A Celebrity Cruises officer reportedly ended his life on the Celebrity Millennium, according to an article published yesterday by the Crew Center website.

On December 6th, Anton Ilichev, a young officer from Ukraine, was reportedly found hanging dead in his cabin’s bathroom, according to the article.

Crew Center states that Mr. Ilichev was working as a suite manager and had worked for Celebrity for several contracts. The Celebrity cruise ship was on a 14 Night Southeast Asia Cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore when this incident occurred. His current contract was about to end and he was scheduled to disembark in Singapore on vacation.

Crew Center expressed condolences to Mr. Ilichev’s family, friends and his fellow crew members. By all accounts, Mr. Ilichev was a popular and well liked crew member. Friends and his co-employees expressed similar sentiments on Facebook.

Several crew members raised concerns that there is an absence of resources for mental health support and counseling for employees on cruise ships, commenting:

“There is no mental support whatsoever in such a difficult environment! Don’t you dare ask the doctor for a day off for simply being mentally exhausted, they’ll tell you that you are free to sign off. Crew members should have the chance for therapy/counceling onboard and should be encouraged to attend! But crew members sadly will always, always be just numbers. 😰 Condolences to his family.”

As I mentioned in an article titled Misery Machines and Crew Member Suicides, anyone who follows the cruise industry knows that suicides of crew members are hardly rare.

A 22-year-old Serbian crew member, Nikola Arnautovic, on the Carnival Fascination, hung himself four months ago. A petition was started on Change.org – Save lives! Make psychologists compulsory for Carnival Cruise workers and 1 day off a week.

A British chef was found hanging in his cabin aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship several years ago.  Two weeks earlier, a safety officer on the Disney Dream ended his life in a similar manner. And the day before that, a woman in Carnival’s entertainment department was found hanging in an officer’s quarters on the Carnival Sensation.

An Indian dishwasher on the Costa Magica was found hanging in his cabin in February 2017. A galley worker also killed himself a few years earlier on the Island Princess by hanging.

Of course, most crew members do not end their lives by hanging themselves. Most ship employees who choose to end their lives do so by jumping overboard.  During a period of less than three years between December 2009 and October 2012, at least twelve crew members jumped overboard or simply disappeared from cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises. I wrote about the problem in an article titled “Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?”  The grueling schedule and long hours crew members are required to work 7 days a week, 30 days a month with no days off over the course of a 6 to 10 month contract, for far less than the U.S. minimum wage, often leave ship employees, who are already isolated from their families, exhausted and demoralized.

In the past decade, many dozens of crew members have jumped into the sea. The common reaction by guests is pointlessly “you can’t fall from a cruise ship” as if casting blame on the dead crew member will somehow solve the problem.

Mental health services for cruise ship employees are non-existent. And the  emotional well being of crew members is not a topic that is discussed in the U.S. Few Americans seem concerned with the working conditions on cruise ships faced by citizens of the greater world community. Most U.S. citizens respond to the exploitation of crew members from India or Jamaica with the rationalization that whatever pittance the “foreign” crew members receive is more than the workers can receive back home. “If they don’t like the work, they can quit” is the common saying.

It is unknown exactly what work conditions Mr. Ilichev faced on the Celebrity ship or what he experienced in his personal life. Crew Center raised the issue of providing services for mental health of crew members in Why aren’t there psychologists on board cruise ships?  Cruise lines like Celebrity Cruises, invest many hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars on building increasingly huge cruise ships each year. They need to begin investing in their crew member’s well being at sea.

Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.

December 11, 2018 Update: Newsweek covers the story – Cruise Ship Crew Member Takes Own Life During Last Voyage with Company.

Photo credit: Facebook

  • NM Bill

    It goes without saying that all such cases are tragedies. As someone who has enjoyed many cruise vacations over the years, I have always appreciated the incredible work ethic, dedication to service and a willingness to tolerate a huge cross section of human behaviors among the passengers. I certainly wouldn’t want to trivialize the huge loss that each and every suicide represents. It saddens me to think that a person reaches a state where he or she feels that taking one’s own life is the only option left for them. Having said that though, Jim, I wonder if the suicide rate among cruise ship workers is really disproportionately higher than it is among a similar-age cohort in the wider world. I don’t know; just wondering out loud here. By the way, I would strongly endorse any legislation that would require cruise lines to provide better conditions of work and mandatory days off each week.

    • sam

      I recently joined cruise ship at the age of 32after working 12 yrs in Australia in a hospitality sector. When I was in Australia I was working 5 days a week 8hrs a day, penalty rates. Public holiday pay,vacation pay.
      Working a 8month in a ship taught me a lesson about count your blessings, I was living in a small room with bunk bed for two all is for sleep because there nothing you can do after your 13 to 14 hrs split shifts all you get left with is 10hrs to sleep finish your laundry which is away from staff rooms and get your work uniform cleaned. Attend training, attend drill, make sure all USPH stuff are done properly that mean extra 1 to 2 hour all managers and supervisors are more like a bully, yell scream, all they want is a work done because they come only for 4month contract complaining for them is like throwing axe on your feet, they have a power to give you warning letter or action plan few more they can do without notice and make you sign it, so you work like a prisoner for 8 month straight without a day off, even if you get sick onboard doctor make you feel guilty and give you the strongest medication so you can jump off your bed in a day or so I saw many complaining about tummy pain after medical shots and a skin reactions. I remember during my eight month three month we were in asia, than left for US the moment we were in US every supervisor manager staff captain were started pressuring us for every minor things, I heard and saw few getting warning letters it means no promotion for 1 year also you can not do a cross training to go to other departments also if your name is on the list it cuts off itself and you have to start over again. I saw people getting fired for a simple reasons, also one chef who was waiting for his promotion from last 3yrs getting a warning for no reason had a heart attack. After few days he stood up to tell at captains meeting about this nothing worked he was sent home. I tried to write more about it in a ship online staff survey. Nothing happened instead I got bad ship sign off rating, only for putting my voice up( sorry for my English it’s my second language) working 8 months without a day off make you cut off from the real world. We don’t know what day or month it is we work like slaves they wants us to smile all the time and give our 100%,