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In this photo provided by a Trinidadian national on board the Disney Fantasy, a fuel vessel pulls up alongside the cruise ship to refuel it off T&T waters yesterday.

KEVON [email protected]

There is now an air of hopefulness and scepticism among citizens who are stranded aboard cruise ships following the Government’s decision to allow them to come home.But the burning question these employees now have is when will they be able to reunite with their families and loved ones after being at sea for most of the year.

Following pleas for exemptions, National Security Minister Stuart Young announced yesterday that he was working with Minister of Health Terrance Deyalsingh, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram and others to determine how the re-entry of nationals on the cruise ships could be scheduled.

However, Young gave no date on when this will be allowed:“Exemptions for the entry of nationals into Trinidad & Tobago have been granted consistent with ensuring that we can manage the numbers being quarantined by the State to ensure the continued protection of the population in Trinidad & Tobago. We are going to permit the entry of our nationals on these various cruise ships by establishing a schedule which allows us to manage their return, consistent with our resources to protect them and the population,” Young said.

It was a turnaround from his position on Tuesday when he told Guardian Media that T&T’s borders remained closed to both nationals and non-nationals.

He said the measure was based on the public health experts’ advice and was an important part of Government’s effort to restrict the spread of COVID-19.

A national aboard Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd’s (RCCL) Vision of the Seas, who did not want to be identified, said she was pleased Government was now open to discussions with the cruise lines to bring nationals home.

“This is a step in the right direction and has fostered renewed hope in the 300-plus T&T nationals on board the Vision of the Seas. There is a palpable hum of excitement onboard today. We eagerly await a timeline and plan for execution and look forward to reconnecting with our loved ones.”

The Vision of the Seas left Miami on May 15 intending to drop off employees at various Caribbean islands. May 30 was the scheduled arrival date in Port-of-Spain but following the Government’s refusal, the company removed the stop from its itinerary.On Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ (NCL) MS Marina, employees felt they shouldn’t have had to beg to return home.“This development is bittersweet for me as a crew member aboard the ship. I am very excited to be accepted back home but the process was embarrassing,” one Trini national said.

“We had to beg and plead like dogs to our Government to bring us back and to me this is appalling. We are the laughing stock of the Caribbean nations. Imagine others had to plead on our behalf to get this Government to takes its people. I am coming home but I am far from proud to be a Trini.”

The MS Marina is scheduled to leave Miami today and reach Jamaica on Monday. From there it stops in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia and Grenada before arriving in T&T on June 11.

There are also employees aboard the Celebrity Eclipse operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd’s subsidiary, Celebrity Cruises.In a letter to the Government, an employee said the company has six ships anchored off the coast of the Philippines.

These ships serve as quarantine facilities at the company’s expense and are for crew members who are to be repatriated to the Philippines on a bi-weekly basis. She said the Government can make that request to the company as a condition for repatriation. She believes this will prevent a burden on the country’s resources or facilities.