Long Hours, Repetitive Injuries & Bad Medical Care Plague Royal Caribbean Crewmembers

Royal Caribbean Crewmembers - Miami Florida Cruise LawyerWe just settled a case we filed on behalf of a Jamaican crewmember who sustained a wrist injury while working as a cleaner aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  She is now able to support her two boys back in Ocho Rios (photo left). 

Her job responsibilities involved cleaning every single public lady bathroom on the cruise ship (around 30).  Mopping the floors, scrubbing the toilets, wiping the stalls and mirrors, every day of the week - Saturdays and Sundays included of course.  In addition, every embarkation day she was required to deliver hundreds of bags luggage from the elevators to the passengers' cabins.

She developed a painful and debilitating wrist injury.  She went to the ship doctor who gave her Ibuprofen and a sling to wear.  She then returned to full time duty wearing a sling.  I don't know how a one armed cleaner can possibly clean 30 bathrooms every day of the week and then carry hundreds of pieces of luggage on top of that.  Her salary was around $550 a month.

Royal Caribbean eventually sent her back to Jamaica.  Two general surgeons ended up operating on her wrist.  What they did exactly no one knows because neither one of these doctors prepared an operative report.  There are no hand specialists anywhere in Jamaica.  The crewmember's pain, numbness, swelling and limited motion did not improve.  Shortly after the second surgery and without ever providing physical therapy, the cruise line terminated her medical treatment and stopped paying the $12 a day daily stipend.  

After she called and explained her predicament, we filed suit, arranged for her to obtain a tourist visa, and then flew her to Miami for treatment with a U.S. board certified hand specialist.  After around $60,000 of medical care we forced the cruise line to pay, her symptoms finally resolved. We can't mention the amount of her settlement because the cruise line requires a confidentiality agreement regarding the settlement figure, but we can state that she was happy and, most importantly, pain free when she went home.

Cleaners, waiters, and cabin attendants work insane hours on Royal Caribbean ships.  Working 12 hours a Royal Caribbean Crew - Injuries - Accidents day minimum and up to 16 hours on embarkation day, they are instructed not to report more than 10 to 11 hours of work on their times sheets.

The human body is not designed to perform hard manual labor over 330 hours a month. 

Repetitive injuries to waiters who carry trays weighing 50 pounds or more are common.  Neck injuries, disc herniations in the low back, and rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder are common.  Then the cruise line sends these hard working employees to the four corners of the earth to receive bad medical care.         

The photo to the right is of another Jamaican client who sustained a severe wrist injury working as a cleaner on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  My partner, Lisa O'Neill, is shown discussing her injury in a hotel here in Miami.  My partner does not like to be mentioned on this blog, but she is the backbone of the team which we have who cares for injured crewmembers.   A substantial part of our law practice is flying injured Royal Caribbean crewmembers back to Miami for medical treatment which the cruise line refuses to provide.      

 

Photo credits:  Jim Walker

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Comments (6) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Gabs - July 16, 2011 10:39 PM

Hi Jim. As you know, this is an ongoing problem for crew members in what I can only assume to be all cruise lines (I only have experience working in one of them). My wife worked there with me and she developed an infection which was not properly treated on board. She was sent to a doctor in Mexico who confirmed that she hadn't received proper treatment on board. She was only treated for the symptoms and then sent home. Today, almost a year later, we're still paying for treatment for an infection that keeps fighting antibiotics (she was given a wide array of ineffective antibiotics on board and it became resistant to them). Neither of us work in ships anymore. Horror stories are easy to find among crew members and we're not the worst, by far. The love boat days are over.

Bob - July 18, 2011 10:40 AM

Hello Jim,Gabs,

I just wanted to psot this comment after I red Gabs. I'm a former shipboard employee with several yeras of experiences. Let me tell you Gabs, whehter you like it or not regarding thos two honeymoon couples. It's not their fault they've been left in St. Thomas. Ship should wait for them afterall. They should be informed by their stateroom attendant, maybe sateroom attendant forgot about it, or didn't feel like notifying them, or didn't speak english fleunt, bottom line is, nobody is perfect, I'm sure they missed unintentionally for some reason, in order for cruise line to keep them as future cruisers, at least they could apologize, adn refund them, or give them a free cruise of their choice, if they want to keep a reputation, cause they're so very much afraid of dragging them on national news and newspapers, those cruise line people specially PR persons, are the most dishonest, incapable, incompetent trash people on the face of the earth. I fthey can spend millions on lobbyists in DC then they could give them a free cruise, at least.

Gabs - July 20, 2011 12:20 AM

Bob, I'm not saying it wouldn't be nice if Princess did that, but my point is that there was a schedule change, EVERYBODY except two people managed to be informed through any of the many ways that the change was communicated and these two didn't. Whether they weren't on board the day before during the first announcement or they forgot to check the sign at the gangway, efforts were made to reach everyone, like it usually happens, BECAUSE they don't WANT to leave anyone behind. And no, they are not supposed to wait for them, unless they were on a ship's shore excursion.

Paul - July 31, 2011 11:38 PM

Hi folks,
Just disembarked from my first cruise ever this morning. I never knew how fun it would be. Then, I realized. I am getting this "deal" at the expense of the kind, friendly, and hard-working staff of Carnival cruise lines.

It was about 8 PM, the other day, on this cruise. I asked my cabin steward, who had greeted me awake at 8 AM that same morning, in confidence, "How many hours a day do you guys work?" "Oh, 12 to 16, sir," he said with a happy smile. Then he turned, hid his tired face, and trudged away carrying a heavy bag down the hallway. I asked similar questions of the dining staff and others, "I often sleep only two hours a night," said one man who wore an ever-present smile on his face.

Shame on you, CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES! Shame on you Micky Arison (CEO), Howard S. Frank (C00), David Bernstein (CFO), This is WRONG! Do not embarrass your families by exploiting the poor and change your business practices.

For the rest, I do not know what to do but I know something must be done. These are the most visible examples of the increasing polarization of wealth in our global society.

When/if you cruise, investigate the fair labor practices of the cruise line. Call them. Ask them of the disparity in wages between a below-decks worker and some of the company officers (COO, CEO, CFO). If you can't get a sense of this or it is explicitly too large a gap, then choose (and pay a little more for) another cruise line that does not exploit our international human family.

Sailor - August 7, 2011 4:13 AM

This reminds me of my first few months work in P&O cruise ship. I used to do the same thing like her and on turnaround days do baggage for no extra money. Yes hundreds and hundreds of bags. Luckely I was taking enough precautions and I never had a real injury.

I also understand how they treat you. They treat you like a slave. I was sea sick in the first week and really sick and the doctor would give me pills and 30 minutes rest and back to work.

People who cruise never know the handwork and the pain behind it.

You have done an excellent job by helping her!

Laura - December 10, 2012 9:35 AM

This is all too familiar to me. So many of my friends I met onboard are struggling daily with the injuries they've sustained during their work, myself included. I'm only 22 but 6 months after returning from my most recent contract I've still got constant problems with my feet, right knee and both wrists to the point I sometimes have trouble walking up stairs or over long distance and if I do an afternoon's housework my hands are in bits for 2 days. I should be at the best health of my life! Background: I worked as a spa therapist for 2 years total. We are only supposed to work maximum 72 hours per week but I've often exceeded 80 which the manager then 'rectifies' or be told to clock out before coming back to work. I've often gone 8 hours between breaks or anything to eat. We worked only on commission paid on totals after a certain target plus tips, no base salary at all. I've often had my legs give way with exhaustion mid-treatment. Honestly, as long as the $$$ are coming in most managers couldn't care less what happens to their workers. I can't get a job in my home country because of these injuries. I have the body of an old woman. If I could meet the 19 year old me and tell her what would happen I'd make sure she never signed the contract.
I ask of all passengers to please think of the crew members. When your waiter stifles a yawn, pleas remember how many hours he or she has worked in that day or week already. When you see your cabin steward wearing a wrist support think of how many over packed cases or she has carried that embarkation day. When your spa therapist is on the deck advertising the "overpriced" treatments keep in mind they don't even get the price of your drink you have in hand as payment for that treatment. Passengers either don't want to believe us or are too naive to realise that their cruise costs $400 for a reason!!!

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