Royal Caribbean details plan to send crew members stranded aboard ships home

The CDC still has to approve the cruise liners plan to repatriate crew members.

May 4, 2020, 1:37 PM

Royal Caribbean and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may soon come to an agreement to allow the thousands of crew members stuck aboard ships amid the coronavirus pandemic to disembark and go home.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley outlined plans to get crew members home, which vary based on crew members' nationalities, in an internal memo sent to employees on Sunday and was obtained by ABC News.

Bayley said American crew members on ships close to the U.S. will be repatriated with private transportation beginning on May 6. American crew members off the coast of Barbados and at its Perfect Day resort will be put on a ship to Miami then transferred to private transportation "and are expected to be home no later than May 14."

American crew members in the Mediterranean will be flown home by May 20 and American crew members in Asia will be flown home from the Philippines as soon as the airport in Manila reopens.

Bayley said in his note that the CDC will only let crew members disembark if company executives, including himself, "are willing to attest -- subject to criminal penalties including imprisonment -- that we will not use any public transportation and that each crew member will comply with certain conditions after disembarking the ships."

Bayley added the company is "happy" to comply with the CDC's requests, "but the criminal penalties gave us (and our lawyers) pause."

PHOTO: In this drone image, the Celebrity Infinity Cruise ship returns to PortMiami from a cruise in the Caribbean as the world deals with the coronavirus outbreak on March 14, 2020, in Miami.
In this drone image, the Celebrity Infinity Cruise ship returns to PortMiami from a cruise in the Caribbean as the world deals with the coronavirus outbreak on March 14, 2020, in Miami.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images, FILE

Detailed plans to repatriate crew members to their home nations without the use of public transportation has been one of the major sticking points in the weeks-long standoff between crew operators and the CDC that has prevented crew members from being allowed to go home.

The CDC must approve all requests for crew members to disembark at U.S. ports. The CDC previously said that some cruise companies complained that arranging private transportation for disembarking crew members was too expensive.

The CDC told ABC News Monday that it has not yet received the plans from Royal Caribbean.

"We are pleased Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited has decided to take the necessary steps to ensure their crew members can safely disembark and stand ready to review the cruise line’s submissions as soon as we receive them," the CDC said in a statement.

The CDC added that it is "committed to helping crew members disembark and return home to their families as quickly and safely as possible while protecting their health and the health of the communities to which they will be returning."

As of last week, there are more than 80,000 crew members aboard some 120 cruise ships in U.S. waters alone that have been waiting in limbo for cruise ship operators and the CDC to reach an agreement on how to safely allow workers to disembark.

Royal Caribbean told ABC News in a statement that it is working with authorities on disembarkation plans and is appreciative of crew members' patience.

"We have already been able to help more than 12,000 of our crew members return safely home on commercial flights, charter flights and direct sailings to their home countries and thousands more are going home in coming weeks," the company said. "We are working with governments and health authorities around the world on our plans, and we very much appreciate our crews’ patience, understanding and good spirit."