The cruise lines and the cruise industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization ("CLIA"), spend many millions of dollars lobbying our U.S. Congress each year.

In 2015, CLIA spent $1,380,000 lobbying Congress. Carnival Corp. spent an additional $898,710, plus $80,000 on behalf of subsidiary Carnival Cruise Line and another $80,000 for subsidiary Holland America Line. Royal Caribbean Cruises spent $464,000 in donations to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. These figures are revealed by the OpenSecrets website

Cruise Lines Lobby CongressSince 1997, the cruise industry has spent over $52,000,000 lobbying Congress through 2014, according to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein. Considering the $3,000,000 in 2015 and the $1,000,000 spent this year, the cruise industry has invested over $56,000,000 into the coffers of Congress. 

I familiarized myself with these donations after reading on Twitter that CLIA is publicizing its annual Congressional Cruise Caucus. This is an event sponsored by CLIA in Washington D.C. where CLIA, its partners and travel agents meet with Congressional leaders to network with Congressmen and Congresswomen and discuss policies which will advance the interests of the cruise lines.   

The cruise industry exists and thrives because of special policies which benefit no one but the billion dollar cruise lines:

  • Because of loopholes in the Federal tax code which excludes taxes income generated by foreign incorporated companies and foreign registered ships, cruise line pay virtually no federal taxes. Carnival Corp., for example, paid taxes of only 0.6 during a five year period
  • The cruise industry uses the infrastructure of U.S. ports, the resources of the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Homeland Security, Customs & Border Protection, U.S. Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Protection and another 20 U.S. agencies for free, although cruise lines pay virtually no U.S. taxes; 
  • The cruise industry does not comply with U.S. labor laws like minimum wage or overtime laws and works their ship employees well past a 40 hour work week because cruise line are incorporated in places like Panama (Carnival) or Liberia (Royal Caribbean). 

All of this special treatment exists because of the reluctance of our U.S. Congress to try and regulate the cruise industry.  The Congressional Cruise Caucus and the millions of dollars spent a year spent lobbying our Congressional leaders help the cruise industry grease the system. 

Photo Credit: Consumerist

  • John Goldsmith

    So? What’s the answer? The cruise lines are a business, and like any business it is in their interest to lobby those who will make them more money. Regardless of where they pay or do not pay taxes. So again I ask.. What’s the answer? Ban Lobbying?
    Ban Congress? Ban Cruise lines? Ban Private corporations? Ban Public Corporations?
    This is a good informative article. But you need to offer a solution if you are going to promote a problem.

  • KNUT HAGE-HANSEN

    DEAR JIM…AND OTHERS…

    THIS PRACTICE IS NOW ALSO COMMON ISSUE AT SHORE…ALSO
    IN EUROPE/SCANDINAVIA…

    COMPANIES GET CHEAP LABOUR FROM OTHER COUNTRIES,
    AND TRY UNDERMINE ALL REGULATIONS, TAXES, AGREEMENTS…

    BUT WITH STUPID AND ARROGANT POLITICIANS WE ONLY GET WHAT WE VOTE FOR…

    BEST RGDS
    KHH

  • ConsumerRep

    Seems to me that those who don’t cruise therefore subsidize those who do. As someone who enjoys cruising, and reading this blog, thank you for keeping my fare low!

  • DP

    And what is the issue? Yes, the cruise lines use “flags of convenience”. But, they also help the coast guard etc, by assisting vessels in danger, etc.

    And the cruise lines don’t provide tax-paying jobs? What about those who work in the office, hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, and other related jobs near the ports? How about taxi drivers and shuttles that take people to the ship?

    If these ships all became American Flagged and hired solely American workers-(A) Those from far-away land who we’re able to provide for their families by working on ships would suffer, and (B) Fares would be too high (to accommodate higher labor costs), for most Americans to consider a cruise in their vacation plans.