As the major cruise companies plan their return to operations there are myriad aspects of the business that require planning and mitigation. For example, much has been made about whether Royal Caribbean will continue to serve its signature buffet due to the inherent risks involved. But this is just one aspect of the cruise business that must pass muster before companies are able to safely carry passengers on international travel again. In fact, one of the most glaring risk factors does not have to do with passengers at all.
As was noted in a recent FoxBusiness article, cruise ship crew members may be one of the highest risk factors for disease transmission aboard cruise ships. Crewmembers often work long hours, have frequent contact with guests, and stay aboard the ships to work for several months at a time. Compared with passengers, crewmembers would seem to be far more likely to both contract and spread coronavirus.
As the Fox business piece pointed out, crewmembers suffered mightily in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as over 100,000 of them were confined to the ships, unable to get off for months at a time, and were not paid in the process. The prospect of returning to work in a dangerous environment in which one may find oneself quarantined without pay may be a significant barrier to cruise companies attracting and retaining top talent aboard their ships.
Additionally it is likely that many the perks that crew members take for granted will be significantly curtailed or eliminated. For example, they may no longer be allowed to disembark the ships for rest and relaxation at the various ports of call they visit during their voyages.