Saturday, January 16, 2021

Stranded Guyanese cruise ship workers appeal for OK to return home

Around 70 Guyanese cruise ship workers, who have been stranded aboard vessels operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises in Florida, are pleading with the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) to grant approval for their return home.
The NCTF last evening said that the matter has been discussed but no final decision has been taken.
A group of approximately 70 Guyanese has been stranded on board different cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean for the past seven weeks.
None of the crew members have been in contact with any passengers since the cruise line halted its operations.
Crew members, who remain on the ships, are tasked with observing strict preventative measures, including social distancing. A single person occupies a cabin unless they are a couple and during meals they have to sit several feet apart from their co-workers.
Stabroek News understands that the workers have made multiple enquiries at different government agencies, including the NCTF, but to date they have only been told that the airports are closed and as a result they will not be able to return home.
“It is very frustrating and disappointing to us to know that our government doesn’t seem to care for their citizens. We are seeing other countries accepting their nationals although they have closed their ports but we are here begging but cannot get any answer,” one of the stranded Guyanese, Anthony Argyle, told this newspaper last night. He noted, too, that he has been forced to reach out to authorities here for updates on his enquiries days after due to them receiving no response.
Argyle yesterday explained that management of the cruise line has placed all crew members in quarantine and implemented strict social distancing policies.
He told Stabroek News that on April 2, he emailed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with the Consul of Guyana in Florida, Ramzan Ali for assistance but he was informed that the ports remained closed.
“I have emailed everyone I could have gotten a contact for just to highlight our situation here at sea but no one seems to be interested. They asked me to send the details of all the other Guyanese, including the photograph page of their passport and I did but we still haven’t gotten any help,” said Argyle, who is stranded on an Adventures of the Sea Cruise with approximately 10 other Guyanese.
Another crew member, Ayeni Wilson from the Rhapsody of the Sea Cruise, said he is the only Guyanese on that ship. He said that while the cruise line is doing everything in its power to take care of crew members, it is taking a toll on him.
“I came here to work but now there is no work and we cannot interact freely with each other and not having no other Guyanese to talk with, it is hard. Most times you are alone in your cabin. The company has distanced us and place us in the guest cabins and no one on this ship is ill. We have been in quarantine since March… but it is becoming challenging every day. I prefer to be at home with my family because I am not working,” Wilson stressed.
He pointed out that the day he returned to work was the day, the cruise line announced that they were halting operations. Since he had reported for work, he was taken on board and he has been stuck in Tampa, Florida since.
Another crew member from one of the ships expressed his disappointment with the government’s failure to respond to their plea to return home.
“All we are asking for is permission to return home. The company has been hiring charters to take crew members back home and that is all we need. We are prepared to sit in quarantine when we return home because we prefer to be with our families than to be stranded at sea,” the man said.
He added that this situation can potentially be disastrous for Guyanese in future who will be seeking employment with the company.
“We are going to be considered a liability because other countries are accepting their nationals but we cannot return home. It’s over six weeks we are in this situation but there is no assistance for us to return home. The company is looking at losing money because we are not working and they are not operating so with us being stranded it is reflecting badly on us,” the man lamented.
According to Argyle, all the Guyanese crew members are prepared to be in quarantine for the 14 days upon their return here. The other crew members who spoke with Stabroek News also echoed similar comments.
“We have kids and family and we won’t want them to get sick so we understand the seriousness of this virus and are prepared to be quarantined,” Argyle stated before explaining that at present all the Guyanese crewmembers are COVID-19 free.
He explained that should they be granted approval to return home, the company will administer COVID-19 tests and once tested negative they will be issued with a medical certificate to show to authorities here. “They have been issuing medical certificates to persons who have tested negative but once you are tested positive they send you for medical care. So we won’t be bringing home any sick persons because we know of how serious this virus is. We don’t want to infect anyone, we just want to come home but it seems like the government and the Task Force is turning a blind eye [to] its citizens,” Argyle lamented.
The crew members said that Royal Caribbean Cruises have already indicated their willingness to charter a flight to have them return home as they have been doing so for other nationals who have been granted approval to return home.
“We have all been in quarantine for the past weeks and no one has shown any symptoms and based on the medical evaluations that are being done on the ship daily no one seems to be a threat… so we are asking the government to help us return home. We don’t want to be stranded at sea,” Argyle pleaded further on behalf of all stranded Guyanese on board.

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