Celebrity Cruises crew member who fell ill onboard the Celebrity Apex has filed suit against her employer, alleging the Royal Caribbean-owned line’s actions “resulted in hundreds of positive COVID-19 cases.”
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity’s parent company, told Business Insider that the company does not comment on pending litigation.
Bulgarian citizen Alexandra Nedeltcheva was working as a crew member onboard the Celebrity Apex on March 2, when around 1,400 crew members and independent contractors boarded the ship in France’s St. Nazaire shipyard. The Apex was set to embark on its maiden voyage.
The suit alleges that on March 13, Celebrity Cruises “acquired reason to suspect the presence of COVID-19 aboard the Celebrity Apex.” The lawsuit against the line alleged that the company did not “flat-out restrict” non-essential crew member movements, both onboard the ship and on and off the vessel. The following day, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first “no sail order” for the cruise industry.
Between March 17 and March 20, the lawsuit alleges that Celebrity Cruises permitted independent contractors onboard the Apex “to freely travel on and off the vessel.”
On March 21, the lawsuit alleges that the cruise line conducted “mandatory crew drills” with all crew members onboard the ship, and then threw a party for crew members that featured “large buffet lines.” Two days later, word spread around the ship that seven crew members had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the lawsuit. On March 24, Celebrity Cruises “ordered that all nonessential crew members aboard the Celebrity Apex be quarantined,” and ship-wide testing of symptomatic crew members began the following day.
The lawsuit alleges that Celebrity Cruises failed to provide its crew members with masks or orders to “observe social distancing measures aboard the vessels.”
Nedeltcheva tested positive for COVID-19 on March 30, according to the lawsuit. By April 6, around 350 other crew members had as well, with eight serious cases being transferred to a French hospital on shore. The lawsuit against Celebrity estimates that there are likely many more crew members currently at risk on Celebrity ships.
“The exact number of members of the class is unknown at this time given that many members are currently in voluntary or forced isolation aboard Defendant’s vessels at this time; however, at this time it is estimated that there are in excess of 10,000 members,” the lawsuit says.
Nedeltcheva’s suit alleges that, as a result of Celebrity Cruises’ actions, the cruise line “negligently exposed and is currently exposing thousands of its crew members to COVID-19,” potentially resulting in lung injuries, permanently reduced lung capacity, or death.
Nedeltcheva is represented by the Florida law firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina and Winkleman. Attorney Michael Winkleman told Business Insider in a statement that the lawsuit centers around the Celebrity Cruises’ “careless and continuous failure to protect its crew members assigned to work aboard its cruise ships from COVID-19.”
“Celebrity’s egregious failure to protect its employees has already resulted in hundreds of positive COVID-19 cases and what is more likely thousands given that there is limited testing being done on its vessels,” Winkleman said in a statement.