Crew members stranded on cruise ships

Since March 14, the cruising industry has been on pause to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

A small fishing boat passes by the cruise ship, Ruby Princess on May 7, 2020 in the waters of Manila Bay, Philippines. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, more than 12,000 crew members are stationed on cruise ships across the world, and some of them have been stranded for months.

Akash Dookhun, a Celebrity Cruises crew member from Mauritius, an island nation in southeastern Africa, started his voyage last November and was supposed to be returning home in July.

As of June 10, there were 2,000 Mauritian crew members stranded aboard cruise ships.

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Last Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 53 American crew members on 22 cruise ships in U.S. waters. 

“We do not know if these 53 crew members are considered essential for the safety and seaworthiness of the ship and need to remain on board, or if they are working with their cruise lines to be repatriated,” CDC spokesperson Jason McDonald said.

Since March 14, the cruising industry has been on pause to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) put out a voluntary sailing suspension and the CDC’s put a “no-sail” order in place.

These two measures have been extended multiple times, making it difficult for some crew members to be sent home, USA Today reported.

Trying to repatriate crew members to America is also tricky due to the CDC’s stringent regulations on commercial air travel.

“We visit 130 countries, we have crew coming from at least that many countries,” Adam Goldstein, the global chair of CLIA, told USA TODAY

“There are a lot of countries you would normally take air transportation or might find yourself going from home port to home country on ground transportation,” Goldstein said. “Borders started to be closed, and (crew members) couldn’t access normal routes.”

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The Mauritian government refused to repatriate people on cruise ships at the beginning of the shutdown and this regulation has not been lifted.

“The feeling of being abandoned and neglected by our own country is very harsh on us,” Dookhun said.

The only way Dookhun will be able to return home is on a charter flight. Flights, however, are limited and by his calculations, Dookhun estimates he will be on a flight in November.

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