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“How many more suicides do you need?” Royal Caribbean crew protest 63 days adrift

PortandTerminal.com, May 17, 2020

Thousands of crew have been trapped on cruise ships for months. Some have committed suicide in despair. Royal Caribbean crew members protested the other day, begging just to go home.

MIAMI, FL – As cruise lines focus on raising money to keep afloat and look anxiously to when they can restart operations, thousands of cruise ship crew remain stranded onboard vessels anchored around the world.

Many have been at sea for months without a break and are becoming increasingly desperate. Some have even taken their own lives. In a recent incident, a 39-year-old Ukrainian woman died after apparently jumping from the Regal Princess outside the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

“You feel like you’re giving up your life and doing the same thing over and over again. It’s depressing.”

Will Lees, Canadian crew member stranded aboard the Norwegian Epic in Guardian interview

On Saturday, frustrated crew members, trapped aboard the Majesty of the Seas protested Royal Caribbean’s latest failure to follow through with its promised repatriation of its crew members.

crew members aboard the Majesty of the Seas protesting.
CHundreds of crew members aboard the Majesty of the Seas protested Royal Caribbean’s latest failure to follow through with its repatriation of its crew members.

Several hundred crew members gathered on the ship’s deck displaying signs protesting Royal Caribbean’s refusal to follow through with plans to send the crew members home. The repatriation plans have reportedly changed at the last minute on five occasions, including three times dating back to last month.

Handwritten sign on sheet. Do you sleep well Mr. Bayley

The crew members chanted “send us home” and erected signs saying “Do You Sleep Well Mr. Bayley” referring to the CEO of Royal Caribbean International Michael Bayley who was quoted earlier by the Miami Herald stating that flying crew members home via private charters was “too expensive.” Mr. Bayley collected around $25,000,000 in compensation in the last four years.

One sign they held asked “How Many More Suicides Do You Need?” in reference to the death of a Polish engineer who apparently jumped overboard from the Jewel of the Seas and the recent death of a Chinese assistant waiter who died on the Mariner of the Seas earlier this week.

A young Polish crew member jumped overboard from the cruise ship Jewel of the Seas on April 30, while the vessel was off the coast of Greece. His body was not found.
A young Polish crew member jumped overboard from the cruise ship Jewel of the Seas on April 30, while the vessel was off the coast of Greece. His body was not found.

This isn’t the only Royal Caribbean cruise ship on which protests have erupted. Earlier in May, The Miami Herald reported that fifteen Romanian crew members aboard Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas cruise ship went on a hunger strike until the company agrees to send them home.

Too Expensive

Image taken from MartineTraffic.com on May 9, 2020 showing scores of cruise ships anchored off the coast Florida with thousands of crew members stranded onboard.
Image taken from MartineTraffic.com on May 9, 2020 showing scores clusters of cruise ships anchored off the coast Florida with thousands of crew members stranded onboard.

Cruise companies are allowed to disembark and repatriate people still trapped on ships around the U.S. by private transportation as long as their executives sign an agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that holds the companies accountable for the process.

The Miami Herald reports that cruise company officials have complained that arranging private transportation for disembarking crew is “too expensive” according to a CDC spokesperson.

Slowly, kicking and screaming, the cruise lines have started to sign-off on the required CDC guidelines but so far, it has only been in token numbers of releases.

Cruise lawyer Jim Walker reports that, as of four days ago, Royal Caribbean had agreed to the CDC’s guidelines and signed the required acknowledgements for only 20 crew members, all of them U.S. nationals. As of two days ago, Royal Caribbean had increased the number of CDC approved repatriations of only 557 crew members, from the U.S., U.K. and the Philippines. That still leaves thousands in limbo.

Why should they hurry though? It’s far easier and cheaper for the cruise lines to leave crew stranded onboard their ships than to pay to get them home. And the crew member suicides? It seems that the cruise lines see them as acceptable losses.

Taylor Dolven is a business reporter for the Miami Herald who has been closely covering this story

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