Following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States in March, the cruise industry initiated a temporary no-sail period in which virtually all international cruises were halted. The shutdown left over 100,000 workers stranded aboard cruise ships, many of them for several months. The situation has resulted in a strange situation in which some crewmembers have been unable to return to their home countries for several months, essentially being left in a state of limbo. The Miami Herald recently profiled one such worker.
Paúl Córdova has become yet another casualty of the cruise industry’s chaotic journey through the COVID-19 pandemic. https://t.co/S4ewIBKJKk— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) August 9, 2020
48-year-old Paúl Córdova has been working aboard cruise ships for years, much of the time lugging 50 pound chlorine containers. The grueling work left Córdova with a severely injured spine and he traveled to the United States from Peru in November 2018 for treatment of severe back injuries.
The Miami Herald reports that Córdova has been attempting to return home to Peru for the past three months, but his employer Celebrity Cruises has yet to place him on a repatriation flight. Instead, Córdova has been confined to a hotel room overlooking Miami international Airport, unsure when he will be able to return home. Celebrity has sent at least five repatriation flights to Peru, every time omitting Córdova.
Sending crewmembers home in the era of coronavirus has been a significant challenge. Due to international travel restrictions and coronavirus related health and hygiene protocols, for many workers repatriation has been slow going. The slow process has had real consequences as at least 29 crewmembers have died of COVID-19 and two have died after falling overboard.
There are many cases such as Córdovas, but his plight may be coming to an end. After the Miami Herald contacted Celebrity to ask about Córdova's situation, the company informed the paper that it intends to repatriate him on September 1.
The cruise industry is currently on hold, with no one sure when international cruising will resume in ernest. Several companies recently attempted to return to cruising, and at least three experienced coronavirus cases onboard.