While the coronavirus continues to cut a wide swatch through the norms of American life, a group of its victims have fallen under the radar. Approximately 80,000 cruise ship workers — from crew to performers — are stuck on cruise ships with no definite date to dock.
One of them is Julia Lindsey, an aspiring Broadway performer who is currently aboard the Infinity, one of the ships in the Celebrity Cruises fleet. She has been marooned since March 13. She told Cosmopolitan that the ship’s crew and other employees like herself were informed that passengers would disembark in Miami and that they wouldn’t pick up any new ones. They were instructed to be in quarantine for 14 days.
Lindsey says in the beginning, it seemed like a wonderful break, especially as more news trickled in about the COVID-19 pandemic.
At first, it was like a mini vacation. The pools, hot tubs, spas, and fitness centers were all open for our own recreational use. The specialty restaurants were open at a discounted price. The bars served liquor early in the day until late at night. On-board musicians played every evening; the production cast put on a show. I was still singing.
Then the first sign something was going on: Security guards were seen near certain crew members’ doors. On March 23, we understood why: A person who had disembarked from the ship had tested positive for COVID-19.
That’s when things got scary. We were suddenly isolated to “crew only” areas. All social events were canceled. Meals were served in tiny dining halls where it got so crowded it was impossible to socially distance. We had hand-washing monitors. We were no longer allowed to serve food to ourselves. Members of the food and beverage department wore masks and gloves and were instructed not to allow us to touch anything. They served us food and handed us cutlery and beverages. Salt and pepper shakers were even removed from every table.
By March 28, Lindsey and her boyfriend were isolated to their windowless room while the ship remained off the coast of Tampa, Fl. It took five days before Lindsey’s mother arranged with Celebrity human resources to have her daughter moved. But bad news kept coming. Celebrity provided buses to get some performers home to certain states, but Lindsey lives in Illinois, which wasn’t included.
By April 21, because of the conflicting status updates from the cruise line, the CDC, and the departments of health in various cities and states, while cruise personnel who lived overseas were able to leave, Lindsey was not.
Cruise ships, despite departing from multiple U.S. ports, are chartered overseas, likely to avoid U.S. taxes. Because of that, they are not viewed as U.S. businesses and therefore got no federal bailouts and had to formulate their own plans to get employees and performers home.
Lindsey is one of the thousands of performers and crew from the U.S. and other countries stuck on cruise ships due to varying city/state and country regulations, red tape, and the cruise industry’s delayed reaction to the COVID-19 crisis. When many lockdown orders began in mid-March, almost every cruise line still had ships in the water.
After the situation with the Holland America ships the Zaandam where several passengers and crew tested positive for COVID-19 and on the Rotterdam sent to rescue it, where several nations refused the ship’s port, the cruise industry was finally forced to shut down.
Even though Carnival Cruise Lines, which is based in Florida and has an African-American CEO Arnold Donald, is being investigated by Congress for its initial response to the pandemic, the company announced it would start sailing again on August 1, just a week after the CDC’s no-sail order expires, according to CNBC.
Eight ships, leaving from U.S. ports of Galveston, Texas, Miami, and Port Canaveral, Fl., are scheduled to return to service.
As of last month, the U.S. Coast Guard was aware of 46 cruise ships anchored in the U.S. with 33,800 crew members still on board, 36 cruise ships at U.S. ports with 24,300 crew members, and 42 cruise ships still on the seas in U.S. waters with 36,500 crew members on board, according to ABC News.
Lindsey’s last post on May 3 said that plans were in motion to bring those stranded on ships back to their home countries but then the challenge would become actually getting them to their homes.
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