In a tweet on Saturday, Francois-Philippe Champagne said officials worked with U.S. authorities and cruise ship lines Holland America, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruises to assist with the return of the 75 Canadians.
He said officials are “continuing to work with cruise lines and local authorities to ensure the safe return of remaining Canadian crew.”
In a statement emailed to The Canadian Press, Princess Cruises said 19 Canadians on the Koningsdam disembarked in Los Angeles, Calif., on Friday and would be flown or driven home by the company.
The cruise line says another 53 Canadians are scheduled to leave the Emerald Princess in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday and would head to Miami where they would board a chartered flight to Toronto.
Approximately 99 U.S. crew are also being allowed to leave both vessels, the statement says.
There are 70 cruise ships remaining at sea with about 200 Canadians on board, though the number could be higher as it only reflects those who have registered with Canadian consular officials.
Global Affairs Canada says it’s doing everything it can to provide assistance.
“To help Canadians return home, the Government of Canada is actively working with airlines, cruise lines and foreign governments to facilitate flights to Canada from locations where there is a lack of international flights, or where local restrictions on travel exist,” a spokesperson said Saturday.
Both national and local governments have stopped crews from disembarking in order to prevent new cases of COVID-19 in their territories.
Some of the ships, including 20 in U.S. waters, have seen infections and deaths among the crew.
Most ships have had no confirmed cases.
The U.S. Coast Guard said Friday that there were still 70,000 crew members on 102 ships either anchored near or at U.S. ports, or underway in U.S. waters.
Travellers were warned that if they chose to voyage on a cruise ship that they may not be offered a spot on a repatriation flight, or could be on the hook to cover the cost.
— With a file from The Canadian Press and The Associated PressView link »