Several crew members who recently left the Norwegian Encore cruise ship told the Miami Herald they are worried about their colleagues still on board, as many are possibly suffering from the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Thousands of cruise line employees — including many whose contracts have expired — remain on their ships, despite all U.S. sailings being canceled until mid-April because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many are from foreign countries, and the cruise lines say they can't leave because their flights keep getting canceled.
In the case of the Encore, the last passengers got off in Miami on March 15. Crew members told the Herald the captain said there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19, but then they started noticing more dining carts in the hallways, indicating food was being sent to people in isolation. "They kept saying no one had symptoms, everyone is fine, you're in the best place you can be," one crew member said. "We knew that wasn't true because we saw all the carts."
Crew members who were able to finally leave the Encore on March 23 told the Herald that upon disembarkation, no one at the port took their temperature or asked if they had any COVID-19 symptoms. One person has since tested positive, and several have symptoms.
These crew members believe dozens of the roughly 1,000 people still on the Encore are sick. Some are also no longer being paid — the Herald reports that a letter was distributed to employees on Wednesday from a Norwegian human relations executive stating that all workers would have access to food, medical services, Wi-Fi, and laundry, but those whose contracts have expired will not receive any financial compensation, even if they can't leave because of travel restrictions.
"I'm worried about the people still on board," one crew member told the Herald. "I'm worried we've been lied to this whole time by management. It is reckless behavior on their part, in my opinion, and endangering."
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