Executive Chef with Royal Caribbean, Roderick Dinnall (right) and dining room supervisor, Janet Jackson.
Photo: Garwin Davis

Displaced local cruise workers are looking forward to returning to sea soon, now that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lifted the no-sail order for cruise shipping in American waters.

Having been out of work since March, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, they are eagerly anticipating a callback to the vessels on which they served in various capacities before the virus hit.

Among the workers waiting to return to the high seas is Roderick Dinnall of Moneague in St. Ann, who is an executive chef with the Royal Caribbean Group.

Mr. Dinnal, affectionately called ‘Chef Champion’, has been with Royal Caribbean – the second biggest cruise line in the world – for the past 20 years, earning certification from the American Culinary Federation along the way.

He tells JIS News that “having been used to working seven days per week on the ship, it really took some getting used to being back home for the past several months”.

He has used the time to start a cooking channel on YouTube.

“I mentor other chefs on how to explore various recipes, to be willing to try new ways of preparing a dish, and to be able to prepare simple and delicious meals,” he notes.

Eighteen-year veteran with Royal Caribbean, Janet Jackson, who is also from St. Ann, says she had not anticipated being out of work for eight months.

“I have now gone into my emergency savings. It has been tough, real tough, I must tell you. Nobody and I mean nobody, saw this coming and, therefore, we were all ill-prepared to deal with the realities at hand,” she tells JIS News.

Ms. Jackson says she is glad about the lifting of the ban by the CDC, but notes that there is “no guarantee that there must be a callback” as “we are all contract workers, so nothing is certain”.

She says, however, that she remains optimistic, considering her years of service in a supervisory role.

“I really enjoy my job with Royal Caribbean and wouldn’t change that experience for anything in the world. It has allowed me to travel the world, to build my own home and to provide stability for my family,” she says

For Portland native Marion Cooper, who works with MSC Cruises, the decision by the CDC “is a welcome sign that we might be back on the high seas sooner than we previously thought”.

“I cannot wait to get back to work, as cruise shipping has been my only source of income and pretty much all that I know,” she adds.

Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, tells JIS News that he has been in dialogue with many of the displaced workers and understands what they have been going through, having been out of work for so long and without an income”.

“It has been a painful and exhausting road for these true ambassadors of Jamaica. They have been contributing, via remittances, to this country’s economy for decades and we do owe them a great debt of gratitude,” he says

The CDC, on Friday (October 30), in addition to lifting its no-sail order, also released a list of detailed requirements that could put ships back in operation in the coming months.

The agency’s 40-page directive requires a phased approach to restarting cruises. Companies must first demonstrate that they can successfully protect crew members from COVID-19, then conduct simulated cruises with volunteer passengers, and obtain a Conditional Sailing Certificate from the CDC.

Companies with ships in US waters will have to adhere to crew management plans approved by the CDC earlier this year that require them to provide individual cabins for all crew members.

Most cruise companies — Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages — have cancelled all cruises leaving from US ports until at least December 1.

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