SAN PEDRO, Calif. – For nearly two months, Melinda Mann felt like a prisoner trapped at sea.
The 25-year old works as a crew member for Holland America Line cruises and was stuck on one of the company’s ships due to the coronavirus pandemic. All the passengers disembarked in mid-March, but the crew members stayed on board.
They were not cleared by the Centers for Disease Control to get off the ship until May 8.
“I oscillate between being really angry and really apathetic. You know you can only spend so long angry before just the sheer boredom takes you over,” Mann said in a remote interview from the ship while it was out at sea.
Mann said she spent 21 hours a day in her cabin. Her only source of entertainment has been her Nintendo switch and some books she brought on the boat.
“This is the view all day, every day. Just water, water, water and no sight of land,” Mann said in one of the video journals she has been shooting and posting to social media.
Mann said her biggest frustration was feeling caught between her company and the CDC for weeks on end. The cruise line tried to repatriate the crew last week, but the CDC denied the request and the ship set off again.
Mann said this happened despite no one on board having the virus.
“My country doesn’t want me. They sent me away against my will. They literally let a ship take me against my will away from Mexico to float around in Mexican waters. I even asked to be arrested,” Mann said.
According to Mann, the disagreement between Holland America and the CDC has mostly been over ensuring non-public transportation for the crew members to get to their respective homes from the port.
Spectrum News 1 reached out to CDC and Holland America, but only the cruise company got back to us, offering the following statement:
“We are deeply committed to getting our crew members safely home to their families and continue to make progress in their repatriation. Across carnival corporation – of which we are a part of -- we continue to disembark hundreds of crew members each day and 20,000 have disembarked in the last month.”
Mann hopes her homecoming is finally around the corner, with her ship returning to Los Angeles Friday morning. She said her company booked her a charter flight to the East Coast, meeting the CDC guideline for repatriation.
“I won’t believe it’s real until I literally have both feet upon the shore,” Mann said.
The thing she’s looking forward to the most? Her grandmother’s homemade treats and the sweet taste of freedom.