Stuck at sea: Tens of thousands of cruise ship workers still adrift amid coronavirus pandemic

Ezra Freeman, a guest entertainer for Princess Cruises, is still aboard a ship adrift in the Bahamas and has been there for nearly two months.
Tens of thousands of people who were working aboard cruise ships when the coronavirus swept the world are still stuck at sea.

On Friday, 48 crew members aboard Holland America's Koningsdam ship were finally allowed to disembark at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro.

Ezra Freeman, a guest entertainer for Princess Cruises, is still aboard a ship adrift in the Bahamas and has been there for nearly two months.

"I've been at sea - not touching land -- since March 10th," Freeman tells Eyewitness News. "It's 231 square feet, and this is where we're spending all of our time," Freeman says of her guest room aboard the Emerald Princess.

Freeman praises Princess Cruises for keeping the crew members informed during their long at-sea quarantine and for constantly monitoring their health.

"I wake up, I get my temperature checked, I eat, I get my temperature checked, I eat, I go to sleep, and I stay in this room," says Freeman.

Freeman is one of approximately 75,000 crew members still on board 111 cruise ships, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

"I try really hard to keep myself busy, but the isolation is maddening," Freeman says.

Freeman says both ships she's been on, the Sky Princess and now the Emerald Princess, have been entirely free of the coronavirus. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would not allow American crew members back on U.S. soil unless cruise lines took full legal responsibility for getting each crew member home for an additional fourteen days of quarantine, all without the use of public transportation or staying in hotels.

"I feel like I'm being shuttled around like lost baggage," says Freeman. "It feels like I don't understand the purpose of being a citizen if my country's going to reject me."

Freeman feels fortunate she has not come down with COVID-19, but she does have a touch of cabin fever.

"I talk to family a lot. I do random things, I'm coloring this right now," she says, holding up a coloring book.

Freeman says once the coronavirus crisis passes, she'll be ready to go back to work on board a Princess Cruises ship.

"I love, love being on the ship - I love ship life in general," says Freeman.

Good news for Freeman, Princess Cruises has now agreed to the CDC guidelines and Freeman's ship is expected to dock in Florida sometime on Saturday. From there, she and the other Americans will be flown home on charter flights arranged by Princess Cruises.
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