There is no place like home. That's the sentiment expressed by Sterling Howell, leader of the music band Xcite, who returned to Trinidad on Saturday night along with five other musicians after spending the last few months off the coast of Barbados aboard the Caribbean Princess.
"It is a refreshing feeling, we are so happy right now. I am speechless with happiness," Howell told the Sunday Guardian in a brief interview moments after arriving by boat at the Cruise Ship Complex just before 8 pm.
Howell returned home with band members Esther Dyer (female vocalist), Rodney Harris (keyboard), Sheldon George (bass player), Rondell Andy Edwards (drummer) and a solo pannist Vivian Williams who also worked on the cruise ship.
The group was processed at the Cruise Ship Complex and were driven out of the facility at around 8:30 pm inside a National Security bus with a police escort destined for University of the West Indies' Debe Campus.
They will be in quarantine at that facility for the next 14 days.
Howell admitted it was one of the most difficult periods of their lives. "It was emotionally draining for us to see other crew members have their countries take them home, while we had to wait and hope. I think it also brought us spiritually closer and I want to thank those spiritual leaders who kept in touch with us."
He said the group was upbeat and were eager to see their families at the end of their quarantine. "I surely want to spend time with my family and eat some pelau and callaloo. And, off course, find time to go to church," he said.
The group had been contacted on Friday evening and notified that they would be allowed to return to T&T, hours after Minister of National Security Stuart Young announced that nationals aboard cruise ships would be granted exemptions to return. The announcement came one day after T&T's last active COVID-19 case was cleared and discharged.
53 more nationals who had been aboard cruise ships will arrive at the Piarco International Airport tomorrow, according to a release from the Ministry of National Security yesterday.
Ministry officials said they had been communicating with cruise ship companies to make arrangements to return nationals.
The Ministry said the returning nationals will be medically assessed upon arrival and will then be subjected to quarantine measures.
Minister Young was said to be engaged in discussions surrounding the re-entry of 300 people who had been aboard various cruise ships.
Along with the Xcite group, nationals aboard the Disney Fantasy and Royal Caribbean Cruises had been clamouring for months to be allowed re-entry into the country.
The ministry assured they are carefully managing the return of citizens so as to preserve the health and safety of the internal population as well as those arriving in the country.
Nationals from Barbados, Surinam and Guyana were also allowed entry into Trinidad after exemptions were made by Minister Young.