Ten days have gone since the Enchantment of the Seas arrived in T&T, finally bringing home 305 nationals who spent months languishing at sea after COVID-19 shut down the global cruise ship industry last March.On Wednesday, the Royal Caribbean International (RCI) employees now on quarantine off T&T’s shores will submit to another round of nasopharyngeal swabs. If all goes well, their 14-day quarantine will end.
Six compatriots and crew members who tested positive for the virus soon after their arrival home remained at the Caura Hospital yesterday. Already stressed over their lengthy repatriation process, the nationals admitted on Sunday that they now face joblessness in an industry and global economy troubled by COVID-19, where unemployment will now be a feature. “Of course, there are concerns as no one knows when cruising we will resume,” a crew member on board who did not want to be identified told Guardian Media.“However, we do have faith that the industry will be back on its feet eventually. In the interim, life goes on and bills need to be paid. I imagine that some of us will be looking for temporary employment at home while we await our future assignments.”
The crewmember said Government’s overall response to COVID-19 was commendable. However, as it pertains to the re-entry of citizens amid the closed borders, she said she believed there was room for improvement.RCI’s initial repatriation plan for its T&T employees indicated that their drop-off in T&T was May 30. However, the Government did not approve this request, leading to weeks of lengthy negotiations before both parties reached an agreement, which ultimately involved the company agreeing to allow the workers to be quarantined aboard the ship just off T&T’s shores.
“It was quite concerning and embarrassing, as T&T was the only Caribbean island to treat its nationals in this manner,” the crew member said.
“Yes, we understand the need to protect the citizenry and to ensure that re-entry is managed to avoid additional COVID-19 cases and undue stress on local resources. However, it was evident that neither humanity nor empathy for the crew members was of importance to the key players throughout this ordeal. “Crew members have been under an incredible amount of stress since this pandemic began and the uncertainty surrounding our repatriation only served as an added stressor.” The Enchantment of the Seas is anchored 12 nautical miles offshore as a requirement of the quarantine. Crew members said while the conditions are “okay,” it is still not ideal for their physical and mental well-being. They were initially allowed supervised visits to the open deck twice daily but that was stopped a few days into their quarantine after the Ministry of Health expressed concerns of possible virus spread after their six compatriots tested positive. “A few lucky crew members have balcony cabins that would allow fresh air into their rooms but there aren’t sufficient balcony cabins on board this ship to accommodate all of the crew,” the crew member said.Most of them are in ocean view cabins with single occupancy unless they are a registered couple. Meals and housekeeping supplies are delivered to their rooms and there are temperature checks twice daily. They are not allowed to leave their cabins.But with the end in sight, she admitted the crew is looking forward to touching land and sharing precious time with their families.