Celebrity Cruises Crew Member Controversy Brewing in Britain

On Monday October 1st, the U.K.'s Channel 4 Dispatches television is airing a documentary about the working conditions aboard the Celebrity Cruises' Eclipse cruise ship which is now home ported in Southampton. 

The program is called "Cruises Undercover: The Truth Below Deck."  Channel 4 describes the program as follows:

Almost two million Brits took a cruise last year. For many, it's the holiday of a lifetime with hard-earned savings going in to a dream adventure.

Tazeen Ahmad - Channel 4 Dispatches - Cruises UndercoverGlossy marketing films and brochures depict a cheerful workforce dedicated to making a cruise a five star experience.

Channel 4 Dispatches goes undercover to investigate the reality of life below deck for the multi-national workforce who toil behind the scenes of glamorous ocean going holidays.

The cruise industry generates billions of pounds in revenue each year and working on a ship provides many people from around the world a much needed source of income.

However Dispatches reporter Tazeen Ahmad - traveling as a passenger on a European cruise - and an undercover reporter working as an assistant waiter discover working conditions below the legal minimum in the UK."

Celebrity Cruises has called upon its friends in the travel industry to launch a PR campaign to denounce the program even before its airs. One travel group responded to the battle call and said: "Dramatization of these documentaries does nothing to educate the public to the facts, but represents poor value TV entertainment  . . . "  (I can't wait to watch!)

Celebrity Cruises says "sadly, we are anticipating a biased and unbalanced programme about the labour and wage issues in the cruise industry."

Claiming that the documentary is biased or misleading is the usual cruise line game plan when Celebrity Cruises Eclipse  investigative reporters go on board Royal Caribbean / Celebrity cruise ships to take an undercover look at how cruise ships really operate. Earlier this year, Inside Edition went aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Liberty of the Seas, and filmed the excessive drinking which the cruise line encourages. The president of the cruise line protested that the program was "sensationalist" and "highly misleading." 

The treatment of crew members, particularly waiters, on cruise ships is shameful.  Some call huge cruise ships like this "floating sweatshops." The waiters work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 6 to 8 months straight. One of the more dramatic stories this year covered Carnival U.K. firing 150 waiters from India who worked aboard P & O Arcadia.

Carnival terminated the waiters' jobs after they protested for one hour about their tips being withheld. 

Its great that the media will shine light on the cruise industry's treatment of its employees.  Once the program airs, expect more howling protests by the cruise lines and travel agents.

The documentary will certainly depict the industry as being different than the Love Boat TV series.  

I'm hoping that my friends in the U.K. will copy the program and send me a disc . .  .  

 

Photo credit:  EPA via Daily Mirror 

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Comments (8) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Exploited crew member - September 29, 2012 4:12 PM

This is brilliant news!! Well done Channel 4! I for one can't wait to see this documentary! I come from Serbia, the Balkan peninsula, Eastern Europe, which cruise lines exploit as a pool of cheap workforce (together with Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia and Macedonia). Although I admit that we can earn and set aside substantial income onboard cruise ships (much more than we can in our home countries), I still think that working on cruise ships long-term is a very bad option money-wise and health-wise (except for some high-ranking positions few manage to attain at the beginning of their cruise ship career). There's too much stress and health risk. Working conditions onboard cruise ships are nothing like working on land; in fact, they are abominal: cabins are too small and dirty, the sewer is often clogged, you often need to turn a blind eye to your alcohol or marijuana-prone roomate (even when you are desperate for a sleep, because you work 12-13h shifts), and most of all, health insurance is virtually non-existent. No matter what the severity of your injuries is, the doctor is going to prescribe you a few pain-killers and send you back to work ( except in the most extreme cases, when they send you home and then try to wash their hands off of you unless you put some pressure on them to pay for your bills and medications under the maintenance and cure clause). In just two weeks onboard I witnessed several assistant waiters getting injured and being treated like the lowest of the low (they were sent back on duty despite the fact that one of them injured his thigh so bad he couldn't walk and developed internal bleeding (as it turned out when he got back home), but the supervisors blackmailed him into submission). I'd rather work on land and earn one third of cruise ship salary than earn a pile of money being treated like scum and risking career-threatening spine injuries. I sincerely admire people who manage to make a career out of working on cruise ships, especially those who come from the Balkans and Asia. Trust me, most of them (in the restaurant and housekeeping departments, which make up 70% of the crew) "piss blood" trying to earn a living. An average American, British or German citizen would think twice before joining a cruise ship company as an assist. waiter or cabin steward on the same terms as an Asian or Balkan man would do. Once you experience the purgatory that is a cruise ship (if you're in the restaurant or housekeeping department), you start to appreciate the little things in life you've never appreciated enough before stepping onto a ship: the value of intimacy, good sleep, the beauty of your surrounding at home, the importance of hygiene (yes, trust me, I've seen it all!!) healthy food, good friends suddenly become excellent mates, etc... You have to be very, very resilient and strong-willed to survive a grinding machine that is a cruise ship. And also tolerant, because of many, many irregularities that happen on cruise ship on a daily basis.

Exploited Crew - September 29, 2012 9:11 PM

At least Celebrity Cruises pays well its staff and working conditions much better than P&O Cruises. Isn't P&O the one who pays approx 197 POUNDS to the Food beverage assistants i.e. dishwashers. and yes thats it no tips, no overtime. How can a person work for 9 months straight everyday. THIS CRUISE LINE EXECUTIVES WILL ROT IN HELL!!!

anonymous - September 29, 2012 11:07 PM

This is fantastic news. Hope the same will be done with a lot of other cruise ships aswell. a lot of times overboard crew must be the result of being overworked and perhaps in some cases excess drinking, a resident counselor for crew should be on each ship. There are broken hearts, crew that are worried about issues at home while they away ect ect and perhaps when issues at home come up there may a family member or someone that would have given advice, on cruiseship crew are under such stress that they themselves wont see an answer to their problem, desperate phone calls to their homes when things go wrong on board, work, personal ect they may phone home but how much can be talked about during a phone call . Friend may give advice but most of the time friend are also overworked and can barely think straight. our human brain cannot function properly without sleep and enough rest. When these crew members go home for the first month they seem to sleep, nothing else matters.
They are humans with feelings and bodies and minds just like any other human and it is time that they get treated like humans. They are proud individuals with guts who take on jobs away from their homes, being away for long length of times would have an effect on any individual - watch them flock while in port to get to wifi to contact 'home'. I wonder how often the word 'home' gets used or heard among crew, must be a word used more than any other while onboard, and as humans that is natural. they deserve a lot more than what they get from shipping lines who are making huge money. Even if shipping lines double crew salaries, and start treating them in a decent manner as we speak, the shipping world would still make their huge profits, but atleast they would have happy, healthy crew with a interest in their jobs. Makes me wonder why these 'top' knots who make the decisions cant figure this out, but i suppose they are too buzy living the high life to worry about mere crew members. But its because of mere crew members that these ' top knots' can live the high life.

sheyla - October 1, 2012 9:08 PM

thanks to post this new because many people don't know how is the ship life so now i think many people i mean guess will take conscious about what happen with us onboard. we work more than 12 hours and we don't have a complete day off as it's supposed to have it and if we have overtime they just reduce as giving you some hours off so anyway i hope every single company can change its system in order to make feel better their crew members

daleythompson - October 2, 2012 12:58 AM

i think its disquisting the way these companys treat their staff. I was horrified watching dispatches last nite is have a 2nd think before going on a cruise now i do feel theirs a easy solution companys like p&o and cunard should be reflagged if they are based from our ports and cater to the british market they should be subject to british law and the benifits thereafter no one should be expected to work seven days a week for 1.34 a hour

Fran - November 10, 2012 11:19 PM

Well, in Royal Caribbean they pay $50 (YES, FIFTY DOLLARS) a month, plus tips to waiters. I used to work my ass off in another department and stand sexual harrasment from my manager. The company says they have a no-tolerance policy regarding to this matter. BIG LIE! Plus, I finish working a 17 hour shift so I resigned. But my god, how they treat people over there... And passengers donĀ“t do it any better (not everybody, but a big percentage) 'cause the company have this idea of please them no matter what, and they know it so are very spoiled, I have never seen such behavior on land. It`s just not normal. And law is not on our side, cause company like Celebrity and RCI are under not american flag.

jose paul - March 2, 2013 3:42 PM

weather there is overtime.

em - June 1, 2013 12:23 PM

Moving fast forward to June 2013... Nothing has changed since then. A lot of people are being exploited on Celebrity Solstice right now, working three shifts 7 days a week, getting very little sleep and rest. They are afraid to speak up because they can't afford to be send home. They can't get jobs in their poor countries and the management know that. That is the reason they hire the crew from those countries in the first place. It is so frustrating to know that they get away with this criminal abuse of helpless poor people.

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