Fri | Jan 15, 2021

Mom, we’re home! - Portmore woman anticipates emotional reunion with three sons after COVID-19 adventure on the seas

Published:Wednesday | May 20, 2020 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Adventure of the Seas docked in Falmouth on Tuesday. The ship has repatriated 1,044 Jamaican crew members.
Joan Spence drove from Portmore, St Catherine, to the Falmouth Port in Trelawny to catch a sight of the Adventure of the Seas cruise ship on which her three sons are aboard.
A man plays around on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's Adventure of the Seas which docked in Falmouth yesterday afternoon. The ship repatriated 1,044 Jamaicans.
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WESTERN BUREAU:

CONROY STERLING begged his mom, Joan Spence, not to break down and cry as he, twin Conrad, and adopted brother Rohan were repatriated to the island aboard the Adventure of the Seas cruise ship on Tuesday afternoon.

After months of quarantine in their cabins after the cruise industry sank amid the global coronavirus pandemic, the three men, along with more than 1,000 other Jamaican cruise ship workers, were reunited in their homeland via the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship that docked at the Falmouth Port in Trelawny.

The docking was the climax of a roundabout voyage after weeks of negotiations with the Jamaican Government which came to a head on the weekend as pressure from the Opposition and other voices mounted. Resistance to fast-­tracking the ­repatriation bid, on account of logistical and health concerns, broke Monday when Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the returnees would be allowed in on Tuesday.

Barring exemptions, a ban on incoming ­passenger traffic to the island has stood since March 24.

None of the 1,044 crew members will be allowed to disembark the vessel until Thursday after being processed by immigration, customs and health ­officials, but that is fine with Spence, who drove approximately 130 kilometres from Portmore, St Catherine, to witness the heart-­warming homecoming.

“I was elated. At times I was speechless; it is a feeling that I can’t explain,” she told The Gleaner as she basked in the exhilaration of the moment.

“Mi son said, ‘Momma, beg yuh nuh break down,’ and I didn’t break down, as much as I was fretting that Conroy’s blood pressure kept going up. I was just happy to know they were home,” said Spence.

The 62-year-old mother, who usually drives to Falmouth to greet her boys whenever any of the ships on which they work docks in the town, said she has been practising telemedicine with Conroy, urging him to drink coconut water, while ensuring never to miss his hypertensive medication.

Minutely, hourly, Spence says she has been making rounds on the phone with the 42-year-old twins and 35-year-old Rohan since they went into quarantine on March 23. The last time she saw them was in November 2019.

And like many other family members awaiting the outcome of the repatriation, Spence said she thought they were never coming home anytime soon.

“But God is God. Even He knew that enough was enough,” she said, overcome with relief.

If her sons test negative, Spence will have the pleasure of cooking their favourite meals in self-quarantine at home.

“They are going to be processed, and after they are processed, by about Thursday, they will start coming off,” regional director of the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), Errol Greene, told The Gleaner.

After health surveillance and COVID-19 tests are completed, crew members will be accommodated at the Bahia Principe and Jewel Paradise Cove hotels in St Ann for at least three days while they await the results, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told The Gleaner last night.

Those who test positive will be isolated at the hotel or admitted to hospital.

The ship is expected to spend more than a week in port, releasing batches of approximately 200 crew members every 48 or 72 hours.

However, 300 others aboard the Adventure of the Seas will not be allowed to disembark.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com