For more than 50 days, Toronto pianist and singer Arny Galoyo stayed aboard the Emerald Princess while the cruise ship was sailing in the Caribbean Sea.
It was a “ghost ship,” says Galoyo, who works on the cruise as an artist. After the disembarkation of passengers at the start of the coronavirus pandemic on March 15, 600 crew members remained on a luxury liner generally filled with more than 4,000 people.
For weeks, personnel from countries around the world waited for news of when he could return home, clinging to the captain’s words for constantly evolving updates.
Galoyo couldn’t help but feel pure relief on Saturday as his plane touched down at Pearson International Airport, along with other Canadian crew members who had spent so long in limbo.
“It was really good, of course, to be back,” Galoyo said in an interview hours after getting off the plane.
Princess Cruises confirmed to the Canadian Press that 53 Canadians were scheduled to depart the Emerald Princess in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Saturday for a charter flight from Miami to Toronto. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last month that about 80,000 crewmembers remained on ships off the coast of America after most passengers disembarked.
Galoyo, who considers himself a half-full type of glass, says there were major advantages to his situation: the buffet was “extravagant” and with no passengers, the staff were upgraded from the lower level rooms, in their case, a suite with a ‘huge huge balcony. “
Before the crew members were recently asked to isolate themselves, they were also free to use equipment, including a swimming pool and a gym, while Galoyo played music with his colleagues – teaming up to karaoke renditions of “My Way” and “The House of the Rising” Soleil. “
Sometimes, he says, it felt like “paradise.” But alongside cheerful Facebook updates, Galoyo has written about the uncertainty of his return to Toronto.
“No news as to when (we) will be allowed to disembark,” he wrote on April 19.
“The only chance for us, North Americans, is that our country charters us a return flight,” he wrote a week later. “Just when you think you are about to back off on earth. “
Galoyo told the Star that as it became clear that he and his colleagues were going to wait awhile, he feared that some would have trouble getting home.
“This pandemic has caused chaos in everyone’s life,” he said.
There were several false alarms when Galoyo believed he was on his way home to be informed that plans had changed – including one last week. Canada’s crew members were ordered to prepare to fly home on a chartered plane, but in the end the government of the Bahamas did not authorize the ship to dock.
Galoyo said he had his bag packed last month, while also worrying about his mother, who is around 80 years old. In March, Galoyo’s partner was with him on the Emerald Princess, but they decided he would go home to be with Galoyo’s mother, who lives near the couple in Toronto.
Galoyo says he is delighted to be close to them again – although he will isolate himself for another two weeks under quarantine rules – and that ultimately the experience has been positive in the together. Daily yoga, he says, has made him calmer. He had time to appreciate the birds that were going to land on his balcony and write two new shows that he plans to do.
While acknowledging that there is uncertainty about the future of the cruise industry as the pandemic continues, Galoyo adds that he is nevertheless looking forward to returning to the Emerald Princess and performing again one day.
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“I’m ready,” he says.
With files from The Canadian Press