A crew member from the Regal Princess cruise ship went overboard early this morning, according to several crew members who wish to  remain anonymous.  The crew member was a Ukranian national and worked for Princess as a waiter. She has been identified by various first names.

A lifeboat from the ship recovered her body after a brief search. Several crew members sent a video taken of the lifeboat crew bringing the young woman from the water which we are not posting here.

The Regal Princess had sailed to Rotterdam as part of Princess Cruises’ efforts to finally repatriate crew members following the suspension of cruising approximately two months ago. Princess had arranged for air transportation for Ukranian crew members to fly from Amsterdam to Kiev; approximately 150 Ukranian crew members had been successfully flown back to the Ukraine via Ukranian International Ailines.

It was explained to me that the crew member in question was part of a second group of around 120 Ukrainian crew members who were scheduled to fly on a second airplane not associated with Ukrainian International Airlines.

The second air flight to Kiev was cancelled for unclear reasons. The woman was one of over a hundred crew members not permitted to fly home to the Ukraine. She reportedly was distraught and last seen crying on the ship.

This is the third crew member to die after cruising was suspended.  Yesterday, an assistant shore excursion manager died on the Carnival Breeze which is sailing to the U.S. from Bahamian waters. Eight days ago we reported that a Polish electrician on the Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas went overboard south of Greece. All of these cruise lines notified the families of these seafarers that their loved one had died.

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Photo credit:  A.Savin wikimedia commons · wikiphotospace) – FAL commons / wikimedia.

A crew member aboard the Carnival Breeze died this morning as the cruise ship was sailing from the Bahamas to England, according to several crew members who wish to remain anonymous.

József Szaller was an assistant shore excursion manager from Hungary who had worked for Carnival for the past three years. His collleagues found him dead in his cabin from what many believe was a decision to end his life.

Mr. Szaller had worked for Carnival since January 11, 2017. He had worked on the Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Miracle and Carnival Breeze for the past three years.

The Carnival Breeze is one of several Carnival cruise ships which is finally taking crew members back to their home countries after the cruise line suspended operations nearly two months ago. The Carnival Breeze is sailing to Southampton, England with around 1,300 crew members from Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and England. The Breeze is now sailing out of Bahamian waters across the Atlantic.

A Carnival employee explained to me that the Carnival Magic is repatriating crew members back to Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria whereas the Carnival Fantasy is going to India and Africa. The Carnival Glory is sailing to South America.

The Carnival crew members with whom I have communicated express their sadness on receiving news of losing one of their colleagues. One crew member who knew him was “devastated” by the news and said that he was “a good team member and an awesome human being.” His family reportedly has been informed of his death.

Crew-Center was the first web site to report of the crew member’s death. It indicated that his sail and sign in card was last used three days ago on Wednesday. The site said that “depression is striking hard to us on board after a long period of time in isolation on the ships,” according to a Carnival crew member.

A week ago today, we reported that a Polish electrician on the Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas went overboard south of Greece.

The crew members on the Carnival Breeze who discussed Mr. Szaller’s death expressed experiencing long periods of monotomy as they have been on the ships and under quarantine for COVID-19 for a long period of time. They complained of boredom mixed with feeling of stress, uncertainty  and confusion due to a lack of communication by the ship’s leadership regarding their future.

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Photo credits: Facebook; Marine Traffic; ChrisCruises CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

Tonight there is a party happening on the pool deck (deck 15) on the Norwegian Epic which is docked at the port of Miami. Many hundreds of crew members are crowded together, all without masks, as they intermingle with the city of Miami in the background of the NCL cruise ship.

All of this is in direct violation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which specifies that crew members must observe a distance of at least six feet and wear masks while outside of their private cabins.

This is essentially identical to the party on the Norwegian Escape last Thursday when a party was videotaped by a crew member who wished to remain anonymous. We reported on the event in an article which we posted on May 2nd titled “Ridiculously Overcrowded” Norwegian Escape Sails to Miami.

The images were subsequently published in an article tiled “Shocking images emerge from ‘ridiculously overcrowded’ Norwegian Escape cruise ship that is repatriating 3,800 non-European crew members to Miami as staff complain about tiny shared rooms and NO social distancing.

We posted one of the videos of the current party, which were taken by a crew member who wishes to remain anonymous, on our Facebook page:

Norwegian Epic – Port of Miami – May 5, 2020 10:30 P.M.

Happening now on the Norwegian Epic at the Port of Miami. No social distancing, no masks in public, all in violation of CDC guidelines.

Posted by Cruise Law News on Monday, May 4, 2020

After we posted the video on our Facebook page, there was an overwhelmingly negative response by crew members on the Epic.  Many crew members, like the crew on the Norwegian Escape, argued that the CDC order is not enforceable. One crew member, a sound technician employed by NCL, flatly says that “NCL does not care about the CDC.” This was probably the most transparent comment possible under these embarrasing circumstances.

A typical response was something nonsensical like this: The “CDC is not a legitimate authority. They are corrupt Communist mouthpiece and involved in Human Trafficking.”

Many crew members tried to defend the cruise line by suggesting that there allegedly have been no positive COVID-19 cases since the passengers left the ships over a month ago. But the fact is that there have been crew members who have tested positive with COVID-19 on some of the NCL ships which  NCL has assembled the passengers together.

NCL has commingled crew members from the Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Biss, Norwegian Gem, and the Norwegian Star. 

Over this past weekend, we reported on the death of the senior ship doctor on the Norwegian Gem. Other crew members reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, including a nurse who became seriously ill.

Also, a crew member was landed yesterday for medical treatment from the Norwegian Epic without explanation which crew members fear is is related to coronavirus.

The comments from crew members, who are mostly openly contemptuous and defiant of the CDC and its guidelines, can be reviewed here.

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Over this past weekend, several crew members on Royal Caribbean-owned cruise ships expressed their frustration at being kept from an unreasonaby long time onboard their ships.  The cruise ships which they are on have not sailed for over six weeks, yet Royal Caribbean has not sent them home. There is considerable danger associated with staying on a ship where crew members have been tested positive for COVID-19.

Yesterday, I wrote about a Royal Caribbean crew member, a long term employee who worked the night shift in the incinerator room on the Oasis of the Seas, who died due to COVID-19. He is the third crew member to die on the Oasis in the last three weeks and the fourth Royal Caribbean crew member from a cruise ship right off the coast of Florida to die during this pandemic.  None of these crew members, from Indonedia and the Philippines should have remained on the ships for so long.  They ranked in ages from just 27 to 43 years old.

As pointed out by the Miami Herald, Royal Caribbean has been lying to its crew members for the past month, claiming that it is the fault of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that crew members are stuck at sea. The Herald first published an article last Thursday, stating that cruise lines refuse CDC terms to repatriate crew, calling transportation  via aircharters to be “‘too expensive.” Later, the Miami Herald explained why crew members were being kept at sea. In an article, titled Royal Caribbean falsely blames CDC for keeping crew trapped on its ships, agency says,  the Miami Herald stated that the actual reason was that the CEO’s refused to sign an acknowledgement that the company will comply with the CDC guidelines. Fearing potential criminal liability, the company decided against having its CEO’s or the chief compliance officers and chief medical officers sign the acknowledgement. Yesterday, the Miami Herald reported that “in an about face,” Royal Caribbean’s Michael Bayley and Celebrity Cruises’ Lisa Lutoff-Perlo announced they would sign the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s terms for disembarking crew.

Royal Caribbean’s change of position also comes after at least two crew members on Royal Caribbean-owned ships went to social media to make their complaints public.

A Celebrity crew member, Caio Saldauha, from Brazil live-streamed on Facebook, and stated that he feels like a prisoner on the Celebrity Infinity (he translates his comments in English as well).  A major newspaper in Brazil covered his situation in an article titled Locked in a Cabin, You Lose Track of Day and Night.”

He stated during his live-stream that there are some crew members who wish to remain on the ship during the pandemic. He acknowledged that he is speaking from his perspective. Many crew members and cruise fans have openly critized him. There are some who refer to a popular cruise page on Facebook where people are praising Celebrity for taking care of their crew. Some people seem to think that a cruise line which provides free room and board should be praised.

A Celebrity crew member,  Julia (Lindsey) Whitcomb, reached out to her mother and Congressman, as well as her friends on social media to help her leave the ship. Her story was published via Cosmopolitan. Last week, she live-streamed from the ship last Thursday (below) after the ship doctor and nurse offered her psychiatric care in Broward County as she was preparing to leave the ship.

Hey, guys. Just wanted to share an incident from yesterday that I found disturbing and disappointing.

Posted by Julia Lindsey on Thursday, April 30, 2020

This morning she was interviewed on CNN discussing crew members still on ships. She left her ship Thursday evening after it stopped carrying passengers over six weeks ago. She mentioned feeling optimistic today after the Royal Caribbean CEO and Celebrity CEO finally signed an acknowledgement that the cruise line will be responsible for complying with the CDC guidelnes.

She, too, is facing criticism from other “loyal-to-Royal” crew members who are levelling personal attacks and insults against her for speaking out.  Some discount her feelings by calling her a “performer.” Other cruise fans attack the Brazilian crew member, calling him a “liar” and characterizing his cabin as a “room with a great view.” Some has even gone as far as to make death threats against him.  You can wade through the nasty, personal attacks on our Facebook pages here and here.

Both Mr. Saldauha and Ms. Whitcomb worked on ships where there were reports of crew members positive for COVID-19.

Royal Caribbean has responded by sending a letter to all crew members stating the schedule for finally repatriating the crew members to their homes.

Repatriation of a seafarer is one of the most fundamental and non-delegable obligations of maritime law. It is a long standing doctrine which dates back hundreds of years ago to the Medieval Sea Codes. The obligation was adopted into U.S. maritime law over 150 years ago, based on the principle that crew members should not be stranded on a ship without pay, thousands of miles from their loved ones. There is no valid legal reason to keep any crew member at sea for over thirty days againt their will.

The reality is that modern day cruise lines run on a tight budget. It indeed is expensive to charter private flights for crew members. But there is no legal justification for an industry which makes literally billions of dollars in tax-free profits profits and whose CEO’s collect many tens of million of dollars a year to conclude that it is “too expensive” to charter a private charter for their ship employees. Crew members are legally entitled to special treatment when they work on a ship at sea. And they should be respected when they have been stuck at sea, particularly when there are crew members who have died, alone, in a hospital here in South Florida due to this company’s decision to leave them on a cruise ship during this pandemic, over a thousand miles from their family and loved ones.

Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

This morning, a crew member from the Oasis of the Seas died due to COVID-19, according to an announcement from the captain of the Royal Caribbean  cruise ship.

In a short announcement broacast over the ship’s intercom, the captain stated that Carlos Baluran “passed away this morning.” Royal Caribbean contacted his family and offered them support from the company’s care team. The captain claimed that Mr. Baluran had been “well taken care in the hospital and by the company’s medical team.”

The captain offered support for the crew through the company’s 24/7 “Employee Assistance Program” on a confidential basis. He led one-minute of silence and ended the announcement “Rest in Peace.”

Mr. Baluran worked the night shift in the incinerator room on the Oasis. He was a long term (10 year) employee for the company. He is the fourth Royal Caribbean crew member to die from COVID-19 in a hospital in Broward County in the last three weeks. Three crew members from the Oasis alone have died due to COVID-19 in the last two weeks.

On April 18th, long term Royal Caribbean bar waiter Dexter Joyosa (right), from the Philippes, died in a hospital in Fort Lauderdale.

Two days later, Indonesian waiter Iputu Sugiartha (middle) died of COVID-19 ashore at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale at the age of just 41 years old. He left behind a wife and two children.

Three weeks ago, Indonesian crew member Puyol Puuyy Yool (below) , who was employed in the housekeeping department at Royal Caribbean on the Symphony of the Seas, died of COVID-19 at a hospital in Broward County.  He was just 27 years of age.

The Oasis of the Seas returned to South Florida and disembarked its last group of guests on March 15th, following the CDC’s first no-sail order. For the past six weeks, the Oasis has been off the coast of Florida except for occasionally coming to ports in Miami and Fort Lauderdale to receive provisions and fuel and to bring crew members ashore for medical treatment.

Please pay your respects to Mr. Baluran on our Facebook page.

May 4. 2020 Update: Today the Miami Herald published A third crew member from Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas dies from COVID-19.

Photo credits – Facebook

A crew member has gone overboard from the Jewel of the Seas, according to several crew members on the Royal Caribbean ship who wish to remain anonymous.

Yesterday, the captain of the ship made an announcement that after “search efforts and a thorough investigation” he was sorry to  share that a crew member by the first name of “Kristoff” (last name not mentioned) has “gone overboard.” The captain also announved that “local authorities had been informed and the family contacted and was being supported by the company’s care team.”

The crew member was employed on the ship as an electrician from Poland.

The Jewel of the Seas is currently south of Pireas, Greece.

The captain reminded the crew that the company provides counselling through its 24 hour confidential Employee Assistance Program.

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“It took more than 48 hours to realize the absence of the 27-year-old sailor, a member of the crew of the cruise ship Jewel of the Seas, which in recent days remains anchored in the sea area off Sounio, near the islet of Agios Georgios.

According to a relevant announcement of the Coast Guard, the 27-year-old was realized that he was not inside the above ship on Friday afternoon. A search of the ship’s closed-circuit camera, which had recorded him jumping into the sea in the early hours of Wednesday, followed.

After informing the Coast Guard, a large operation was launched to locate the 27-year-old, without any result so far.

Preliminary investigation into the incident is being carried out by the Central Port Authority of Lavrio.”

Image credit: Top – Jewel of the Seas – Dave Souza – CC BY-SA 2.5 commons / wikimedia; Whats App – anonymous; map – MarineTraffic.

According to crew members who wish to remain anonymous, NCL has assembled employees from several different NCL ships aboard the Norwegian Escape which is sailing to Miami this morning. NCL reportedly took this step to reduce costs involved in the repatriation process.

On Thursday, the company finishing what a crew member called a “huge operation” involving nine cruise ships (Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Dawn and one Oceania ship.)

NCL’s plan is for European crew members to join the Norwegian Breakaway and non-Europeans to join the Norwegian Escape. The transfers took place via tenders. This occurred last week while the ships were at Great Stirrup Cay.

Crew members stated that crew members were cramped together with no social distancing observed. One crew member described the ship as “ridiculously crowded.”

Several photographs taken by crew members on Thursday evening show hundreds of crew members socializing together on an open deck.

“We were not assigned separate living quarters as expected . . .  Two individuals assigned to a small cramped  guest staterooms. No privacy, no social distancing. In an environment with 3800 crew members, we are fearful for our safety.”

We believe that the Company doesn’t care about us anymore and they are more focused on cutting cost as opposed to protecting our health and safety.  When asked about our living arrangements, the answer is that ‘This is directives from Miami.'”

Yesterday, we reported on the death of the senior ship doctor on the Norwegian Gem. Other crew members reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, including a nurse who became seriously ill.

I received the last comment this morning from a crew member from the Norwegian Gem who had been transferred to the Norwegian Escape:

“We are hoping that we are sent home immediately as we all fear for our health and safety here onboard. We are due to arrive in Miami this morning. It feels like a disaster waiting to happen.”

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Update:

Several crew members state that NCL is refusing to permit them access to single cabins, even though they are available. This is in clear violation of CDC regulations.

One crew member stated:

“I am a crew member currently on board the NCL Escape. I was transferred here two days ago per the fleetwide transfer.  

Currently on board approximately 90% of the crew members are sharing their cabins with at least one crew member. But some people are sharing with as many as four people.

The vast preponderance of other crew members who have requested a single cabin, are being told they are not entitled to a single cabin because of their original contracted position. Which is in contravention with our status as stand down crew.

These people were also told they could not even go into a single crew cabin, because: “Housekeeping has already cleaned those cabins.”

Despite the obvious health risks, and with crew members from the NCL Gem which a) had confirmed cases of Covid-19 and b) suffered a fatality two days ago; the Escape has refused to put people in single cabins. There are more than enough cabins available owing to the refusal of the NCL Getaway crew to stay on the Escape.”

Another crew member stated:

“I’m on the Norwegian Escape right now. We have been queuing in our HR lines every day to try to get single living arrangements. Some have reported their roommates feeling ill but not wanting to go to the on board medical, and the HR and guest service representatives have only advised that because of our positions, ie housekeeping, cruise staff, art gallery, photographers, or even youth counselors, we are “not entitled” to single cabins – because “they’ve already cleaned the crew cabins” and we cannot “just request it” – when bringing up our fear for health and safety, they relay the same message ‘because of your position on board, you are not entitled to a single cabin.’”

Another crew member said the following:

“Please keep me Anonymous: this is what we received since the picture was leaked. TEAM ESCAPE PLEASE READ AND ACKNOWLEDGE SEE IMPORTANT NOTES FROM SHIP MEETING WITH CAPTAIN Due to a lovely crew member onboard that sent pictures to the media, this has now resulted in the flexibility we had to keep crew happy to now stop. If you are more than 4 to a table on dk 16 or in spice h2o you will not be asked to move you will be asked to Leave and return to your cabin. Dk 8 bar for water and sode has now been closed completely and almost all tables and chairs have been cleared you must smoke and then leave not just sit there. In the eating places there will now be a empty table in between each one so going for food you will have to wait till people leave before you can enter so will take longer to eat. They were expected to have flights in a couple of days for some countries but now they have been postponed due to the actions of this crew member. The CDC is now evaluating the issue. Security will now be increased around the ship to make sure crew members abide by these rules. If the rules are not being adhered to then the next step will be crew are to remain in their rooms and eat only at the allotted time only. Please dont let it come to this Thank you”

May 3, 2020 Update: The Daily Mail published an article titled Shocking images emerge from ‘ridiculously overcrowded’ Norwegian Escape cruise ship that is repatriating 3,800 non-European crew members to Miami as staff complain about tiny shared rooms and NO social distancing.

Photo credits: Anonymous crew members (photo showing face of crew member wearing NCL shirt intentionally blurred).

 

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.

Two articles published today reveal the sorry state of affairs which crew members face on cruise ships during the COVID-19 pandemic.

100,000 Crew Members Trapped At Sea

The Guardian newspaper in London published an article revealing that there are more than 100,000 crew members still trapped on cruise ships (with at least 50 infected with Covid-19). They are shut out of ports and banned from air travel that would allow them to return to their homes. The article, titled “Revealed: 100,000 crew never made it off cruise ships amid coronavirus crisis,” states that “many of these crew are quarantined in tiny cabins, and some have had their pay cut off. They have effectively become a nation of floating castaways . . . ”

Our office has heard from several dozens of crew members who have expressed anxiety and fear as they remain on ships with no clear plan of if or how they will return home. AIS tracking systems like Marine Traffic (lower right) show over a hundred cruise ships off the coast of Florida or in Bahamian waters.

Cruise Executives Refuse to Sign Agreements Acknowledging Responsibility for Repatriating Crew

The second article, by Miami Herald reporter Taylor Dolven, reveals that cruise lines are in fact allowed to disembark and repatriate crew members still trapped on ships around the U.S. by private transportation as long as their executives sign an agreement with the U.S. CDC that holds the companies accountable for the costs of the repatriation process. The Herald, in an article titled “Cruise Companies Refuse CDC Terms to Repatriate Crew, Call Transport Too Expensive,” states that the cruise executives “are refusing to do so.”

The Herald writes that cruise lines must agree to safely repatriate and pay for each crew member to return home from the ships (this is consistent with the long standing, non-delegable obligations of maritime law). For each person who disembarks, the Herald states, the cruise lines’ Chief Medical Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, and Chief Executive Officer must sign an agreement to these terms that says, “false or misleading statements or omissions may result in criminal and civil actions for fines, penalties, damages, and imprisonment.”

According to the Herald, cruise company officials have complained, in conversation with the CDC, that arranging private transportation for disembarking crew is “too expensive.”

Profits Over Poeple

The cruise industry, which rightfully has been criticized for placing profits over the safety of its crew members, is legally responsible for safely repatriating its ship employees home. It is a well established principle of maritime law that repatriation of ship employees is an absolute, non-delegable legal duty of the ship owners and operators. The CDC agreement, which the executives are refusing to sign, simply acknowledges this fundamental duty.

Many cruide lines are trying to avoid the costs of buying air tickets for their crew. They are delaying the repatriation process, hoping that the home counties of the crew members will volunteer to fly the ship employees home. Or the lines are consolidating their crew members onto ships with the intention of eventually sailing them home, even though crew members on some ships have tested positive for COVID-19. It is a far cheaper process for the company to bundle the crew together like pieces of freight, without pay and or access to shore-side medical treatment during a pandemic. This is nothing short of cruel.

The Cruise Industry is Continuing to Ignore the CDC

Unfortunately, there is a general disregard by the cruise industry of the authority of the U.S. CDC. The CDC previously ordered the suspension of all cruising from U.S. ports until at least July 24th, unless there is a change by the agency to an earlier date. Yet, not a single cruise line has agreed at this time to obey this order.

All cruise lines are also ignoring the clear findings of the scientists at the CDC who concluded that “cruise ship travel markedly increases the risk and impact of the COVID19 disease outbreak in the United States.” The CDC further found that cruising “exacerbates the global spread of COVID19” and that the cruise industry failed to control the spread of the disease sufficiently, causing an unnecessary burden on  already over-burdened local, state and national healthcare systems.  You can read the CDC’s latest finding here.

Its Time for the U.S. CDC, with the Backing of the DOJ, to Hold Cruise Lines Criminally Accountable

It’s time for the CDC, with the backing of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Transportation, to order the cruise industry to sign acknowledgments that they will be responsible for and pay for the repatriation of their crew without further delay.  Failing to obtain such written acknowledgments, the U.S. Department of Justice should proceed with the filing of criminal felony charges against the malevolent cruise companies and their executives who are recklessly endangering their crew members.

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April 30, 2020 Update:

The Miami Herald reporter who wrote the article about the cruise executives refusing to sign the acknowledgment states, via Twitter, that many cruise ship captains are announcing that the CDC is to blame for the refusal to repatriate the crew. This is false according to the CDC:

May 1, 2020 Update:

The Miami Herals reports that Royal Caribbean has been lying to its crew members about the CDC- Royal Caribbean falsely blames CDC for keeping crew trapped on its ships, agency says.

Photo credit: Top – Carnival Corporation; middle – Marine Traffic – dozens of cruise ships (in blue) in Bahamian waters.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holding’s CEO Frank Del Rio (photo above, via CNBC, in happier times in 2019) collected $17,808,364 in compensation last year, including $12,201,324 in stock awards and $3,600,000 in incentive plan compensation according to SEC filings. His compensation was down from 2018 when he collected nearly $22,600,000. Del Rio has collected over $85,000,000 in the last five years.

CEO Del Rio is one of several heavily paid cruise executives working for the three brands operating under the HCLH group, which consists of NCL, Oceania, and Regent. Additionally, former NCL President Andrew Stuart collected around $5,500,000 and NCL Vice President Mark Kempa collected a little over $4,000,000 last year. Oceania CEO Robert Binder collected almost $6,000,000 and the Regent CEO Jason Montague collected over $4,000,000 last year. In total, the NCLH excecutives collected a whopping $37,112,263 last year.

This means that last year alone CEO Del Rio collected over one thousand times more than the median wages of a NCL crew member who earned an annual income of a little less than $17,000 according to information submitted to the SEC by NCL. A NCL median employee was defined in SEC filings as a “full-time employee located on one of the NCL ships with an annual total compensation of $16,925 for 2019.”  This results in a compensation ratio between CEO Del Rio and a median crew members of “1,052 to 1” according to the SEC filing.

Last month, Business Insider reported that NCL cut the pay of its shore-side salaried workers by 20% and was moving to a 4-day work week. There is no indication that any of the NCLH executives took a pay cut.

Many NCL crew members state that they have been recently asked to waive their right to receive wages in the future. There are many thousands of NCL, Oceania, and Regent ship employees still stuck at sea away from their loved ones.

COVID-19 has pummeled NCL’s stock price in the last several months. NCL stock fell from a high of nearly $60 a share to a low of slightly more than $7 share, with a current price of around $16 a share.

On Monday, NCL withdrew its 2020 forecast and stated that it would cut spending by about $515,000,000, according to an article by Reuters. It previously announced that it was extending the suspension of its cruise ships to June 30th amid the coronavirus pandemic (notwithstanding the CDC’s order that, absent a change, cruising from U.S. ports was supended to at least July 24th).

On our firm’s Facebook page, we rhetorically asked how NCL planned to cut over $500,000,000 in spending.  From what NCL is doing, it appears that it is attempting to accomplish this goal by: (1) not paying its crew, (2) hoping the guests’ home countries will fly their crew home, (3) not paying COVID19 -related medical expenses of its ill crew members once it sends them home, and (4) holding onto its guests’ refunds.

And how do you think Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) will cut spending: (1) not paying its crew (2) hoping the crew's home…

Posted by Cruise Law News on Tuesday, April 28, 2020

At least one reader commented: “maybe by not overpaying their CEO so much? We can hope, right?” 

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Update:

Several readers have asked how NCL’s CEO compenssation-crew member wages ratio compares to other cruise lines. For Carnival Corporation’s CEO Arnold Donald, his total compensation of $11,149,514 in 2019 compared to the median wages of a Carnival crew member of $15,429 results in a ratio of 723:1. For Royal Caribbean’s CEO Richard Fain, his total compensation of $12,422,715 in 2018 compared to the median wages of a Royal Caribbean crew member of $19,396 results in ratio of 640:1.

Photo credit: CNBC