Vincentian sailors employed with Royal Caribbean International cruise lines are now expected to be home by June 7th according to an internal memo which was leaked to Vincentian media. Although it heralds welcomed news, the five paged document made no reference to the much talked about quarantine fees that are being imposed by local government.
The undated release was titled, “From the desk of Michael Bayley President & CEO” and boasted the company’s official logo. In it, President Bayley attempted to assuage his employees’ repatriation anxieties by addressing a recent “surge of rumors and speculation” on the issue.
He wrote, “the fact is that we have a large team working on this every single day, and they are doing their best to help you out.” While the solution to getting 25, 000 employees to their various homes in “more than 60 countries” turned out to be more complex than anticipated, the plan currently underway is expected to begin repatriating any employee who so desires by month’s end.
He acknowledged recent reports that a major delaying factor in the sailors’ homeward journey was his executives’ refusal “to attest – subject to criminal penalties including imprisonment – that we will not use any public transportation and that each crew member will comply with certain conditions after disembarking the ships.”
Bayley admitted that this new development did cause his team, lawyers included, to minutely examine the conditions particularly since “the legal risk to many people at the company for actions we may not be able to control could not be ignored.”
And though discussions continue apace with the CDC in hopes “that this language will eventually be adjusted;”
CEO Bayley announced, “we have decided that the importance of getting you home is so great that we will sign these documents as they are written today to help get you off the ships.”
To this end “Vision will sail from Miami on May 15 and will sail to St. Kitts, Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad and St. Vincent and the Grenadines where she will end her voyage on June 7,” the memo read in part.
CEO Bayley was careful to caution that the plans are “pending approval from various governments” and lists “a rough estimate of dates. But please remember – everything in this pandemic changes quite often, and you should not be surprised if some of these plans change too.”
He further pledged his company’s commitment to stay the course “until we’ve everyone who wants to the leave the ship home.” More than 1000 persons have opted to stay aboard since “those who don’t want to leave the ship do not have to.”
The question of quarantine fees whether for Vincentians or any other nationalities was not addressed in CEO Bayley’s note though a video recording of what appears to be a question and answer session by Royal Caribbean top brass, one employee said, captured a response.
A mature Caucasian male dressed in what seemed to be a naval uniform responded to an unheard question saying, “I don’t think you heard me correctly. There’s no quarantine for you at home because your government, I must say, they are very tough people. They basically ask the company or you to pay $150 per person per day for quarantine.
“So that is the reason why the company deciding to keep you on board and the quarantine would be considered as on board.
“So once we start our trip 5/9 the Jamaicans should be – uh the quarantine on board should be considered 14 days quarantine and then when the date comes, May 26, once we dock you should be allowed to go home without any quarantine further to be done at your house. So quarantine will be onboard as we did it before for 14 days that would be considered for the Jamaican crew.
“We tried to negotiate all these things with them but this is what they expect. So the ship would be used as a quarantine same as they are doing in Manila you know they are using the ship as a quarantine so our Jamaican crew would be considered doing the quarantine from May 8 to May 26 that is about 14 days that would be approved quarantine for Jamaican people.
“So once we come alongside in Jamaica you would be going home without any further quarantine that you would need to do at home. As you can see that [instead of] asking so much money from you the company went that way.”
The recording ended abruptly without any clarifications as to the nationalities referred or obvious date stamp.
Another notice bearing Royal Caribbean’s official logo along with a Royal Caribbean International stamp with the legend “Master” and “Anthem of the Seas” was issued on May 1, 2020.
It read in entirety, “To Whom It May Concern: Royal Caribbean Cruises is in discussions with the government of Jamaica to repatriate crew via ship. The required quarantine period would take place onboard the ship.
“At no time was there any discussion with Jamaica for a quarantine figure of $150 per crew member on or off the ship.”
Especially in light of this last release, at least one employee is confident that the assertions made in the video referenced the Vincentian sailors’ dilemma although the speaker ‘mistakenly’ named the Jamaican crew.
Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves told Asbert News Network that his government is yet to be told of this decision to quarantine Vincentian sailors onboard.
“That’s a medical matter. They have not submitted those protocols to us yet. Bishen John says they sent him a document. They want to leave up there maybe May 15 and they dropping people off in the various islands coming down.
“I don’t know whether they have cleared with the CDC in the U.S. but I’m glad to hear that there’s movements. Now insofar as the issues on quarantine and so on are concerned that’s a matter where the standard position is that you quarantine in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for 14 days.
“There are lots of things that are taking place on the ships whether they satisfy the medical conditions of the Ministry of Health here within the rules of CARPHA, the WHO and PAHO. We are an organized people you know; we’re not a banana republic. That’s not a political issue that’s a medical issue so we’d be advised accordingly.”
While pointing out that Disney and TUI cruises are also looking to repatriate Vincentian sailors within recent weeks, PM Gonsalves succinctly stated “the protocols which have been sent to Royal Caribbean first made the point that the people would still have to be quarantined in SVG.
“So they will have to work out all of those protocols. Royal Caribbean can’t determine what happens in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Dr. Gonsalves, also noted that his government is yet to receive the requested health certificates which form part of the entry requirement for the sailors trying to make their way back home.