Slave Ship? Brazilian Police Board MSC Magnifica after Crew Members Complain of Long Hours, Abuse, Intimidation & Sexual Harassment

The BBC reports that Brazilian police boarded a MSC cruise ship and rescued 11 crew members working in "slave-like conditions." 

Brazilian officials say that the 11 crew members were forced to work up to 16 hours a day on the MSC Magnifica. Some of the crew members were subjected to sexual harassment.

The Brazilian authorities have been investigating the labor abuses for the past month, following a tip-off MSC Magnifica - Slave Shipfrom MSC crew members. 

"The fact that they had signed a contract, even an international contract, does not mean that the basic human rights should not be respected," Labor Ministry director Alexandre Lyra said. 

A publication in Brazil contains additional details of the working conditions. The Blog Do Sakamoto talks of exhaustive work on the MSC cruise ship with stories of abuse, bullying and fraudulent time recording.

"We have no doubt that it is slave labor," said Alexandre Lyra, head of Brazil's Division of Surveillance for the Eradication of Slave Labor.

You can see two statements of the working conditions written by MSC crew members here.

Another newspaper in Brazil reported that crew members were subjected to racism and homophobic threats and taunts. 

MSC issued a statement denying everything.

In December and March, we posted videos and photos of MSC dumping garbage bags into the sea off the coast of Brazil from the MSC Magnifica.  If the recent allegations are true, it seems that MSC treats its employees worse than the sea it pollutes. 

 

Photo Credit: Reporter Brazil

"An Unhappy Ship" - "This Will Be My Family's Last Cruise"

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

What Have the Carnival Cruises from Hell Taught the U.S. Public? It's a Great Time to Get a Cheap Cruise!

Carnival Fun Ship Disasters - Lessons LearnedI have written around 1,500 articles about the cruise industry on this blog.

I've covered the issues which are important to me, like the negative environmental impact caused by cruise ships which dump raw sewage into the water and belch toxic high-sulfur smoke into the air. Like the exploitation of vulnerable citizens of India and the Caribbean islands who work over over 360 hours to earn less than $600 a month. Like the fact that cruise lines avoid all U.S. federal taxes, U.S. wage and labor laws, and U.S. safety regulations by incorporating their companies and registering their ships overseas in countries like Panama, Liberia and the Bahamas.       

But do Americans really care about these issues?

An article the other day from the Plain Dealer struck a strange chord with me.  The article was entitled Cruise Industry's Recent Troubles Could Mean Bargains on the Horizon. The newspaper writes that although the cruise industry is floundering again with images of stranded ships with over-flowing toilets (Image above courtesy Adweek), cruise lines will "fight back by throwing money at the image problem, lowering their prices until customers start buying again."

The newspaper's bottom line is that the recent spate of pseudo disasters may be a good thing for consumers - "this may be the time to find a bargain."

Americans love bargains.  They want affordable and fun vacations. That's what Carnival offers.

Americans don't want to think about 400,000,000 people in India living below the poverty line many of whom are easily exploitable on cruise ships. Or the burning of toxic bunker fuel. Or the fouling of the waters in Alaska with a billion gallons of cruise ship waste water. Or the cruise line's non-payment of U.S. taxes.

Americans want to enjoy a cheap vacation on a "fun ship."  The cruise lines provide that.  If fair treatment of Indian crew members, clean air and water, and the payment of taxes by the cruise lines will make cruising more expensive, most cruisers will choose the cheaper cruise.

Today I saw a tweet by the IrixGuy on Twitter. Seems like a nice fellow.  His YouTube video (below) explains why you should continue to cruise on Carnival.  His basic points:

1. Carnival is "great;" 

2. Carnival cruises have the "best prices;" and

3. With all of the "disasters" and negative press, it's a "really good time to get a really good deal."

I suppose that's basically what most cruisers want, right?

 

Falmouth Jamaica: Victim of the Royal Caribbean System

The AP published an article today regarding the plight of Falmouth. The world's biggest cruise ships are sucking most of the money out of the Jamaican port and leaving little behind except crushed expectations of the local community.

"World's Biggest Cruise Ships Drop Anchor in Caribbean, But Ship-to-Shore Feud Brews Over Cash" takes a look at Royal Caribbean's "development" of this historic port where it promised that if Jamaica spent a couple hundred million dollars building a deep water port for its monstrous ships the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas, the mostly U.S. passengers would each spend would over $100 ashore and infuse the local Jamaican economy.

Jamaica lived up to its end of the bargain, at consideration damage to the mangroves and coral reefsAllure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Falmouth Jamaica  around Falmouth. But the residents of Falmouth are seeing little money in return.  The AP article quotes a local businessman saying: "We were promised that we'd be able to show people our Jamaican heritage, sell our crafts. But most of the tourists stay far away from the local people . . . we're on the losing end."

I have been to Falmouth and feared that it would be another Royal Caribbean project that benefited the cruise line and exploited the local community.  Three years ago I wrote an article critical of what I believed would be another Royal Caribbean scheme (like Labadee Haiti) to suck money from another Caribbean island and sail the loot back to the cruise line's coffers in Miami - "Historic Port of Falmouth - Jamaica's "Crapital" for the Oasis of the Seas."   

I followed this article up with "Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica?" Unfortunately, the people of Jamaica have a history of being exploited by foreign plantation owners, sugar barons, slave owners, and bauxite-mining companies.  Royal Caribbean is the latest robber baron to appear as the country's professed savior. But like other false prophets, it will do no better for Falmouth than those in the past who have taken greatly and given little in return to this beautiful island.

The AP article says that the people in Falmouth are "growing angry" and predicts that things will only get worse, quoting a local vendor: 

"The pot is starting to boil and, trust me, it will boil over if things don't change around here . . . why can't we, the people who actually live here, make a living off the cruise ships, too?"

The answer lies in history of the non-sustainable cruise industry.  Poor Caribbean countries like Jamaica are beholden to selfish billion dollar U.S. based cruise corporations.  In the end game, the local Jamaicans are victims of the exploitative cruise line system.    

 

 

Video credit: "Victims of The System" - Rootz Underground

Read our other articles about Falmouth:

Historic Port of Falmouth - Jamaica's "Crapital" for the Oasis of the Seas

Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica?

Royal Caribbean's New Port in Falmouth, Jamaica - At What Cost to the Environment?

Will Jamaica's Cruise Ship Woes Be Solved By A Margaritaville?

Cruise Law Visits Montego Bay Jamaica

Case Study: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. - Avoiding U.S. Taxes, Labor Laws, Environmental Regulations & Criminal Accountability

Royal Caribbean Cruises - A Liberian CoporationToday I read an interesting case analysis from the Journal of Business Case Studies (May/June 2012), which studied the business model of the second largest cruise company in the world, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.   

The article is entitled "Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.: Innovation At A Cost?" (click on the pdf link)

The article focuses on Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. which was formed in 1997 when Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (founded in 1968) and Celebrity Cruises (founded in 1988) merged together. 

The article explains that the foundation of Royal Caribbean is the avoidance of U.S. taxes and regulation. It accomplishes this by:

  • Incorporating in a foreign country (Liberia, Africa), and
  • Registering its cruise ships in weak, poor and disorganized foreign countries (mostly Liberia and the Bahamas).  

By registering its corporation and ship overseas, it avoids U.S. taxes, labor and environmental laws, and criminal culpability.  U.S. executives are offered millions in bonuses while the cruise line itself pays no U.S. taxes, which is the key to its profitability. The Journal writes that Miami based cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean:

" . . .  take advantage of maritime laws to avoid paying U.S. taxes, gain immunity from American labor laws, avoid U.S. courts in workplace disputes, and fend off new environmental regulations, government records and industry reports show. They have done this by incorporating in Central America and Africa and registering their ships under the flags of foreign nations . . ." 

Although this theoretically gives tiny countries regulatory power over one of some of Florida's Flag of Convenience - Royal Caribbean Cruiseslargest corporations, the flag states " . . . are not only reluctant to discipline major contributors to their economies, but also do not have the resources to enforce regulations or even punish polluters."

Flying flags of convenience has historically been used to conceal criminal activities, and is now "used primarily for economic reasons and sanctuary from restrictive regulatory environments."

Tonight in England a documentary will air about the exploitation of crew members on the Eclipse cruise ship which is operated by Royal Caribbean's sister company, Celebrity Cruises, out of Southampton England.  Crew members work 12 hours a day (sometimes more), every day, every week for the length of their 6 - 8 month contracts with no time off. When injured, the crew members  are often dumped back in their home countries and paid only $12 a day and denied competent medical treatment.

You can trace the root cause of this abuse back to the earliest days of Royal Caribbean in the late 1960's when the cruise line decided to skirt U.S. laws by incorporating in the lawless country of Liberia.       

 

Don't miss:

"Celebrity Cruises Crew Member Controversy Brewing in Britain"

"Profits Over People: Carnival's Exploitation of Crew Members is Standard Industry Practice"

"Royal Caribbean Executives Get Richer While Crew Members Get Poorer"

 

Credit: Flags of convenience article - "Flags at Sea . . . "

Will Jamaica's Cruise Ship Woes Be Solved By A Margaritaville?

Jamaica's Gleaner newspaper reports that the average amount of money spent by a cruise ship passenger in Jamaica has dropped to just $71.  

The hardest hit Jamaican port has been Falmouth where Royal Caribbean convinced the county of Jamaica to spend over $160,000,000 so far to develop the port (at great destruction to the reefs and environment of Jamaica) on the promise that the U.S. passengers would spend hundreds of dollars each upon entering Jamaica.

Now that Jamaica took Royal Caribbean's bait, dug up its fragile coral reefs and bulldozed its mangroves, the island has learned that the mostly American passengers are spending no where near the promised several hundred of dollars while ashore.

Falmouth Jamaica - Royal Caribbean PortI won't say that I told you so, although I will mention that this is exactly what I predicted in my prior articles:

Historic Port of Falmouth - Jamaica's "Crapital" for the Oasis of the Seas

Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica

One of the problems I observed when I visited Falmouth last year is that the new port contains essentially two worlds - the new port behind the fence which the cruise line erected where the touristy shops are sponsored by Royal Caribbean which sucks in most of the money, and the original stores outside the fence where few passengers venture.  

Compounding the problem is the fact that most of the excursions sold by the cruise line immediately leave the port and take the passengers outside of Falmouth.

But not is all lost, according to the Gleaner.  A Margaritaville is going to open on the Royal Caribbean dock in Falmouth, inside the cruise line fence.  Per capital spending is suppose to increase from $71 to $120 a passenger.

A Margaritaville bar in the historic port of Falmouth?  Ugh.  

Will the promised money roll in?  Probably not.  

But whatever bounty the cruise line passengers bring to the Jimmy Buffet bar in Jamaica will undoubtedly be scooped up by Royal Caribbean and sailed back to Miami.      

 

Photo credit:  Jim Walker

Carnival Fires 150 Crew Members from India for Protesting Low Cruise Ship Wages

In May we reported on exploitative labor practices by Carnival subsidiary P&O Cruises.

In Profits Over People: Carnival's Exploitation of Crew Members is Standard Industry Practice, we explained how P&O  decided to pay its crewmembers a basic salary of 75 pence an hour (approximately $1.20 an hour / $400 a month). The company phased out cash-tips-directly-to-the-crew and replaced the tips with "automatic gratuities" billed to the passengers' accounts.  But rather than forward the gratuities to the crew, the cruise line threatened to withhold the money if it is not satisfied with a crewmember's work performances. 

Arcadia - Cruise Ship Wage - Tips Dispute - Waiters TerminatedToday the Guardian newspaper in London published an article which brings us to date regarding the pay dispute. In P&O Cruise Ship Arcadia Hits Troubled Waters Over Ousting of Indian Crew, reporter Gwyn Topham reports that 150 waiters from India decided to make a little protest over the low wages and withholding of tips.

While the Arcadia was in port in Seattle a month ago, for about 90 minutes the waiters engaged in a "good-humoured" demonstration dockside about the low wages. The cruise ship's British captain communicated with the cruise lines' head office in Southampton and relayed the crew's concerns. The waiters returned to the ship, worked late into the night, and were assured there would be no reprisals by management.  

But as the Guardian explains, P&O's parent company, Carnival, did not find any humor in the situation: "This protest could not, directors decided, be tolerated – no matter what assurances the captain had given the crew."

Carnival sent letters to the restaurant staff who participated in the 90 minutes protest, admonishing them for their "industrial action" and stating "this behaviour is not something Carnival UK is prepared to tolerate."  Not only did Carnival prohibit them from returning to work on the Arcadia but banished them from working on any Carnival cruise ship world-wide.

In addition, Carnival instructed the hiring agency, Fleet Maritime Service International, which is registered in Bermuda to avoid taxes and labor regulations, to prohibit the waiters from ever working for Fleet Marine as well. The Guardian explains that "the Fleet payroll office is in the tax haven of Guernsey. Yet the letter is signed by an Edward Jones, the chief financial officer of Carnival UK."

Indian Crew Members - Arcadia - Low Wages and No TipsFleet Maritime is the largest employer of cruise ship personnel in India, and Carnival runs half of the world cruise market.  So Carnival essentially "black balled" 150 cruise waiters from one-half of the world's cruise ships.

Indian cruise ship employees, like virtually all crew members, are not members of a union and work entirely at the mercy of the cruise company. Carnival has an eye out for any type of collective protests by the crew.  This is union-busting circa early 1900's.  As this case illustrates, Carnival will not hesitate to retaliate against their employees for speaking out about unfair labor practices.  According to the cruise executives, If Carnival doesn't punish these upstarts, other crew members may protest too.  

Lots of Indian men and women go to sea believing that if they work hard on cruise ships, they can make a good living for their family back home.  But the truth is something less than those dreams. It's really long hours, hard work, low pay and no benefits.  The newspaper quotes a spokesperson for a British seafarer's union: "It's a shabby, unacceptable practice to exploit cheap foreign labour  . . . "

Bahamas Tourism Minister: Caribbean Islands Made A Mistake - Cruise Lines Now Own The Ports

A newspaper in the Bahamas published an interesting article quoting the newly appointed tourism minister, Obie Wilchcombe, in the Bahamas:  Cruise ships are " . . . floating shopping malls now, casinos and hotels. The Caribbean made a mistake 20 years ago when they didn’t limit what cruise ships could do; now the cruise ships own the towns. In Antigua and other places like that, they actually own shopping areas.”

Mr. Wilchcombe articulated what many merchants in the Bahamas and other Caribbean islands have been muttering under their breath for years.

The cruise ships have become bigger and bigger over the years, with more and more attractions being Bay Street - Nassau Bahamas - Cruise Portadded to the ships. Cruising has increasingly become an all inclusive vacation where the cruise ship is the destination itself and many passengers do not even come off of the cruise ships to shop.  The cruise ships are also sucking money out of the passengers before they come to port: “Everything is paid for ahead of time, and they just come with a few dollars in their pockets."

Mr. Wilchcombe also lamented that the cruisers who do come ashore have less money than before. The flood of new ships has changed the type of people (i.e., less affluent) who walk up and down Bay Street in Nassau.  

His goal is to attract a greater number of tourists to come to the Bahamas by air, who will stay in and eat at Bahamian owned hotels and restaurants.  

We wish Mr. Wilchcombe good luck with that.  Unfortunately, the cruise industry has benefited from its predatory relationship with the little Caribbean islands for many decades.  

Miami-based cruise lines enjoy a tax free income many times greater than the GNP of the Bahamas or any Caribbean country for that matter.  With few independent or sustainable industries, the Bahamas need the cruise lines far more than the cruise lines need it. Unrealistically low head taxes, deterioration of the port's infrastructure, unfair fees to shore-side excursions vendors, and cruise tourists who have already emptied their pockets on the cruise ships are signs of a master-servant relationship that continues to exploit the beautiful islands and people in the Caribbean. 

 

History of Bay Street and the Bahamas interest you?  Consider reading:

"Whose Bay Street? Competing Narratives of Nassau’s City Centre

I’se a Man: Political Awakening and the 1942 Riot in the Bahamas

 

Photo Credit: Liquid Latitudes

Profits Over People: Carnival's Exploitation of Crew Members is Standard Industry Practice

A dozen newspapers in the U.K. have reported on P&O Cruises' decision to pay its crewmembers a basic salary of 75 pence an hour (around $1.20 an hour) which turns out to be approximately $400 a month. Cash tips are being phased out with automatic gratuities being added to the passengers' bills. But rather than forwarding the passengers tips to the crew, the cruise line has threatened to withhold tips if the crewmember's rating falls below 92 percent.

In grade school, a 92 is an "A-."  So if a waiter who works a minimum of 11-12 hours a day (330-360 hours a month) receives a 91 (a "B+"?), management will pocket the tips?  

The Guardian newspaper reports that P&O Cruises justifies the move claiming that it is actually "good" for the crewmembers because many tourists don't tip.  It quotes David Dingle, CEO of Carnival UK, in charge of P&O cruise lines, saying that the crew were allegedly "much happier" and P&O's pay scale is "standard for the industry."

Some passengers reported that many of the crewmembers on a P&O cruise ship, mostly Indians, were India - Impoverished Crew - Exploitationat the point of tears upon hearing the news.

Carnival U.K. CEO Dingle tells the Guardian that "we have a manning office in Mumbai. There are queues out on to the street."  Ah, the desperate lining up, praying that Mr. Dingle will bestow them with the opportunity to work 350 hours a month for $400.

This no reason to exploit people.  But it is a revealing insight into why Carnival and P&O exploit their employees. They can and therefore they will. 

The U.N. reports that over 410,000,000 people from India are living below the poverty level.

Dingle is also right about low pay being what he calls "standard for the industry."

Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the U.S. pay cleaners from Jamaica as little as $545 a month. They expect them to grind out 12 hours days for 6 to 8 months straight.  For a 31-day-month, that's 372 hours for $545, less than $1.50 an hour.  And when the crewmembers' bodies break, the cruise lines dump them back home without medical care and treatment. 

Corporate Watch has an interesting article which characterizes the low P&O pay as shameful.  Fares for the Carnival Legend range between $2,798 and $6,458 per passenger for a 12 day cruise around northern Europe. Yet, P&O workers would need to work for 500 days straight to pay for a cruise themselves, assuming that they did not spend a single penny of their wages.

Carnival Corporation has annual revenues of $15.8 billion in 2011 and profits of $2.2 billion.  Micky Arison is Florida's richest person with a net worth of many billions.  But Arison is no Gandhi.  You will find him counting his billions on his 200' super-yacht or on the front row of the AA arena in Miami watching his hundred million dollar super-star basketball players.  Trust me, he's not worried about Indian waiters getting their tips.   

I can't imagine working 350 hours a month for $400, hoping that the guests I slaved away for would reward me a score higher than a 92.  An "A" or no tip?  You would think that a company earning billions a year (tax free to boot) wouldn't jack up a crew member for $150 in tips. But there is no satisfying this type of corporate greed.   

But who cares?  There are many young Indian men in line at the hiring agency in Mumbai hoping to be the next one to be hired to work aboard a P&O cruise ship.  

Royal Caribbean Cruises Treats Rockland Maine Like a $1 Store

Rockland Maine - Royal CaribbeanIn an article last month, we reported that Royal Caribbean is threatening Rockland Maine after the quaint town increased its port call fee to $6 per passenger.

Rockland is proposing a modest $2 port development fee and a dockage fee of $4 which reflect the actual costs to the city associated with accommodating large cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean wants the fee to stay at $1. The cruise line complains that increase was "excessive;" however, there is no port town or city anywhere in the world which has a fee of only $1. There are a few impoverished countries in the Caribbean and Central America, like Honduras, which collect a fee of only $4. But this is more of a reflection of the cruise line's historical exploitation of third world governments rather than a fair assessment of the actual impact of the cruise industry on the port's infrastructure.

Ports in the U.S. charge passenger fees ranging between $6 to $34.50 (Alaska).

Portland Maine, for example, charges $9 per passenger.

Royal Caribbean complains that it did not have adequate notice of the fee increase, but in truth it was notified earlier this year of the tax increase. It waited months before complaining and then sent an undated letter to the city manager of Rockland in June. 

Good relationships are based on mutual respect. What is good for you is good for me. But when strong arm tactics dominate the debate, the result is one sided and unfair. A $1 fee is unreasonable. It is unfair.  Royal Caribbean collects over $6 billion a year and pays no federal income tax by incorporating its business in Liberia and flagging its cruise ships in the Bahamas. Royal Caribbean - Jewel of the Seas - Rockland MaineThe threats by the cruise line reflect an insight into Royal Caribbean's view of  tiny Rockland.  It is a signal of threats to come in the future.

Why would Rockland want to spend the money from its tax paying citizens to subsidize a non-tax paying billion dollar foreign corporation? 

The cruise line has assembled a lobby group and has taken its scare tactics to Rockland's city council.  Royal Caribbean is threatening to pull its huge cruise ship, Jewel of the Seas, from a stop in Rockland unless the $5 increase is repealed. But there is nowhere in the U.S. with a lower head tax than Rockland even at the proposed $6.  Will Royal Caribbean really go to a port with a more expensive tax to prove a point to Rockland? 

I don't think so.  This is a cruise line which acts based on the bottom line dollar, not principles. 

There will be a vote today in Rockland at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The decision that the people of Rockland will make today will be a reflection of the town's self respect.  Will it stand up for a fair tax that reflects the reality of how a huge cruise ship like the Jewel of the Seas impacts its infrastructure?  Or will Rockland let the cruise line treat it like a $1 store? 

 

Rockland Maine - Royal Caribbean 

July 20, 2010 Update:

The Rockland City Council voted 3 -2 last night to provide a waiver to Royal Caribbean from the $6 fee.  The fee will be just $1 this October when the Jewel of the Seas arrives. "Rockland Reverses Cruise Ship Fee Increase

For a similar story, consider reading Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato.

Credits:

Rockland Maine harbor         Peter Greenberg The Historic Inns of Rockand Maine

Reason No. 7 Not to Cruise: Cruise Lines Exploit Foreign Crew Members, Like You'd Never Believe

Cruise Critic ran an article a couple of weeks ago about the Top 10 Reasons To Cruise.  I responded with my article "Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruise."  I previously addressed the first six  reasons not to cruise, which are at the bottom of this article.*

The purpose of this series is not to convince you not to cruise, but to educate consumers regarding the dangers inherent in and the consequences of cruising.  I'm not your big brother, trust me.  It you want to cruise, that's entirely your business and none of mine.   But at least educate yourself before you take your family on a vacation you may regret.  

St. Vincent - Royal Caribbean - Exploitation - Crew MemberThe 7th reason not to cruise may not leave much of an impression on most of my American readers because it involves "foreign crew members" who most passengers will never meet.

Our firm and clients have been featured over a hundred times on every major television station, cable news network, radio, newspaper and magazine in the U.S. and abroad.  But the news sources are interested almost exclusively in crimes or injuries involving U.S. passengers.  An injured or victimized crew member from Jamaica, India, or Nicaragua is usually of no interest to U.S. reporters.

The exception was several years ago when The Miami New Times ran a story "Screwed If By Sea - Cruise Lines Throw Workers Overboard When It Comes to Providing Urgent Medical Care."

The article focused on one of our crew member clients from the little island of St. Vincent who, after suffering second and third degree burns on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing to Alaska - was sent by Royal Caribbean on a journey from Alaska to Los Angeles to Miami to Barbados to St. Vincent - as part of a plan by the cruise line Royal Caribbean to abandon him in a third world country with no medical treatment. 

Take a moment and read the article.

You will smell the crew member's rotting flesh half way through the article.

Is "evil," or "diabolical," or "criminal" too strong of a word for this degree of corporate malfeasance?  I suppose it depends if it involved you - or a "foreign" crew member. 

The exploitation of crew members, particularly "utility cleaners" who often work 360 hours a month for around $540 a month, continues.  Last year we addressed the problem in an articles entitled:

"Titanic Dreams" - Royal Caribbean Wins "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award; and

Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft.

There are few Americans who would cruise if they knew how poorly the cruise lines treat their crew members.  The absolute worst cruise lines which abuse their crew members are Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises - the only winners of Cruise Law News' popular "Worst Cruise Line In The World Award."

Read the first six reasons not to cruise and then add this article into the mix.  Are you really going to cruise with your family on one of these foreign-flagged cruise ships which exploit the souls of the hard working men and women from Jamaica, India, Nicaragua and St. Vincent?

 

Tomorrow - Reason No. 8 Not To Cruise: Blackwater, Blackwater, Blackwater

 

Credits:   Jim Walker's Cruise Law Flickr Page 

 

*Cruise Law News' Last  6 Reasons Not To Cruise 

No. 1: Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

No. 2: Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It!

No. 3: Carnival, Royal Caribbean And NCL Are Corporate Felons

No. 4: If You Are A Victim On A Cruise Ship, The Cruise Line Will Treat You Like A Criminal

No. 5: If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless

No. 6: If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

Cruise Line Fat Cat Billionaires

Royal Caribbean - Crew Member - $545 a Month A fascinating article appeared in USA Today's Cruise Blog by Gene Sloan - "Titans of the Cruise Industry See Their Net Worth Soar."

This is an amazing article reporting on the Forbes 400 richest people in the U.S., which includes Carnival fat cat billionaires Mickey Arison, Royal Caribbean's Pritzker family, and entrepreneur Leon Black whose private equity firm controls Norwegian Cruise Lines, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. 

The article which is re-printed in its entirety below is an insight into how to create a fortune by convincing tax paying Americans to turn over their hard earned money to foreign incorporated, non-tax paying companies operating foreign flagged cruise ships. 

The phenomenon is of particular interest to me because I represent the backbone of the cruise industry - crewmembers like Ismael Richards (photograph above) who worked for 14 years - over 350 hours a month never making more than $545 a month until his back failed and he was abandoned by the cruise line.

Mr. Richards found himself with an one-way ticket back to St. Vincent, disabled, with no 401(k) plan, no pension, no job prospects, no social security and no social safety network.

So here is the article about cruise line billionaires, for your prurient interests:  

"The past year has been a good one to be a titan of the cruise industry. Just ask Micky Arison Mickey Arison - Carnival Cruise Line - Billionaire (photograph right).

A year ago, as cruise stocks were plunging along with the economy, wealth watcher Forbes was pegging the Carnival mogul's net worth at just $2.9 billion -- a multi-year low. But with the industry on the rebound, Arison's fortunes once again are on the rise.

Forbes' annual ranking of the world's billionaires for 2010, out late Wednesday, puts Arison's net worth at $4.4 billion, placing him at No. 189 on the magazine's closely-watched list. A year ago he ranked at No. 221.

Arison still has a long way to go to reach his former glory. As recently as four years ago, when the cruise business was riding high, Arison's hefty stake in Carnival had landed him among the 100 richest people in the world. In 2006, Forbes estimated Arison's net worth at more than $6 billion, putting him at No. 94 on the list. He ranked at No. 129 in 2007 and No. 189 in 2008.

Micky Arison isn't the only Arison whose fortunes are rebounding. Another Carnival heir, Shari Arison, is now worth $3.4 billion, up from $2.7 billion a year ago, according to Forbes. Alas, Shari Arison's rising wealth isn't enough to keep her in place in the rankings, where she has dropped to No. 277 from No. 234 in 2009. Four years ago she was within striking distance of the Top 100 at 109.

Another would-be cruise mogul, Leon Black (photograph below, left), also is doing better. The self-made financier who controls Apollo Management -- the private equity firm that in turn controls Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven seas Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line  -- almost didn't make Leon Black - Norwegian Cruise Line - billionairethe Forbes list last year as his net worth plunged to just $1.1 billion. But this year he's on the rebound with a net worth that Forbes pegs at $2.5 billion. He now ranks No. 277 on the list, up from No. 647 a year ago.

Also faring better are the many members of the Pritzker family of Chicago who collectively own a sizable chunk of Royal Caribbean.  Forbes says Thomas Pritzker is now worth $1.6 billion, up from $1.3 billion a year ago (though his ranking on the list has fallen to No. 616 from No. 559 in 2009). Jay Robert Pritzker, Anthony Pritzker and Penny Pritzker, with $1.4 billion a piece, are next at No. 721, followed by a half dozen more Pritzkers who tie at No. 773."

 

 

Credits:

Ishmael Richards                 Jim Walker's Flickr photostream

Mickey Arison                         Business Week

Leon Black                             Adam Berry / Bloomberg / Lardov

Historic Port of Falmouth - Jamaica's "Crapital" for the Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Cruises plans on using Falmouth, in Jamaica, as a port for its new monster of a cruise ship Oasis of the Seas.  There is a concern in Jamaica that Royal Caribbean is exploiting it's historic town in the process.

A Historic and Quaint "Colonial" Town - Sugar, Rum & Slaves  

Port of Falmouth Jamiaca Falmouth is the chief town and capital of Trelawny parish, Jamaica, and is located on Jamaica's north coast near Montego Bay.

In the late 1700's, Jamaica was the world’s leading sugar producer. There were hundreds of sugar estates and enormous wealth created by slaves for the rich estate owners. Falmouth was named after the birthplace of Sir William Trelawny in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain. At the turn of the 1800's, one hundred sugar plantations in Trelawny parish provided sugar and rum for export to Britain. Falmouth also has a notorious past because it was a center for the slave trade from Africa.  Based on its rum, sugar and slave business, it became one the wealthiest ports in the "New World." 

Falmouth is also considered to be one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved historic towns. Historic FalmouthMeticulously planned in the Colonial style, it is often compared to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, here in the United States. 

Royal Caribbean Makes a Sweet Deal

Several years ago, Royal Caribbean Cruises needed a port to accommodate its new "Genesis" class cruise ships (the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas).  These ships were far too big to use a regular port. 

The cruise line approached Jamaica and proposed a deal where Royal Caribbean would agree to use Falmouth as a port for its new mega ships - provided that Jamaica spend around $120 million deepening its port and creating a huge facililty to accommodate the two new mega-ships carrying over 6,000 passengers each.  The trade-off to Jamaica for this investment would be the infusion of money into Falmouth and the surrounding parish with the arrival of the new mega ships.     

Jamaica quickly jumped at the deal. No environmental impact statement or detailed economic analysis was prepared. The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) prepared promotional materials suggesting that "the destination will deeply reference the town's history, offering visitors a unigue sensory experience of the Colonial era."  William Tatham, Vice President of Cruise and Marina Operations at the Port Authority of Jamaica, proclaimed: “cruise visitors are looking for more memorable experiences, and this is certainly what Falmouth will be able to deliver.”

Royal Caribbean Cruise President Adam Goldstein  Royal Caribbean's President Adam Goldstein signed the deal with Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding  and promised to deliver 400,000 passengers a year to Falmouth over the next 20 years, with an expectation that each passenger would spend over $100 in the port. 

Jamaicans were promised a revitalized local economy with thousands of U.S. passengers spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every time the Genesis class cruise ships arrived in port.

Oasis of the Seas - a Self-Contained "Vegas with an Anchor"   

Fast forward to November 2009.  There is now little talk about passengers actually getting off the Oasis of the Seas and going into Falmouth.  Yesterday, the Charlotte Observer ran a story called  "Vegas with an Anchor," which quoted one the cruise ship's captains stating that “our hope, of course, is that people Oasis of the Seasdon't get off, because this ship itself is the destination. This is better than a lot of the islands.”

Paul Motter, the editor of the cruise community CruiseMates, echoed this sentiment: "I think it's going to be the first ship where people truly book just for the ship and hardly care where it goes."

Gadling, the online travel site, criticized the "nearly entirely inward-looking" experience of the Oasis of the Seas.  "With the aptly named Oasis, you don't need to leave the ship at all . . . As the Oasis passes by port after port, please pardon the passengers if they're not gathered at the rail watching the world pass by."

The thought of a megaship so big and self-contained that its passengers don't bother to disembark while in Falmouth is not lost on the people of Jamaica.  After spending and borrowing $120 million, they now realize that Royal Caribbean may have just taken them for a ride.

Oasis of the Seas - Looking for a Place to Offload It's Pee and Poo

In articles entitled "Why We Fail" and "Fantasies, Follies, and Frauds," John Maxwell of the Jamaica Observer warns of the  "transformation of our beautiful heirloom Falmouth . . .  to please the billionaire owners of Royal Caribbean Lines.  He writes:

John Maxwell - Jamiaca Observer"In beautiful and historic Falmouth, we are busy making a billion-dollar cosy corner for the Royal Caribbean Line on the alleged promise that they will be bringing 6,000 visitors a week to Falmouth. What we don't know is that we have probably been conned.

The Oasis of the Seas will make land-based hotels irrelevant. Instead of bringing visitors to Jamaica the new ships will bring an ersatz Jamaica to the visitors. Each of these ships will be human zoos specially designed to bemuse their clientele."

"Crapital" (sic) of the World?

Mr. Maxwell continues with his concern that Jamaica's town of Falmouth may become just a lovely place to unload the crap from the Oasis of the Seas' 6,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members:

"Given all this, the rationale for the Falmouth cruise shipping centre is simple: There's got to be somewhere to dump the huge amounts of waste generated by such a monumentally environmentally unfriendly project. Falmouth's destiny is to act as a relief point for the ship to be sanitized, resupplied with cheap Jamaican water and for the ship, its passengers and crew to offload their excrement in what will become the cruise crapital (sic) of the world"

Oasis of the Seas Allure of the SeasJamaica has a history of being exploited by foreign plantation owners, sugar barons, slave owners, bauxite-mining companies and now the mega ships of the $15 billion Royal Caribbean cruise line. 

Next year, the Oasis of the Seas will invade the historic port of Falmouth.  Later in 2010, the Allure of the Seas will follow.  When these floating-high-rise-shopping-centers cast a shadow over all of old town Falmouth, will Jamaica realize that it's once quaint port is being used for little more than a big latrine?     

 

Credits:

Historic prints of Falmouth   Falmouth Heritage Renewal

Adam Goldstein and Bruce Golding   Jamaica Ministry of Transport & Works

Oasis of the Seas   Kenneth Karsten via shipspotting.com

John Maxwell    Jamaica Gleaner

Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato

In an article in today's Miami Herald entitled "Carnival's Plan to Switch Port of Call Upsets Antigua," the newspaper reports that Carnival has dropped Antigua and Barbuda from its regular seven night Southern Caribbean cruise itinerary.

Antigua's tourism minister, John Maginley, told the Herald that Carnival informed him of their decision via e-mail:

There was no discussion, none,'' Maginely said. ``We're supposed to be partners in this thing, and all we got was an e-mail sent to the agent in Antigua that Carnival is pulling its boat. 

This will cost Antigua, which is dependent on tourism, more than $40 million annually.

This should serve as a wake up call for all ports of call which are dependent on cruise lines.  Carnival holds all of the cards in situations like this.  The notion that a sovereign country like Antigua is an equal "partner" to an 800 pound gorilla like Carnival is fanciful.  If a cruise line can make a better deal with an island next door, which charges a lower head tax, has fewer environmental restrictions, or is willing to foot the bill for a larger dock, then its "see ya later" as far as the cruise line goes. 

The cruise industry likes to promote the image that it is a responsible "partner" with the ports and their local business. Today the cruise line trade organization CLIA posted a link on Twitter @CruiseFacts to a video promoting the cruise industry in Portland Maine. CLIA suggests that its cruise line members are interested in developing and sustaining long term relationships with places like Portland and the "mom & pop" stores in its port. 

But Carnival's quick pull out of Antigua should be a warning to Portland and other small ports which bet their economic future on the cruise industry.

Cruise lines like Carnival are fickle lovers.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  Just ask the tourism minister in Antigua.  He received his "Dear John" letter that his country lost $40,000,000 via email.