Royal Caribbean and its subsidiary, Celebrity Cruise, have been in a state of panic lately frantically trying to fend off bad publicity surrounding an expose' on crew member hours, wages and working conditions on the Eclipse which aired in the U.K.
The British television station sent two "undercover" reporters on to the cruise ship, one as a passenger and the other as an assistant waiter. They painted a grim image of work on the Celebrity cruise ship: long hours, grueling conditions and low pay.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity rallied their friends in the travel community to try and refute the harsh image of "ship life" which crew members face as portrayed by Channel 4 Dispatches program "Undercover Cruises - the Truth Below the Deck." At the end of the day, all the cruise lines accomplished was to bring more attention to the exploitation of crew members and to create the image that they had something to hide.
But not all cruise lines have this type of knee-jerk reaction to undercover reporters.
An article today in Travel Weekly reveals that at least one cruise CEO would rather see first-hand what the crew members really face, rather than claim that there is a conspiracy every time a reporter goes undercover with a video camera.
Travel Weekly's article "Big Interview: Cruise Boss Kevin Sheehan Learns From Fife on Deck," states that Norwegian Cruise Lines' President Kevin Sheehan went undercover himself to experience first hand the working conditions which his ship employees face. He was filmed as part of the TV program "Undercover Boss." The article explains that the NCL cruise CEO spent one day as a deckhand, another day cleaning cabins and toilets, and a day working in the galley.
I was impressed with this comment he made to Travel Weekly:
“We made a lot of changes. For example, there was an ice skating rink at the top of Norwegian Epic that had to be set up every evening. There were hundreds of pieces, each weighing 70 lbs, and women crew members doing it. It was back-breaking work and a disaster in my view. We discontinued it.”
Not many cruise line presidents have the transparency to admit something like this.
Much of the work on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships is truly "back-breaking." But you will never see the CEO's from these cruise line admit it or do anything about it. They are too busy sitting in their executive offices protesting that undercover reporters are biased.