Alright, alright. I promised an update this week, and an update it shall be.
We are still at anchor off of Manila in the Philippines. There are still lots of ships here with more joining our ranks daily. According to www.cruisemapper.com there are currently 23 ships here with more on their way.
The first few days that we were here there were local health officials that came onboard to begin the required testing and documentations for the Filipino crew that will be disembarking and staying in the Philippines. They all had a COVID-19 test done.
Everyone onboard has twice daily temperature checks regardless if you are flying home, staying in the Philippines, or staying onboard until who knows when.
Then, because comedy and tragedy are closed related, a typhoon decided it wanted to be on it’s way to Manila. Luckily the COVID tests were done for the Filipino’s as we had to high tail it (as did most other ships in the area) out to sea to avoid the typhoon. We had one night with some great lightning, and the next night had a pretty good thundershower. The nice part of that thunder shower is that it momentarily lessened the humidity. I know that my family back in the States has been getting snow and cold still, but it’s been consistently in the 90’s with 85-90% humidity. It feels a bit like I’ve been melting. Aside from that we didn’t see much bad weather from the typhoon.
The threat of the typhoon now behind us, we head back to our anchorage.
The Filipino government has created a “Green Lane” for crew members to get to flights leaving from Manila to make their way home. So far there have been 6 crew members that have been able to board primarily commercial flights home. They disembark by tender. As there are so few crew going from each ship each day, the various ships are sharing tender duties. One day our crew will supply the tender to bring them to shore, another day it will be a Princess ship, and so on and so forth.
Each day for the next few days there are more crew schedule to leave. Tentatively tomorrow there are three, thirteen the next day, seven the day after that, and then a few a bit later in the month. This sometimes changes on a daily basis though as one of my good friends was set to go home on the 15th (that got changed because of the typhoon), then on the 20th and now on the 21st. Being flexible is an absolute necessity in this situation. Apparently to make all of this happen it involves about six government agencies from both the Filipino government but also from the crew members home country.
Even though it is not that many crew going home each day, each time someone leaves it feels like progress is being made. There are some in the unlucky category of being onboard and not working (also meaning not getting paid) and the governments from their respective countries still have closed borders, so who knows when they will really be able to go home.
We are still waiting for test results for the Filipino crew that will be disembarking. We’ve heard once those results come back they will be able to start disembarking. It sounds like there are a few ships ahead of us for that part of the process, though, so we don’t know when that will start.
For nearly everyone that is going home they don’t know what their employment future looks like. In all truthfulness with the state of the tourism industry I am not sure if anyone truly knows what their employment future looks like. Holland America Line laid off 2000+ shoreside employees last week and the President of the company is stepping down. I would certainly say it is not a time for anyone to count their chickens before they hatch.
There are basically two categories of people onboard right now: those that are still working, and those that aren’t. For those that are still working they have the continued stress of working and not knowing when they will be able to go home, unsure of when they will be able to have a day off – many of them literally onboard months past when their contract was meant to end. It sounds a bit like what some people at home are going through. Essential workers are struggling with the emotional and physical impact of working as much as they are, while those that are now unemployed are struggling with the emotional and economical impact of their job loss.
Add to that some feelings of unfairness with things like cabin assignments and let’s just say that the dynamics onboard are continuing to evolve. I suspect they will continue to evolve as this situation does. Everyone is working through something right now and it’s best to remind yourself not to compare what you have to others, and instead be grateful. Focusing on gratefulness is all well and good, but at some point it seems a disservice to not advocate for yourself. Finding the balance between these two concepts can be a challenge.
We are still doing well though, and we focus on being grateful above all else that we are able to be together. Stuart is still working and keeping things running. I’ve been putting my little sewing machine to work and making lots of cloth face masks for the crew that are having to fly long distances. I don’t have any elastic so they tie with ribbon instead. I’ve also built a little pocket into them so they can put a filter (or at least a tissue) in it to increase its effectiveness. Otherwise, not a whole lot is going on. We just keep on going.