Tens of thousands of cruise ship crew members remain stranded at sea, virtual prisoners on their ships with no clear end in sight as the Covid-19 coronavirus drags on around the globe. The cruise industry has been shuttered and shattered by the crisis, with onboard outbreaks, denial of port access and no clear idea of when guest will return and ships can sail again.
Many crew aren’t being paid because their contracts have ended. Some have no internet access; tensions are flaring; and some have even filed suit against their employers.
In March, US authorities issued a no-sail order as the virus crisis ramped up. Ships with passengers offloaded them, some more easily than others. According to the US Coast Guard, there are more than 100 ships carrying over 70,000 crew in or near US territorial waters or ports.
Caio Saldanha, a Brazilian DJ who works on a vessel which is in limbo somewhere between Florida and the Bahamas, shares a cabin with his 29 year old girlfriend Jessica Furlan, who hosted on-board activities for passengers. They have spent 3 weeks confined to the cabin, and stopped getting paid on April 24.
We are prisoners. I need help. We need help. We need to fight to go home.”
Those who keep the ships running – sailors, cleaners and cooks, for example – are still getting paid, but those whose jobs were to entertain passengers are out of luck, and employees who’ve completed their contracts are not getting paid either. The cruise lines provide room and board, but nothing more. Crew must pay for anything else, even toothpaste and soap. Some have to pay for internet access.
The major cruise lines stand accused of failing to do enough to get their staff home, ostensibly to save money on pricey charter flights, a claim the companies deny.
But not everyone is in a huge rush. Some crew members feel safer at sea and fear that all the publicity is going to hurt the companies that pay their bills.
A 42 year old South African food and beverage manager for Carnival says it’s is complex and very frustrating time for those that love their jobs.
“Keeping the crew on board was costing more than the charter flights would, and that it was simply very difficult to repatriate certain people to certain destinations.”
“That fault cannot lie with the cruise lines, it lies with bodies like the CDC.”
The Cruise Lines International Association told reporters that so far, there have been a total of 2,789 confirmed cases of Covid-19 onboard 33 cruise ships, among passengers and crew.
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