SAN PEDRO (CBSLA) — For the past 55 days, hundreds of Holland America Line cruise ship workers have been stuck at sea over concerns about the novel coronavirus.
“They’re just really treating us like disease vectors,” Melinda Mann, Holland America youth program manager, said. “They’re treating the cruise industry like we are just all sick, and we’re going to infect the United States.”
Mann arrived Friday morning at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro — for the second time in two weeks — aboard a different Holland America cruise ship along with hundreds of other employees who have been trying to get home for nearly two months.
None of the employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
“It’s super frustrating, super stressful,” she said. “I’ve never been really an anxious person in my life, but I’ve had more anxiety attacks since this started than I hope to ever have again.”
Mann has been working as a youth entertainment coordinator on cruises since 2017 and said she loves her job, but this experience has left her shaken.
“I feel like my mental health is a lot more shaky now than it was,” she said. “The sheer isolation, I was spending like 21 hours a day in my cabin.”
And Mann said, on top of being apart from her family and friends, the cruise line’s efforts to maintain social distancing — as well as technology issues — made her feel even more lonely.
“At meal times, we weren’t allowed to look at each other for the longest time,” she said. “All the tables faced away from each other. We could only communicate, really, by text.
“I couldn’t see my family because the internet connection was so bad that you couldn’t video chat. It was very isolating.”
And though Mann was finally able to disembark, she still has a long way to go before she can make it back home — including a flight to Orlando, where her mom will meet her and drive her back to Georgia.
“I am home in the United States, and I’m supposed to feel happy about that,” she said. “But I’m really still feeling very stressed and anxious, leftover anxiety from this whole ordeal.”
In a statement, Holland America Line said it was working in coordination with the United States Coast Guard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies to safely repatriate its American and Canadian crew members.