‘Red zone’: Trapped Ruby Princess crew feel like ‘prisoners’

 

It's like a game of cabin bingo on board the Ruby Princess with crew members strolling down eerily quiet corridors, wondering if their room will be the next to be stamped as a red zone.

It's the poster that alerts the increasingly anxious crew that someone associated with that room has flu-like symptoms, fevers and respiratory problems.

Worse still is stumbling across a stateroom that says: "Off limits". That's code for a confirmed case of COVID-19.

 

The Ruby Princes with only crew only on-board, docked at Port Kembla, Wollongong this week. Picture: Dean Lewins
The Ruby Princes with only crew only on-board, docked at Port Kembla, Wollongong this week. Picture: Dean Lewins

In light of the new evidence that "everyone has potentially been exposed", unions are demanding one hundred per cent of crew members be tested.

Yellow hazard tape wraps around common areas considered dangerous to the men and women from 50 different countries still stuck on board the ill-fated ship.

The passengers were controversially allowed to exit, yet these men and women were not.

They feel like they are being punished.

"We feel like prisoners," one crew member told The Sunday Telegraph.

"Right now am I being mistreated on-board? No. Am I trapped? Yes, beyond recognition. This is a government operation now, no longer company, so yes, we are criminals under investigation and prisoners to the NSW authorities.

"Right now it feels like we will never get off."

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had been refused testing and watched people getting sicker and sicker around him. He said the majority of the crew were reporting symptoms, from as little as coughing, runny noses, headache, loss of taste and smell, muscle aches to sore throats and fevers.

 

Exclusive look inside the Ruby Princess which is now the subject of a police criminal investigation.
Exclusive look inside the Ruby Princess which is now the subject of a police criminal investigation.

"Me and many other people have been refused and told it's not necessary from day one, even after people were being medically disembarked," he said.

"All our team members have put their health at risk to look after the crew members in isolation."

Another crew member had a message for the outside world.

"Remember there are many people's sons, daughters, wives, husbands stuck on board.

"We are unfortunately wrapped up in a political mess not of our doing. Life is hard for everyone at the moment but you are in your home comforts surrounded by some of your families. If you want to be angry at anyone, it's definitely not the crew of the Ruby Princess but the government, companies and state officials that let us down and let down their Australian citizens down too."

 

Parts of the ship’s hallway roped off with tape.
Parts of the ship’s hallway roped off with tape.

 

Tape and notes blocking accessing to the ship’s internal staircase.
Tape and notes blocking accessing to the ship’s internal staircase.

Another crew member said she felt unwell and had grave concerns about how many of her friends and workmates would actually escape the virus.

"The stress from all of this has affected my physical and mental state," she said.

"Everyone feels the same. There will be a lot of people with PTSD after this, I can guarantee that. People have been locked up since 20th March."

Getting information has been difficult, with many who struggle with the English language, having to rely on Australian media.

 

 

Princess Cruises President Jan Swartz in a recorded message played to crew still on-board the Ruby Princess.
Princess Cruises President Jan Swartz in a recorded message played to crew still on-board the Ruby Princess.

"These past three weeks has been like draining blood from a stone," another crew member said. "No one wants to answer your questions. You are fed with announcements at night that are clearly scripted. We know more from the media before the ship tells us anything, which is offensive on so many levels."

The crew member said the company had informed them of plans to use its ships to repatriate crew and take them to their nearest port and get them home.

 

The ship docked at Port Kembla on Saturday. Picture: Simon Bullard
The ship docked at Port Kembla on Saturday. Picture: Simon Bullard

"I know there are many people working hard to get us home. Thinking positive is the only way forward but with a lot of people hope is lost, this will end eventually but it's a matter of when," he said.

"Just like how some people right now feel like prisoners in their own home. The difference is we can't go outside or we will be arrested. We can't leave our state rooms. We can't roam around, stretch our legs. We have to sit and wait patiently for news. We have to keep our minds active.

"Our basic rights have been taken from us. We are not going to starve, we have internet and TV but that's not enough.

"Freedom of these four walls and answers is what we need."

A Carnival Australia spokesman said the operation at Port Kembla was being led by government agencies ABF and NSW Health with Aspen Medical's support.

He refused to comment on the video from Ms Swartz.

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Originally published as 'Red zone': Trapped Ruby Princess crew feel like 'prisoners'

Notes on doors warn crew still on board where they can’t enter.
Notes on doors warn crew still on board where they can’t enter.
In her recording, Ms Swartz asks the crew to remain patient.
In her recording, Ms Swartz asks the crew to remain patient.
The ship docked in Sydney on March 19. As of Saturday, 15 passengers who had been on-board have died of COVID-19
The ship docked in Sydney on March 19. As of Saturday, 15 passengers who had been on-board have died of COVID-19