Several years ago, I attended the annual Sea Trade Conference (now called the Cruise Shipping Miami) where companies which cater to the cruise industry promote their services and products. One company was advertising disinfectant spraying services for the cruise lines in order to eradicate contagious viruses. The company displayed a mannequin wearing a full body hazmat suit.

The Cruise Industry Has A History of Providing Inadequate Equipment and Training to its Crew Members to Deal With Viral Outbreaks

I have never seen or heard of a crew member wearing such a suit in combating the hundreds of virus outbreaks which have plagued cruise ships over the last twenty-five years. MRSA, Norovirus, E. coli, H1N1, Salmonella enterica, Staphylococcus aureus, Legionella pneumophilia, Hepatitis B&C, Aspergillus niger and so on.

So I took a photo of the suit (top) and added it to my collection of photographs of Cruise Shipping Miami 2015, thinking this is what cruise lines should be using when dealing with a virus outbreak.

A number of people subsequently sent me photos (below right) and videos of crew members spraying after norovirus outbreaks. They are usually wearing inadequate personal protection equipment (“PPE”). Gloves maybe, but inappropriate masks, no face-guards, and no bodysuits, of course. “That’s too expensive,” cruise lines undoubtedly concluded, before the coronavirus outbreak occurred. The sad reality is that no crew member seems to have ever worn such an outfit in dealing with the run-of-the-mill norovirus outbreak.  Fast forward to the current cruise coronavirus outbreak. No cruise line has staffed its ships or equipped its crew members with such equipment to deal with outbreaks.

As the New York Times’ article titled Failures on the Diamond Princess Shadow Another Cruise Ship Outbreak has made clear, the crew members on the Diamond Princess, who were forced to interact with ill guests on the Diamond Princess were literally ill-prepared to deal with the coronavirus.

New Cruise Coronavirus Outbreaks

Coronavirus outbreaks on cruise ships, of course, have continued to occur even after the cruise industry announced that it has temporarily suspended  operations.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ Braemar is  25 miles off the Bahamas after twenty guests and an equal number of  crew members, including a doctor, are in isolation after they displayed influenza-like symptoms. The latest news is that there are at least five confirmed coronavirus cases aboard the ship.

Passengers who recently traveled aboard the Carnival Valor cruise ship are being urged to contact their local health department after a disembarked passenger tested positive for COVID-19. According to local news reports, the Carnival Valor cruise left from New Orleans on Feb. 29th to Cozumel and Yucatan, and returned to New Orleans on March 5th. The patient with the confirmed case returned home to Ohio on March 6th and started having symptoms the next day. He was tested for COVID-19 on March 12th, and officials received the positive test result on Friday night. (If anyone from the Central Ohio area was on the Carnival cruise ship the Valor from Feb. 29-March 5 they are asked to call 614-645-1519). It appears that Carnival is not concerned with checking whether other people, like taxi and uber drivers, airplane passengers and other cruise guests, have been infected with coronavirus:

When Carnival finally suspended its operations, it claimed that it had never experienced a crew member or guest with coronavirus. It can’t claim that anymore.

There are also several new coronavirus outbreaks on Carnival-owned cruise ships operated by its subsidiary, Costa.

The Carnival-owned Costa Luminosa, Costa Favolosa, Costa Diadema and Costa  Magica experienced coronavirus outbreaks aboard both ships, according to crew members who contacted our office.

Ironically, a passenger from a cruise ship in the Cayman Islands with coronavirus became the first such patient in that island with the disease. Carnival had earlier refused to call on the Cayman Islands because it had refused to cowtow to Carnival’s attempt to avoid its strict health protocols.  Later the Costa Luminosa disembarked two ill passengers in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico  barred a Celebrity Summit cruise ship from the port of San Juan from disembarking because a Canadian passenger, already back home in his country, tested positive for COVID-19 and died, according to the Miami Herald.

A Canadian passenger tested positive for coronavirus over the weekend on the Silver Shadow, which is docked off the port of Recife in Brazil, according to a passenger on the ship who contacted me. The test came back positive for COVID-19. The ship is under quarantine. The passengers state that not all of the crew members are wearing PPE.

The Silver Explorer docked in Castro, Chile, this weekend after an 83-year-old British passengers was diagnosed with COVID-19. The ship’s owner, Royal Caribbean, confirmed the coronavirus case on Sunday.

The Norwegian Jewel, which apparently has no coronavirus cases at this time, is searching for a port after being denied permission to dock in ports in French Polynesia, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, and is now piloting to American Samoa to refuel.  NCL says that it is working to find an alternative port and is communicating with guests regularly, which passengers dispute.

Meanwhile, NCL has been accused of fraudulent conduct in selling cruises and misrepresenting the seriousness of the pandemic. A series of emails sent to the Miami New Times, and later published by the Washington Post, reveal that NCL gave false information about coronavirus to the public to lure passengers aboard its ships. An employee informed the New Times newspaper that NCL managers pressured sales staff to lie to customers about COVID-19 to protect the company’s cruise sales. One such talking point included the false promise about “warm air killing the virus.”

Miami’s Daily Business Review just reported that a class action lawsuit was filed last Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging that investors took financial hits due to false statements to passengers such as saying that coronavirus wouldn’t affect their cruises.

Crew Members Express Fear of Being Sickened or Abandoned

Crew members on the Costa Diadema indicate that the ship is sailing back to Savona from Dubai without passengers aboard. They are expressing alarm that Costa is taking the ship to Italy due to the high rate of infection in Italy. Crew members on this ship who are at the end of their contracts were not permitted to disembark while the ship was in Dubai. Meanwhile, there are crew members who have tested positive with coronavirus on the ship.

Over one thousand crew members on the contaminated Grand Princess still have not been tested even though 19 of their colleagues on that ship are ill with COVID-19. There appears to be no plans by any cruise lines, even with ships which call on U.S. ports, to provide medical treatment ashore for their employees in order to comply with their maritime and legal obligations

Crew members are uniformly expressing concern that their employers will refuse to pay them anything once they leave their ships and are returned home.  Several MSC crew members explained that they are at the beginning of their contracts and the cruise line will not compensate them at all once they are sent home.  Crew members from the Philippines have written an open letter to the president of their country asking for their mortgages, loans and other financial obligations to be suspended so they can try to survive financially.

In an article titled Cancellations Due to Coronavirus Drive Fear Among Cruise Workers About Being Sent Home Without Pay, the Washington Post explains that many crew members worry not about catching the virus, but about their contracts being cut short and being sent home, without pay.

Ironically, the Trump administration is indicating that the foreign-flagged billion dollar cruise industry will likely be provided with U.S. financial aide, with no mention of the financial burden that crew members are now facing. Cruise lines already enjoy tax benefits and are not required to comply with U.S. wage and labor laws. The industry should not receive a handout unless financial consideration for the crew, who are the backbone of the industry, be approved. The net worth of Carnival Corporation’s Chairman Micky Arison is over $8,000,000,000. NCL’s CEO Frank Del Rio earned around $32,000,000 one year alone a couple of years ago. Bailout funds should not find their way into the pockets of these “fat cat” cruise executives.

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