British Columbia

B.C. performer returns home after 55 days stranded on cruise ship anchored off Philippines

Tristan Ghostkeeper, a dancer on a cruise ship, is finally back home in Prince George, B.C., after being stuck aboard for 55 days. 

Slow going to clear ships of thousands of employees after pandemic struck

Thousands of cruise ship employees from around the world ended up stuck on ships when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Dozens of those ships anchored in Manilla Bay, the Philippines, as crew members slowly disembarked. (Tristan Ghostkeeper)

Tristan Ghostkeeper is finally back home in the northern B.C. city of Prince George after being stuck on a cruise ship for 55 days. 

When COVID-19 started spreading on cruise ships in mid-March, companies suspended operations.

Ghostkeeper, a dancer, was stranded on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when the pandemic was declared. The ship sailed to Southeast Asia where it stopped and waited for instructions on how to proceed. 

Fears around the spread of the virus made it impossible for cruise lines to get permission to dock in some countries. The ship Ghostkeeper was on was eventually sent to the Philippines and began disembarking. Dozens of cruise ships were stranded in Manila Bay, and other parts of Asia, as passengers and crew members awaited their turn to go home.

Because it was difficult to get flights to his hometown, Ghostkeeper wasn't able to fly out quickly. At first he was told he likely wouldn't be able to leave until May. 

"I just really wanted to be home," he told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. 

Tristan Ghostkeeper is a professional dancer and was recently stuck on a cruise ship where he had been performing when the COVID-19 pandemic began. (Submitted by Tristan Ghostkeeper)

That said, he notes that the company he works for, which he did not want to mention out of concern for the company's reputation, kept him informed of developments in terms of both his personal travel and how the pandemic was progressing.

Though he said being isolated on the ship was difficult for him mentally, Ghostkeeper made friends with other crew members stuck on the ship, and got into a routine of working out and walking the boat's decks for fresh air. 

"Whenever I have a chance, I dance," he said. "I would listen to my top 40s and just improv and groove."

At one point, Ghostkeeper said it was nearly his turn to head home, but a tropical storm near Manila delayed his homecoming for another few days. 

"It was frustrating because it was just one more thing just to get in the way of us disembarking," he said. 

Tristan Ghostkeeper is eager to return to performing on cruise ships once the pandemic ends. (Submitted by Tristan Ghostkeeper)

When he and some of his fellow crew members were finally allowed to disembark, they took a bus to the Manila airport. He also transited through airports in Tokyo and Vancouver, which he described as "surreal." Normally bustling international airports had few amenities open and even fewer people.

After all this, he said he is happy to be back, in self isolation at his home in Prince George. 

"I can go for a walk, obviously distance myself from others. I can eat whatever I want, I can have fast Internet, I can talk with my family from six feet apart so it's definitely much nicer here."

Ghostkeeper plans to return to his life as a performer on cruise ships once the pandemic passes. 

"I love performing," he said. "You get to meet many people from different sides of the world, you get to travel the world. So of course I would definitely go back."

With files from Daybreak North