The last time Evan Herbert set foot on land was nearly eight weeks ago. Since March 14, the Lethbridge resident has been stranded on a cruise ship with more than 50 other Canadians.
“I imagine this is what prison is like,” the 28-year-old said from his cabin on the Emerald Princess cruise ship, anchored between Florida and the Bahamas.
Herbert was working a nine-month contract as a retail supervisor for the Holland America cruise line. When the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a no sail order on March 14, he was transferred to the Emerald Princess, where he’s been ever since.
The CDC issued the order as one of many measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Herbert said everyone on board — which includes more than 50 Canadians and 70 people from the United States — is isolated to their rooms, with the exception of 30 minutes for each meal.
“It’s been really hard on us mentally, it’s very confining,” he said.
“It is quite frustrating. I’m a very patient person. I don’t usually let myself get worked up by a lot, but I have kind of reached the end of my rope a couple times. I mean I always calm down, but it’s just like your entire day is scheduled for you.”
Herbert said the cabins are 170 square feet, and WiFi and phone service on the ship is intermittent.
He said temperatures are being taken twice a day and CDC regulations are being closely followed, but disembarkment from the ship hasn’t been allowed.
In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said “the Government of Canada is actively working with airlines, cruise lines and foreign governments to facilitate flights to Canada from locations where there is a lack of international flights, or where local restrictions on travel exist.”
“On Tuesday, May 5, the Government of Canada facilitated a WestJet flight to assist with the return of 29 Canadians from Nassau, Bahamas,” the statement reads. “In addition, the flight was intended to be used in the repatriation of Canadian crew members on cruise ships in the region.
“Despite our best efforts, cruise ship companies were not able to secure approval to disembark in time for the flight.”
The statement said the government continues to explore options to bring Canadians home.
Herbert said he doesn’t blame the cruise line for the situation, and he hopes that there will be a solution soon.