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Royal Caribbean's Filipino crew members ask court to order cruise line to send them home

Taylor Dolven, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

The company reported a $1.4 billion loss for the first quarter of 2020 and has laid off 26% of its land-based staff.

Maglana, the crew member bringing the lawsuit against the cruise company, said he has been told he will be flying home on six different dates. All six flights were subsequently canceled.

The company's repatriation plan as of May 19 obtained by the Miami Herald shows 9,358 Filipinos are still waiting to go home. With the exception of one ship -- Quantum of the Seas -- already anchored off Manila carrying 224 Filipino crew members, all other Filipinos will return home on flights scheduled from now until late July, the internal travel plans show.

The Philippines has more than 13,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 857 deaths. The Manila airport was temporarily shut down earlier this month in response to an increasing number of cases. The country is requiring returning crew members to be tested for COVID-19 and to quarantine for several weeks.

Filipino crew members from competitors Carnival Corp. and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings who were repatriated in late March and mid-April tell the Miami Herald they are still stuck in hotel rooms and government facilities in Manila without any information about when they will be going home.

Royal Caribbean Cruises crew members are no longer receiving paychecks if they are not working on board; the company is giving crew members $400 per month. Crew members tell the Miami Herald they are spending most of the money -- around $13 per day -- on bottled water and toiletries.

The lawsuit and the request for emergency relief are a long shot. Cruise company employment contracts prohibit class-action lawsuits and mandate any legal disputes be handled in arbitration under foreign law. Royal Caribbean Cruises is incorporated in Liberia, and most Celebrity cruise ships are flagged in Malta, meaning the companies do not have to adhere to U.S. labor laws.


Still, attorney Raul Delgado believes it is worth a try.

"Sometimes when you're living in uncertain times, you have to use things that are outside the box," he said. "The status quo is not doing anything to help these guys. Hopefully this will be the difference."

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