It’s been a quiet few months for the cruise industry.
Pre-COVID, we would be at the height of the European and North American wave season, sailing around the Mediterranean or sunning ourselves on the beaches in the Bahamas.
We would be whale watching off the shores of Alaska or heading north to the Arctic.
But while there might be ships sailing, they are filled with crew members who have been stranded for the last few months.
Border closures as well as government rules and regulations have prevented our beloved crew members from getting home.
But the mammoth task of repatriating almost 250,000 seafarers is nearly complete. Royal Caribbean’s Michael Bayley said in a web seminar earlier this week that the company, which also owns Celebrity Cruises and Azamara, has repatriated between 97 to 98 per cent of its crew.
Not an easy feat, especially during the middle of a pandemic.
“One of the positive things that’s happened in the past few weeks was that the CDC approved our accruing No Sail order plans and converted many of the ships of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity to what’s called the green code, which means that for 28 days or longer, none of those ships have had any COVID on them whatsoever,” Mr Bayley said.
“That green code designation means that the ability to use commercial air, which makes logistics a lot simpler.”
Aside from the cruise companies, the International Transport Workers Federation had a big part in getting crew home. David Heindel, chair of the seafarers’ section of the ITF told Seatrade Cruise News that the pandemic brought out the best and worst.
“On the one hand we’ve seen governments shamefully shutting their doors to seafarers as port states, transit countries and even the home countries of seafarers when really they should have done everything within their power to get seafarers on cargo and cruise ships home. On the other hand, this pandemic has shown the best of unions and many employers who have tried their hardest for these seafarers in really difficult circumstances,’ Mr Heindel said.
“It is difficult to overstate the scale of the operation needed to get almost 250,000 seafarers home from cruise ships dotted around the world. The ITF family of maritime unions have been working round the clock since March to coordinate visas, flights and travel exemptions for seafarers to get home to their families.”
Carnival Cruise Line, three weeks ago said the company was in its final stages of repatriating its crew members.
More than 26,00 crew members have been sent home from the line’s 26 ships, returning home to Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, South Africa, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The final segment of the line’s crew repatriation took place in the Caribbean and Latin America, where thousands of crew members returned to their home countries of Barbados, Colombia, Curacao, Mexico, Panama, St Maarten and Nicaragua.
By the end of July, Princess Cruises also revealed that they had repatriated nearly 14,000 crew members and also brought onboard 800 new staff to relieve those serving during the cruise pause.
“We’ll not give up until each member of our Princess family is reunited with their loved ones,” said the line in a statement.
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