Published on Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Two die on ships as thousands of crew are still stranded due to Covid-19

Two cruise employees have died in separate incidents as thousands of crew remain stranded on ships around the world.

On Sunday, a 39-year-old woman died after jumping from Princess Cruises' Regal Princess while the ship was outside the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The cruise line said the woman, who was from the Ukraine, did not survive the impact.

The Regal Princess was in the Rotterdam to disembark crew members as part of its repatriation efforts.

A Princess Cruises spokesperson said: "The ship fully cooperated with and facilitated an investigation led by the state police with the Department of the Port of Rotterdam.

"Regal Princess was in Rotterdam disembarking crew members as part of the global repatriation operation currently under way.

"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the crew member. We activated our Princess Crew Care Team to assist to family during this difficult time."

Another crew member died on Saturday onboard the Carnival Breeze, where he had 'guest status', according to the cruise line, which said his death was not related to Covid-19.

"Out of respect for his family, we will not be providing additional details," it said.

The Carnival Breeze was on its way to Southampton to repatriate crew members.

"The entire Carnival family is deeply saddened by this tragic loss and extends its heartfelt sympathy to the team member's family and friends," Carnival said in a statement.

The deaths have highlighted the fact that more than 70,000 crew remain marooned on cruise ships due to countries closing their borders to avoid the spread of Covid-19.

While some crew are needed to man the ships, cruise operators are struggling to get the remainder back to their native countries. The US Centers for Disease Control requires crew members to avoid public transport and public airports.

"We are doing everything we can get all of our crew members home and we are working with government officials on a debarkation plan across our fleet," said Carnival. "Given the restrictions on travel, there are a number of complicating factors."

Carnival had gathered together 10,000 of its crew in the Bahamas late last month with the plan to sail them home on nine of its ships. A further 6,000 travelled on special charters or ships from Australia and Long Island, however the cruise line admitted it would still be a few weeks before all crew were home.

"There are similar efforts ongoing for other brands under the Carnival Corporation umbrella," it added. "We continue to take care of our crew members on board, including providing WiFi for them to keep in touch with their loved ones back home. We are working diligently to resolve issues and keep our crew members informed."

"We are doing everything we possibly can for our crew, and we are frustrated as they are about the difficulty in getting them home," Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Frank Del Rio told USA TODAY. "Money is literally no object. We are willing to charter flights home, wherever home may be."

However, he said the problem is the changing regulatory landscape.

A spokesman for Princess Cruises added: "We thank everyone who continues to reach out with care and concern for our shipboard teammates. Our team is the heart of our company, and their health, safety and well-being are our highest responsibility and remains a top priority.

"We continue to work through diplomatic channels to ensure the safe return home of our crew members. However, this is a complex process due to unique international travel restrictions which vary by country and require clearance for arrival by customs officials. This includes countries with closed borders like Argentina and Brazil.

"In-cabin exercise opportunities have been arranged and fitness programming is available. For entertainment, television satellite stations are available including The Filipino and National Geographic channels along with more than 200 movies on demand. Additionally, ship-created content hosted by onboard staff airs daily including fitness classes, games and trivia.

"Each ship's Captain provides announcements to keep crew informed with general information and navigational announcements. We also offer telephone access to trained counsellors for anyone who needs wellbeing support during this time. Ships are offering various free and low-cost internet packages for personal email, internet browsing and other social media platforms. All crew are provided three meals a day and snacks for Western and various Asian preferences.

"We remain deeply committed to and focused on reuniting our shipboard team members with their families safely and continue to make progress with arranging their travel to return to their home countries."

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