What it’s like to be on a cruise ship quarantining crew members

With the increasing number of Omicron cases around the world, cases have also increased on cruise ships across the industry.

In an effort to improve care for 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.

How are things on board? News reports have sensationalized the poor conditions aboard cruise ships, however, this does not currently appear to be the case.

Martina, a Royal Caribbean crew member aboard the Serenade of the Seas, gave insight into her day-to-day experience, showing us what it’s really like to live and work on a quarantine ship.

Aboard the Serenade of the Seas

Recording her experience over a week of sailing, crew member Martina, originally from Argentina, gives her thoughts and interviews crew members as the Serenade of the Seas sails from her port of current ties from Tampa to Cozumel, Roatan and Belize.

The ship picks up fuel, food, and mail in Tampa before leaving 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 has completed their 10-day isolation period, they can leave. Some spend the night in hotels before returning to a ship or others take early vacations before their next assignment.

Why is a quarantine vessel needed?

Speaking about the transformation of Serenade of the Seas from a leisure travel vessel to the care of crew members, Martina explains the importance of their mandate, “to relieve the pressure on the number of Covid cases around of the fleet”.

She also notes that there are a number of challenges in supporting quarantine crew with cruise passengers. Aboard the hospital ship, they receive the care they need from medical and guest services staff, as well as good food.

Normally, the crew live in compact quarters on cruise ships, giving them the ability to spread out, while separating them from healthy crew members.

Quarantine conditions

picture by The curious goal of Martina from Argentina

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

She prefaced the interview by acknowledging that on some occasions quarantine conditions could have been improved and that it was difficult to manage crew and passengers on an operational vessel.

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

Feedback from the crew

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

During the informal chat, crew members praised their treatment on board the ship, adding that the food was “amazing”.

On a ship without passengers, they have more cabins and have access to more spacious rooms, some with balconies. Staff said it was great to have fresh air, a significant improvement over windowless cabins, and they didn’t have to share rooms. A lucky crew member was very happy to have received a junior balcony cabin.

There were also more staff/resources to deal with them since there were no guests on board. Frequent check-ins from customer services and medical staff made them feel well taken care of.

Impact on crew positions

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

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

Martina spent some time explaining how the conversion to a quarantine ship affected the crew since they were no longer serving guests. “Coming home doesn’t mean losing your job,” she said.

The Serenade of the Seas was to go into drydock for refurbishment in a few months. Thus, for some, they had the possibility of taking an early vacation.

For those who had more time on their contracts, they had the option of reassigning to other ships.

Progress to date

US ports begin vaccinating cruise ship crew members |  Royal Caribbean Blog

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

Although the media portrayed these ships negatively, most of the crew members Martina spoke with were asymptomatic and only had to wait out their quarantine period. Being on the Serenade of the Seas made this process much easier and more comfortable.

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

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