NCL Crew Demand Shore Leave Restrictions to be Lifted

Nov 12, 2021

A week ago Crew Center published a letter sent by a crew member from the Norwegian Breakaway seeking information when NCL will allow its crew shore leave. Crew Center received a subsequent letter, this time from a crew member aboard the Norwegian Epic. The letter speaks of the growing support of the crew member as many have had similar experiences regarding the COVID related crew restrictions on board Norwegian Epic. The crew member speaks of the desire for the department crew to raise their voices and stand for their right to be granted shore leave as soon as possible.

Some of the mentioned preventions related to crew members have been described as mandated vaccination before arriving at the ship assigned, quarantine for 10 days aboard the ship upon arrival, as well as regular weekly COVID testing. However, the confusion arises when the crew members appear to not have clear and transparent policies and guidelines related to the event that one does test positive. And while they have been informed that COVID positive crew members will be quarantined onshore or onboard the ship (depending of the region the cruise ship is sailing), for 14 days followed by additional 10-day quarantine on board, the lack of transparency comes when crew members wonder what would be the cause for one to be sent home upon testing negative during shore quarantine. This is a fair question as any employee, even a contractor, has the right to know guidelines and policies prior to arriving at their place of employment. The crew are afraid after a letter was shared on a notice board on Norwegian Epic, that there is a chance they might be sent back home after contracting Covid-19.

The so-called “Option 2” in this letter reads:

“In the event a crew member contracts COVID, you are disembarked from the ship and must isolate in a hotel for 14 days MINIMUM. Once you test negative there is a chance that you will have to return home for a period of time and await a future contract.”

The crew member who wrote the letter makes valid points that the pandemic does not discriminate whether one is a guest or crew, but it does discriminate whether a person is compliant with the health authorities recommendations. It has been brought to attention that guests are allowed shore leave which is understandable since this is their vacation. However, the same can be said for the crew members who live and work on board the ships and need the same ability of movement as any human being does. It is well known that as crew members have more to lose when not following guidelines, unlike guests, that they would be more prone to follow the same. Thus, providing the crew members the basic human right they not only have crew members who are happier and healthier, but also crew members who will work harder as they feel acknowledged, supported and considered into the discussion of their basic human rights.

“We just want to say, that COVID PANDEMIC, doesn’t check if you are a guest or a crew member. We are all humans and we need to be treated same, that means freedom to access on land after we have spent months onboard. We want the right to get of the ship, we are not criminals, and we are fully vaccinated.”

For the moment they keep us all on board and they have organized crew tour ashore. However you need to pay about 35 dollars for 2 hours of crew tour and not allowed to do anything else. This is not fair, and we feel like we need to pay for our right to go out,” said the Norwegian Epic crew member.

The average contract aboard a cruise ship is 6 months with many extending to 11 months. This means that crew members not only are placed under rigorous COVID prevention approaches, it also means that their ability to get a sense of respite away from their workplace is non-existent. For those who have worked on cruise ships or continue to do so, the little sense of normalcy related to being able to leave the ship, go for a walk on ground, get the items you need for the new cruise, etc. it is imperative for at least some level of mental health wellbeing. Human beings do not function well in closed spaces long term, even ones that are as great as a ship. We crave and need the ability of movement and that is our basic human right. Restriction of such basic freedom initiates questions of whether any cruise company has such power and if so, how long before the crew members seek their employment elsewhere?

Although most of the crew are from the developing countries, companies have to continuously recognize that without guests there is no revenue; however, without crew members there is no cruise industry. Companies who have acknowledged and adopted this view have managed to grow historically.  Crew Center is calling for crew members to be heard by the cruise company in healthy open discussion focus group forums for the purpose of determining mutually agreeable and advantageous resolutions related to the COVID restrictions for crew members without fear of losing their employment and way to continue to support their families.