When Theodore and Liza Herrera were planning their wedding, they were looking for azure waters and a sunny, tropical backdrop. They didn’t plan for the panic of a global pandemic to set their nuptials off course.
The San Antonio couple loved Corpus Christi and Galveston, but they were looking for prettier shores for their wedding. So they booked a Carnival cruise with a planned stop in Jamaica on Tuesday, where a local baker and photographer would meet them and their two dozen family members and friends.
But the massive Miami-based cruise line announced earlier in the week it would switch up the ports of call for two of its lines, sending the Herreras’ plans off the plank.
“It was very stressful,” said Liza Herrera, 40, a private care nurse.
A day after the cruise liner had set sail from the Port of Galveston, its 3,300 passengers received letters in their cabins announcing that Carnival was rerouting them away from planned stops in the Cayman Islands and Jamaica.
Jamaican officials told cruise companies to provide detailed health and travel records of passengers. At the end of February, Italian passengers aboard a Carnival ship were prevented from coming ashore as the country enacted strict travel restrictions, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.
Carnival rerouted its ships after Jamaican officials did not relent on the records, the news outlet reported.
“We value the cruise industry and the benefits that it brings in terms of the tourists that come,” Jamaica Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton told the Jamaica Gleaner. “But at this point in time, the reality is that the health and safety of the Jamaican people and population in light of the coronavirus is an absolute priority.”
Theodore Herrera, who proposed to his now-wife on a different cruise ship a year prior, found himself begging hotel director Nikhil Khanna for a way to make the wedding happen.
“As soon as I found out I was on the phone with whatever reception I could get,” said Theodore Herrera, a 39-year-old police officer with Balcones Heights.
“All of us on board were heartbroken when we learned that Liza and Theodore weren’t able to go ashore for their wedding,” Khanna said in a statement. “We got together as a team and promised to deliver the dream wedding that they deserve.”
Instead of taking their flowers and the bride’s dress into Jamaica, the Carnival cruise crew threw them a wedding reception complete with three-tiered wedding cake and a heart-shaped ice sculpture.
Sanitizing the ship was also key for Carnival staff members. Meals were served, rather than set out buffet-style, and passengers were encouraged to use hand sanitizer before entering common spaces and sitting down to eat.
The two had heard bits and pieces about coronavirus concerns in Texas — especially Liza Herrera, who is a private care nurse — but did not hear about the 11 cases in the Houston area until they were arriving back to Galveston.
Eventually, the Herrera intend to go back on a cruise to Jamaica when the government begins accepting ships again.
“Maybe it was a blessing,” Liza Herrera said.