Virus crisis leaves thousands of cruise ship crew stuck at sea
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by Leila Macor
The cruise industry has taken a beating during the coronavirus crisis — on-board outbreaks, refusal of port access and now no clear idea of when ships can sail once again.
While the passengers have headed home, the journey drags on for tens of thousands of crew members who are stranded at sea aboard their vessels, with no end in sight.
Many are no longer being paid because their contracts ended; some have no internet access; tensions are flaring; and some have even filed suit against their employers.
“We are prisoners. I need help. We need help,” said Caio Saldanha, a Brazilian DJ who works on the Celebrity Infinity, which is in limbo somewhere between Florida and the Bahamas.
“We need to fight to go home,” the 31-year-old musician told AFP.
Saldanha shares a cabin with his 29-year-old girlfriend Jessica Furlan, who hosted on-board activities for passengers.
On March 13, US authorities issued a no-sail order as the virus crisis ramped up. Ships with passengers offloaded them — some more easily than others.
But most crew members were required to remain on board. And now they’re stuck.
There are more than 100 ships carrying over 70,000 crew in or near US territorial waters or ports, the US Coast Guard says.
“We are desperate to get home,” said Furlan, who noted that they spent three weeks confined to their cabin, and then stopped getting paid on April 24. (AFP)