Joy and elation on being back in their homeland after being stuck at sea for months.
The second set of cruise ship employees, a group of 53, was allowed to return to T&T yesterday morning.
The crew, who was onboard the Disney Fantasy cruise ship, was taken off the ship yesterday morning on two lifeboats and brought ashore. From the Cruise Ship Complex, they were taken directly to the University of the West Indies (UWI) Debe Campus, where they will remain in quarantine for 14 days.
Guardian Media yesterday spoke to Shakira Long who worked as a quick service attendant in the food and beverage service on the ship. Long had already arrived at the UWI facility and spoke briefly about the experience of being stuck out at sea and on hearing the T&T borders were closed.
“The journey that we did with the repatriation from Orlando coming down to this side here was hard. The only two countries that were giving trouble was Jamaica and Trinidad,” she said.
She said acting on advice from the Centre for Disease Control in the US, the ship sent guests back to their homelands on March 16.
What followed were weeks of uncertainty as this country’s borders remained closed to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus and flatten the curve.
Numerous emails were sent to National Security Minister Stuart Young, begging for the crew to be allowed to disembark. Over the last week, Young appeared to have a change of heart and agreed that Trinidadian crew members stuck on cruise ships would be allowed to return home.
On Saturday, six crew members of the Caribbean Princess cruise ship were allowed to reenter the country and were immediately taken to the UWI campus for quarantine. There are still over 300 Trinidadians on another cruise ship, the Royal Caribbean’s Visions of the Seas. On Sunday, Young said he was in contact with the owners of that ship, to ask them to anchor in T&T waters and quarantine those nationals on board the ship for 14 days. If the owners agree, those nationals will be tested and monitored on board the ship and when their quarantine is over, they will be allowed to go directly home to their families.
Yesterday, Long said the group on Disney Fantasy was elated when they learned they would be allowed back home.
Stepping on Trinidadian soil brought another wave of emotions, she said.
“It was kind of bittersweet because we were leaving back our friends who had to go to other countries but all in all, everybody was excited to be home and to come home and be with our families. When we disembarking via the lifeboat, they had us in two groups and only when we came on, when we actually stepped foot on land, it was a sigh of relief,” she said.
She said the facility at the UWI was “very nice” and each crew member was given their own room.
“It’s nothing that we are not used to because we are accustomed to being in our cabins, so everyone is just excited to be home.”
As for her, when asked what she is most eager to do after quarantine, Long said, “I’m looking forward to finally getting some doubles!”