Lost at sea: Cruise ship entertainer from Md. stuck on board for weeks in Florida

Weeks after arriving for what they thought would be a normal cruise, crew members on some luxury ships are still unable to disembark, even though everyone on board appears healthy.

A crew member from Maryland shared what it is like on board.

Emily “Ezra” Freeman loves her job as a guest entertainer for Princess Cruises. So when she signed a contract and arrived on board the Sky Princess Cruise on March 8, she was thrilled. But five days later, coronavirus concerns brought the cruise to a halt and her future became uncertain.

Ezra Freeman
Ezra Freeman has only two weeks left on her contract for Princess Cruises, but she has not been able to get off the ship due to coronavirus restrictions. (Courtesy Ezra Freeman)

“I figured I’d be on board max two weeks, and that was seven-and-a-half weeks ago,” the Bowie native told WTOP.

Freeman has no complaints about how Princess Cruises is handling the situation, noting that all crew members were moved onto a new ship, the Emerald Princess, and assigned balcony rooms. Crew members temperatures are checked twice daily, she does not know of one person who is sick and the communication between the company and crew seems transparent in nature.

While she planned to work on the ship through July, Freeman said she was given notice her contract will terminate in two weeks. However, she has no answers about how she is getting home.

“Waiting it out is not a permanent solution. I’m very confused by the CDC because as far as we can tell, the reason we are still out here — the 55 Americans on the Emerald Princess and the 39 Canadians is because the CDC will not allow any crew members to disembark in Florida,” she said.

On a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website dedicated to cruise ship guidance, a notice states, “Notification to health departments for disembarking crews must include health departments with jurisdiction for the seaport and those with jurisdiction for the crew members’ residence.”

It is unclear if that situation applies to Fort Lauderdale, where Freeman said her ship is docked.

“They told us the Emerald is heading to Indonesia, where originally this was the ship they put all the North Americans on because they thought we were going to stay here,” she said of a recent announcement.

In a statement to WTOP, the CDC said it’s working to “repatriate crew while protecting the crew, their communities, and our Nation from a pandemic that has claimed over 50,000 lives and infected over 1 million people in the U.S.”

“CDC has not received a signed attestation from Princess Cruise Lines for the Emerald Princess ship,” it said in the statement. “Such attestations are standard, including with Medicare enrollment forms and SEC filings. CDC has received and approved signed attestations from four other cruise lines to disembark crew members.”

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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