The Morning Call

Ship crews weigh COVID-19 trauma while mulling re­turn

- By Tay­lor Dol­ven Cruises · Travel · Mauritius · Miami · United States of America · U.S. Centers for Disease Control · Carnival Corporation · Carnival Cruise Lines · Royal Caribbean International · Vietnam · Trinidad and Tobago · Tobago · Trinidad · Dominican Republic · Princess Cruises · Norwegian Caribbean Line · Mediterranean Shipping Cruises · Celebrity Cruises

Princess Cruises crew mem­ber Gan Sun­gar­alingum has spent the last two months tak­ing care of his el­derly par­ents, eat­ing home-cooked meals, and do­ing what he loves most: walk­ing on the beach near his home in Mau­ri­tius. But in­stead of re­turn­ing to his po­si­tion as an on­board watch sales­man af­ter a few months of rest at home, he’s leav­ing the in­dus­try.

“Maybe I’ll come back as a pas­sen­ger, but not as a crew,” he said. He’s been a crew mem­ber with sev­eral cruise lines since 2014.

Sun­gar­alingum is part of a grow­ing num­ber of cruise ship work­ers who say they will not be re­turn­ing to their posts when cruises re­sume. Thou­sands, like Sun­gar­alingum, suf­fered sev­eral months stranded at sea with­out pay af­ter the in­dus­try shut down in mid-March amid COVID-19 out­breaks on sev­eral ships.

The virus hit crew mem­bers par­tic­u­larly hard as cruise com­pa­nies strug­gled to con­tain out­breaks even long af­ter pas­sen­gers de­parted. At least 1,779 crew mem­bers con­tracted COVID-19 and at least 29 died from the virus, ac­cord­ing to a Mi­ami Her­ald in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Sun­gar­alingum was at sea for more than 51⁄ months; more

2 than two dozen crew mem­bers from other com­pa­nies are still wait­ing to go home. Travel re­stric­tions from the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion and var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional gov­ern­ments com­pli­cated ef­forts to repa­tri­ate crew mem­bers, mak­ing it both ex­pen­sive and challengin­g.

In the Caribbean, many is­lands re­quired com­pany-spon­sored land quar­an­tines for crew

mem­bers be­fore they could re­turn home to their fam­i­lies. Mau­ri­tius re­quired the same, and only al­lowed for a few hun­dred work­ers to re­turn home each month.

Roger Frizell, a spokesper­son for Car­ni­val Cor­po­ra­tion, said the com­pany has repa­tri­ated every crew mem­ber who wanted to re­turn home. Jonathon Fish­man, a spokesper­son for Royal Caribbean Group, said that 30 crew mem­bers from Viet­nam and Trinidad and Tobago are still wait­ing to go home. Spokes­peo­ple for Nor­we­gian Cruise Line Hold­ings and MSC Cruises did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment about the num­ber of crew on their ships still wait­ing to go home.

Some at sea for more than a year have de­scribed ex­treme dis­tress, in­clud­ing sui­ci­dal thoughts.

“It’s too much, one year is too much,” said one crew mem­ber who re­quested anonymity for fear of re­tal­i­a­tion. “It’s very dis­ap­point­ing to see how they think about the busi­ness, and they don’t think about the peo­ple

who haven’t gone home.”

Other long-trapped crew mem­bers said they too felt trau­ma­tized and won­der whether they should re­turn to work at sea.

“Af­ter this ex­pe­ri­ence, I doubt it,” a Celebrity Cruises crew mem­ber from the Do­mini­can Repub­lic re­cently told the Mi­ami Her­ald, re­quest­ing anonymity for fear of re­tal­i­a­tion from the com­pany. “It was a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing on the ship for so long, locked in a cabin and not know­ing when you would leave the ship.”

For oth­ers, the de­ci­sion is more com­pli­cated. With the virus still surg­ing in many parts of the world, un­em­ploy­ment re­mains high, and cruise ships, once they’re oper­at­ing again, of­fer a rare chance at a sta­ble job.

Com­pa­nies have can­celed U.S. cruises un­til at least Jan. 1 as they pre­pare to pro­tect pas­sen­gers and crew from the virus. The CDC lifted its cruise ban this month but put in its place a new re­quire­ments com­pa­nies will have to meet be­fore they can wel­come pas­sen­gers again.

 ?? RICHARD TRIBOU/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL 2019 ?? Com­pa­nies have can­celed U.S. cruises un­til at least Jan. 1 as they ready to pro­tect pas­sen­gers and crew from the virus.
RICHARD TRIBOU/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL 2019 Com­pa­nies have can­celed U.S. cruises un­til at least Jan. 1 as they ready to pro­tect pas­sen­gers and crew from the virus.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA