This past weekend, Royal Caribbean announced the suspension of the Jewel of the Seas. The announcement also refered to the cruise line suspending two other active cruise ships, Symphony of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas.  It included a statement that a fourth cruise ship, the Vision of the Seas, which is not yet sailing on revenue cruises with passengers, will not resume cruises with guests for another seven weeks. What the company did not announce, but is becoming obviously clear, is that Royal Caribbean will continue to use the Vision of the Seas as well as the Rhapsody of the Seas as floating quarantine hotels / hospitals to accomodate the thousands of crew members who are infected / ill with COVID-19. Read: Vision of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas: Royal Caribbean’s “Plague Ships,”

Based on information which we have received from crew members of the Vision and Rhapsody, both cruise ships are now at full capcacity with quarantined and ill crew members. Yet, each week we see more and more crew members becoming infected with the virus.  Royal Caribbean addressed ths problems by deciding that the Jewel of the Seas will be used as a third floating quarantine hotel / hospital ship for crew members.

The company announced internally that “Jewel of the Seas will be serving as crew accommodations, as we work with our other ships in service . . .  We will have three types of crew on board Jewel: (1) working crew, (2) quarantine crew, and (3) COVID positive crew transferred to the Jewel from other ships.”

The Jewel made its first pickup of infected crew members when it rendezvoused with the Harmony of the Seas early this morning  The Jewel sailed from Miami and the Harmony from Port Canaveral and met at Royal Caribbean’s private destination at Coco Cay. One crew member placed the number of transferred crew members at 237; another stated that 241 infected crew were tranferred.

We reported that when the Jewel was approaching Miami yesterday, there were a total of 163 infected crew and 10 infected guests. By the time that the Jewel arrived at PosrtMiami, these numbers increased to 183 crew members and 23 guests.

Considering that the Jewel had 183 infected crew members as of yesterday and picked up least 237 infected crew members from the Harmony this morning, the Royal Caribbean ship now has a total of 420  infected crew members. So it’s just a matter of time before we learn that the Jewel is at full capacity of housing infected and ill crew members.

There is an issue whether these floating hospitals have adequate medical staffing of doctors and nurses. The Vision reportedly has only two doctors and four nurses for over 1,500-2,000 infected crew.  It is unknown how many ship doctors or nurses are on the Jewel, but it is doubtful whether there are more than two doctors and a few nurses.

The majority of the infected crew members on the Vision are reportedly symptomatic with headaches, fever, sore throats and fatigue. Fortunately, few crew members  have severe symptoms at this time but there are some instances of ship employees complaining of shortness of breath and other significant symptoms. There is an obvious concern, with so many thousands of infected crew members and so few doctors and nurses on these ships, that those employees with more serious symptoms will slip through the cracks.

From what I have heard from guests on Royal Caribbean ships and through some of their social media postings, ships nurses appear exhausted from dealing with COVID-19 related medical issues, as reveaked by this TikToc posting by a guest whose family (wife and child) was infected on the Harmony of the Seas last week.

Although I have been referring to the Vision and Rhapsody and, now, the Jewel as floating “hotels” and “hospitals,” in truth they are neither. In all cases, crew members do not have the luxury of going for a walk outside of the hotel and getting some fresh air. For most crew members, they don’t have balconies which they can open; they must breath the same old COVID-19 recycled air inhaled and exhaled by everyone on lower crew decks. The so called “floating hospital” is actually no more than an ill equipped “walk-in” clinic at sea, staffed by an insufficient number of ship doctors and nurses.

Clearly, Royal Caribbean should promptly transport their infected ship employees ashore and pay for them to stay in hotels to recover, as is consistent with the fundamental requirements of maritime law and the “maintenance and cure” doctrine. Keeping infected and often ill crew members stuck on ships at sea should be an embarrassment to the cruise line. Carnival is doing the same thing by using some of its older cruise ships, like the Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Sensation, as floating quarantine and medical facilities. However, to these types of companies motivated more by money than the health and safety of its crew, this appears to be business as usual.

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Image credit: Top – Jewel of the Seas – Dave souza – CC BY-SA 2.5 commons / wikimedia.orgLindsay Ratliff -TikToc video – Royal Carribean Nurse: “We have alot, alot of patients with worse symptoms than you” (see @cruisingwithcovid); Twitter images  – respective Twitter usrs.