Most cruise passengers have made their way back home, and the vast ships that once ferried them from port to port are moored up or back on the water, relocating for the next stage in their journeys.
But what about the crews that kept these gigantic vessels going, and looked after guests as panic over the coronavirus swept across the oceans?
For many of those working in the cruise industry, the nightmare of being aboard a ship that had carried people with coronavirus has continued — sometimes without an end in sight.
Isolated, denied the swift repatriations offered to passengers and, in some cases, made to endure tough conditions without pay, some of those sequestered at sea have been describing the bureaucratic tangle that has trapped them, often within meters of shore.
“I’m hoping we don’t get forgotten about, to be honest,” says MaShawn Morton, who works for Princess Cruises. “It seems like nobody cares what’s happening to us out here.”
As of May 5, there were over 57,000 crew members still aboard 74 cruise ships in and around US ports and the Bahamas and the Caribbean, according to the US Coast Guard. Many more hundreds were stuck on vessels elsewhere across the world’s oceans.
With no passengers to look after and their quarantines completed, the employees are left wondering why they haven’t been allowed home.
In American waters, cruise ships have been mired in regulations imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US health protection agency.
The CDC’s official line is that crew members can only be permitted to disembark for repatriation or transfer between ships provided they’ll be transported by specially chartered aircraft or personal vehicles.