More than 100 cruise ship crew returned to the UK today to emotional reunions after being marooned offshore on the luxury liners for over two months.
A specially chartered British Airways flight brought the dancers, singers and other entertainers back to a near deserted Heathrow Airport.
A small number of family members greeted the exhausted crew members who had flown overnight from Miami in Florida.
Like thousands of others on more than 70 ships worldwide they had not been allowed to go ashore since the last passengers disembarked in March.
Over 100 cruise ship crew returned to the UK to emotional reunions after being stuck offshore
A specially chartered British Airways flight brought the dancers, singers and entertainers back
Like thousands of others on more than 70 ships worldwide they had not been allowed to go ashore since the last passengers disembarked in March
Many had faced being quarantined in their cabins for up to 16 days after a member of the crew on board showed symptoms of coronavirus.
All those returning worked for either Celebrity Cruises or Royal Caribbean Cruise line and each had been given a health certificate that proved they were not infected with the virus.
Harriet Taylor, 24, an entertainer on the Rhapsody of the Seas, was greeted by her parents Stephen and Samantha who had driven from their home in Portsmouth.
Samantha squealed with delight as she ran into the arms of her mum and social distancing advice was abandoned as they hugged in the arrivals hall at Terminal Five.
She smiled but refused to comment as she left the airport arm in arm with her parents.
Mum Samantha said:’ It is wonderful to have her home. She has been treated very well and we were able to talk everyday.
A small number of family members greeted the exhausted crew members who had flown overnight from Miami in Florida to Heathrow, London
Many had faced being quarantined in their cabins for up to 16 days after a member of the crew on board showed symptoms of coronavirus
‘What has made it so much worse is that they have been stop- start on their return. They were supposed to be sailing to Southampton and then we got a message saying they were flying into Heathrow.
‘It is a relief to have her back.’
The chartered flight from Miami only carried British passport holders.
They were driven directly to the flight after leaving the cruise ship to avoid coming into contact with other passengers at Miami Airport.
US Health Authorities had refused to allow the crews to leave the ships for two months due to a stand off with the cruise liner operators after they were told they could not repatriate their staff using commercial flights.
All those returning worked for either Celebrity Cruises or Royal Caribbean Cruise line. Pictured: Royal Caribbean cruise liner Rhapsody of the Seas (stock image)
Each crew member had been given a health certificate to prove they did not have the virus
US Health Authorities had refused to allow the crews to leave the ships for two months
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises chartered the BA flight to bring back 140 crew members.
More than 100,000 cruise liner crew are still stranded at seas on their vessels.
At least five people have taken their own life due to the mental health strains while others resorted to hunger strikes in a failed bid to get off the ship.
Last week a Ukrainian woman died after apparently jumping from the Regal Princess outside the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Some of the British crew members spoke of their relief at arriving home. The cruise ship owners laid on coaches to take staff to Manchester, Birmingham and Scotland.
A technician, who asked not to be named, said: ‘It’s just been such a long time. We had our hopes built up and smashed many times on when we would get home.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises chartered the flight to bring back the crew members
They were driven directly to the flight after leaving the ship to avoid contact with others
‘It just got so boring at times and the worst was being kept in the cabin for weeks at a time to stop the spread of the virus.’
Another said:’ The longest stretch was 18 days in quarantine when I was not allowed to leave the cabin. Fortunately I was moved to a cabin with a port hole otherwise I would not have known if it was day or night.
‘A lot of people were very stressed towards the end and just wanted to get off the ship.
‘The company did try to be as accommodating as possible and keep us entertained, but it was a long time without being able to go ashore.
Dozens of cruise ships unable to stay in port were moored off the coast of Miami and Tampa in Florida while others sailed to small islands off The Bahamas.
Crew members were given twice daily temperature checks to make sure they were not infected with Covid-19.
At the start of the maritime lockdown period at sea crews had to stay quarantined inside their cabins for 16 days.
They also have had to observe the two metre social distancing rule and often had meals delivered to their cabins.
Samantha Taylor said her daughter had been able to cope with the isolation.
‘She has been very upbeat about it all, but I know she will be glad when she is home.’
At least 500 crew members worldwide are thought to have contracted Coronavirus with five confirmed deaths.