World

Canadian crew stranded on 2 cruise ships finally allowed home

Canadians working aboard two cruise ships, who have been prevented from coming ashore due to COVID-19 concerns, have finally been allowed to return home.

Dozens of Canadians had been stuck on Koningsdam and Emerald Princess

The Emerald Princess is pictured in Halifax harbour in 2012. Dozens of Canadian crew members were stranded aboard the cruise ship amid the worldwide pandemic lockdown. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Canadians working aboard two cruise ships, who have been prevented from coming ashore due to COVID-19 concerns, have finally been allowed to return home.

Global Affairs Canada said Saturday that 18 Canadians and one permanent resident on Holland America's Koningsdam disembarked and had left Los Angeles on Friday. 

Several dozen others left Princess Cruises's Emerald Princess in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday and headed to Miami where they boarded a chartered flight to Toronto, according to statements from the government and the cruise line. Global Affairs said the group included 49 Canadian citizens and five permanent residents. 

Earlier this week in Nassau, Bahamas, crew members from Canada aboard the Emerald Princess were told to prepare to be flown home in a charter plane, but the Bahamian government did not allow the ship to dock

'Like a mini-vacation,' but only at first

"We're in Toronto and feeling great even though it's snowing," Michelle Joly, a singer with Princess Cruises, said in a phone interview Saturday after her charter flight arrived from Florida.

Joly said her first two weeks with only crew on board were sweet. She was performing aboard the Sky Princess when all the passengers were offloaded on March 14, and she said she continued to perform every second night for her fellow crew members.

"We felt like we were having our own mini vacation. We were allowed to utilize a lot of the guest areas that we wouldn't
normally use, like the pools, and the pizza and burger place was open," said Joly.

That changed on April 1 when they had to go into self-quarantine and were confined to their cabins, only being allowed out for brief periods, such as for meals. Then she was transferred to the Emerald Princess on April 26, she said.

In this April 28 photo provided by Melinda Mann, she shows the empty deck on board the Koningsdam, a Holland America cruise ship. Mann, a youth program manager for the cruise line, was stuck on board for weeks. (Melinda Mann via AP)

Global Affairs said the Canadian government continues to work with airlines, cruise lines and foreign governments to bring Canadians home.

"We encourage Canadian crew members on cruise ships who are experiencing difficulties in returning to Canada to contact the closest Canadian consulate or embassy, or Global Affairs Canada headquarters, to request consular assistance," a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Approximately 99 U.S. crew members were also allowed to leave both ships, Princess Cruises said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last month that about 80,000 crew members remained on board ships off the U.S. coast after most passengers had disembarked. There are hundreds of Canadians on dozens of ships yet to return home.

With files from CBC News

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