LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Holland America cruise ship Oosterdam sailed out from the Port of Los Angeles Tuesday night — with its crew still aboard.
The last time the ship had passengers was March 14, before the coronavirus pandemic exploded in the United States. Ever since, nearly 800 crew members from 100 countries have been stranded at sea.
Holland America had hoped that they would be able to disembark the crew in Los Angeles, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would not allow that to happen.
“I spend 21 hours a day in my cabin,” Melinda Mann, Holland America youth program manager, said. “I’m allowed out for three 30-minute meal breaks and three 30-minute outside time breaks. I have not hugged another person or touched another person in weeks.”
The United States government ordered cruise lines to suspend operations in March.
“After that, we discovered we had one sick person onboard a few weeks later,” Mann said. “That was around the beginning of April, end of March. She was quarantined, and then she was medically evacuated by tender boat in Cabo, Mexico.”
That sick passenger led to a quarantine for the entire crew, which has been floating in international waters for more than a month.
“I’ve been at sea for 45 days, and I’m ready to go,” Mann said. “I’m a U.S. citizen, I’m not sick; I’m healthy. I’m willing to quarantine, I’m willing to be tested for COVID, but they can’t keep me here forever.
The Oosterdam is now reportedly headed to Ensenada, Mexico with a new plan to end the crew’s ordeal.
“They are putting all the Americans and Europeans in one place to make it easier to get people home is ostensibly what they said,” Mann said.
The cruise line Tuesday released a statement that said, in part:
“No crew were permitted to disembark from Oosterdam today. We continue to work with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to obtain approval to disembark crew in the U.S. for immediate return home under their current no sail order which does not allow us to do so at this time, including for U.S. citizens.”
The CDC did not immediately return a request for comment.