Royal Caribbean Cruises, the parent company of Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises, has been forced to temporarily suspend the hiring of Indian crew members due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in the country.
Royal Caribbean told recently hired Indian crew in a letter that it would not be able to assign them to a ship due to complications around testing requirements, quarantines and travel restrictions.
In a letter sent to crew and obtained by Crew Centre, the cruise line said the decision was “based on various reasons and related to recently announced travel restrictions and complexities with crew movement to and from India.”
India has suffered the greatest increase in COVID-19 infections in a single day of any country at any point since the pandemic was declared last year, with 352,991 cases detected in the previous 24 hours alone.
India has broken this record consecutively for three days, and the country’s medical system is struggling to cope with the surge. Countries from around the world have pledged to help the country, which is in dire need of medical oxygen in particular.
India has mobilized the military to help over-burdened civilian hospitals, releasing medical oxygen held in reserve for the armed forces and drafting in military medical personel to help civilian doctors and nurses.
According to the BCC, labs in India are facing a massive backlog of tests, creating delays in getting results.
This makes the repatriation of Indian-based crew particularly difficult for Royal Caribbean as most countries require COVID test results that are no older than 48 hours. However, countries around the world have now begun to ban entry to all travellers from India.
For these reasons, Royal Caribbean is unable to fly Indian crew from their home towns to its ships readying for a return to service in the UK, Mediterranean and Caribbean.
“It’s always unfortunate when we must cancel assignments but we believe this is a prudent decision at this time,” the cruise line said in its letter. “We know how much our crew look forward to returning to work after waiting for so long. We also understand how tough it can be to have to make last minute travel changes.”
“It’s not the way that we want to operate, but it is the reality of the quick changes we need to make based on different reasons that are often unplanned and beyond our direct control,” the letter added.
Those Indian crew members who are currently at hotels waiting to join a ship or are currently en route will be notified and accommodation will be provided to them under quarantine guidelines untll further notice, Royal Caribbean said in the letter.
According to Crew Centre, around 300 Indian crew members were due to join Anthem of the Seas on May 3rd for her restart of cruise operations out of the UK.
Indian crew were also scheduled to join Adventure of the Seas for her restart from The Bahamas and will not be allowed to embark the ship. Those who have already arrived at hotels on the island are being asked to quarantine.
Royal Caribbean Cruises is the only cruise company to have been reported as suspending the re-hiring of Indian crew, but it’s likely that the other major cruise corporations, Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, will face similar difficulties as they ready ships to resume cruise operations.