The passengers are long gone but for many crew and cruise workers still aboard ships, there is still no clear path home or a period when sailings can resume.

During the outbreak of Covid-19, cruise lines were urged to suspend sailings, which was further enforced by the Center for Disease Control's no-cruise order on April 15. The long process of disembarking passengers from cruise ships was finally completed at the beginning of last week. However for many cruise staff and crew, the journey has just begun. Some will weather out the suspension on ships.

Entertainer Ryan Driscoll has been at sea for a month without any passengers. Photo / Supplied
Entertainer Ryan Driscoll has been at sea for a month without any passengers. Photo / Supplied

The CDC's 'no-sail' order has made it not only difficult for sailings to resume but, in some cases, impossible for workers to return home until late July.

The Seabourn Quest is a 500 berth luxury liner, whose crew are unable to return to home. Photo / Supplied
The Seabourn Quest is a 500 berth luxury liner, whose crew are unable to return to home. Photo / Supplied

Performers on the Seabourn Quest – a luxury liner currently anchored off Barbados, which claims to be the "world's finest ultra-luxury resort at sea" – have had no work since the end of February when passengers were repatriated.

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Entertainer Ryan Driscoll, who is currently aboard the Quest, told the Herald the novelty of being on an empty ship wore thin quickly.

"I am currently anchored about 400 metres off the coast of Bridgetown, Barbados, trying to get home to Las Vegas, Nevada," he says. However, for the past two weeks he has moved no closer to either.

"We haven't performed since February 27," he said. "It's been so crazy without guests."

With only skeleton crew required to keep the vessel running and with the 226 cabins empty, there is plenty of downtime.

One benefit of crewing an empty ship is that Ryan and others can now use the pool and other guest facilities. As a top-tier luxury cruise ship, packages for a 30 day sailing this year were being sold for $23,000.

"At first it was fun and chill but now is just boring. We no longer have to perform at all and just spend our time drinking, eating, sleeping, and working out."

The view of Bridgetown Barbados on the empty Quest. Photo / Supplied
The view of Bridgetown Barbados on the empty Quest. Photo / Supplied

As they approach more than 40 days on the ship without disembarking, the lack of work is the least of the their problems. Driscoll says he worries that even if he takes an offer to disembark onto another vessel he might not be able to get home. He is aware of other crew members who have had difficulties dealing with the company.

The last time the ship was in port was on March 11 in Buenos Aires, when some crew were able to secure transport home.

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One New Zealand crew member was able to leave while the ship was in port and find a flight to Auckland, but says she and the crew have since been "treated badly". She had to find her own flights out of Argentina and says the ship has refused to pay any sort of severance for the remainder of her contract, which wasn't due until the end of June.

Unable to return to her home in London, she is currently staying with family in Katikati.

Seabourn was contacted by the Herald for comment last week, regarding pay disputes and how it aims to staff ships or repatriate crew. The company is yet to respond.

Flight cancellations and travel restrictions have meant that most crew, including Driscoll, are still on the ship waiting for a repatriation. The CDC's 'no sail' order will remain in place for 100 days, which could mean he and other US crew could be locked out of home ports until at least July 24.

On Wednesday crew were forwarded a message from the Seattle based cruise line, telling them they will have to remain onboard until further notice.

"We appreciate your continued patience," said the joint message from Susan Coskey, senior vice president for the collected cruise brands, letting crew know that they would "not be able to disembark."

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"We have followed all public health and government directives throughout this crisis and must continue to do so. As such, we cannot disembark any crew, even US citizens, until allowed by the USCG and CDC."

Driscoll says he has been offered a place on the ship of a sister cruise line the Emerald Princess while the Seabourn Quest would reposition to Europe, repatriating crew on the other side of the Atlantic.

However, once on the Emerald there is no guarantee that crew from the Americas will be able to return.

He says he is working with the Norwegian Seafarers Union, his attorney, and the local US Embassy in Bridgetown to find a way off the ship.

"There are more than 40 different nationalities, it will be a challenge to get everyone home," he says.

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