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'It was a pleasure being here for the quarantine': What it's like to be on a cruise ship quarantining crew members

21 Jan 2022
Chantal McPhee

With the growing number of Omicron cases throughout the world, so too have cases increased on cruise ships across the industry.  

In an effort to improve the care of those crew members completing quarantine, Royal Caribbean has designated the Serenade of the Seas as a hospital ship for those who have tested positive for covid-19.

What's it like onboard? News stories have sensationalized the poor conditions onboard cruise ships, however, this does not seem to be the case currently.

Martina, a Royal Caribbean crew member onboard the Serenade of the Seas has provided a glimpse into her day to day experience, showing us what it is really like to live and work on a quarantine ship.

Onboard the Serenade of the Seas

Recording her experience during a week of sailing, crew member, Martina, who is from Argentina, gives her opinions and interviews crew members as the Serenade of the Seas sails from its current homeport of Tampa to Cozumel, Roatan and Belize.

The ship takes on fuel, food and mail in Tampa before it voyages out to pick up and transfer crew members. Serenade of the Seas takes on infected crew members who have tested positive for Covid-19 but are largely asymptomatic.

Once the crew completes their 10 day isolation period, they can leave. Some stay the night in a hotel before going back to a ship or others take an early vacation prior to their next assignment. 

Why is a quarantine ship necessary?

Talking about the transformation of Serenade of the Seas from a ship for leisure travel to caring for crew members, Martina explains the importance of their mandate, “to relieve the pressure on the amount of Covid Cases around the fleet”.

She also notes that there are a number of challenges in caring for quarantining crew along with cruise passengers. Onboard the hospital ship they get the care they need from medical staff and guest services, along with good food.

Normally crew live in compact quarters on cruise ships, so this gives them the opportunity to spread out, along with separating them from the healthy crew members.

Quarantine conditions

Photo by The Curious Lens of Martina from Argentina

Martina sat down with 4 crew members from the Adventure of the Seas who had finished their isolation period and were now enjoying a couple of days off before returning to work.

She prefaced the interview by acknowledging that on some occasions, quarantine conditions could have been improved and it was tough managing crew and passengers on an operational ship.

The process on Serenade of the Seas now seems to be running more smoothly, based on feedback.

Crew feedback

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Ensenada | Royal Caribbean Blog

During the informal discussion, the crew members had high praise for their treatment onboard the ship, adding that the food was “amazing”.

On a ship with no passengers, they have more cabins and access to more spacious rooms, including some with balconies. The staff chime in saying it was great to get fresh air, a significant improvement from windowless cabins, and they did not have to share rooms. One lucky crew member was quite pleased to have received a junior balcony cabin.

There was also more staff/resources to take care of them since there were no guests onboard. Frequent check-ins from guest services and the medical personnel made them feel well cared for.

Impact on crew positions

Royal Caribbean moving Covid positive crew to Serenade of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Many have speculated as to the impact on crew jobs, due to the Serenade’s reassignment.

Martina spent some time explaining how the conversion to a quarantine ship has affected the crew since they were no longer serving guests. “Going home doesn't meet losing your job," she said.

The Serenade of the Seas was scheduled to go into to dry-dock for refurbishment in a couple of months.  So, for some, they were given the opportunity to take an early vacation.

For those with more time left on their contracts, they were given the option to reassign to other ships.

Progress to date

U.S ports begin vaccinating cruise ship crew members | Royal Caribbean Blog

Although there have been some issues in the past, Martina says that “we need to celebrate when the right decisions are made". And that the strategy of having a separate quarantine ship has improved the overall conditions for staff.

Although the media portrays these ships negatively, most of the crew Martina spoke with were asymptomatic and just needed to wait out their quarantine time. Being on the  Serenade of the Seas made that process much easier and more comfortable.

Time on the ship also provides the opportunity to provide booster shots to crew members for enhanced immunity. Royal Caribbean already requires staff to be fully vaccinated.

Follow Martina on YouTube

You can see all of Martina's videos and enjoy her behind-the-scenes videos on her YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe!