Letter from NCL crew member: What sense does it make to deny shore leave to a crew member who is fully vaccinated, boosted, and recently had Covid?

Feb 03, 2022

“Take your food, consume it, and leave.”

These were the closing words from the Cruise Director we heard 2-4 times daily on the Norwegian Getaway during the recent month-long hiatus.  From Jan 5-28 the ship was either in port in Miami, idling just off the coast, or out to sea.  From Christmas Day to late January there would be around 1,000 Covid cases just throughout the crew.  Most were isolated in interior cabins with low quality (often cold) food, no fruit, and limited drinking water.  Room service would pound relentlessly on the door as early as 6:00am until you physically came to the door to take your food from someone in full plastic gown, mask, and face shield.

It was common to have to call room service or guest services just to request drinking water, only to have to wait hours and hours for it to arrive, if it arrived at all.  On the days little to no water was delivered, crew that decided to drink the bottled water in the stateroom mini-fridge were threatened with being charged guest prices.  Dinner was regularly served around 5:30pm, and if you were hungry later, well, tough luck.

Once released from isolation, we spent the following weeks doing literally nothing while Covid ran through the crew.  We were told to be mindful of what we posted on social media, were pressured to stay in our cabins the whole time, warned gatherings of any kind were not permitted, told not to visit other cabins, told no “intimate visits,” and threatened with “severe penalties.”  We were even threatened with having our phones confiscated if we played music out loud anywhere on the ship.

A number of crews were given guests cabins during this time, but most were not provided balconies or windows.  Crew movie nights in the Atrium and even outdoors in Spice H20 were cancelled, crew bar would close early, and security took an intimidating posture.  The gym was closed and we were explicitly told “no creative exercising in public areas.”

Up until that point, shore leave was generally limited to one hour in a parking lot/terminal, sometimes there was a duty free shop with a limited selection, and only a few ports had WiFi.  After Christmas, that restricted shore leave was cancelled, and has been suspended fleet-wide for the foreseeable future.  We weren’t allowed to walk around the new and empty NCL terminal, or outside in the port of Miami.  Even at NCL’s private islands, shore leave was denied.  Security officers laughed when asked if we could go off the ship.  

Crew members who contracted and recovered from Covid will no longer be tested for next 90 days, yet continue to be denied shore leave.  Meanwhile, venue capacity for guests has begun to increase, mask mandates are only casually enforced, and guests have full shore leave, not withstanding any local restrictions.  

What sense does it make to deny shore leave to a crew member who is fully vaccinated, boosted, and recently had Covid?  Guests come and go as they please, get drunk, pull their masks down, and mingle in close quarters with no distancing, while crew weaves in and out, dodging droplets and high risk behavior; we follow strict mask and hand washing rules, and endure the denial of all crew enrichment activities.  Crew parties and special events are forbidden, but we’re forced into tight shoulder-to-shoulder quarters for immigration day and crew drills.

Covid has been a once-a-generation crisis, but NCL is all too willing to prioritize their bottom line over the physical and mental well-being of their crew.

  • If vaccinated guests can leave the ship, so can the crew. 
  • If vaccinated guests can explore beyond sponsored shore excursions, so can crew. 
  • If vaccinated guests can sit more than two to a table, so can crew. 
  • If vaccinated guests can gather outside, so can crew. 
  • The people that work on ships are exactly that, people, and they deserve to be treated as such.