"Titanic Dreams" - Royal Caribbean Wins "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award

A popular part of Cruise Law News is the monthly "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award.  This is a special award, reserved only for the cruise line which demonstrates the worst treatment of passengers, crew members, and the environment.  

And the Winner for October Is  . . .  Royal Caribbean Cruises.

A Little Background Info on Royal Caribbean Cruises

Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises is the second largest cruise line in the world, consisting of four brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and its luxury line - Azamara Royal Caribbean - Worst Cruise Line in the WorldCruises.  It also operates its Spanish Subsidiary - Pullmantour Cruises, where it sends its old cruise ships like the Zenith and the Sovereign of the Seas.  

Like other U.S. based cruise lines, Royal Caribbean registered its business overseas (Liberia) and flagged its cruise ships in foreign countries (Liberia, Bahamas) in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes.  Although it collects between $5 and $6 billion a year from U.S. tax-paying citizens, Royal Caribbean does not pay U.S. taxes by virtue of its foreign corporate citizenship.  Its crew members are 99% non-U.S. citizens.

A Multi-Billion Dollar Corporation Which Pays Its Crew Members Peanuts 

Royal Caribbean crew members who toil behind the scenes, like galley cleaners, earn around $550 while working 360 hours a month - that's about $1.50 an hour.  Yes, that's right - $1.50 an hour.  Royal Caribbean has a net worth of around $15 billion dollars, but pays its hardest working crew members $1.50 an hour. 

Royal Caribbean waiters, bartenders, and cabin attendants earn a salary of only $50 a month. That's $1.67 a day. The cruise line depends on its passengers to tip the crew members so that they can make a living.    

Royal Caribbean invests virtually nothing into its crew members by way of medical treatment or employment benefits.  It is always looking for ways to save money at the expense of its crew.  Royal Caribbean is struggling to finance its + $1,500,000,000 (yes that's 1.5 $billion) cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas.  Its inaugural cruise is in just two weeks but it cannot even sell enough tickets to make its first voyage profitable.  And Royal Caribbean is sweating bullets figuring out how it will finance the even more expensive cruise ship Allure of the Seas, which will be arriving next year.  

So how does Royal Caribbean plan to pay for its two + $3,000,000,000 "Monsters of the Seas?"


Royal Caribbean started pinching pennies with its crew members when it realized that the economy was tanking.  Its stock fell from $45 a share to under $6 a share, and it became obvious that it could not meet its financial obligations for its new mega cruise ships it ordered several years earlier.  Long before Royal Caribbean turned its back on its most loyal passengers - its Diamond and Diamond Plus passengers - the cruise line targeted its crew members to try and suck money back into its business.

As I mentioned in a prior article "Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft,' Royal Caribbean has been giving the screws to its foreign crew members, particularly the men and women from the Caribbean islands. The cruise line slashed Crew Member Medical Treatmentthe daily amount it pays to its sick or injured crew members from $25 a day to only $12 a day.  Obviously, no one in the world can eat and pay rent and other living expenses - which is the cruise line's legal obligation - on a pittance of only $12 a day.  But this is what Royal Caribbean is doing, scrimping on every penny, to try and finance its new cruise ships. 

Another tactic Royal Caribbean used to save money was to adopt a strict policy of keeping its crew members out of the U.S. whenever they are injured or become sick.  Under the General Maritime Law, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are obligated to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment to their ill crew members.  This is called the doctrine of "maintenance and cure," the oldest legal doctrine in the U.S. 

Royal Caribbean is based here in Miami, which is a good place to manage its crew members' medical needs.  But the cruise line adopted a policy of keeping the ship employees out of the U.S.  Royal Caribbean is the poster child of corporate malfeasance when it comes to abandoning its sick crew members in third world countries around the world.      

"Ms. Jones" - Royal Caribbean Sees What It Can Get Away With        

We have a crew member client, lets call her "Ms. Jones."  She is from Jamaica.  She is a twenty-five year old, hard working woman who, like many young people from Jamaica, sought a career and better life working on a cruise ship.  In April of this year she felt sick and went to the ship doctor on Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas while the ship was in Europe.  The ship doctor did not take Ms. Jones seriously.  She continued to work.  April turned to May and May turned into June.  Finally she was referred from the cruise ships to a doctor ashore who eventually mis-diagnosed her condition as a neurological condition.    

Royal Caribbean - Crew Member Medical Care When medical conditions cannot be managed on the cruise ships, Royal Caribbean sends its ill crew members to, of all places, the Dominican Republic for treatment.  Why?  It's cheap.  No other reason.  To save money.  The Dominican Republic is an impoverished country, next to Haiti. It is certainly one of the last places you would think of for state-of-the-art medical treatment.  

Dumped in the Dominican Republic

The odds were stacked against Ms. Jones when she arrived in the capital, Santo Domingo. But the good news, initially, is that the doctors finally ordered blood tests and diagnosed that Ms. Smith did not have an orthopedic problem.

She had leukemia. 

This is not a good diagnosis and the diagnosis had been unreasonably delayed.  But the doctors at least had finally figured out what was ailing Ms. Jones.  They had a plan as of early July.  The doctors notified Royal Caribbean and requested permission to start Ms. Jones on the preferred drug for this type of leukemia, "Gleevac," and to consider her for bone marrow transplantation.

Neglected In Jamaica

So what did Royal Caribbean do?  Did they fly her quickly to Miami which has excellent board certified oncologists?  No. They sent Ms. Jones back to her village in Jamaica, a location which makes Santo Domingo look like a thriving metropolis. Royal Caribbean provided no medicine to treat her leukemia and no plans for bone marrow transplantation.  They did this to save money.  Ms. Jones found herself in Jamaica in a weakened and immunosuppressed condition with a malignancy.  Yet no "Gleevac."  No money.  No "sick" wages.    

Ms. Jones languished in Jamaica.  July turned into August.  And then August turned into Leukemia - Crew Member Medical TreatmentSeptember. No Gleevac.  No bone marrow transplantation.  No living expenses.  Her calls and emails to Royal Caribbean begging for assistance were ignored.    

Ms. Jones contacted us.  We immediately notified Royal Caribbean and demanded that Ms. Jones receive her Gleevac, her living expenses, and wages.  We insisted that she sent to Miami for evaluation.  In response, Royal Caribbean called our client directly, behind our back. We have seen Royal Caribbean do this before. They were caught, and they began scrambling. 

Royal Caribbean then wrote to us, claiming that Ms. Jones had received her medicine.  This was a big lie.  We pressed the issue and Royal Caribbean instructed us not to contact its "medical department."  We were left to deal with a low level "claims adjuster" whose only job is to deny claims -  like the insolent claims representative for the "Great Benefit" insurance company in John Grisham's Rainmaker who writes denial letter after denial letter to the mother of a child dying of leukemia. 

Crew Member Medical Treatment - Cancer We quickly by-passed the claims handler and wrote to and called the lawyers at the cruise line.  They informed us that because a lawsuit had not been filed, they would not talk with us.  So within one hour, I prepared a lawsuit and had a process server run over to the port to serve their General Counsel.  Still, they refused to discuss the situation. They continued to stall, lie and obfuscate.

Not a Single Gleevac Pill in the Entire Country

Finally, the truth became evident - not only had they failed to provide Ms. Jones with the life saving "Gleevac" but there was no such medicine in the entire country of Jamaica.  Finally, Royal Caribbean arranged for the medicine to be flown to Jamaica - over 5 months after Ms. Jones first went to the Royal Caribbean ship doctor.

Like most cancers, leukemia left untreated can advance to the "blast" stage, where the prognosis is not good.  And the chances of death increase exponentially. 

As of this late date, Ms. Jones remains in Jamaica.  She is still taking her Gleevac, as long as it Royal Caribbean Cruises - Worst Cruise lIne in the World lasts.  She is receiving only $12 a day to live on, always paid late. On Friday evening, Royal Caribbean finally agreed to permit Ms. Jones to come to the U.S. but it took her hiring a lawyer and filing a lawsuit first.  We are trying to obtain a visa for her from the U.S. Embassy so she can come to Miami to be properly evaluated and treated by board certified U.S. oncologists. 

Her life depends on it.

For anyone reading this article who like me has lost a loved one to cancer, you know that life is too precious to play games like this. Particularly by a $15 billion dollar corporation.  Life is far too precious for such arrogance. 

Royal Caribbean's Priorities - Profits Not People

Meanwhile the hype and fanfare surrounding the arrival of Royal Caribbean's billion dollar cruise ship Oasis of the Seas continue.  You can read what I think of this boondoggle and environmental disaster in "Royal Caribbean's "Monster of the Seas" - a Cruise Ship Only Gordon Gekko Could Love.  There are lots of empty cabins which Royal Caribbean needs to fill for the Oasis of the Seas to make money. 

Titanic dreams occupy the minds of Royal Caribbean executives, CEO Richard Fain and President Adam Goldstein.  Their egos and the fate of Royal Caribbean are hopelessly intertwined with these floating monstrosities.  

They have never heard of Ms. Jones or other crew members like her, living on $12 a day, fighting to stay alive.


Photo Credits

Oasis of the Seas      DailyMail.co.uk  "Inside the world's biggest and most expensive ever cruise ship, the £810million Oasis of the Seas"

Photo of Royal Caribbean crew member, Mr. Doran McDonald    Jonathon Postal, Miami New Times 

Leukemia blood film    Euthman's Flickr Photostream

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Comments (15) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Jo Jones - September 25, 2010 4:17 PM


whatever you wrote about RCI is so true... I work on a ship as well as I can't find a better job for now, but I've seen so many crew members treated so poorly that it can't be described. If I get sick onboard, I never go to see the doctor. I had once very bad cramps and turned up to have cyst in my ovaries... what I got from them was ibuprofen.... I was lucky to come home a month later and was not too late to be seen by a specialist.
Crew members work so hard onboard and for almost nothing. Everything is about ratings, if you don't make it, you are out...

... and the story can continue.. I could write a book on how many things happen onboard...

Tiffany SK - October 19, 2010 5:48 PM

I too could write a book about the atrocities of medical care onboard during my 4 contracts. I suffered an injury and was sent to see a doctor in Curacao, and I'm an American citizen! When I said that I wanted to see a doctor on port day in Miami I was told that they could not arrange it (we were still 4 days away from Miami) and I would have to wait until the following port day, 11 days later if I did not want to see the doctor in Cuaracao.
While working on ships we had 1 doctor terminated for downloading porn onto his work computer. He stated he was doing "medical research." Then there was the cruise where 3 people died, 1 from a stroke and 2 from heart attacks. Both doctors were terminated at the end of that cruise. Why? Because apparently the nurses had to talk them through CPR! Absolutely disgusting. I've told family members and friends that if they ever get hurt or injured on a cruise ship the last place they want to go is to the ship's infirmary. The "medicine" dished out is reminiscent of early 19th century hospitals, where one only went if he or she had a death wish.

oli - December 14, 2010 4:34 AM


I,m 1 crew and the comment what i see everithing is trow beacouse we are not treated like human beans we are treated like animals on board.
Just to let you now i,m at home beacouse i,m sick i got so many problems i couldn,t pay my bills why?beacouse my salary was comming late.
I suppose will in my contract is wreaten that the company garante that i will make 1.050 per month and i recieve only 746$.
People belevue me that the crew is under such big stress at all the time we working not 7 days per week we are WORKING 9 DAYS PER WEEK.
How i says we are treated like animals beacouse the company want to safe money ..........we have food on board but the way how is prepared even dog does wont to eat for example my last contract i shot to STEAL PIZZA to eat sommething or to go out to bay sommething.
Just to make and to give a big support to the hard working and living crew and let hope that one day the RCCL will pleasing as the workers beacouse for 50$ monthly salary and let say PLEASING PEOPLE FOR TIPS....

Heather Bitsaktsis - May 16, 2011 10:32 PM

Just read this article after returning from a RC cruise. I knew something was wrong. The workers are overworked, under payed, and everything else in between.
After talking with a few, my heart began to break and my stomach began to turn. I was on the cruise, giving money to the greasy corporation RC at the cost of these hard working people. Had I known before taking this cruise what I know now, I never would have gone.
Jim, keep up the good work, even though this article is old it is still reaching people like me and raising the awareness to the evil's of this world that prey and feed on the poor, uneducated and desperate people.

Robert Platt Bell - November 22, 2011 1:29 PM

Your comments answered a question I had. We just returned from a "vacation" (if you can call it that) on Allure of the Seas.

The crew looked tired and sad, all the time. We were in that elevator bar deal, and the Maitre'd, the waiter, and the bar tender all had expressions on their face like they were exhausted and had just gotten the news that their grandmother had died. $1.67 a day will do that, I guess.

The only "happy" crew members were the ones that had that fake-happy smile all the time, cruising for tips. It was like watching a sad clown.

That was just one aspect of the cruise which was just awful. But now I understand it better. Cruising is not for me, I decided.

Marianne Wilhelm - July 17, 2012 7:25 PM

In April my family of six went on navigator of the seas out of ft lauderdale, Florida. I have been on two other cruises with rccl but this ship was by far he worse cruise I've taken! We waited for our dinner food for ever and drinks that were ordered took forever (after asking the drink waiter numerous times where are drinks were!) nobody asked our names or even tried to carry any conversation with us! The staff was not friendly at all. We will never ever go back on that ship again

Tina - October 29, 2012 6:35 PM


Grainne Kelly - November 12, 2012 8:46 AM

I've just returned from a 4 day cruise with royal carribean with my husband and 3 children. Never again. I wish i had seen this article before I went. When we discovered that the stateroom attendents waiting staff and bar staff get no salary but are depending on the guests to pay gratuities we were horrified. All the staff are from third world countries and are vulnerable and totally taken advantage of. It is modern day slavery. We felt sick to our stomachs and spent the last day of the cruise confined to our cabins. The rich get richer off the backs of vulnerable people. We felt trapped on a ship and felt we had been tricked into a situation we in no way condoned. I will be spreading the word about disgraceful Royal carribean as much as I can.

Tina C - November 18, 2012 11:27 AM

I just returned from Oasis of the seas 7 day cruise this trip was amazing! The crew was amazing! My father in law had a heart attack while we were gone the staff let us call home everyday free of charge. I am handicapped and the crew treated me with utmost respect and care. Our waiter and assistant waiter were so happy they laughed almost to tears on several occasions. They were so awesome and told us their stories. Grant it is very difficult the jobs they do they were genuinely happy. This could not have been faked. I am sure they are not paid well as they are service jobs. Neither are they paid well in the States. They depend on our tips. I choose next time to pay less for the stateroom so that I can tip better.

LYNDA MURPHY - December 24, 2012 4:06 PM

My daughter, Alexandra has been employed by Royal caribbean for 3 years as a member of the ice skating cast. On november 7th she suffered a stroke after an ice show. Thanks to the fast thinking medical crew on board they were able to dx the situation, treat her w/ a stroke drug, and she made it thru w/no neurological deficits. However the following day the Dr. insisted on an MRI on the island of Tenerife (Canary Islands), which showed that she had suffered a stroke. The ship left Alex there for 6 days to test her and get her to the states for more testing. There seemed to be no reason that a healthy 24 yr. old athlete w/no past history would have suffered this.

The company then flew her to Miami where I met her and spent 3 days w/ the companies Dr.'s. The dx was a hole in her heart she was born with. Within 2 days the surgery was performed (PFO closure) and within 10 days she was back on the ice skating at home, but ready for her new contract in march.

The care that she received from the medics on the boat, to the hospital in Spain, and the care in Miami was fantastic.

The case workers were in touch w/ us daily and we have nothing but gratitude to express to the Cruiseline for what they did for Alex.

Merry Christmas!

karl - June 6, 2013 4:21 PM

Ya, I'm glad crew talks here, so tourists can find out that your room steward and your waiter get actually only 50usd/month as salary, that's for at least 12 hours a day EVERY day (without ANY day free for 8 months at a time) hard work and courteous smiles and trying to make the passengers feel as royalty, so for all of that their ONLY income is your tips ! your room steward and your waiter feed their families back home exclusively FROM YOUR TIPS !!!! And that's the only reason they're working on ships, to try to make you happy enough that you accept paying their tip. So please, please, people, always pay their tips unless of course they were less than par..

Mary - August 29, 2013 7:36 PM

My husband and I went on a RC Cruise in May (Enchantment of the Seas) to celebrate his retirement. We booked a large suite with an amazing balcony. Our steward was wonderful and we got to talking with him. We were appalled at what he revealed to us "we're all told to smile all the time but there is great sadness behind those smiles". I never imagined that these hard working folks were treated so abysmally. As we did not go to the dining room for dinner and did not use most of the services of the ship (our room was all we wanted) we refused to pay the tip at the end of the trip and gave our steward that and more in cold hard cash. Figured he deserved it even though I now know that other folks rely on those "voluntary TIPS" which is a lie - this is their income, not extra. As much as I loved the suite and our time together, we will NEVER go on another cruise again. I cannot support such slave-labor!

Andrew - November 27, 2013 11:27 PM

Wow, this is spot on, brother! I worked for RCCL for 7 years on something like 11 different ships, and eventually had to leave, part out of principle, and partly for my own sanity. I actually am finishing writing a book about my experiences. I don't go into the doom and gloom so much, but I had to represent crew on some level. The way they are treated and especially the food(!!!) is so awful. The experience can be good to a point, but the company is pure shit.

marleen - December 24, 2013 3:38 AM

yea of course mister staff captain is so happy with royal caribbean, you have the power to do something, instead of be so blindfolded, theres a lot of people suffering, im so sad of reading those empty cold words

Leisel - June 1, 2014 7:44 PM

Staff Captain Tina. You are paid to speak for RCCL. You are one of the many highly compensated executive officers who walk around on your clouds and never give much thought into the welfare of the crew and even participate in treating them like shit. Yeah i said it, i worked for RCCL for 9 years and while i had good times, the cons outweigh the pros 1000 to 1. I had to leave to be human again. Don't get it twisted, the food sucks big time and the crew are under extreme pressure because there is always some new shit to add to their stress. No days off for 7 months, no vacation pay,u have to get sick at specific times to see the 'ship vet'(8am-10am/4pm-6pm). all kinds of audits to worry about. Please don't believe anything this 'captain'says. u staff captain u definitely get an off day or two on board and when u become captain, u can let the Phillipino engine crew drive the ship while u go bar hopping or whatever. DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE PEOPLE. MODERN DAY SLAVERY!

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