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

  • Peter Herman

    It is very sad to see that is happening in 21st century but I believe that Princess is nothing in comparison with MSC cruises or Louis cruises from Cyprus where crew is treated as slaves sometimes beaten from Italian or Cypriot so called supervisors.I personally so that and I could not believe where I am when I went to work on MSC Cruises for one contract after working on Royal Caribbean.
    Many off them where and still are psychically tortured, girls forced to sex services to supervisors or else fired or moved in cabins without light, water or electricity until they change they mind and start satisfying Italians or Cyprus higher officers or also guests.Lower rank crew mostly Indonesians,Madagascar,Ukrainian or other non EU countries origin with 10 -12 month contract.
    Before they where hired over company appointed agent in origin country agent promises them wealth and high salary and they pay him 2000$ to join MSC or Louis and after they end up in 6 berth cabin in lowest deck working as slaves, serving Cypriots or Italian higher crew [deck,engine] besides doing duties as cleaner or waiter,bus boy or else.
    If they start arguing or refusing they been tortured[assigned with more work hours ,dirtiest jobs,left without water, electricity in cabin until they brake like in prisons,specially good looking girls.

    They cant speak out about it because they cant go back home without visa or money .They cant go out from ship in weeks and many off them have big financial problems so they must work until end off contract.They work more than 14-18 hours a day but if they satisfy and play along situation becomes better and than they can survive.

    Food is very bad sometimes not enough for all or someone who is not playing along is left without right to eat for punishment.

    On Louis cruises ships conditions are so bad that crew on some ships have no toilet or showers in cabins and they must go to out in corridor to shower in one shared shower or toilet.

    Sometimes salary’s are late intentionally that they cant complain or leave suddenly from ship.
    Usually they take bond 300-500$ as warranty that crew member will stand contract to the end and after few month they chase him out without right to get bond money back because he violated some inside circle rule [real mopping].
    Do you now that MSC M/V “Melody” in June or July 2012 was so near to sink in Mediterranean waters near Cyprus while captain and senior officers were sleeping .Water pipe broke from inside and lower decks where full off water .One Croatian 60 year old Electrician saved ship because he new pipeline because he was on M/V “Melody” long time otherwise I would not be writing this letter to you.That all was happening while captain and first officers where sleeping after god party with girls.After that incident one Hungarian singer posted a video on you tube where you could see lower decks under water ,nobody to help crew and guests,people walking out from their cabins watertight door opened itc..Video was with whole situation and he was fired immediately in next port and video was moved from you tube. I must write also about garbage management throwing almost everything directly in the Mediterranean sea, everyday with reclining just what they can get money for.
    Safety is on very low standard.Obesity off officers which smoke inside off their offices and in offices where smoking is forbidden while punishing you for smoking somewhere in open-deck or where smoking is allowed.Once one young Italian Safety officer was smoking just after he was speaking about fire hazards and non smoking policy .Soon as he finished he lights cigarette in conference room and continues waiting for other group with ashtray full full.
    I don’t now what happened after.

    So this is real situation which we all should be aware off and worried about. Sorry about longer comment but I could not resist not commenting .
    Thank you and happy new year.

  • joyson

    if a crew member jump by its self it’s not company fault

  • Ryan Ronquillo

    Because crew are always replaceable, this company is always the only one that benifit in this industry… And the crew?… Theyre killing themeselves for a promise to their families back in their respective countries… A promise to give them better living situation from the money they suppose to earn from the ship…. But once youre in there, ship life is like a hell for these crewmembers… They work their ass on and off duty.. In exchange of inconsiderable amount of money, and these coward company takes this situation for granted…. Crew enjoy making money mo matter what amount it is as long as it adds up to the amount they can send home… Ah long story… I know for sure because i was once a crewmember for princess for three contracts, first one was the best with a promise of being promoted on the next ship youll be on… Then on the next then the third… It never happened til its time to quit and realized how much victim i turned out to be… Poor people that are still in there they cant walk away because of not having too many choices… Sometimes not a choice at all… When i left i thought i was a big failure until i realized how lucky i am not to be among this industry ever again…

  • Andrew

    Like I see it’s everywhere the same thing on Disney cruise line same thing on the beginning of your contract they are telling you how beautiful it’s the life on board and when you go on board you are going in the HELL you are just a slave who have to work and to not talk and when you ask why your work program it’s so long they are telling you ,, IF YOU DONT LIKE GO HOME ,,

  • crew on vacation

    you think princess is bad check out royal caribbean they get their employees wages from the gratuities well in some cases the cruisers dont pay

  • Ex Crew Member

    i feel really bad but all the comments here are true i was also once a part of this industry, i worked in Costa Cruise lines and its all the same work is getting harder and salary is going lower, 1st one is the tip issue then less man power so more work less manpower less salary and the worst less benefit.Working like dogs but after that they don’t give a shit on you if you do rember the Costa Concordia accident in Rome that Capt was our chef security way back in my 1st contract he knows nothing about nautical stuff it is just he is Italian in an Italian vessel that’s why he got promoted and Asian people got one hell of a work but the nlt got promises, promises of bullshit

  • Paul Bateson

    If the conditions are so bad, it needs a Trade Union to come on board and get them organised. The cruise lines are nickel and diming the passengers. Enough said.

  • Josch

    These comments are all true…hope the owner of these website will take action and give it to the authorities like ITF…thanks and more power…

  • Chris Petersen

    Princess is still a decent company to work foe as is the majority of Carnival Corporation Cruise lines. Hard work indeed, but still humane. Louis however should be investigated! Poor Ukrainian girls are forced to sleep with Captains, staff captains and senior officers. They are too scared to speak out!! This is the truth and people should know this..I hope that the company will get rid of these officers. Its rape!! They belong in jail!! I worked on there and know the facts..They must be exposed and brought to justice! I am from England and disgusted by these Greek captains and officers(mafia) and what they get away with..Furthermore they are dumping black bags of garbage overboard..Don’t believe the cpt etc knows about that, but nobody gives a damm in any case..Cpt even smoking in meetings while others around the table have to inhalke his smoke..disaster waiting to happen