My Virtual School – cruise ship crews

27 April 2020. The news has been full of the return of ‘the last cruise ship.’ It has sailed half-way around the world, denied access to ports everywhere, keeping its passengers and crew safe until it finally reached home. A heroic, epic story straight out of Homer.

Not the full story, of course. Nothing is. Because this is not ‘the last cruise ship.’ There are hundreds (possibly thousands) of them out there, stranded a long way from home, denied access to ports. All of them (probably) have managed to get their passengers repatriated, often under stringent quarantine conditions and after some deaths. But all have still got the crews on board. And not just the crews. Everyone who was not a paying passenger. All the entertainers, the lecturers, the tour guides. Still there on the ships.

A chat via messenger with my nephew. Tom is a musician, his band signed up as entertainment for a series of world cruises last year. The dream job.

Tom’s ship is in the Bahamas. No passengers, no work. Dream ticket to sit out the pandemic.

Except it is a nightmare. Crew and entertainers rate the innermost, smallest cabins with elementary hygiene facilities. When the ship went into quarantine lock-down (no cases, just quarantine imposed by all the ports), they were all confined to those cabins. Tom spent five days in a cabin with no window. Allowed out for 1 hour 3 times a day for meals. That’s 21 hours of cabin fever. In the Bahamas. I asked about exercise. Although there is a running track, a pool, a gym, all exercise has to be fitted into those 1 hour slots. Masks worn all the time outside the cabin. Contact? Occupations? Sanity? ‘It’s been a challenge.’ I bet it has!

After 5 days he was moved to an empty passenger cabin with a balcony. He made a fuss. Quarantine will be reviewed on 30 April. Just 3 more days to go. I hope the others have been moved as well. Remember that Odysseus made it home; but none of his crew saw Ithaca again.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone, particularly members of Radley College community,  to join in to create a group record of this important period in our history as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.

© Clare Sargent