How it feels to be stuck at sea

When Jamaican seafarer Jonathan (pseudonym used for protection) signed up in the cruise ship industry it was with great anticipation for travel and meeting people of different cultures.

At the time, cruising was at its peak, mega-liners filled with passengers were in and out of Jamaican ports with regularity, as in the rest of the Caribbean, and activity was unrestricted and booming.

Then came the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in late 2019 and the cruise industry was knocked out of the water, leaving thousands of crew, including Jonathan afloat, filled with dread and uncertainty.

With the island’s ports closed, the Jamaican hospitality worker is now stuck at sea along with crew members, and he is unsure when he will be able to leave the confines of the cruise ship.

The Jamaica Government, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, officially closed the island’s ports to incoming passengers on March 21 for 14 days in the first instance. Other countries also closed their ports as the deadly virus spread across the globe from China to the United States.

“Over 600 crew are on-board, some were able to leave before their country’s borders were closed,” Jonathan told the Jamaica Observer by phone last week.

He said while there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 on his cruise ship, he along with other crew members have been under quarantine and have had to remain in their quarters since March 30.

The sudden change in activity, from hectic to a dead stop, has come as a shock to crew members, he said, adding that there are no passengers currently on the ship.

“Before COVID-19 everything was fast; from the moment you woke up to the time you went to bed you were on the go. It is a fast-paced environment being on ships, ever since, and lunch breaks are at a fast pace,” he explained.

“The mere act of walking from one end of the ship to the other is usually done so fast, you wonder if we are training for the Olympics. There is always something to do, whether it’s guests to interact with and serve, restocking of equipment or products, cleaning we are always cleaning. We also had so many activities to do whether it’s with guests or just crew.”

But even through the dread and uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jonathan said that he is adjusting and coping with the changes.

“Since COVID we have no guests on-board, so it gets a bit boring for us as we are used to being on the go all the time,” the Jamaican said.

“It felt good to get a little break for the first few days but as we are going into week three with no guests you begin to miss the interaction and fast pace of work that we had before. The days definitely seem longer. I think that is one of the things most crew miss the most the interaction especially now during the quarantine period.

“For me, I have been doing well. We have free Internet so that I can keep in contact with family and friends,” he told the Sunday Observer.

“There are new channels and movies that have been added and I have books to read. It is a rough time but I am keeping a positive outlook on things, and with the rapid rise of cases in the USA it’s actually safer to be on the ship,” he emphasised.

At April 9, 2020 Jamaican authorities reported 65 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four deaths.

Meanwhile, in the US, confirmed COVID-19 cases have surpassed 422,000 with a reported 14,257 deaths.

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