By Jun Nucum

After sailing to Southern California early this month, M/V Grand Princess remained docked at Santa Catalina, California and is constantly being monitored by the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles (PCG LA) after leaving San Francisco.  

Asked for developments on the cruise ship and the 91 Filipino crewmembers who were left behind, the LA Consulate announced that the PCG LA and the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. are in coordination with the management of Princess Cruises, the company that owns and operates the vessel.  

“Princess Cruises is still in the process of finalizing arrangements for the repatriation and details have not been made public. So far, our office has not received any complaint from the Filipinos onboard,” said Consul General Adelio Angelito Cruz.

Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles Consul General Adelio Angelito S. Cruz

“We thank the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco for taking care of the needs of the Filipino seafarers that have been repatriated, as well as those who have been left behind onboard. Some employment-related issues have been endorsed to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Los Angeles and our Labor Attaché Armi Evangel Peña is addressing those concerns,” Cruz conveyed.  

At the moment, PCG LA is monitoring about seven cruise ships docked anywhere between the Ports of San Diego, Los Angeles and even Santa Catalina Island and it is estimated that there are at least 300 Filipino crewmembers onboard these ships combined — a figure that may change rapidly due to the uncertain situation and whether more ships will arrive and drop anchor in southern California.  

“On COVID-19 infections, there are varying reports coming from the respective cruise line companies concerned. Some ships report that everyone left onboard are ‘COVID-19 free’ while some reports from other ships have come back, indicating the presence COVID-19 positive crew onboard but with no race or nationality specified,” Cruz reported. “Rest assured that PCG LA and the Embassy in D.C. are both closely monitoring the situation and are ready to assist in terms of documentation and coordination with authorities in the Philippines to facilitate the speedy repatriation of the Filipino crew when the right time has come.” 

Asked whether all of the Filipino crew members would be tested, Cruz replied that that will depend on many factors such as the availability of test kits, protocols observed by the port in which the vessel is docked and whether anyone left onboard is presenting COVID-19 symptoms.

“In our experience sending off the 1,003 Filipino crewmembers of the M/S Norwegian Joy, M/S Regent Seven Seas Splendor, M/S Norwegian Jewel, M/S Carnival Miracle and M/S Carnival Inspiration last April 7, 8 and 11, PCG LA personnel, myself included, have spoken to the crewmembers about this. What we learned, at least in the case of the aforementioned cruise ships, was that they were reported to be ‘COVID-19 free’ since not a single one of the crew left onboard any of the vessels exhibited symptoms related to the disease even after completing the requisite 14-day quarantine. Their quarantine started after all the cruise guests/passengers disembarked,” Cruz disclosed. 

Cruz is nevertheless highly optimistic that the crewmembers will eventually be reunited with their loved ones back home after being repatriated and subjected to the enhanced quarantine protocols being enforced by the Philippines once they arrive in Manila.