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.
Glossy 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 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