Coronavirus UK: Brit still stuck on cruise ship after two months

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Nadia Hancock says she has been stuck on a cruise ship in the Philippines for more than two months (Photo: MEN; Reuters)

Lincolnshire cruise ship worker has been stranded off the Philippines for two months despite efforts to repatriate Britons who were abroad when the coronavirus struck.

Nadia Hancock, 23, and 200 fellow shipmates are trapped on the Pacific Dawn, anchored outside the capital of Manila.

All passengers were allowed to alight, but many crew members had to stay on board, in part due to border closings and flight restrictions around the world.

But Nadia said her employers kept her on board without pay in case cruise operations resume – even after much of Europe has been stranded.

Nadia has nothing to do, is not paid, and is not entitled to the UK holiday because she worked outside the country.

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She said, “We have not shipped fresh fruit, vegetables, or dairy products like cheese for months, or been able to get our usual supplies because there are no ports to dock.

“But P&O looked after us very well given the unprecedented circumstances.

“We have free food and accommodation and we are updated twice a day with announcements and they take the precautions of Covid-19 seriously despite the lack of cases on board.

Nadia cannot phone her family because the ship’s WiFi connection is too weak (Image: MEN Media)

“We can move around the ship, but we must be 2 meters from everyone at all times and no gathering or social event can take place.

“The only places people can use is the upper deck where the pantry and the race track and their rooms are, because there is not much else. “

The ship was initially in Australian waters, but left after the border was closed, and Manila was the nearest place for anchoring, said Nadia.

She said she arrived on the ship on March 14 – the day before the passengers disembarked – for a five-month contract with Harding Retail selling jewelry in one of its stores on board.

The 23-year-old said: “Just over two weeks after arriving on board the company I work for, he said that, as there were no more authorized passengers on board, there was no there would be neither work nor payment.

“The passengers had been sent home, but the crew were held on board for 30 days in case operations were again operational.

“But after reaching the 30-day mark, they realized that it was much more serious globally and that the cruise industry would be on hold for a long time.

His employers tried to find return flights for the crew, but these were canceled as countries began to close their borders.

Nadia has sent messages to friends and family at home, but the ship’s internet is not strong enough to connect phone calls.

Fishermen navigate a group of cruise ships anchored in Manila Bay (Photo: REUTERS)

About 100,000 cruise ship employees are stranded on ships around the world.

More than 5,300 of them are Filipino personnel detained off the coast of Manila in some 20 ships awaiting authorization to return home from their own government, Nadia added.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) recently said that BBC embassy staff are working with operators to bring staff back to the UK.

A spokesperson for P&O Cruises Australia said: “Unfortunately, as COVID-19 approached, cruise ships were ordered out of Australian waters, including P&O Cruises Pacific Explorer, Pacific Dawn and Pacific Aria, which have been operating from Australian ports of origin for years.

“The three ships are equipped with a number of cruise ships anchored off Manila with a crew being repatriated. I can understand your reader’s concerns as it takes.

“The repatriation of crews on board is a very complex project and every effort is being made to find ways to bring the crew members home. “

“We have made a commitment not to rest until they find their families. “

Harding Retail did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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