Cruise ships and coronavirus (COVID-19): More than 42,000 crew still stuck on ships

www.traveller.com.au
8 min read
fairly difficult
At least 42,000 workers remain trapped on cruise ships without paychecks — some still suffering from COVID-19 — three months after the industry shut down.
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Link Photo: Getty Images

After 80 days at sea, three transfers between ships, four cancelled flights and one plane malfunction, Royal Caribbean Cruises music director Bruno Cruells finally touched down in his native Argentina on June 3, accompanied by 251 compatriots. Sitting behind the taxi's new plexiglass on the way home from the airport with his hometown whizzing by out the window, he felt relief.

"I felt like I was finally safe somehow," said Cruells, 30, "like continuing from where I left before all of this happened."

As more countries loosen COVID-19 travel restrictions, crew members are slowly making their way home. About 3000 Carnival Cruise Line workers got off in Croatia earlier this month to catch rides and flights home across Europe. Smiling behind their masks, they posed for a selfie on the pier.

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Link After the industry shut down on March 13, Caribbean countries turned ships suffering outbreaks away when they desperately needed a place to evacuate sick passengers and crew. Photo: AP

Meanwhile, MSC has flown more than 1000 Indian crew members home on charter flights from Europe and South America. Royal Caribbean also flew more than 1200 Filipino crew members home last week from Greece, Dubai, the United States and Barbados.

Still, at least 42,000 workers remain trapped on cruise ships without paychecks — some still suffering from COVID-19 — three months after the industry shut down.

The drawn-out crew repatriation process has underscored the complex relationship between the cruise industry and the Caribbean countries its ships most frequently visit, and reignited the debate about whether countries are getting a fair shake from the industry.

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