• Cruise industry giants currently have plans in the works to repatriate some crew members.
  • A number of Norwegian Cruise Line ships will converge on the company’s private Bahamanian island, Great Stirrup Cay, tomorrow.
  • A crew member onboard the Norwegian Epic told Business Insider that a plan to potentially consolidate crew on fewer ships may be under way, with the goal of facilitating crew repatriation. 
  • Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Line has sent the Carnival Panorama to Asia to drop off certain crew members.
  • A Carnival spokesperson told Business Insider that the company has so far selected several vessels “to travel to ports in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Cruise lines are currently sailing ships around the world in a bid to return long-stranded crew members home, as the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to restrict regarding the movement of cruise personnel.

Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruise Lines have both recently adopted different strategies regarding the repatriation of crew members. A crew member onboard the Norwegian Epic told Business Insider that a handful of the line’s ships are sailing from Florida to Great Stirrup Cay, the company’s private island in the Bahamas. A Carnival spokesperson told Business Insider that the company is planning to dispatch ships docked off North America to return crew to “ports in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.” 

These separate moves come about as cruise ship crew members around the world continue to endure weeks of isolation onboard ships. The coronavirus pandemic has roiled the cruise ship industry, and left crews stuck on different vessels facing ship-wide COVID-19 outbreaks, cut pay, and uncertain professional futures.

The Norwegian crew member said that by sailing to Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian could potentially facilitate ship-to-ship transfers without incurring the ire of the CDC.

In an April 9 update to its March 14 “no-sail order,” CDC director Robert Redfield reiterated: “Cruise ship operators shall not be allowed to disembark passengers and crew members at ports or stations, except as directed by the USCG, in consultation with HHS/CDC personnel and, as appropriate, as coordinated with Federal, State, and local authorities.”

In leaked audio obtained by Business Insider, the Epic’s captain announced that Norwegian has a plan in the works to potentially consolidate or move around crew from different ships outside of US waters. Norwegian Cruise Lines did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment. But cruise ship tracking website VesselFinder.com currently lists the Norwegian Epic, the Norwegian Bliss, the Norwegian Encore, and the Norwegian Star as en route to the Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. The ships are all slated to arrive tomorrow afternoon.

Business Insider also listened to audio leaked from the Epic in which the ship’s captain discussed the CDC’s order barring “vessel-to-vessel” and “vessel-to-shore” transfers of crew during the pandemic. 

“We are looking at any alternate way possible to get you home,” the captain said in a Thursday announcement that a crew member leaked to Business Insider.

On Tuesday April 21, the captain of the Norwegian Epic made a ship-wide announcement discussing the CDC’s new rules regarding the movement of crew on and off ships during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The CDC have announced that all movements in the US are temporarily suspended, including vessel-to-vessel or vessel-to-shore, until further notice,” the captain said, in a ship-wide announcement leaked to Business Insider. “It looks like, looking at the news and everything, that things are starting to loosen up. I do not foresee this to be a lengthy suspension.”

A Norwegian crew member told Business Insider that the cruise line had set up charter flights to take certain crew members home, but those were cancelled as a result of CDC restrictions.

“I’m quite okay, but a lot of my colleagues are bummed,” the Norwegian crew member told Business Insider. “Understandably so.” 

Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Line has dispatched its Carnival Panorama cruise ship to Asian “to return crew members to that region,” according to a statement from a company spokesperson. Cruise industry blog CruiseRadio.net reported on April 19 that the cruise giant has been sending its ships around the world to repatriate stranded crews. Since mid-March, the line’s fleet of 27 ships “have been docked at home ports or anchored at sea” with only crew members aboard, a company spokesperson told Business Insider.

“As the company moves to safe operational manning levels during our pause in operations, we have begun the process of returning healthy crew members to their home countries throughout the world utilizing some of our fleet as transport given the limited number of commercial flights and charter options,” the line’s spokesperson said.

The Carnival spokesperson told Business Insider that the company has so far singled out “a number of ships” at ports in North America “to travel to ports in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.” Carnival will only allow crew members who “have been cleared by our medical team and by immigration authorities in their home countries” to transfer vessels, and all such crew members will receive daily temperature checks.

“In certain instances, crew members will be taken from their current ship to their assigned ship via chartered air and/or bus,” the spokesperson said. “Crew members have been provided masks to wear on the transfer to their assigned ship, consistent with the advice of the CDC.”

Read the full statement from Carnival:

Carnival Cruise Line is committed to taking care our team members and getting them home to their families.

As the company moves to safe operational manning levels during our pause in operations, we have begun the process of returning healthy crew members to their home countries throughout the world utilizing some of our fleet as transport given the limited number of commercial flights and charter options.

We have currently identified a number of ships from our North American home ports to travel to ports in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

Crew members who will be transferring vessels have been cleared by our medical team and by immigration authorities in their home countries. All crew members have had their temperature taken daily while on board and will so again during the debarkation process as they move to join the ship that will transport them home.

In certain instances, crew members will be taken from their current ship to their assigned ship via chartered air and/or bus. Crew members have been provided masks to wear on the transfer to their assigned ship, consistent with the advice of the CDC.

As always, we will continue to maintain social distancing and other protocols that have proven effective to promote the health and safety of our crew.

All Carnival Cruise Line’s 27 ships have been docked at home ports or anchored at sea since mid-March with no guests on board, only crew members.

We would like to thank our crew members for their hard work, patience and understanding during this unprecedented pause in our operations.

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