A cruise ship doctor employed by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)  on the Norwegian Gem died yesterday morning, according to several crew members who wish to remain anonymous. NCL claims he had a heart attack in his sleep. But crew members say he was being treated for pneumonia and was never previously tested for COVID-19 .

Dr. Alex Guevara had worked for NCL and other cruise lines for the past twenty years. He was educated and trained in the Philippines in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. He began working as a ship physician in June of 1999. In the past, he worked for Celebrity and Royal Caribbean in addition to NCL

At the time of his death, Dr. Guevara was the senior doctor on the Norwegian Gem.  He was being medically treated on the ship for pneumonia according to ship employees with knowledge of his condition.  He was scheduled to transfer from the Gem, which was positioned near Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, to another NCL cruise ship to be eventually transported to the Philippines.

Dr. Guevara was found dead yesterday morning in his cabin. The crew was concerned that he died due to COVID-19. To deal with what NCL higher-ups calls “gossip,” NCL’s Chief Medical Officer circulated an email this morning to the medical teams throughout the NCL fleet, a copy of which which we reviewed. He wrote this about Dr. Guevara’s death:

“I know gossip has gone around the ships that he had COVID-19. BUT HE DID NOT (caps in original).

He had zero symptoms just last night when he was packing to go home. He did die in his sleep from a Cardio-Respiratory Arrest.

Alex had no symptoms of COVID-19, and had actually done an amazing job treating respiratory cases aboard his ship.”

At least one other ship employee, a Filipino crew member, died in mid April under similar circumstances, crew members inform me.

On April 13th, NCL’s PR Department prepared what it called a “REACTIVE STATEMENT” (caps in original) which stated this about the death of a Filipino ship employee on the Gem:

“The 56 year old Filipino crew member, with tachycardia arrythmeia, was being treated on board. We do not believe he had COVID-19. Because Bahamian officials did not allow us to disembark the deceased, we did so in Miami today.”

The suggested talking points in an email from NCL PR department to certain of its senior employees states that:

“ONLY if asked WHY we did not test for COVID-19:

Because Bahamian officials did not allow anyone to disembark the vessel.”

NCL offered no explanation why it appraently did not request an autopsy to be performed on the crew member, or why it had not earlier tested him for COVID-19.

In addition, a nurse who worked with Dr. Guevara on the Norwegian Gem reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, acording to crew members.

Like the Filipino who died before him, Dr. Guevara did not undergo testing for COVID-19 and so far no autopsy has been performed. Without one, it is purely speculation that he died due to a heart attack, especially because NCL admits that he had done an “amazing jobs treating respiratory cases aboard his ship.” Without testing, how can NCL determine whether these “respiratory cases’ were COVID-19?

Several crew members have expressed their alarm with this situation particularly in light of the prior crew member’s death and lack of COVID-19 testing and autopsy. Crew members have expressed their concern that NCL is trying to cover up the fact that there is COVID-19 aboard the Norwegian Gem which is killing some of its shipboard employees.

These fears seems justified in light of the fact that NCL is now in the process of commingling its crew members from the Norwegian Gem together with employees from other ships and sailing them back to their home countries. There is a risk of infecting healthy crew members and not being being able to provide them with appropriate emergency and intensive care if and when they become ill.

Last week, we wrote that crew members were provided with a letter stating that a crew member on the Gem tested positive for COVID-19. Many NCL crew members tell me that they are concerned that NCL is hiding issues potentially related to COVID-19 to avoid negative publicity.

NCL was last in the news when the Miami New Times reported that the cruise line was pressuring its sales team to mislead potential customers about coronavirus.

It’s misleading for NCL to deny the existence of COVID-19 when its has not tested its crew members or had an autopsy performed on the head doctor on one of its ships who interacted with an infected nurse and treated COVID-19 positive crew members.

Forcing crew members to remain in a shipboard environment, which the CDC has recognized as being especially conducive to COVID transmission, without appropriate testing and other medical resources, cavalierly puts crew members’ lives at risk.

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Update: After we published this article, Business Insider published an article titled: A doctor has died on the Norwegian Gem, two weeks after crew members saw another body loaded into an ambulance.

Photo credit:

Dr. Guevara – LinkedIn

Norwegian Gem – Corgi5623 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.