As vaccination efforts ramp up in many parts of the world, the cruise industry is making preparations to resume voyages. Current plans involve many of the major cruise lines resuming most of their operations this summer, though some routes are not expected to return until late 2021.
NBC News spoke with nine current and former cruise ship workers from around the world about their experiences and what it’s been like to work in an industry that has been severely affected by the pandemic. The workers we spoke with declined to be named for fear of retribution from the cruise line companies that employ them.
Most of the workers are back on land but still in limbo, working odd jobs until cruising resumes. They’re also waiting to get their Covid-19 vaccinations, which they said some companies have expressed will likely be a requirement for returning to work. The industry attracts workers from many different countries, so access to vaccines varies greatly, which will impact when they can re-board ships.
Of the workers with plans to return to cruising, each had a different account of what it was like to be on board when the pandemic first began. Some were able to disembark and return to their home country within a matter of weeks, while others spent months at sea, waiting until they could dock at a port and return home.
For essential cruise ship workers, such as engineers, the wait was particularly long as they had to maintain the ships and keep them operational, since cruise ships can’t be left unattended for months on end. One engineer told NBC News he remained on board a Norwegian Cruise Line ship from the start of the pandemic until September.
“I lived the complete process from the beginning when everything was normal and then suddenly we were only 100 left on board,” said the engineer, who chose to remain anonymous for fear of losing his job. “It was an experience never done before in my life.”
He said once the pandemic put an end to operations and passengers disembarked, the contracts of most nonessential crew members were terminated.
Source: NBC News