A Hawke's Bay-born cruise performer stuck on a Covid-hit ship off the west coast of the United States says she feels like she's "fallen through the cracks".
Lauren Marshall, originally from Hastings, is on the Celebrity Eclipse, which is floating, unable to permanently dock, off the coast of San Diego, California.
The 28-year-old has been living on the ship and performing musical theatre shows on the ship since July. But now she's essentially alone, as every other member of her cast has been repatriated.Marshall said passengers learnedof the global pandemic when in South America in March.
"The situation really went from zero to 100 for us when we were cruising Argentina and Chile and news of the virus showed up in the media," she said.
Marshall was due to leave the ship in Chile on March 15, but was stopped amid fears of an outbreak on the cruise ship.
The performer, who studied musical theatre at National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (Nasda) in Christchurch, said she extended her contract and continued to entertain guests.
"We managed to disembark guests bit by bit as we sailed north up to San Diego, where we have been porting in and out of since," she said.
"It wasn't until the end of March that cases began to show up from guests who had left the ship, as well as in crew members on board."
Marshall added: "We were never officially told how many cases we had on board. We went into lockdown, with all guests and crew unable to leave their cabins."
The remaining crew members were moved to guest cabins, with meals delivered to their rooms and twice-daily temperature checks.
American and European staff were placed on chartered flights home, but Marshall was in limbo about when she would return to Hastings.
"Everyone in my cast left by April 18, but flights were unavailable for me at that time," she said.
"We recently sailed for five days to Mexico to disembark the ship, only to be turned away when we arrived.
"The latest plan seems to be change ships and sail to the UK, then fly home from there. But nothing has been officially confirmed."
The Celebrity Eclipse, operated by Celebrity Cruises, carries 2852 passengers plus crew.
Marshall, the only crewmember from New Zealand, said she is eager to return home. "I've travelled from Alaska to Antarctica, the California coast to Brazilian carnival – and I feel lucky to have gotten to see these places before the virus hit," she said.
"I'm used to being the only Kiwi on board, but it's made this a lot harder, as I feel like I have fallen through the cracks a little bit at times.
"Returning home after each contract is always the best feeling and I've never felt such an intense need to get home to Hawke's Bay as I do now."
The performer said she is "proud" of how New Zealand has dealt with Covid-19, but plans to be back travelling the globe as soon as the pandemic allows it.
"I'm proud of how the country has set such a strong example for the rest of the world and I know once I get back I'll appreciate it even more," she said.
"I was planning on traveling back to South America after my contract to visit my boyfriend in Colombia, so I'm hoping I can get home and then make it back to him as soon as I can."