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JM | Dec 20, 2020

Jamaican cruise ship workers eagerly await resumption of duties

/ Our Today

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Executive Chef at the Royal Caribbean Group Roderick Dinnall (right) and Dining Room Supervisor Janet Jackson, also of Royal Caribbean sharing a photo moment in Moneague, St. Ann recently. (Photo contributed)

By Fernando Davis

While local tourism stakeholders are happy with the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifting of its no-sail order ban on cruise shipping, nobody or entity are more delighted than displaced cruise workers.

Being forced back home and out of work since March 2020, with many of whom having anxious moments at sea following the massive outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, several are now eagerly awaiting a call back where they can resume their regular duties.

“It has been a long rough and tough road and which will even be longer as nobody knows when or if we will get that call that it is time to get back to work,” explained Moneague, St Ann resident and Executive Chef with the Royal Caribbean Group, Roderick Dinnall.

Known to most as ‘Chef Champion’, Dinnall has been with Royal Caribbean – the second biggest cruise line in the world – for the past twenty years where along the way he has been certified by the American Culinary Federation.

“Having used to being at work seven days per week on the ship it really took some getting used to being back home with nothing to do,” he added.

Photo of the Symphony of the Seas courtesy of CruiseMapper.com

“What I have been doing however for the past several months is to start my own cooking channel on YouTube, where I mentor other chefs on how to explore various recipes…be willing to try new ways of preparing a dish…and to be able to prepare simple and delicious meals.”

For her part, Janet Jackson, an 18-year veteran with Royal Caribbean, said it has also been tough not doing anything for the past eight months.

“I have now gone into my emergency savings,” shared Jackson, a native of St Ann.

Jackson, a dining room supervisor with the company, said she is also eagerly awaiting a call back but quickly added that “in this climate of uncertainty, nothing is certain.”

“It has been tough…real tough…I must tell you,” she said. “Nobody…and I mean nobody…saw this coming and therefore we have all been ill-prepared to deal with the realities at hand.”

Jackson said that the fact that “we are all contract workers” doesn’t necessarily guarantee that there must be a call back but added that she remains optimistic, considering her years of service in a supervisory role.

“I really enjoy my job with Royal Caribbean and wouldn’t change that experience for anything in the world,” she added. “It has allowed me to travel the world…to build my home ,my  own home…and to provide stability for my family,” said Jackson.

With the moon in the background, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas transforms into a floating light show at nighttime. (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

For Portland native Marion Cooper, who works with MSC Cruises, it’s also “a wait and see.” “The decision by the CDC is a welcome sign that we might be back on the high seas sooner than we previously thought,” she added.

“I cannot wait to get back to work as cruise shipping has been my only source of income…and pretty much all that I know.” 

Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, said that he has been in dialogue with many of the displaced tourism workers and truly understands what they have been going through, having been sidelined from work for so long…and without an income.”

“It has been a painful and exhausting road for these true ambassadors of Jamaica,” he noted. “They have been contributing…via remittances…to this country’s economy for decades…and we do owe them a great debt of gratitude.”

The CDC, on Friday, October 30, in addition to lifting its no-sail order, which would have expired on October 31, also released a list of detailed requirements that could put ships back in operation in the coming months.

Cruise ships docked at Miami port as the tourism industry is affected by the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), earlier in March. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

The agency’s 40-page directive requires a phased approach to restarting cruises. Companies must first demonstrate they can successfully protect crew members from COVID-19, then conduct simulated cruises with volunteer passengers, then obtain a “Conditional Sailing Certificate” from the CDC.

Testing requirements, PCR testing for all passengers and crew on embarkation and disembarkation days, go beyond the protocols companies have proposed.

Most cruise companies — Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages — have cancelled all cruises leaving from US ports until 2021.

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