Staff quarantined onboard Royal Caribbean ship rescued from Barbados
Crew members waiting to board their rescue flight from Bridgetown, Barbados to Heathrow, London.
Barbados continues to be a haven for hundreds of staff onboard vessels stranded at sea since cruises were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Sunday (May 24), over 300 staff of Royal Caribbean cruises who were quarantined at sea since March 16, 2020, stood in line at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) in Barbados around 4pm to go through immigration and the departure lounge to board their rescue flight arranged with British Airways.
The queue of crew members snaked from the check-in desks and from the entry to Immigration all across the empty floors of the airport in the Departure section. Persons sat on the benches available, stood in line or sat on the floor beside their suitcases as they waited for close to five hours. Others who smoke were in the parking lot in the smoking-permitted areas.
Loop chatted with two 21-year-old crew members who are both from Finland as they waited to board.
These two crew members boarded their ship in January 2020 and were onboard for five months so far. The last guests were transported off their ship on March 15. The staff were onboard alone from March 16. They were docked off Miami originally. They changed ships in The Bahamas, then they sailed from The Bahamas to Barbados. That was five days ago.
The around 370 crew members finally got off a ship and onto land on Sunday, May 24. They were mainly smiles and laughter while waiting to depart the island safely. One guy was keeping security busy as he constantly tried to use his skateboard on the airport's premises while waiting, despite the constant verbal warnings.
This rescue flight came two months after much uncertainty and a lot of turning around according to the two interviewees.
Working on a ship for the first time, as this was her first job, one of the interviewees said:
"In the beginning, it was not a lot of information. I don't think anybody knew cause the rules kept changing. Nobody knew what was happening or what to do."
Her crew mate, who was working with Royal Caribbean for the first time, said it was not the first ship she worked on, however, but she too agreed and added: "The travel plans kept changing. Everything was just kind of unsure and the American rules and the CDC rules were changing every day or that's how it felt."
Asked how life was after the guests left the cruise on March 15, she said: "It was very different!"
Painting a picture of life onboard a pleasure cruise vessel devoid of guests during this coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, they said it was no fun and nothing close to normal.
Thankfully they had Wi-Fi, otherwise "we have to wear masks all the time, social distancing, everything closed. We could do nothing."
BA 9113 Boeing 777 left Barbados just about 9pm.