Eighteen Carnival Cruise Line ships will rendezvous in The Bahamas over the next several days as they prepare to repatriate more than 10,000 healthy crew members.
When plans are finalized, nine of the ships will sail home, due to restrictions limiting air travel to Asia, Africa, Europe, India and Latin America during the coronavirus pandemic.
The ships have been at various U.S. homeports provisioning supplies and bunkering fuel for their journeys, Carnival said in a press release. Certain crew members will join ships using water shuttles off the coast of The Bahamas.
The other nine ships will mostly stay in anchorage positions in The Bahamas or Panama, and eventually, all ships will reduce their crew numbers to safe operational manning levels.
“The safety and well-being of our team members continues to be a top priority. Given the pause in our operations, we are committed to getting our crew members safely home to their families. We sincerely thank them for their hard work, patience and understanding during this process,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “We would also like to thank the government of The Bahamas for their support of this operation, as well as the CDC, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and local port agencies.”
Crew members heading home have undergone a health check and cleared fit for travel by Carnival’s medical team. The company has been working closely with immigration officials in arriving countries on an efficient debarkation process. All crew members have their temperature taken daily and will do so again during the debarkation process.
Before Carnival’s pause in operations that began on March 13, its fleet of 27 ships had nearly 29,000 crew members on board. Since that time, Carnival has already repatriated more than 10,000 crew via flights, and another 10,000 will be traveling on the nine voyages leaving this week.
About 6,000 additional crew will be repatriated by air charters or three ships that already departed from Australia and Long Beach. By the time all these movements are completed, the Carnival fleet will be down to approximately 3,000 crew members identified for safe operational manning, plus several hundred that will be repatriated as quickly as possible.
Carnival sister company, Princess Cruises, is taking similar steps.
“Due to air travel restrictions, we (along with Holland America Line and Seabourn) have actioned a repatriation plan to sail our team members home to Europe, Africa, Asia and Canada,” the company tweeted on April 27. “Thank you to every teammate who continues to take care of all who remain onboard and get them safely home.”
Earlier, on April 18, Princess posted a notice on its website that said the repatriation was “an extremely challenging and complex operation” due to international air travel and government restrictions.
“Over recent weeks, we have been successful in repatriating thousands of teammates aboard non-commercial aircraft, and we continue working to find ways to return our teammates to their home countries including by way of our ships,” the company said. “During their time on board, we have moved all remaining teammates into their own balcony guest stateroom to allow for self-isolation in addition to maximizing comfort, health and well-being. While maintaining social distancing they have the opportunity to spend time on the top decks.”
A small complement of crew will remain on each ship to maintain essential operations during the operational pause. Compensation information during this time has been communicated directly to crew.
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