According to the Miami Herald, crew members don’t know when they’ll be able to go home. While cruises allowed most passengers to disembark the ships, employees have been left stranded with the virus still making its way through the ships. At least 578 employees have tested positive for coronavirus, and seven have died. The outlet also reports that at least two crew members have taken their own lives.
Cruise companies initially shuttered on March 13, thinking cancellations would only last for 30 days. Some workers were sent home that month, while some new employees were hired. But by April 9, in order to prevent further outbreaks, the CDC prohibited cruises in U.S. waters through late July.
At this point, Carnival Corporation has sent home 37% of its crew still on board, after passengers left. MSC Cruises has repatriated 76%, Disney Cruise Line 33%, and Royal Caribbean Cruises, an estimated 23%. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line told the Herald that it has sent home around 100 people.
Some cruise companies that still have ships docked near Florida won’t repatriate its crew, instead choosing to ferry them on ships or wait until airports in the Caribbean resume operations.
Crew members don’t have many alternatives. Because cruise companies and its ships are registered abroad, U.S. labor laws don’t cover workers. The International Labor Organization, part of the U.N., suggests that at the very least, companies pay employees sick wages during the pandemic, regardless of whether they’re isolated on land or sea.
Crew members who are stuck on Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, MSC Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line ships but aren’t working, aren’t getting paid. Royal Caribbean workers told the Herald they’re making $400 a month, while Carnival Cruise Line crew are receiving paychecks 60 days after their contracts ended. Crew from other Carnival ships, like Princess Cruises, say they aren’t getting paid.
With the CDC’s No Sail Order for cruise companies set to expire in late July, the cruise industry has its eyes set on when it can reopen. Carnival Cruise has already announced that some of its ships will be ready to set sail on Aug. 1. Carnival will have eight ships sailing from ports in Texas and Florida, which will make stops in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Mexico, and more.
Carnival’s August return has led to an influx of bookings. Earlier this month, a representative with Cruise Planners said that bookings surged by 600 percent in the three days following the company’s announcement.