Last week, I reported on a Filipino crew member who apparently jumped off of the Grand Princess cruise ship after it left San Francisco. The 34 year old man was the fifth person to go overboard in the last 18 days.
Although Princess did not notify the Coast Guard until approximately two hours after the crew member went overboard, it was quick to tell the press that the crew member intentionally jumped. "Not our fault" seems to be the attitude. Put the "suicide" label on the case and forget about it, seems to be the cruise line's usual response.
Putting the issue of legal blame aside for the moment, could the crew member's death have been avoided? Are there systems in place to provide counseling for crew members under stress?
Over the last year I have written about cruise lines overworking and underpaying their shipboard employees. I have discussed Princess working their employees to the bone. I've discussed the policies of parent company Carnival reducing pay, diverting the crew member's tips, suspending their retirement programs, and firing employees when they protest. There is only so much that anyone can take, working every single day far away from their families during a 8 month contract.
Is there a correlation between this more difficult work environment and an increased sense of hopelessness of the crew members who the cruise lines easily replace when they crack and jump?
When a cruise line quickly explains that a crew member intentionally went overboard, it's not really an explanation. It seems to raise more questions than provide answers.
In response to our article about the Princess crew member lost at sea, I received this message from a reader:
"I was on the prior cruise to Hawaii for Christmas and New Years. This was my wife and my 7th cruise. But to me, this was an unhappy ship. The employees were not happy, and many passengers were also not happy. The workers had a palpable fear of their bosses. They were afraid to allow anyone to make a decision without consult from their supervisor. I mean, things like, I want a different table. The host would feel the need to ask their supervisor.
To me, this is not a surprise. I feel it is the industry's dirty little secret. The wage scale and treatment of replaceable employees. This will be my family's last cruise."
Photo Credit: Hakilon / Wikipedia