42,000 cruise ship workers still trapped at sea
Still, at least 42,000 workers remain trapped on cruise ships without paychecks — some still suffering from COVID-19 — three months after the industry shut down.
After 80 days at sea, three transfers between ships, four canceled flights and one plane malfunction, Royal Caribbean Cruises music director Bruno Cruells finally touched down in his native Argentina on June 3, accompanied by 251 compatriots. Sitting behind the taxi’s new plexiglass on the way home from the airport with his hometown whizzing by out the window, he felt relief.
“I felt like I was finally safe somehow,” said Cruells, 30, “like continuing from where I left before all of this happened.”
As more countries loosen COVID-19 travel restrictions, crew members are slowly making their way home. About 3,000 Carnival Cruise Line workers got off in Croatia earlier this month to catch rides and flights home across Europe. Smiling behind their masks, they posed for a selfie on the pier.
The drawn-out crew repatriation process has underscored the complex relationship between the cruise industry and the Caribbean countries its ships most frequently visit, and reignited the debate about whether countries are getting a fair shake from the industry.
In February and March, cruise ships spread COVID-19 to islands around the Caribbean, accounting for half of the infections in Trinidad and Tobago. After the industry shut down on March 13, Caribbean countries turned ships suffering outbreaks away when they desperately needed a place to evacuate sick passengers and crew.
Now, as countries struggle with returning cruise ship workers still testing positive for COVID-19, they are also wrestling with how to get the industry back up and running. Jamaica, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Belize in Central America have all reported positive COVID-19 infections among repatriated workers, in some cases after weeks without registering any new infections. Cruise companies say cruises will resume in August after the U.S. ban expires on July 24.
Alfred Sears, an attorney and former member of the Bahamian Parliament, said the COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for Caribbean countries to restructure their relationships with cruise companies to demand more investment in exchange for tax exemptions.
“This pandemic will force us to ask some fundamental questions about how we do business,” he said. “There ought to be a more balanced relationship.”
Source: Tampabay (Click for further of the article.)