LOS ANGELES — It’s been a long journey for these Filipino cruise ship workers of the Norwegian Jewel.
Originally destined for Fiji, there were at sea for 26 days. But the coronavirus pandemic had led them to multiple detours.
On Wednesday, they were finally repatriated to the Philippines through a commercial flight at a near-empty Los Angeles International Airport.
“All of us we’re very happy, however, we miss our jobs back on the ship, but we are totally safe and happy to announce that NCL really took care of us,” said Ellen Duteria.
Since the pandemic, cruise lines had canceled voyages, forcing some to reroute, while others quarantined.
Duteria said the crew had been trying to keep their spirits high, and their ships clean, as they tried to figure out their way home.
“We don’t have any cases on board, the last guest boarded was March 26th. That’s the last guest we had on the ship and since then we started to sanitize since February 1st, from that time, until now, sanitizing.”
Besides the Norweigian Jewel, there were four more cruise ships that carried some 1,000 Filipino workers that recently docked in Los Angeles. The Philippine Consulate and the Philippine overseas labor office ensured their safe return home.
But their work is far from over, as more cruise ships, carrying Filipino workers, continue to make their way to the U.S.
The Philippine government and the cruise lines are arranging ways to bring them home, possibly through LAX again.
“We coordinate with the respective cruise lines, they inform us of the date of departure of the filipino seafarers and we make sure we meet them here at lax and guide them and give them a briefing prior to their flight back home. And I’m happy to note the group that’s flying back home today, they’ve been in quarantine in their respective ships, for 26 days… at wala naman po covid 19 positive sa kanila,” said Adelio Cruz, the Philippine Consul.
For those returning home, they’ll have to go through enhanced security measures, but they’re just eager to see and be with their families during these uncertain times.
For these crew members they’re relieved to safely return home to their families. But the long term future is uncertain, as the cruise ship industry is expected to have trouble staying afloat as the global pandemic continues.