When Seattle resident Jody Poth signed her first circus contract late last year, with Cirque du Soleil at Sea, it felt like nearly a decade of training as an aerialist had finally paid off.
She left her day job as a private investigator and flew to Montreal to learn two shows from what some consider the top traveling circus in the world. At the time, she said, she was excited by the prospect of performing for the next seven months aboard the MSC Bellissima, a 4,000-passenger cruise ship, as it visited the Middle East and Asia.
“This was what I always wanted to do,” said Poth, who Seattle denizens may know from her Sunday-night gig at the Pink Door twirling above diners’ heads in a hoop suspended from the ceiling.
But Poth got to perform for just two weeks before precautions to control the spread of the novel coronavirus trapped her and roughly 1,400 other crew members aboard a ship docked in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Many have been awaiting a way out for more than a month.
Initially, the crew members had free run of the ship, she said. But as days progressed into weeks, MSC began restricting their access to the pool, the theater and other amenities. Soon, the company turned off lights in parts of the boat and regulated how many crew members were in the mess hall at any one time.
And earlier this week, MSC announced a lockdown and restricted crew members to their cabins. A letter sent to Poth and other crew members outlining the new regime warned they “may have been in contact with people infected with COVID-19…”
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