for 50+ days
Nate Goodlet gets paid to do what he loves. For three years, he’s been working on a cruise ship as a performer, playing guitar and singing at night while exploring the world during the day.
He usually spends about four months away from home in Murphy and gets two months between contracts. The longest time he has been on the ship without touching land was eight days, when they crossed the ocean from Spain all the way to Tampa, Fla.
For more than 50 days, though, he hasn’t been able to touch land. He and other crew members on the ship haven’t been allowed by governments to enter their countries – and find a way home – due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It can be frustrating still on the ship,” Goodlet said. “Mainly because people on land tend to think of us as diseased or the cause of the infection. But really we are probably the cleanest safest place on Earth right now.”
Stuck in Australia
On March 14, they were in Sydney, Australia, and ready to start a 13-day cruise to New Zealand. However, New Zealand closed its borders, and the ship ended up staying off the coast of Australia for those two weeks. Just a couple of days before he was supposed to fly home on March 27, Australia closed its borders and told the ship to leave their waters.
The embassies and cruise lines representatives tried working with the Australian government for another week. On April 4, 500 crew members from Asia were transferred to larger ship to be taken home to their countries.
Once the transfer was complete, Goodlet’s ship was told to leave or face criminal charges. They were followed by authorities out of the country’s waters.
“We were very heartbroken that Australia was so quick and harsh to tell us to get out of their waters when half of our year is spent entertaining and serving their citizens, and cruise ships were offered to help evacuate people from the brush fires,” he said.
As they took the long way around Australia to Singapore, crew members went into 14 days of isolated quarantine in guest cabins with balconies for fresh air.
“We had no cases of the virus, but we did this as a way to show local Asian governments that we were following social distancing and self quarantine so that when we arrived they would hopefully allow us to leave,” Goodlet said.
In Asian waters
When they reached Singapore on April 16, the country had an increase in coronavirus cases. The ship was allowed to anchor miles offshore and given fuel and provisions. The next day, they sailed up the Strait of Malacca off the coast of Malaysia, where they waited there for two weeks for their sister ships to join them.
On April 30, they returned to Singapore, where all non-working crew members were transferred to a larger ship. He was one of about 260 crew members from his ship joining crew from four or five other ships for a total of more than 2,000 crew members on board.
On May 1, Goodlet thought he could be home for Mother’s Day as they headed to the Philippines. The country was willing to let the crew to enter the country, directly go to the airport and board planes to go home.
Unfortunately, the Manila Airport closed down international travel on May 3. He last saw his mother the first week of November, when he flew out to Australia to join the ship.
Goodlet said there have been times it’s been stressful on the ship, but each time they are given a new plan “it’s just an uplifting feeling of optimism.”
Trying to get home
He said the ship’s leadership team has done a great job of keeping them informed, checking on him frequently during isolation. The cruise director, captain and executives in the Miami office have done lighthearted videos, shows and announcements.
He knows the company has been working hard to get the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to get the American crew back in the country, while it is also making sure crew members have their needs met on the ship.
“I’m happy with how the company has handled things,” Goodlet said. “It’s not their fault that we’ve been turned away, and they are working around the clock to get us home quickly.”
He’s been spending his time working on new music and practicing photography. On Easter, he celebrated by writing a sermon, filming it and broadcasting it on the ship’s televisions. He and his friends also entertain themselves by creating and playing trivia games.
“I love the ocean, but it’s a nice balance to back to the mountains and the lakes, and enjoy some fresh water every once in a while,” Goodlet said. “I am all right. But I will definitely kiss the ground when I get home – with my face mask still on, of course.”