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  • Stephan Busch

Corona Virus and Crew. What’s happening to the workers on board?

Almost no reports about thousands of crew under quarantine on the cruise ships effected doesn’t surprise us as the are well controlled by contracts and agents but how they are doing?

Guests appear on all television station and report daily about their conditions. Held in small cabins – especially bad in the smaller inside cabins without windows – some walks on the deck limited to 60 minutes and so on.

A shout for help from Indian crew

There are no reports about the crew who is in the same or even bigger danger of getting infected. Some Indian crew from the Diamond princess contacted an Indian TV station and ask for help, reporting about a panic under the crew and about their worries.


Reports now indicate that the virus can also be transmitted through the air which makes the situation worse and looking at crew conditions it must be scary.

The Crew challenge

  • Crew cabins are much smaller than guest cabins – crew quarters are cramped together which makes it easier to transmit a virus.

  • Crew has to work together in order to serve the guest with food, beverage, towels, medicine. In engine rooms and all essential areas.

  • Crew has to run around the ship to do their duties.

  • Providing room service for thousands of guest – all meals – is a horrible work on cruise ships that are not equipped for room service of this size. Cruise ships can maybe cater for maximum 5% of their guest requesting room service – now they do it for 100% three times a day. To collect the dishes afterwards and transporting them to the dish wash area must be alone a tremendous problem. Doesn’t that help spreading the virus?

What are the Cruise companies doing for the crew?

The reactions from the Cruise companies in regards to crew well fare are also not reported much about but here are a few glimpses.

  • However, it appears that the ship authorities (MSC Splendida) have informed the same crew members ( all Chinese) in a last-minute notice that they will be sent back to China with sign off dates earlier than expected and told that they need leave the ship in the following days.

  • The Chinese crew members and several of their concerned fellow colleagues sent messages to Crew Center with outcry and outrage as related to the disconcert, inappropriate arrangements and lack of empathy for the welfare and wellbeing of the Chinese crew members.

  • concerns are related to the ability to utilize international airports, but inability to assure travel arrangements to the more local destinations of the home hubs of the Chinese crew members. In other words, while the international airports are still functional with precaution measures, it is informed that the more local and national airports are not completely accessible leaving the Chinese crew members potentially stranded without resources

  • many of the Chinese crew members informed they have pleaded and requested to finish their contracts even if not receiving their normal pay

  • “Chinese crew feel very sad, feel like they are abandoned by the company now, all we need is just to have a safe place to stay we don't want to go to dangerous places, even if it's our country, our home. My father today just told me to try to request and stay on board, because here at home is dangerous. We still can work, even no salary, just keep us safe, enough I just heard from other departments, all the Chinese crew will be sent home.” says one Chinese crew member.

  • RCCL took fortunately another better approach. Royal Caribbean cruise ship Spectrum of the Seas which is also based in Asia for the duration of the outbreak has issued the following notice to its crew members:

  • “Royal Caribbean Chinese crew members currently onboard due to disembark over the next few days will be offered to stay onboard (extend their contracts).”

(Crew abandoned Corona, Jan 30, 2020

Lets not forget the crew!

It’s a hard time for guests kept on the ship but for sure a much harder time for the crew. Would be great to hear more from them. Lets wish them all the best, health and this ordeal is soon over for them.

Author: Stephan Busch, Academic Director at the State University for the Humanities Moscow RGGU, Faculty of Tourism & Hospitality earned his Master Certificate in Hospitality Management from Cornell University, USA. He has a diverse experience in launching operations, business development and service training- for hotel and cruise companies in Asia, Europe, Canada and Russia.,

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