Diary of a comedian trapped in COVID cruise ship quarantine


Comedian Jen Murphy recently took part in a comedy concert on a cruise ship with the intention of enjoying Antigua’s beaches by day while entertaining 1,800 passengers with her comedy number by night.

But the omicron variant eclipsed it. Shortly after testing positive for COVID, she was sentenced to eight days in solitary confinement in a windowless cabin in the ship’s galley. It wasn’t funny then, but Murphy laughs about it now. In an interview for “LA Times Today,” Murphy gave Lisa McRee some insight into her quarantine cruise.

What do you want to know

  • Comedian Jen Murphy was supposed to perform on a cruise ship, until she tested positive for COVID on board
  • Murphy spent eight days in solitary confinement in a room at the bottom of the ship
  • Her meals were dropped off by crew members, but she didn’t see another person the whole time
  • Murphy recovered from COVID and was sent home to the next port

Even though it was risky to cruise during the pandemic, Murphy needed the gig. She began to feel ill shortly after boarding the ship.

“This is the first cruise ship I’ve been on since COVID started,” she said. “I had three tests before I got on board, at home that week, and then I got on the boat. They tested me when I got there…when I got on board. I was negative. And then the first night I woke up in the middle of the night sick. I thought maybe it was just a cold since I tested so many times.

Murphy went to the medical ward and asked for cold medicine. The doctor gave her a COVID test, then told her to go back to her room and pack her things. After testing positive, Murphy was moved to a passenger room to self-isolate while she was ill.

“I just started having claustrophobia and thinking that I’m at the bottom of the boat, and there’s no window. And then all of a sudden I realized that I had no not even a key! I can’t leave because then I can’t come back,” she said. “They are very serious about their safety, which is good.”

Murphy’s food was brought to his room each day, packed in bags labeled “biohazardous infectious waste”.

“That’s a part that made me feel ashamed,” she said. “I felt so dirty because three times a day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, they left a tray outside on the floor and they knocked on the door. And I waited to hear the footsteps go away because I couldn’t be exposed to anyone.”

Murphy carefully rationed the bag of Peanut M&Ms she had brought on board.

“I always thought there was something wrong with me because I always make sure I have sweets in my bag in case I get stuck somewhere. Now after that I’ll carry five bags of candy in my bag because one bag of M&Ms wasn’t enough.”

Murphy had relatively mild symptoms while sick, but shared how unpleasant it was to be sick and isolated from anyone.

“It was scary. I’m healthy. I got vaccinated. So I didn’t worry too much. And then night two I woke up with fever sweats. And then I start to really panic because I’m at the bottom of the ship,” she said. “How long would it take for someone to know I was so sick? Who’s going to notice but the guy delivering my food? And then I start imagining what happens if you’re in the middle of the ocean and you are really sick, they must, for example, have a helicopter to airlift you and take you to the nearest hospital. I am in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean here.

Murphy was able to stay connected with the outside world through social media, but internet access was expensive. She took to social media to ask people to keep her company during her isolation.

Even after this experience, Murphy would return on board should the opportunity to perform on a cruise ever arise again.

“I feel like I have a superpower because I have it. It would just be bad luck if I ended up at the bottom of the ship again.”

Watch “LA Times Today” at 7 and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday on Spectrum News 1 and the Spectrum News app.


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