Stuck at sea with the Disney crew
Edward Dawson is stuck on Disney Dream with no clue when he will get off.
He’s one of 1,200 crew members who had the misfortune of being on the cruise ship in March, when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered Florida.
Although no one on the vessel has Covid-19, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention will not allow entry to anyone who isn’t a resident of the state, without a confirmed flight out.
“I was supposed to fly home on March 21, but the Bermuda airport closed the day before,” the 24-year-old said. “I was like, no!!!”
His next chance came on April 7, when there was an emergency repatriation flight out of Orlando.
“Unfortunately, a few days before, one of our cast members caught what we think now was food poisoning,” Mr Dawson said. “He had a slight fever. Out of an abundance of caution, he was isolated and anyone who had been in contact with him in the previous 24 hours also had to be isolated.
“We were all put in state rooms and isolated with no contact with anyone else for almost eight days. He was tested and didn’t have Covid-19, but because of that, I wasn’t able to get off the ship to make the flight home from Florida.”
He had set his hopes on a charter flight out of Palm Beach last Friday but, to get there in time, he would have had to have left Port Canaveral before Customs and Border Protection controls opened or spent the night in a hotel, neither of which were possible.
He will likely also miss a flight promised out of Atlanta on Friday as Disney Dream will then be in the Bahamas, its home port. The vessel began spending part of its time there two weeks ago to cut down on Florida docking fees.
The crew has access to a section of beach on Castaway Cay, a four-mile wide island owned by Disney that 80 staff call home.
The theatre technician joined Disney Cruise Line last September. He signed a four-and-a-half month contract, uncertain if he would enjoy the time at sea.
His work covered three theatrical productions: The Golden Mickeys revue show, Beauty and the Beast and Disney’s Believe.
“Beauty and the Beast is based on the live-action movie,” he said. “It is a lot grittier. That one is very cool. It has these giant LED walls we have to move. They create a U-shape on the stage. It is an absolutely fantastic design.”
For the 20-odd days the ship was stuck off Port Canaveral, he tried to stay busy.
“I taught myself to crochet last summer,” he said. “So I have been doing that.
“I have also been spending a lot of money on e-books. I love to read.”
Movies are screened on the main deck and there are arts and crafts for anyone who is inclined.
“We are still required to attend drill,” Mr Dawson said. “We are safer than the rest of the world because we don’t have Covid-19 and there is now no way it could come on board at this point. We have food. We have medical insurance.”
Some of his experience as a technician came while working with Gilbert&Sullivan and the Bermuda Musical&Dramatic Society. “I did a BFA in theatre design and production at University of British Columbia,” he said. “I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do.”
He applied for the Disney job last year while travelling around Europe.
“The process took a few months,” he said. “I did one Skype interview and one in person in London. I then had to pass a couple medical tests, and wait for my contract.”
He started out on Disney Fantasy as a general technician, and travelled to Cozumel, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Tortola and St Thomas. In January, he was promoted to audio technician and was transferred to the Disney Dream, which does four-day cruises between Cape Canaveral, Nassau and Castaway Cay.
Mr Dawson said he would love to do another tour with Disney. In the meantime, if he ever gets home, he might turn to computer coding until the cruise ship industry gets back into gear.
“It is not as exciting as working on a cruise ship, but it is something,” he said.
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