Watch CBS News

Cruise lines face investigation and wrongful death lawsuit over "dramatically mishandled" virus response

Cruise line sued over worker's COVID-19 death
Family sues Royal Caribbean over cruise employee's COVID-19 death 03:59

As the cruise industry tries to chart a post-pandemic way forward, Congress has launched an investigation into how Carnival Cruise Line responded to the coronavirus. And Royal Caribbean faces its first lawsuit over the death of a crew member due to the virus.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of 27-year-old Pujiyoko, a housekeeping employee from Indonesia. The suit claims he contracted COVID-19 on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas, getting sick only after passengers left the ship.

"It's very clear that the entire cruise industry dramatically mishandled the entirety of this outbreak, not only as it relates to passengers, but also as to crew members," said maritime attorney Michael Winkelman, who represents the man's family. 

"I think had they taken the steps that pretty much every single person around the world was taking, I don't think he would be dead today. Had they implemented proper social distancing quarantines, given proper masks to everybody, I think that Pujiyoko would still be alive today," Winkelman told CBS News transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave.

The roughly $53 billion cruise industry has been in dry dock since mid-March. After a number of highly publicized coronavirus outbreaks, polls show more than one in five Americans say it'll be a year or longer before they'd set foot on a cruise ship.

But, Carnival is hoping to restart service on eight vessels from the ports in Florida and Texas by late summer, saying it has submitted a plan to the CDC.

There are people who want to go on a cruise right now, said Erin Florio, from Conde Nast Traveller. Florio said bookings for 2021 are strong, but there will be changes on board.

"When they first get on board, there's going to be a lot of temperature checks. People might be denied boarding if they don't have proper medical notes," she said. "They're probably not going to be able to plate their own food anymore. Lots of things are not going to be shared that used to be shared."

Before those ships take on passengers, Congress has some questions. The chairman of the House transportation committee sent a letter to Carnival demanding information about its response to coronavirus.

Another issue is that more than 100 U.S. citizens working on cruise ships can't come home. The CDC won't allow them to disembark until cruise lines agree to a plan to get them home and quarantined.

Cruise ship performer Ryan Driscoll has been essentially stranded at sea for 60 days. His ship hasn't seen passengers since mid-March.

"I'd like to go home," he said. "I'd like to be out of this room. You know, I've been stuck in this box for far too long and have major cabin fever and miss my family."

Royal Caribbean declined to comment on the lawsuit but said it has reached an agreement with the CDC to get its American employees home starting this week. Carnival is still working with the CDC to get more than 100 of its employees, including Driscoll, home and said it will cooperate with the House investigation.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.