Nalini Durgah

The Trinidad and Tobago nationals working aboard the Disney Cruise Lines were moved to tears yesterday after the Ministry of National announced its decision to allow cruise ship workers to return home before the borders are officially reopened.

Nalini Durgah, a crew member attached to the Disney Fantasy, has been stranded at sea along with 49 other nationals since March.

She told Guardian Media her heart sunk yesterday when she woke up to realise the cruise ship was docked 12 miles off the northern coast to refuel at an oil rig.

“We knew that we were very close so it was sort of a bittersweet feeling where we know that we are close to home but not being allowed entry as yet, so it made us very sad,” Nalini said in a telephone interview.

Just after midday yesterday, however, Nalini’s attitude changed when the ministry said it would allow nationals working on cruise ships to return home but on a “regulated and scheduled basis.” The announcement came as a shock to the crew members, as just four days ago the ministry made it clear it was not granting exemptions for nationals on cruise ships.

“We are happy to come home to our families and there are many mothers here in tears of joy,” Nalini said then, noting she was eager to hold her nine-year-old daughter in her arms.

“We are just waiting to hear confirmation from our captain when we will be able to get in. I am sure my daughter is happy and elated but I don’t want to give her any false news as yet so I want to make sure I know exactly when we will be coming in.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Clarke, one of the 345 crew members attached to the Royal Caribbean cruise line, told Guardian Media they too were relieved by the Government’s change of heart.

“This news alone brought butterflies to our stomachs because it was very frustrating and depressing so the news made us feel like they answered our prayers,” Clarke said.

Yesterday, National Security Minister Young said the sorting process is ongoing to identify all of the Trinidadian nationals stranded onboard cruise ships. He said it has not been an easy task as the ministry received a blanket application for 430 nationals as opposed to individual applications.

Young said he would engage in talks with Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram on how the return of the nationals would be handled.