“I’VE totally given up on going home.” Those were the words of a Jamaican woman aboard the Caribbean Princess cruise ship now headed to the Dominican Republic, instead of Ocho Rios, after the captain announced that the Jamaican Government was not in a position to accept the Jamaican crew members. She was raw with grief.
“I understand what the Government is doing, which is for the country’s safety, but if I was sick I would never, ever even try to let them send me home. I would rather to stay here and die here. I would never want to infect anyone in my country and especially my kids,” the woman, who asked not to be identified because of company policy, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday in a telephone interview.
“I’m really depressed; I cannot sleep. This has affected my eating and everything. I’m just crying in my room. I’m in my room just depressed. I don’t know what more to do with myself,” said the mother of two who has been at sea for close to two months.
The Government’s temporary closure of the country’s borders to incoming passenger traffic since March 24 has left the woman and more than a dozen colleagues aboard the ship stranded at sea. The closure formed part of the Government’s efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 locally.
The woman told the Sunday Observer that a few days ago, she and other crew members were transferred from Holland America cruise ship to Caribbean Princess after sitting in Bahamian waters for over a month.
She said they were told that they were being transferred because Princess Cruises, operators of Caribbean Princess, had agreed to take Caribbean nationals home.
The woman said that Jamaica was the ship’s first scheduled stop after it set sail on Friday.
“On our way he [captain] announced in the evening that we cannot go to Jamaica anymore and that he was sorry, because the Government doesn’t have anywhere to put us. So it was a big disappointment for everyone to hear that because everyone was really happy to hear the news that our first stop would be Jamaica,” she said.
“Now, we’re on our way to Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) and Jamaica has been completely removed from the schedule. Then the captain told us not to post anything on social media or to say anything. We’re very disappointed; we’re crying. I feel like, why should I even live because my own country, they don’t want us. Other countries are gladly taking their citizens so now I feel like I’m not even a citizen because they don’t want us,” the bewildered woman said, noting that the ship was scheduled to arrive in Ocho Rios, St Ann, today.
However, on Friday, while addressing a separate matter involving another cruise line on social media platform Twitter, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith indicated that the Government does not “have any agreement with any cruise line for return by sea at this time”.
The minister also suggested that such a move would require consultation with health, security and port authorities before giving a substantive response. She could not be reached for a comment on this matter yesterday.
According to the Jamaican ship worker, there is no known COVID-19 case on-board the ship. She also told the Sunday Observer that every crew member undergoes temperature checks twice daily.
“Most of us already packed. Most of the Jamaicans I know already pack up their stuff and they’re happy. They’re happy to see their kids and they’ve already told family back home that they are coming. I did something I regret and I wish I could go back and just erase it. I phoned my daughter’s grandmother and I told them I am coming home. I told them that the ship was coming to Jamaica and that I would quarantine for 14 days and then after, I [would] get to see them. She told me that my daughter was extremely happy. She was so happy to see her mom; singing on top of her voice in the shower with excitement and now this happen,” said the woman.
“I am so disappointed and I know she will feel really bad not seeing me. I can’t even call them to tell them I won’t be coming again because if I do, I’m going to break down,” she said.
Her story comes on the heels of the controversy surrounding the 43 Jamaicans stranded aboard Marella Discovery 2 who did not make it into the country, despite being in Jamaican waters on April 2.
That group is expected to arrive in the island on Wednesday following an arrangement between the Jamaican and British governments.
Only last week the Government announced new protocols for the controlled re-entry of Jamaicans abroad.
Citizens can now apply through a new online immigration portal on the jamcovid19. moh.gov.jmwebsite for authorisation to return home. Johnson Smith said at that time that while the protocols will be executed on a phased basis, priority will be given to Jamaicans overseas who are most vulnerable and are facing the most hardship.
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