Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) stated that a crew member aboard the Norwegian Gem tested positive for COVID-19, according to a letter (below) sent by NCL to the crew members remaining on the cruise ship. Strikingly, NCL did not send the letter to crew members who were sent home and are entitled to benefits if they were infected while on the ship.

The letter states that the NCL crew member that tested postive was on the cruise ship from March 31st to April 14th. The letter informs crew members who were on the ship at this time “that it is possible that you were exposed to someone who was sick with COVID-19.” The letter continues stating that crew members who arrive home should practice social distancing for 14 days.

NCL instructs crew members who return home and experience symptoms of COVID-19, to call a doctor or emergency room and suggests that they “insruct them about your recent employment on a cruise ship.”

What is interesting, and quite sinister, is that this letter has not been delivered to crew members who were sent home from the Norwegian Gem. Furthermore, NCL does not instruct the crew members who were sent home to notify NCL of their illness and request that the medical bills be sent to the cruise line.

Cruise lines are obligated under the U.S. Jones Act and the maritime doctrine of “maintenance and cure” to provide crew members with prompt and adequate medical treatment” for any disease that they are infected with (even if they do not exhibit symptoms until after they leave the ship) up the point that the crew member reaches maximum medical improvement.

There are several troubling observations which this letter raises:

1.  The letter was sent only to the crew members on the Norwegain Gem and not to crew members who were sent home, even though NCL clearly has an ongoing legal obligation to them.

2.  NCL is obligated to provide medical treatment as well as “sick wages” and a stipend toward living expenses until the crew member reaches his/her maximum medical improvement.  Yet, NCL did not inform their crew members of this fact. This is an obvious attempt for NCL to send its crew members back to their home countries and illegally foist its obligations owed to its crew members on other countries.

3.  NCL has made no public comments regarding COVID-19 on its ships. The Miami Herald recently published a list of cruise lines and cruise ships which have experienced positive COVID-19 guests and crew members. NCL refused to provide any responses to the Miami Herald’s requests. Ironically, Carnival Corporation was arguably the most transparent company to reveal this information, even though its Princess Cruises brand has experienced by far the most COVID-19 cases.

Many NCL crew members tell me that they are concerned that NCL is hiding issues potentially related to COVID-19 to avoid negative publicity. Several crew members stated that a crew member was taken ashore to a hospital for a “heart attack” and a cruise ship nurse was extremely ill for reasons not disclosed yet. NCL has not made a public statement regarding the reasons for these incidents.

If you are a crew member who sent home from the Norwegian Gem (or any other ship) and was diagnosed with COVID-19, then you have the right to receive benefits from your employer.  Tell the cruise line that you are ill and send them your medical bills which they are obligated to pay.

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Photo credit: Corgi5623 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.