines bound for Juneau.

“They didn’t let us get on the cruise ship because it was asking for trouble, so they gave us the option of quarantining here in Skagway or going home,” Lehrer said.

Lehrer said she knew when she booked the package that if she or her husband tested positive during the bus trip, 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 their hotel and delivered the meals to their room.

“They walk you through everything,” she says. “They totally rebooked our return trip. They made it very easy.

A Holland America spokesperson said that was not company policy. This will only help customers to reschedule their trip after a five-day quarantine.

But Larry Lehrer later confirmed in an email that after a night of self-isolation in Skagway, a Holland employee had booked his trip. He wrote, “We only had one phone call to Holland America’s scheduling phone number and they did their magic in less than ten minutes.

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

“I know it happens,” Cremata said.

“There have been groups of people with COVID at the airport who have been sent home, and they are trying to fly away, and then there are groups of people who have been put on the ferry,” a- he declared.

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

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

She said the cruise line offered them five nights of self-isolation in Skagway, but they decided to take the ferry instead. She said Holland was going to reimburse them for the ferry ticket.

“Your vacation is over, might as well go home,” Bronk said.

As for the Lehrers, the couple plans to take flights from Juneau to the East Coast. They say their symptoms are mild – a runny nose and a bit of a cold.

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