Oceania Crew Members Pay the Price When Norovirus Hits

Oceania Riviera The Oceania Riviera, which was scheduled to be on a cruise until tomorrowreturned to the port yesterday with passengers sickened by norovirus. 

The virus has reportedly sickened at least 119 of 1,225 passengers, which is 9.72% of the passenger population on the ship. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has verified that the passengers who are suffering are suffering from nausea and vomiting are infected with gastrointestinal illnesses caused by norovirus.

This cruise ship was last contaminated with norovirus during a cruise from November 18 – December 2, 2015 and had to return to Miami for what the cruise industry often calls "enhanced cleaning."

All crew members on cruise ships dealing with a gastrointestinal illness outbreak know that they are going to increase their work and lose sleep whenever noro is aboard the cruise ship. Crew members are pressed into spraying and wiping virtually every inch of the ship's surfaces in order to give the ship a "deep clean" whenever there is a GI outbreak,  This is now happening on the Riviera where the entire crew has been compelled to work long hours to try and eradicate the nasty virus before the next group of passengers come aboard the cruise ship tomorrow.

Several crew members, who wish to remain anonymous, have contacted us to complain that they are working from early in the morning until the very late hours / early morning hours of the next day. Some crew member report working around 18 to 20 hours a day for the past days. The crew members say that they are forced to work hours far in excess of the maximum permitted under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). They are told to sign out and work the extra time "off the clock."  The result is that they are not being paid and are working past the point or mental and physical exhaustion.  

Few passengers may be thinking about the welfare of the crew members, who have not only had to clean up the vomit throughout the ship on a daily basis, but now have to work an unreasonable number of hours to "super-clean" the ship and kill all of the noro left by the last round of sick passengers.

The crew is undoubtedly feeling the pressure from the top as the cruise line CEO Frank Del Rio told USA TODAY last October that "I insist on spotless ships." This attitude is definitely on the minds of the ship managers even when there is no norovirus outbreak. When noro strikes, the managers are pushing the crew past the maximum hours permitted to work.

Flagrantly violating the MLC 2006 Convention is not an unusual thing on some cruise ships. It is honored in the breach on many ships. There is tremendous pressure to work and keep the department heads happy. A super-clean ship where the crew works like a beaten dog is hardly a safe and secure workplace.

Unfortunately, there is not much a crew member can do in this situation.  Hiring a lawyer may end up with a wage claim but it will surely result in the crew member finding himself or herself on a one way flight back to their home country.  

Photo Credit: Kefalonitis94 - Creative Commons 4.0, Wikimedia

February 22 2016 Update:  The cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line international Association (CLIA), posted this tweet on Twitter: "Our work never ends. Crewmembers continually clean & sanitize cruise ships to ensure passenger & crew #health"  It's one tweet from CLIA that is literally true, crew members often work 18 to 20 hours a day to super-sanitize cruise ships when there is a noro outbreak.

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Comments (14) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Marie - February 21, 2016 7:52 PM

As far as I am concerned, having been on 12 Cruises, especially one to Europe, 28 days on the ship, I have seen how hard the crew members work. Long, very long Hours. The cruise companies make load of money. I don't think they are very considerate towards their crew members. It Maybe LOOK glamours from the outside, but very far from that, and under paie, for sure, working all these long, hard hours.....My opinion

tinikini - February 21, 2016 11:12 PM

This is so sad. I too have watched them work so hard and always a smile. It is insane the way they treat their people. I can not imagine cleaning up a vomit fest. I own a fast food business, and yes, I require a certain standard of work for a certain amount of money. But I would never require my crew to work like slaves and then treat them poorly on top of it. Why does everyone keep sailing and turning a blind eye to all of the cruise industries shortcomings, the lying and cheating, overboards, pollution, etc? The list is never ending. No more for me until they clean up their act. There are other vacations to take on land. My opinion, of course.

david - February 22, 2016 12:18 AM

its so hard this news , before always riviera ship was cleaned properly and pass usph as well. I am not agree when the crew have to work extra hours when the crew make check out and return to the duties that is abuse from the corporates and general manager , if the company show bad cleaning standars, better put the ship in usph hands , but the owners don`t want to do, only abuses to the crewmembers, stop that , change the seniors, and the crew have to hire lawyers.

Maria - February 22, 2016 4:02 AM

Why does this surprise anyone?I've worked in the shops on board for 10 years and never got paid per hour.Worked excessive shifts of 15+ hours a day where no one cared how we did sea days,without shifts...Yes!No Shifts! Be at work at 8:30AM,close the store at midnight at if lucky be off work by 2 AM after cleaning up at getting store ready to open for next morning...Day after day...Month after month...8 months straight.And that was a decent job .Imagine restaurant and house keeping...And whenever NORO would strike those hours would only get longer ... Do I have to mention that job has to get done no matter what it takes?And than we had to cheat on the time sheets as we worked less hours than we did....

Axel Krack - February 22, 2016 6:00 AM

That is nothing else as a modern slavery!!!
What's about the labour convention? Today hire, tomorrow fire... Sometimes the crew has to pay for their home flights...

How can we change this situation? What is the order from the company head? The ship is your home, that's an emergency situation - no cleaned ship - no passengers - no money.

Jim, maybe you and other lawyer could give a talk on diff. cruise exhibition shows, to inform potential guests about the hidden / secret parts of cruiseing. All about what*s going wrong in this business.

Who stays for the legal claims of the crew? How can they improve the situation?

Pat Funk - February 22, 2016 6:55 AM

Jim: I just want to thank you for trying to get the word out about the way some cruise lines treat their staff and what they do behind the scenes. Please keep it up. I've been cruising for 46 years and have been reading your emails since they started.

Mary Jones - February 22, 2016 11:10 AM

Oceania has not done enough. We paid $15k for a 7 day cruise on the Riviera starting March 13 and I want to stay home.

John Goldsmith - February 22, 2016 12:23 PM

OK
What to do about this. First things first. Have every employee of every ship in every country simply stop working. One massive strike at the exact same time for exactly the same length of time, say 48 hours. Whether the ship is at sea, tendered, docked or in for cleaning. all stop.... Next step, have a negotiating team on standby to meet with the cruise line owners. Hammer out a deal. and Third , failing an agreement with the lines, have a plan in place to fly all employees home.
Speaking of boycotting, and threatening regulations where they cannot be enforced, and the general blather we keep hearing, mean nothing at all unless you can enforce it. That is what our lawmakers were elected for, and that is who you need to pressure. Complaining about cleaning a ship for 18 hours does nothing for the employee.

francis - February 22, 2016 9:31 PM

that's why i dedided not to work again in the cruise line..so sad we crew members suffer the consequences of the incompetent head of department. its a modern world human slavery working in the ship! long overtime work with no pay! come on! ITF and ILO hear the cry of the crew member! theres a lot of foolish happening inside the ship!

Edward - February 25, 2016 5:15 AM

This is why most cruise ships are flagged in Liberia, Monrovia, or Panama, where there are No labor laws protecting the crew! I worked on cruise ships for 25 years, I've seen it get progressively worse as corporate greed wins out over crew safety and welfare EVERY time. Crew members constantly complain about long work hours, bad or unsafe working conditions, high prices for slow internet, etc. Guys.........IT WAS PLANNED THIS WAY!!! Gotta keep the shareholders happy!!

cruiser - February 25, 2016 1:30 PM

The crew worked tirelessly to keep the ship cleaned and sanitized while senior management stayed safely behind closed doors and never engaged with any passengers regarding the problem. We got our information through the CDC website. It was not exactly the cruise we had planned and paid for. Oceania needs to find out why their onboard management team (except the cruise director) was avoiding the passengers.

Judy - February 27, 2016 10:34 AM

We were on the Riviera that had to return to port. 2 of our 4 couple group got sick. They said that the treatment they received by room service , security, the one MD, and housekeeping was terrible! The crew was terribly overworked, tired, irritable which leads to rudeness and uncaring.
Passengers go on cruises to relax, have fun, and be pampered by Oceania, supposedly an upscale cruise line.
Mr. Del Rio needs to come on board and work along side the crew. His comments are meaningful so he needs to increase crew members during these difficult times.

Carol Cerny - April 7, 2016 5:41 AM

Within 36 hrs of boarding an Oceania cruise ship we were sick along with 96 other passengers. The staff were made to work inhumanity hours. The management seemed indifferent to staff and passengers. Profit over people.

colin - October 19, 2016 5:15 PM

I have just returned from oceana med cruise today (19 oct 2016) both myself and my partner contracted novovirus during the 7 day cruise. Customers who notify the ship medical team are confined to cabin for 3 days with no support from P&O. If medical attention is required it will be charged for. There was no anti bacterial gel supplied to infected customer rooms and the toilets and bathroom was not cleaned other than the one time when sickness was reported.
I also noted after the outbreak that side plates were being reused by staff without being washed.
Room cleaning staff were doing the absolute minimum work ie just replacing towels.
Very poor management of cleaning standards in my opinion.
Not once were the carpets vacuumed in the corridor or rooms during my stay.
The captains announcements concerning the outbreak appeared to blame the customers for the outbreak.
Not impressed at all.

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