After weeks stuck at sea with his cruise ship’s crew, Auburn native Reggie Berg is back on dry land in Indiana.
After a marathon journey from Manila, the Philippines, Berg arrived at his parents’ home in Fort Wayne late on Mother’s Day.
The successful trip came after several disappointments in which hopes of getting off his ship were dashed.
For more than three months, Berg had been stranded with other employees on cruise ships in the Indian Ocean. He boarded a Royal Caribbean cruise ship on Christmas Eve in late December as an entertainer, playing piano for the 3,500 cruise guests.
The last paying passengers departed in late January due to the coronavirus pandemic. That left hundreds of crew members out at sea with no nation willing to let them come ashore until the Philippines agreed.
Success finally came on an extended Mother’s Day in which Berg departed on one side of the International Date Line, flew back into the previous day and traveled more than 24 hours.
Berg’s flights carried some 30 crew members from the United States to Los Angeles, then to New York’s JFK airport.
After landing in New York, “We didn’t know how we were going to get home,” Berg said, but everything had been arranged.
Berg and four fellow crew members from the Midwest boarded a charter bus as its only passengers. Another bus carried a single passenger bound for West Virginia.
The Royal Caribbean cruise line that employed them paid for their flights and the bus trips.
“I can’t even imagine how much it cost, but they did take care of every single thing,” Berg said. After a 16-hour ride, “They literally did drive that charter bus exactly to your front door. That was the CDC’s regulations.”
When Berg arrived, exhaustion was his only reaction. “Emotions came up later,” he said.
He immediately began 14 days in a required quarantine.
“I just can’t wait until these 14 days are up. The worst part of this is jet lag,” he said recently, still not recovered from his trip across 13 or 14 time zones.
When he can go out in public, Berg needs to find a car and an apartment, he said.
“The thing that I miss most … is just the independent freedom of getting to go to a store and get your own things,” he said.
“I will never, ever do a cruise ship ever again,” he added. “You could pay me four, five times as much money as I made. Never.”