Ship sail

Cruise ship medic exposes conditions aboard ship amid Omicron crisis

Last Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a general warning that all passengers “avoid cruise travel,” regardless of their vaccination status. This followed the agency’s advice that more than 80 cruise ships sailing in U.S. waters were reaching the threshold for health investigations due to positive cases of COVID-19 on board.

Carnival triumph at Half Moon Cay (Photo credit Scott Lucht Wiki media)

Additionally, the agency said there had been an explosion of positive cases on ships in the weeks since mid-December. Currently, at least 94 ships are under investigation by the CDC, and cases on board are regularly reported in the hundreds per ship.

Reports were widespread from cruise passengers and employees that onboard management withheld information about the total number of cases from the public. Instead, as is now the case in classrooms and workplaces around the world, colleagues and friends are suddenly away with the rest of the community left to wonder and speculate.

There have been numerous reports of blatant non-compliance with health and safety regulations, with dozens of sick occupants being clandestinely regrouped in separate quarantine ships, onboard isolation rooms and land-based facilities.

There have been a significant and growing number of cases where ships have been denied entry by port governments around the world due to infections. This has created a situation where cruise lines cannot guarantee the trip will go as originally planned, and many customers have responded by canceling their vacations or publicly expressing their outrage.

Although two major cruise lines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines last week announced the suspension of several sailings due to the Omicron crisis, the cruise industry press and mainstream US media have attempted to cover in their footsteps, repeating the tale that Omicron is “light” and therefore there is basically nothing to fear.

a thursday New York Times The article, which recounted many nightmarish experiences of passengers aboard COVID-19-riddled ships, echoed lies pushed by industry officials. Responding to the concerns of an interviewee who denounced the lack of accurate reporting of infections on her recent cruise, the publication uncritically cited a spokesperson for Celebrity Cruises as dismissing the call for accurate reporting of the infections. coronavirus.

“Publishing a daily case dashboard to everyone on board is a less significant public health mitigation measure than strengthening continued adherence to our industry-leading health and safety protocols. , resulting in lower prevalence rates on board than found on land, “said the representative. .

Cruise ship crew members have started to express their frustration with the situation on social media. Staff disruptions due to COVID-19 outbreaks on board have taken a heavy toll on an already strained workforce. The medical staff on board the ships have been particularly affected by the sudden operational changes brought about by Omicron.

“Two more reports of mental breakdowns from tired doctors facing unpaid overtime and an increase in Omicron cases on cruise ships,” wrote a Twitter post from a seafaring support organization. “The only answer to their concerns so far?” A reminder of their companies not to talk to social media groups.

In opposition to demands that workers remain silent, a cruise ship doctor wrote to the WSWS to detail the conditions on board. The following is his account:

“The increase in COVID cases has been so stressful and the medical team have been working 12 to 17 hours a day for the past 2 weeks. It is extremely stressful and we are on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

“Leadership on board and ashore [offices] basically say, “Well, the cases are mild, so let’s just keep browsing.” “

“Today alone we had 30 cases, in total we have 81 cases on board, and that is after we disembarked 52 crew members at the start of the current voyage. … Today we were refused entry to [the company’s] own [private] Isle. …

“The plan is to transfer all positive cases to another ship tomorrow to bring our [positive] the numbers are down, but the fact is the virus is rampant on board. … [Crew recreational facilities are] still open, not much has changed, as usual, to the detriment of us healthcare workers …

“I just ran out of patience. … We have been asking the head office to improve the conditions and our remuneration for 6 months (at least). … They were so focused on saving money that they made no effort to retain medical staff during the pandemic. … Now those of us who have stayed with the company are paying the price.

“[The shoreside management offices] tell us they had meetings everyday to make things better, but we never saw any action, until recently. Myself and my fellow doctors on board sent a very strong email … and told them that we would contact the media about our labor rights violations, and that as a last resort we would consider going on strike. ‘they weren’t changing something quickly…

“I showed this email to other medical colleagues in the fleet, on a WhatsApp group, and some of them also sent emails to the head office expressing their frustration with the situation. Only then did we get a response, indicating that we would receive compensation details in the first week of January…

“[I feel] disgusted with the way the other crew members on board are being taken advantage of by the company… they also work very hard and get nothing more despite the increased workload.

“[Right now] they are just grateful to have work, despite the fact that the company is content to do the most of its people with very little focus on our well-being. … Profit is all that matters, workers are replaceable. It is only when somewhat more difficult to replace workers, such as medical personnel, make a scene, that an effort is made to improve conditions. … [But only] for the privileged few.

“… Enough is enough.… I want the world to know how the cruise industry benefits its workers.

In waging a courageous struggle against their employers, cruise ship crews also face the entire US and global financial establishment. They can and must face such formidable adversaries, but their fight must be guided politically and theoretically at the highest possible level. We urge maritime workers to combine their efforts with those of workers in all sectors and in all countries facing similar conditions. They must form grassroots security committees to take on the tasks of advancing these struggles in the world.