Celebrity Cruises Inc. has been hit with a proposed class action in Florida over its allegedly “careless and continuous” failure to protect crewmembers aboard a number of its vessels from COVID-19 despite possessing knowledge that previous passengers and/or crew may have come down with the highly contagious virus.
Filed by a Bulgarian citizen who worked aboard the Miami-based defendant’s Celebrity Apex vessel and ultimately tested positive for COVID-19, the 28-page complaint charges that Royal Caribbean-owned Celebrity Cruises “glaringly failed” to implement “even the most basic safety precautions” after learning the virus “was and/or likely was present” on its ships. Among the measures the lawsuit claims Celebrity Cruises failed to take, the company neglected to timely quarantine crew members, provide protective masks or require crew to observe social distancing in order to fight against the spread of the virus, according to the suit.
Per the case, Celebrity Cruises knew or should have been aware as early as February 13, 2020, the date on which the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published guidance for cruise ship operators on handling the novel coronavirus outbreak, of measures the company should have taken aboard its vessels to help prevent, detect and manage suspected COVID-19 infections. Despite the CDC sharing with cruise operators “numerous helpful considerations” aimed at mitigating COVID-19, Celebrity, in what the plaintiff calls “an alarming lack of urgency,” allegedly allowed crewmembers to eat in buffet settings and participate in mandated shipboard drills while ordering proposed class members to “attend crew parties aboard the vessels.”
For instance, after the defendant’s Celebrity Eclipse was denied the ability to dock in Chile on March 15 due to COVID-19 concerns, the company ordered all passengers aboard the vessel to self-isolate while requiring crew to continue operations as usual, the lawsuit claims. What followed, according to the complaint, were a number of other instances in which Celebrity allowed crewmembers to come and go off vessels against the CDC’s No Sail guidelines and permitted passengers on the Eclipse to go home after docking in San Diego despite a crewmember having tested positive for COVID-19 while onboard.
The lawsuit alleges that Celebrity Cruises’ “egregious” failures have resulted in hundreds of positive COVID-19 cases among crewmembers, a number the plaintiff says is “more likely thousands” given the limited testing available on board the vessels. According to the case, roughly 350 Celebrity Apex crewmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 as of April 6.
Echoing a case filed against Costa Cruise Lines, the lawsuit notes that companies like Celebrity should have been on heightened alert given the outbreak of COVID-19 among thousands of passengers on the Grand Princess vessel—and subsequent mishandling of the crisis on board—in late February. Almost a month after the explosion in coronavirus cases aboard the Grand Princess, the CDC on March 14 issued its first No Sail Order, which warned that infections among crewmembers “may lead to transmission on sequential cruises on the same vessel” given many may continue working and living onboard a ship from one voyage to the next.
The lawsuit looks to cover those who worked aboard any of Celebrity Cruises’ 14 vessels and who contracted COVID-19 and/or were at a heightened risk of exposure while working on the ships due to the defendant’s allegedly careless conduct.