Last night in Britain, Channel 4 Television’s "Dispatches" program aired its undercover investigation, "Cruises Undercover," into the hours and working conditions on Celebrity Cruises’ Eclipse cruise ship sailing out of Southampton. 

The Twitter feed for "#cruisesundercover" and comments to the Channel 4 website page seems to show the general public’s disgust for the long hours and low pay revealed on the Celebrity cruise ship, which some are calling a "slave ship," while many in the travel industry are dismissing the program as biased. 

The usual cruise apologists have rushed to the industry’s defense.

We have the perpetually-on-a-cruise expert regarding cruise ships and cruise holidays and blogger for the U.K. Mirror John Honeywell who writes that the investigation was "under-researched and underwhelming" but then again three days before the show aired he wrote "I will have to watch this, but . . . it will be a complete and utter waste of my time."  

Cruises Undercover - Cruise Ship InvestigationWe have my favorite shill for the cruise lines, Paul Motter, editor for CruiseMates, who assures us that although "there are a lot of ways of doing business in the third world, which is where most of these workers come from, that we in the U.S. may not understand," most of the crew members are "ecstatically happy with their jobs."  And those crew members complaining about working conditions? Mr. Motter assures us that the waiters are telling us "lies" wanting to get "money at the end of every cruise."  

Can you believe the nerve of these liars from third world countries who work over 12 hours a day and expect tips?       

And then we have the cruise industry cheerleader publication Travel Weekly who tells us that before the program aired Celebrity Cruises expected a “biased and unbalanced” investigation.

Nonetheless, Travel Weekly promises us that the cruise line "is taking immediate steps to investigate all of the allegations made by the undercover reporter" and if anyone "violated our procedures and requirements, or the European and international labour regulations to which we adhere to, then we will take swift and corrective actions."

Pray tell, what exactly are these wonderful sounding "European and international regulations" which apply to Indian citizens working on a Maltese flagged ship?  

If the actions of Carnival U.K. and P & O Cruises (which earlier this year terminated 150 Indian waiters who protested low wages and the withholding of tips), are any lesson, "swift and corrective action" is exactly what I would be worried about if I were a crew member complaining about what the Channel 4 investigation revealed last night.   


Chart Credit: Channel 4 Dispatches "Cruise Undercover"

  • Schmedlapp

    These conditions exist due to simple supply and demand. The cruise ships exploit and overwork their crew, for sure…but as long as there are people in developing countries who are willing to put up with such conditions, things will never change.

    When I worked on cruise ships, I knew countless crewmembers from the Philippines, who labored under conditions like these. Not only did they work 12-14 hours per day, they had families, young wives and children, whom they went without seeing for 6-8 months, only getting a brief 2-3 month vacation period to spend time with them. Who would want their kids to grow up essentially without fathers? Well, maybe they do, because even with an average pay of $700/month, it’s still better than the average wage in the Philippines of $300/month. Many of those Filipinos had been at the same job for 5, 10, even 20 years.

    Another cruise line I was on was notorious for their housekeeping supervisors. They would berate the poor young stewardesses for light dust on impossible-to-reach ledges or a tiny, barely-noticeable wrinkle on a bedsheet…if the room appeared perfectly clean and presentable to the naked eye, they found something to yell about and mark down in their report, just to be “tough.” All this abuse on top of the long hours…surely no one in their right mind would want that, right? Guess what, this company had a ONE YEAR waiting list of people who wanted these jobs. Even a stewardess just starting out was known to make around $3000/month when tips were included…they would put up with the abuse for their 6 months, then go back home to South Africa or Guatemala or wherever and live like kings.

    Sure, maybe something like the entire crew–or even a large majority thereof–of a particular ship suddenly resigning on the spot would screw the cruise line over and send a message. But the cruise line would just as quickly find some more workers to exploit…there’s certainly no shortage. And the crewmembers who are already there are far too addicted to the money to ever affect any change.