The Oceania Riviera, which was scheduled to be on a cruise until tomorrow, returned to the port yesterday with passengers sickened by norovirus.
The virus has reportedly sickened at least 119 of 1,225 passengers, which is 9.72% of the passenger population on the ship. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has verified that the passengers who are suffering are suffering from nausea and vomiting are infected with gastrointestinal illnesses caused by norovirus.
This cruise ship was last contaminated with norovirus during a cruise from November 18 – December 2, 2015 and had to return to Miami for what the cruise industry often calls "enhanced cleaning."
All crew members on cruise ships dealing with a gastrointestinal illness outbreak know that they are going to increase their work and lose sleep whenever noro is aboard the cruise ship. Crew members are pressed into spraying and wiping virtually every inch of the ship’s surfaces in order to give the ship a "deep clean" whenever there is a GI outbreak, This is now happening on the Riviera where the entire crew has been compelled to work long hours to try and eradicate the nasty virus before the next group of passengers come aboard the cruise ship tomorrow.
Several crew members, who wish to remain anonymous, have contacted us to complain that they are working from early in the morning until the very late hours / early morning hours of the next day. Some crew member report working around 18 to 20 hours a day for the past days. The crew members say that they are forced to work hours far in excess of the maximum permitted under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). They are told to sign out and work the extra time "off the clock." The result is that they are not being paid and are working past the point or mental and physical exhaustion.
Few passengers may be thinking about the welfare of the crew members, who have not only had to clean up the vomit throughout the ship on a daily basis, but now have to work an unreasonable number of hours to "super-clean" the ship and kill all of the noro left by the last round of sick passengers.
The crew is undoubtedly feeling the pressure from the top as the cruise line CEO Frank Del Rio told USA TODAY last October that "I insist on spotless ships." This attitude is definitely on the minds of the ship managers even when there is no norovirus outbreak. When noro strikes, the managers are pushing the crew past the maximum hours permitted to work.
Flagrantly violating the MLC 2006 Convention is not an unusual thing on some cruise ships. It is honored in the breach on many ships. There is tremendous pressure to work and keep the department heads happy. A super-clean ship where the crew works like a beaten dog is hardly a safe and secure workplace.
Unfortunately, there is not much a crew member can do in this situation. Hiring a lawyer may end up with a wage claim but it will surely result in the crew member finding himself or herself on a one way flight back to their home country.
Photo Credit: Kefalonitis94 – Creative Commons 4.0, Wikimedia
February 22 2016 Update: The cruise industry’s trade organization, Cruise Line international Association (CLIA), posted this tweet on Twitter: "Our work never ends. Crewmembers continually clean & sanitize cruise ships to ensure passenger & crew #health" It’s one tweet from CLIA that is literally true, crew members often work 18 to 20 hours a day to super-sanitize cruise ships when there is a noro outbreak.