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'When are we going to get off this ship?': Canadian cruise ship workers unsure when and how they'll get home
VANCOUVER -- Canadian crew members on board the Emerald Princess cruise ship say their hopes of disembarking and heading back to Canada after weeks of being stuck in limbo at sea have been dashed, after they say their ship was barred from docking near Nassau, Bahamas Tuesday.
Vancouver's Michelle Joly is an on-board soloist currently stuck on the ship, which is operated by Princess Cruises.
She says she and about 40 other Canadians on the ship were packed and ready to leave Tuesday morning, with land in sight, when they were told by the ship's captain that plans had changed.
"We were told we were denied entry because the Bahamian government health officials said it wasn't safe for us to disembark," Joly told CTV News by video. "Even though we had a bus waiting there for us that would take us directly to the airport, directly on to the airplane."
Global Affairs and Princess Cruises have not yet confirmed the status of the ship or the charter flight, and have not confirmed the crew reports that the ship was barred from docking.
CTV News has made multiple requests for information to both agencies.
In an email, Global Affairs said all cruise ships with Canadian passengers have docked, and it's monitoring those at sea, but the ministry would not give details on Joly's ship.
"Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be provided. 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.
Joly said the crew on her ship doesn't know what will happen next.
"They're saying they're going to try for another charter flight, but the same thing could happen," Joly said of the cruise company's response.
Crew members say there has been no illness on the ship and staff are isolating in their cabins and being actively monitored for symptoms on board.
Leah Prasad's husband is also aboard the Emerald Princess, after he was transferred there from two other ships over the past few weeks.
He phoned his family this morning with the bad news.
"He's not surprised. Very disappointed, as we are," Prasad told CTV News from her home in Surrey. "It's hard. It's challenging. You don't know from one day to the next, or one hour from the next, what is going to happen, and as a family unit, it's very hard."
She says her husband has been mostly confined to his cabin, with short breaks for meals and short breaks for fresh air.
"He's basically stuck on a ship with no hope to get home to us."
She believes the cruise lines have been working hard to bring crew home, but admits getting information has been difficult.
"I've had a couple days that have been rough. But he's going to get home," she said. "I just really wish our government would take more upon themselves to work with the U.S. government, to work with these different countries where our crew are, so we could get them home in a safe manner."
Global Affairs said Monday it is monitoring 310 Canadian cruise ship crew members on 98 different ships, but admits that number may be higher as it is voluntary to register.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S. estimate ships anchored off the east, west, and Gulf coasts of the country have about 80,000 crew members on board.
North Vancouver's William Lees is one of the crew members stuck on the Norwegian Epic, which is docked in Miami and has two other Canadians on board. He has been stuck at sea for more than 50 days.
"This is against our will. We don't want to be here," Lees told CTV News on Monday.
The CDC had mandated that cruise lines charter crew members home.
But Lees says he has also heard from Global Affairs, which indicated it may attempt to organize a charter flight for Canadians across multiple cruise lines -- though that is not confirmed.
On the Emerald Princess, the Canadian crew members are now facing uncertainty about what might happen next.
"I'm feeling very frustrated," Joly said. "It's really starting to hit home. When are we going to get off this ship? How are we going to get off this ship?"