Plea from Crew Stranded on a Cruise ship

Cruise ship entering Halifax (file photo)

This morning I received an email from a crew member on a cruise ship. name and locations have been removed, for reasons that will become obvious later on. Below is Edited, but entirely her words.

I am looking to share my ongoing story of being held captive on a ship during the COVID-19 outbreak. It is currently my Day 79 at sea, and Day 27 past the expiry of my contract as an expedition crew member onboard.

I have 11 years of experience … This year, I signed up to work onboard a cruise ship as a kayak guide and zodiac driver and quickly found a contract with <cruise company> onboard the <Cruise ship>. I embarked on January 28th in <city> with the intention of finishing my first contract onboard on March 20th in <end point>. 

We were lucky; we never had the virus onboard. When we arrived early in <end point> on the 18th of March, borders were still open. We were told that the company policy was always to allow “passengers first” and we would be obligated to wait until the very last passenger had disembarked before we would be considered for disembarkation. After that last passenger had left, the <end point> Government closed its port for all crew changes and we were told we would be staying onboard indefinitely. On March 24th, we were told the company was intending to reposition its ship, and with the excess crew including myself still onboard and we set sail towards <Mediterranean Port>, despite many ports in Africa and South America remaining open for crew changes.

Somewhere south of the Equator the company changed their minds and ordered the Captain to change course towards the ______ Islands, where we were expected to arrive on April 15th. We were guaranteed flights home from there, as long as we singed new contracts that slashed our pay. We were threatened by our supervisors that if we did not sign the new contracts, we would be terminated and not repatriated back to our home countries. Those contracts expire today, with our pay now reduced to 0% of our original rates.

This morning, we were informed by the Captain that we would be arriving in the ______ Islands, but there would be no flights waiting for us from there; the company deemed the cost of chartering a flight to take us off the islands to be too high. Instead, we would be embarking 250 new crew members from the company’s sister ships (<ship 1 and <Ship 2>) and setting sail again for <Northern European Country>. The <ship 1> has had confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard, and we are now to embark their crew onto our vessel and spend a further two weeks sailing towards the <Northern European Country> at full capacity. We were told the decision was made in the best financial interests of the company. As crew members, we are independent contractors and not employees of this company. We are also not being paid while onboard, though we are still expected to carry out our crew duties. 

We have been told we have no choice in the matter, and we are not going willingly. We have been threatened that if details of this situation gets to the media, our internet onboard will be shut off. The situation onboard is becoming dire. We are terrified at the idea of having 450 individuals crammed onto a cruise ship for a minimum of two weeks. We are terrified of the idea of experiencing an outbreak, with only one doctor and one nurse and a small first aid room onboard. We are terrified of being turned away from all future ports, and we are terrified of not being able to be back home with our families during these trying times. We are all being held captive onboard as this company exercises every opportunity to practice financial austerity over the best interests of the human beings that are still onboard. 

 We have wanted nothing but to disembark this ship since the 18th of March.  We were told the best we could expect is to be allowed to disembark by the 1st of May.

I am sharing my story in hopes that the company has a chance to comment on their actions and the decisions that they have made with our lives in the greater public sphere. I hope that Canadians become aware that there are still many citizens aboard that are still trying to make it back home, but are physically unable to do so. 

I have refereed the situation to the ITF – the International Transport Workers federation. the actions of the Cruise company are in violation of the Maritime Labour Convention.

The Author of the email is a Canadian, and the Ship has called on Halifax in the past.

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12 thoughts on “Plea from Crew Stranded on a Cruise ship

  1. alex

    so guy who signed up for his dream job to not do the shitty jobs the rest of do is now in a shitty situation… oh my bleeding heart.

    1. Gaston

      Fuck you alex. If any time you came by Argentina please contact me so i can teach you how to became a better person. One way or the other you will learn, fucking idiot. I can gave you my adress or cellphone so you dont miss the chance.

  2. CM

    This sounds horrible and I hope there is a resolution. I hope they have contacted the Canadian government for assistance.

    Screw you Alex, this person is essentially kidnapped, being held against their will, not allowed to disembark and to leave for home. And now they will be effectively confined to their quarters to avoid possible exposure to COVID-19. I’m not a hypochondriac, but with cruise ships being a hotspot for communicable diseases, I would be staying in my room avoiding all contact to the outside.

  3. Anonymous

    Sounds very much like run by . And to Alex – how do you know it is a “guy”? This person is an experienced professional guide hired for their skills and experience at guiding in ice-filled waters in challenging conditions and keeping people safe. After 11 years, its no longer a dream job. It’s a job just like any and there are laws around how to treat people in the workplace. is owned by a multi-billion dollar listed company () that should treat its contractors a darn site better and actually has sufficient resources to do that compared to smaller operators that have very little in the way of cash reserves.

  4. Anonymous Guide

    One Ocean Expeditions made the news in 2019 because of how poorly they treated their workers. Then eventually the news got out that they were essentially sailing around the world ripping people off in every port, from unpaid fuel bills in South America to unpaid invoices for goods and services from small Canadian companies. People were shocked when the truth about One Ocean came out, and while they were a particularly egregious case, if the truth ever gets out about all these other cruising companies– even the small expedition cruising companies– people will really be in for a surprise. It doesn’t help that some people (like Alex) seem to believe that the people who work on these ships don’t deserve respect or basic protections at work, simply because their jobs appear “cool” or “fun.”

    I really hope the COVID-19 situation helps draw attention to the various ways this industry could improve how they operate and how they treat their ship-based workers.

  5. Sherry

    This is outrageous! It sounds like this company should be charged for kidnapping, endangering the health of it’s crew, and slavery. Yes, slavery! They are not being paid, but they are expected to do their jobs, and they have been threatened. It is disgusting, in this day and age, that nothing is being done to help these people.

    Alex, I think you should reread the paragraph directly beneath the photograph. The one that explains what we will be reading. The last sentence – in fact, the last two words – are rather important. Then, of course, you may want to modify your comment, or even delete it. I’m sorry that you are so uneducated and unhappy, but that’s something that only you can remedy.

    1. Truth

      All of the above are baseless allegations. You have reported just one side of the story. There are hundreds of crew members who would vouch for how brilliantly the company has taken care of all crew. And we can all stand testimony in person.

      The one person who feels otherwise – How selfish can this person be to call Coronarvirus restrictions as harrasment? The whole world is in lockdown and this one crew member thinks otherwise. Utterly disgusting.

  6. Eric

    So… before you guys cry too much about this person, or write all sorts of irrelevant comments about a case you don’t know anyting about but what you just read, it might be good for you to know the true story.

    I am actually myself on board this very ship right now (it is far too easy to identify the anonymous author of this message with all the clues…). Everything you read was twisted to make it sound dramatic but so damn far from the reality. Like all of us, this person has actually been paid (without even having to work in her particular case) until our arrival at destination yesterday, and she will fly home on Monday. During the last 4 weeks, life on board has just been too good to be decently posted on social media – hence the request (and not threat) to keep a low profile on the net. Swimming pool, hot tub, outdoor diners and BBQs, yoga classes, movie nights, Equator crossing celebration, Easter egg hunt, Country fair, Olympic games, multiple theme parties, etc, etc… One cannot list all the fun events we have organized and enjoyed together in the greatest ambiance and spirit during this whole time at sea. Anyone would normally pay for this, yet we were all paid and fed 3 meals a day in an ocean-view restaurant. We have been in a bubble of safety and of joy, while the world was falling apart. Almost an indecent life, when so many are truly suffering everywhere else in the world right now.

    So even more than indecent is the message you just read and took at heart – in fact, it is just abject.

    One should also know that seafarers employers have the legal obligation to repatriate their crew members as per international laws, and there is no way they could threaten them to be let down if they refused to sign an addendum. We are no longer living in the slavery world… These addendums were just there to extend the contracts (hence the pay…), since the coronavirus situation had forced the ship to relocate…

    Anyway… you can now all relax and breathe, as this person is no longer “held captive” and will very soon be home, fortunately without any need of help from the government of Canada, just thanks to the company’s best efforts to achieve this, which have been absolutely remarkable considering the incredible challenge that it is these days.

    Bottom line: don’t believe everything you read online, and surely not the content of this infectious article.
    Just because it sounds tragic does not mean it is necessarly true…

  7. vanja

    This is the biggest crap I ever heard from somebody who works on ships. Shame on her. Full of speculations, no proof and just personal observation. That ship has 220 crew from which only 20 were able to disembark in Cape Town only because since before the arrival the authorities would allow only nationals, residents and passengers to get off. Nobody else. Around 200 crew remained on the lookout for a factible port to send everyone. I wonder if she would like to get off from Liberia, or Sierra Leone or Ghana or any other crappy place. She actually could walk off from any of these places at her will if the ship was allowed to dock. Would she? Why the other 199 workers aren’t complaining and actually posting photos of how good they are instead of stuck in an airport? Free pool, free barbecues in open deck, a safe place to stay even when her contract is over. What is the work that she have to do? Move a paper from A to B? There are engineers, cleaners and cooks who are really working. There is nothing for her to do. No landings, no operation. Actually she should be grateful that she have something how to occupy herself. If safety drills are considered as work she is in the wrong industry. Her completely out of fundaments complains are extremely insulting not for the company she is denouncing but to all the crew members and her colleagues. I know because I am a professional too with 12 years of experience and also I know who she is and the amazing people that she is spending these strange times. Shame on her and I truly hope in the future she will find a better place for her to be herself. There is always two sides of the story but hers is extremely selfish and inconsiderate to her piers and other crew. You can think and comment what you want.

  8. Omar Coat

    curious to know how this might fit in with the story of the attempted coup/invasion of Venezuela which a Canadian-born US veteran turned mercenary said would involved 300 people.


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