A cruise ship worker who has been onboard a ship for almost a year says life has become like ‘Groundhog Day’.
Jonny McNally, 34, boarded the 3000-passenger capacity Norwegian Jade in September last year, before it set sail on a the first of several cruises.
But his planned sixth month stint as an assistant cruise director has turned to a nightmare after the coronavirus pandemic has left him marooned in the ‘ghost ship’, which has just 170 essential members of staff onboard.
Jonny, originally from Northern Ireland, moved to Subic in the Philippines with his girlfriend Marjorie four years, but when the country closed its borders in March and Jonny’s tourist visa expired in May he was left stuck at sea..
Speaking from the ship, Jonny said: “I was only meant to be onboard for six months, I never imagined that I would be here for nearly a year.
“I’ve done long stints on ships before but at least I had a job to do, now every day has become Groundhog Day.
“The ship has a capacity of over 3000 passengers but there’s only 170 crew members on board at the moment.
“If it’s lunchtime you will see people but I could go a week without seeing anybody if I wanted to.
“It’s very weird and strange to see the ship with so few people on it.
“It feels like a ghost ship at night time because the lights are dimmed or turned off in places where they wouldn’t usually be so if you’re walking through the entertainment places everything is covered in white sheets in pitch black, it’s pretty freaky.”
When the pandemic hit the cruise was travelling from Hong Kong to Singapore, but when realising how serious the situation was, Jonny asked if he could terminate his contract early so he could fly home.
Passengers were told to disembark in Singapore and the ship set off for Dubai in April to allow the remaining crew members get home from there.
But despite having a flight booked from Dubai to Manilla, his journey was cancelled as the city closed its airport and the following day the Philippines closed its borders to non-nationals and visa-holders.
With no way of getting in to the country to renew his visa, Jonny is stuck on the ship, which has been moored in Naples since June.
Jonny has been allowed to stay living in his quarters and is given a daily allowance of £7.60 from the company to spend on board, but he says he’s blown through his savings since his full-time pay was stopped four months ago.
Now Jonny has set up a GoFundMe and is asking strangers to chip in so he can get home when the border reopen.
He added: “If I’d gone back to the UK I would be homeless – I would have nowhere to stay.
“But the Philippines has closed its borders and the Philippine government are not renewing any visas unless you are actually in the country.
“Until the borders have been lifted I have no way of getting home.”