September 27, 2020

Waterford man tells of nine weeks under Covid-19 lockdown on board world’s biggest cruise ship

A Waterford man has told how he was forced to spend nine weeks under Covid-19 lockdown on board the world’s biggest cruise after the virus hit.

Peter Smyth (24) said his employer, Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCC), stopped paying him and his colleagues while they were confined to their cabins for 26 days on Symphony of the Seas.

In an interview with today’s Sunday Times, Peter criticised authorities for not taking off the crew sooner.

“It shouldn’t have taken 66 days to get us home,” Peter told the newspaper.

“All the passengers were evacuated after the no-sail order [issued by the cruise line trade body and then confirmed by the US government] on March 13. About 150 or 200 of the crew were still working, keeping the ship afloat and bringing meals to our doors. They were the ones getting sick.”

One of the Waterford man’s colleagues – Puyol Vacgez Gavenliy Tarayici, 27, from Indonesia – died of the coronavirus on April 12 after he was taken ashore for medical treatment. His death was announced over the ship’s public address system.

Peter said he and other staff had temperature checked twice daily during the lockdown. When their confinement to their rooms ended after 26 days they were allowed outside for 150 minutes a day.

Peter is now self-isolating at his home in Waterford city after he arrived back in the country on May 20. He said his family contacted Independent Waterford TD Matt Shanahan, who in turn contacted the Irish Ambassador to American, fellow Waterford man Dan Mulhall, to arrange to get him home.

Crew members were finally taken off the cruise ship in May 18. Those from the UK and Ireland were flown to Heathrow on a chartered British Airways plane. After spending a night in a London hotel, Peter got a train to Holyhead where he boarded a ferry to Dublin.

“I couldn’t believe I had to get on another ship to get home,” he said. “My self-isolation will end on Wednesday and I’m going to give my mum a hug, I don’t know if I’ll be going back on a ship any time soon.”

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