‘Captive’ cruise staff beg to be arrested
Cruise ship staff being "held captive" on a quarantined vessel off the US coast are starting to beg to be arrested after almost 50 days locked down at sea.
About 750 crew members from 100 countries have been trapped on the MS Oosterdam in international waters since passengers were taken off the ship on March 14.
Staff remained on-board at the time because operations were expected to resume following a 30 day halt imposed on the cruise industry to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, the global crisis worsened, and the Centre of Disease Control (CDC) issued a No Sail Order which prohibits anyone on the ship from disembarking in the US - including American citizens.
The ocean liner is now docked at the Port of San Pedro but no one is allowed to get off until permission is granted by the CDC - and it's not yet known when that will come.
The workers on MS Oosterdam have been confined to their tiny cabins for 45 days straight with no end in sight. Many of them are growing increasingly anxious and fearful.
The ship's youth project manager Melinda Mann, 25, told news.com.au that she had already completed quarantine in her cabin and that no one on-board appeared to be sick. She has also volunteered to be tested for COVID-19 and to comply with all other requirements on US soil.
"I'm an American citizen willing to go into a government-approved quarantine facility and do whatever is required but they won't let me on land," she said.
"I'm being held captive.
"I spend 21 hours a day in my cabin. My cabin is around 200 square feet. I'm allowed out for meals and a quick walking break around the ship. I'm not being paid. I haven't hugged or touched anybody in 45 days.
"I have not chosen this and I want to go."
According to Ms Mann, she has "tried everything", in a bid to get off the ship.
"I've been in contact with my senators, I've called the CDC, I've called US Coast Guard," she said.
"We've contacted everyone.
"The only way to get out of this, so we have been told, is by an act of Congress, an act of the President, or an act of the courts so we might be here for the long haul if the CDC doesn't change its mind."
Ms Mann said she was told she would be arrested for "violating a quarantine" if she walked off of the ship to go home. But she has been unable to leave the vessel because the ship's security is manning it and won't allow anyone off because of the CDC's guidelines. To circumnavigate that and avoid being "tackled", Ms Mann asked on a phone call with officials to be arrested by US authorities but, according to her, the request was denied.
"I know that sounds crazy to ask to be arrested," she told news.com.au.
"I want to be turned over. I was at that point where I was willing to be charged for breaking quarantine, in the sense of stepping on land and going straight into another quarantine.
"I think it's inhumane … even violent offenders are being released from prisons right now."
Holland America Line, which owns the ship, released a statement on Tuesday local time:
"No crew were permitted to disembark from Oosterdam today," it read.
"We continue to work with the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to obtain approval to disembark crew in the US for immediate return home under their current No Sail Order which does not allow us to do so at this time, including for US citizens."
"We are working to repatriate thousands of crew who come from over 100 countries around the world. Our entire company remains focused on returning them safely home to their loved ones as soon as possible."
A CDC spokesperson said they will release a statement regarding the ship later today.
Originally published as 'Captive' cruise staff beg to be arrested