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Workers Trapped on Cruise Ships: 'We Want to Go Home'

Tens of thousands of crew members are floating in waters around the world as pandemic rages on
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 9, 2020 9:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Carolina Vasquez lost track of days and nights, unable to see the sunlight while stuck for two weeks in a windowless cruise ship cabin as a fever took hold of her body. On the worst night of her encounter with COVID-19, the Chilean woman, a line cook on the Greg Mortimer ship, summoned the strength to take a cold shower fearing the worst: losing consciousness while isolated from others. Vasquez, 36, and tens of thousands of other crew members have been trapped for weeks aboard dozens of cruise ships around the world—long after governments and cruise lines negotiated their passengers' disembarkation. Some have gotten ill and died; others have survived but are no longer getting paid. Both national and local governments have stopped crews from disembarking in order to prevent new coronavirus cases in their territories.

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Most of the ships don't even have any confirmed cases of the virus. "I never thought this would turn into a tragic and terrifying horror story," Vasquez told the AP in an interview from her Antarctic cruise ship floating off Uruguay. Thirty-six crew members have fallen ill on the ship. The Coast Guard said Friday there are still 70,000 crew members in 102 ships either anchored near or at US ports or underway in US waters. The total number of crew members stranded worldwide wasn't immediately available. As coronavirus cases and deaths have risen worldwide, the CDC and health officials in other countries have expanded the list of conditions that must be met before crews may disembark. "We do not want this anymore," says Paz Medina, a Honduran man who works as the storekeeper on the Greg Mortimer. "We want to go home." Much more on the crew members' plight here.

(Read more cruise ships stories.)

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