STRANDED Limestone Coast cruise ship performer Jayden Prelc has issued a desperate plea to be allowed to dock after a proposed flight plan to Australia was rejected by America’s health agency.
Mr Prelc, who has now been aboard the Royal Caribbean liner Rhapsody of the Seas for 48 days amid the COVID-19 crisis, hoped to disembark earlier this week, fly from Florida to Heathrow Airport via charter plane and return to Australia from London.
But shortly after the cruise line company provided a passenger list to America’s health protection agency seeking approval to allow the passengers to enter the country and start the journey home, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rejected the attempt, for reasons which remain unknown.
The 19-year-old was desperate in his plea to American and Australian authorities to secure the necessary approvals from CDC to allow him to enter the US.
Mr Prelc said the remaining passengers, which comprise of former and current cruise ship staff, was “depleted”.
“At the end of the day we are people and we have emotions which are struggling because of the decisions CDC are making,” he said.
“Our ship has been listed as free of COVID-19, there are charters for us, all we need is approval from CDC to be able to disembark.
“We received no information about why they denied us catching the flight.”
Mr Prelc is one of two Limestone Coast residents – along with Callum Unger – still stranded in the US due to rules prohibiting crew members of cruise ships from taking commercial flights.
According to the Foreign Affairs Department, cruise companies which are subject to the requirements are exploring options to present to the CDC and allow crew to disembark and return to their home countries.
The department said Australian Ambassdor Arthur Sinodinos has reached out to crew members on board cruise ships in the US waters to provide information and consular assistance.
While Mr Prelc said he had not been contacted by the department in two weeks, his mother Karyn said she had been contacted this week, but staff were unable to provide any information about the CDC’s rejection.
“We have done everything we have been asked to do, contacted everyone we needed to contact and we are no more advanced than what we were three weeks ago,” Ms Prelc said.
“Royal Caribbean have been absolutely fantastic and have done everything they can, but they just keep getting doors slammed.
“I just wish the American Government and the Australian Government can work together, because the longer this goes on, the harder it will be to get Jayden home.”
Mr Prelc said Royal Caribbean would again attempt to seek CDC approval for a flight early next month, but was not confident it would receive the green light.
“I am still so desperate to get home, but I am completely empty to the fact whether it will happen,” he said.
“What’s to say CDC will not reject us again?
“I have no emotion anymore and it is really sad I am now at a point of not even caring.
“Yes we are in cabin isolation and we are provided for which is great, but we can only walk around a ship, we have to wear masks and we have to socially distance.
“We are feeling dehumanised and it is really not a life.”
A spokesperson from the Foreign Affairs Department said the government was providing consular help to a number of Australian crew members, but was unable to comment on individual cases due to privacy obligations.
While not directly referring to the US, the spokesperson said many countries had imposed travel restrictions and public health measures which have affected cruise ship crew members.
“Repatriating crew from a ship can be complicated by the fact that crew members often come from many different nations,” the spokesperson said.
The department said it was working with cruise companies and coordinating with a number of foreign governments to facilitate the movement of crew members, but did not state the countries involved.
On the CDC website, the agency said it was working with partners including Customs and Border Protection to help remaining cruise ship passengers get home as quickly and safely as possible.
The Centre for Protection and Disease, the US Consulate and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne have been contacted for comment.