A New Zealand-born performer is finally back home after being stuck on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises’ ships in isolation since March.
Lauren Marshall, who was working on Celebrity Eclipse off the coast of San Diego when a COVID case was discovered, has now completed her fourth round of 14-day isolation in Auckland.
The 28-year-old, who had been performing musical theatre on the ship since July 2019, was one of just 300 people left on the 2852-passenger vessel after the case of COVID was diagnosed. She and the other remaining crew were confined to their cabins, getting patchy communications and irregular meals.
As her friends and colleagues made their way home, she was moved to a balcony cabin to get fresh air and remained stuck on the ship for a month.
She was then moved from California to Celebrity Reflection in Barbados, with the idea that it would be easier to fly home from outside the US, which was quickly becoming the epicentre of the virus.
She was told she would need to quarantine for three days on Reflection before flying home, but that turned into another two weeks of isolation as flights were cancelled due to grounded planes and closed borders.
Eventually she was put on a chartered flight to London on June 3, where she was quarantined on Empress of the Seas in Southampton for almost a month.
She was told she was booked on a flight back to New Zealand from London on June 30, but it became clear that the flight in question never existed. When pushed, her employer told her it wouldn’t be able to get her home until August.
Refusing to be trapped on a ship for another three months, Ms Marshall booked her own flights, with promises of reimbursement from Royal Caribbean, and flew from London to Auckland via Doha and Melbourne – just a few hours before the Victorian city closed their airports.
“It’s just a shame the company weren’t able to come through for me and find me flights themselves, considering I had been moving around the world from ship to ship with no real news of what was happening,” she told the New Zealand Herald.
She said she was delighted to be home and she enjoyed the experience of quarantining in a hotel rather than on a ship, calling it a “nice little holiday” with free food, free wi-fi and a nice room. She told the New Zealand Herald that she found the reports of people escaping their hotel quarantine laughable.
“It was hilarious to all of us here that someone would feel the need to escape from isolation. It’s really not that bad,” she said.