Portsmouth entertainer stranded at sea for weeks amid coronavirus outbreak issues desperate plea to get her home
A CRUISE SHIP entertainer left stranded at sea near the American coast for weeks has issued a desperate plea: ‘Get me home.’
Portsmouth-based Harriet Taylor is among 800 crew stuck on board the Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of The Seas who have been left in limbo with virtually no human contact after being forced to self-isolate.
The cruise ship, headed for Valencia, Spain, began its voyage in November from Tampa, Florida, before the coronavirus outbreak turned the momentous trip for those working on board into a ‘terrifying, lonely and boring’ nightmare at sea.
A dramatic announcement by the ship’s captain told all those on board they were going into quarantine on March 14 after seven workers were taken sick with coronavirus symptoms.
The wave of uncertainty became clear after guests had already been forced to evacuate at various locations.
The strict quarantine measures imposed by the American-owned ship mean that staff have to remain in their solitary rooms - adding to the relentless mind numbing boredom as they wait for news.
Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has now taken up the fight after demanding repatriation from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Speaking of her ordeal, Harriet, 24, of Southsea, said: ‘There was an announcement by the captain to tell us there were some sick crew members, therefore we were going into a 14-day isolation.
‘It means no-one is permitted to leave their cabin unless required to work such as chefs, housekeeping teams and bridge officers.
‘Your meals are delivered to your door. If you require more water, toilet roll, towels then you have to call and someone will deliver it to you.
‘The only human interaction we have is somebody in full personal protective equipment (PPE) knocking on the door to take our temperatures with a no-contact scan thermometer, and the friendly restaurant staff delivering food also in full PPE.
‘As you can imagine thousands of miles away from home, in the middle of the ocean, with no human interaction for numerous days in this scary pandemic we are living in is terrifying, lonely and most of all boring.
‘This has now been extended further. We are now allowed out for two 45-minute breaks per day, keeping social distance and wearing masks, which breaks the long days up. I count down the hours until another day is over.’
All crew are responsible for sanitising certain areas on the ship on a weekly basis but to fill the void of emptiness people are now doing this at least twice daily, Harriet said.
The entertainer’s misery was compounded by the decision of the US government to abandon all chartered flights out of the country - leaving her ‘clueless’ about when she will be able to go home.
‘Now that the US is the most affected country in the world (from coronavirus), their laws and rules are tighter, and they have now decided to stop any crew member from boarding a commercial flight,’ Harriet said.
‘The only way we are able to get home is from a chartered flight, however things change daily, airlines are arranging charters and cancelling them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention change the laws and honestly we are clueless what’s happening in the future and when we are returning home.’
Despite all the 800 crew ‘no longer showing any symptoms’ they are still none the wiser about when they will be able to go home.
Harriet, issuing her desperate plea, said: ‘I, along with the 11 other British people on board the Rhapsody of The Seas, are asking if anybody can send us home soon and safely. Some countries have put on their own charter flights to bring their citizens back but we are yet to do so.’
She added: ‘If anybody is able to contact me with an action plan, I would be sincerely grateful. I just want to be on land, safe with the people I love. As much as you’d like to leave your houses, I would like to enter mine.
‘I would just like help from the British Embassy and airlines to push these charters to confirm a flight for the next time we arrive in Florida on April 26.’
Despite the enduring mental torment for crew members, those on board remain buoyant. Harriet said: ‘We are fortunate to have some incredible people on board that are working hard to try and keep us entertained and the morale high.
‘I know of another two young women from Portsmouth also stuck at sea - one on Carnival Cruise Lines, and one on Costa Cruises. We are living in uncertainty and just want to go home.’
A spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean International said: ‘We are working with all appropriate authorities to ensure the safe return home of all our crew members.’
Harriet’s mum, Samantha Taylor, 50, said: ‘It’s very frustrating. Harriet is the type of person who is never still so she is bored rigid because she can’t do anything. She just wants to come home and we want her home.
‘We are able to speak to her quite a lot through FaceTime and chats - having the internet is a godsend. She is lucky because she has family and friends in touch with her to keep her spirits up but she is a feisty girl anyway.
‘Our MP Stephen Morgan has contacted the Foreign Office but we haven’t heard anything yet. There was some talk they might be able to come back next week but we’re not sure.’
Samantha said Harriet only has her phone, a computer and a television for company in her room but despite the predicament - which she believes could have been worse - was looking ahead to future voyages.
She added: ‘It hasn’t put Harriet off. She’s talking about going away again.
‘They were quick to act by going into lockdown on the ship which would have stopped the spread. If it had spread it would have caused me to go into despair.’
MP Mr Morgan, who is fighting the corner of his constituent Harriet and other British nationals stranded at sea, said: ‘I am doing everything in my power to help them and their family at this challenging time. This includes writing urgently to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the case and requesting assistance in securing repatriation.
‘I have also raised shared concerns with the shadow foreign secretary who will ensure that the case is discussed as a priority.
‘I am dealing with dozens of constituents stuck abroad, many have told me they feel abandoned by government. Worried families are at their wits’ end. I am hearing from vulnerable people needing to get back to loved ones, and other travellers running out of essential medical supplies.
‘As well as urgently helping on this individual case, we need government to set out a comprehensive, fully funded plan to bring our British nationals home. That’s what Britons stuck abroad deserve, and their loved ones back home expect.’
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: ‘We are doing everything we can to help British crew on board cruise ships around the world. We are in direct contact with operators of the Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship and are supporting them in their efforts to repatriate their British crew.’