By Lethbridge Herald on May 6, 2020.
UPDATE via Canadian Press: Princess Cruises confirmed over the weekend that 53 Canadians were scheduled to leave the Emerald Princess in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday and would head to Miami where they would board a chartered flight to Toronto.
Spending an extended period of time sailing the open seas may sound like a dream to some people, but for over 300 Canadians, it is a grim reality as they are stranded on cruise ships around the world.
Evan Herbert of Lethbridge was one of the many Canadians aboard a ship when the COVID-19 lockdowns began worldwide. Herbert says that since being on the ship for almost two months with no reparation has put a strain on the mental health of passengers in isolation on the rocky waters, but also a financial burden on those who can’t make an income at sea.
“It has been very rough on mental health, especially with the strict social distancing guidelines,” says Herbert. “We are confined to our living spaces for most of the day. Meal times are the only time we really leave our cabins. Also there has been personal and financial impacts from being stuck here for so long. My contract ended in April and I am no longer getting paid to be on the ship and there are no other options to obtain other forms of income while trapped on the ship.”
Herbert is aboard the Emerald Princess with 34 other Canadians and many Americans. The ship has never had any cases of COVID-19, and with the teasing of docking for supplies and a single attempt from Canadian Global Affairs to bring them home, frustrations are growing.
“Today is day 55 at sea. The last time we were able to exit the ship was on March 14,” says Herbert. “We have not been able to dock in any countries for repatriation since March 15. I have been in Fort Lauderdale twice. However, this was merely for fuel and provisions. Global Affairs has been in contact with me and some other crew members, however, they have not offered many options for actual repatriation. They did organize a charter for us on May 5, but upon approach to Nassau, Bahamas, the ship was turned away by local authorities.”
Understanding other countries’ concerns about docking a ship at this time, Herbert says he feels like when the orders were put in place, they were never intended to prevent crew members from repatriation, but the consequences are real and need to be re-evaluated to support crews at sea.
“I absolutely do not blame the other countries as there are countries all over the world with similar regulations in place,” says Herbert. “However, it is frustrating that more options for repatriation have not been offered to Canadians and Americans that would consider the extraneous circumstances of our situation. I believe that these orders were never put in place to prevent crew members from repatriation, but this is an unintended consequence of an emergency order that should be looked at and considered.”
Herbert says he appreciates the work governments had to do to make quick decisions during this pandemic, but enough time has passed to identify the neglected Canadians and rectify the situation.
“I believe there has been unintended consequences to the emergency orders that were put into place, and that many people have not realized the impacts that these decisions would have on the unintentionally affected parties,” says Herbert. “The hope is that the Canadian government will provide a solution and that we will return in a short time. If we cannot repatriate through a foreign country, I would hope that Transport Canada will work with Carnival Corp. to allow a ship into a Canadian port and we can return home from there.”
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