• Reuters, OAKLAND, California

Weary passengers aboard a cruise ship idled at sea for days by an onboard COVID-19 outbreak erupted into cheers on Monday as the vessel sailed into San Francisco Bay on its way to the Port of Oakland and the next, unexpected phase of their voyage: two weeks of quarantine.

The 2,400 passengers, who have been largely confined to their staterooms since Thursday last week, were to begin disembarking on Monday for transport to quarantine stations or hospitals, depending on whether they are well or need immediate medical attention.

Except for those with acute illness, the 1,100 crew members are to remain aboard the Grand Princess, which is to depart the Port of Oakland as soon as possible to be quarantined for two weeks in an as-yet undisclosed location outside San Francisco Bay, officials said.

Footage shot by one of the arriving cruise guests showed jubilant passengers cheering from their stateroom balconies and open windows, some shouting: “We’re home” as the vessel passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge into the bay.

Twenty-one people aboard the ship, mostly crew, tested positive on Friday for COVID-19 in an initial round of diagnostic screenings performed on about 45 people with symptoms.

The remaining passengers are to be tested and monitored for signs and symptoms of the illness once they reach their designated quarantine sites.

Denise Stoneham, 52, a Bay area resident on the cruise with her husband, seemed to take the ordeal in stride as she spoke to reporters by FaceTime as the ship glided into the port.

“It hasn’t been too much of a hardship for us. It’s just been more of an inconvenience, I guess,” she said. “We’re just anxious to get home.”

Ship owner-operator Princess Cruises announced that passengers would receive a full refund for the price of the ill-fated cruise, including air travel, hotel, ground transportation and pre-paid shore excursions.

The company also offered patrons credit for a cruise equal to the fare paid for the voyage.

The Grand Princess was first denied entry to San Francisco Bay on Wednesday last week, as it sailed back from Hawaii after state and local health authorities learned that some passengers and crew had developed flu-like symptoms, and that guests from an earlier cruise to Mexico aboard the same ship later tested positive for the coronavirus.

Health authorities have said that at least two, including a California man who died, probably contracted the virus aboard the vessel.

Since then, a total of 12 coronavirus cases have been linked to the previous Mexico trip.

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