Costa Fascinosa Ten days ago, the Costa Fascinosa was hit by 90 knot winds after the cruise ship left Venice. The captain failed to give any warnings to the passengers and crew members before the storm struck. The cruise ship listed heavily and plates and glasses crashed to the decks and floors throughout the galleys and bars on the ship. Passengers experienced widespread panic.

A Filipino pastry chef working aboard the Fascinosa posted his accounts of the storm on Facebook and included photographs and video of considerable damage in the galley where he worked.

Other crew members shared his account on Facebook. Several Italian newspapers published his photos and video accounts. Cruise bloggers (such as Cruise Fever, Cruise Hive, Cruise Currents, etc.) also recounted the story and included his images of the mishap in their publications.  We were the first blogger here in the U.S. to link to the crew member’s Facebook posts and to cover the story of the violent storm and the Costa officers’ poor response to the incident.

Costa issued a press release, downplaying the incident, after the photos and video were widely distributed on the internet. You can still see the video below, via the Cruise Fever website.

Today, we learned that Costa terminated the pastry chef’s employment for mentioning the incident on Facebook. Costa flew the crew member back to the Philippines where he remains currently jobless, unable to support his family.

This is how Costa and parent company, Carnival Corporation, treat their employees. Embarrassed by the scene of a thousand plates and covers on the galley floor, Costa retaliated against the chef for simply recording what happened and saying it was the most terrifying experience of his life. Meanwhile, the Costa captain remains at the helm.

Concordia-plagued Costa has a culture of cover-ups.

When the Costa Europa slammed into a pier in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, ripping a hole in the ship’s hull and killing three crew members, Costa was tight lipped. It didn’t mention the casualties until photographs were leaked to the press in the U.K. Neither Costa nor flag state Italy refuse to release reports on the deadly accident to this day.

This is business as usual for Costa’s owner, Carnival Corporation. Carnival terminated and black-Costa Fascinosaballed 150 Indian waiters who quietly protested low pay when the P&O Arcadia cruise ship was in Seattle. The captain promised that there would be no reprisals if the crew members would return to the ship and wait on the guests. But Carnival quickly fired them all and made certain that the hiring agency would never consider rehiring the men on another Carnival owned cruise line.

We have seen the same vindictive, retaliatory conduct by other cruise lines.

When the MSC Magnifica smashed into a pier at the entrance to the port in Piraeus Greece, the cruise line issued a statement claiming that the damage was minor and that the vessel’s itinerary was not affected. However, a crew member photographed widespread damage to the ship and extensive repairs needed to repair a large hole in the hull which delayed the ship’s departure. After the photos appeared on Facebook, MSC quickly terminated the crew member’s employment for releasing the photos.

The cruise lines rely on carefully crafted images of idyllic vacations at sea. But when crew members complain about unsafe conditions or merely take photographs showing the truth of the matter, the company views them as expendable.

Like Vegas, what happens on the ships is supposed to stay on the ships. It’s an unwritten rule that a crew member who airs the cruise line’s dirty laundry risks immediate termination and a one-way ticket back to Manila.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Last month, the Sun Sentinel reported that Carnival’s earnings "continue to be hurt by a series of embarrassing mishaps and softened demand for certain cruises that has kept fares low." The world’s largest cruise operator reported a 30 percent drop in third-quarter profits.

Critics have attributed Carnival’s woes to damage to its namesake cruise line’s "Fun Ship" image after several cruise ships caught fire and/or lost power at sea. The most serious incidents involved loss of propulsion and power to the Carnival Splendor and the Carnival Triumph, stranding many thousands of passengers under unsanitary and unpleasant conditions.

Carnival Donald Arnold - Micky ArisonThis summer Micky Arison stepped down as Carnival CEO and a businessman, Arnold Donald, formerly of chemical giant Monsanto, stepped in as the new cruise CEO to try and right the ship. In June, Forbes magazine published an article about Mr. Arnold. The magazine quoted him saying the following about Carnival: "Here’s what success looks like. Our employees feel very confident in the future of the company. They legitimately feel like winners . . .

But Forbes didn’t share the CEO’s gushing enthusiasm. In order to be successful, Forbes cautioned, "Donald has to cut costs." 

Yesterday I wrote that Carnival embarked on a major cost-cutting campaign by freezing all of the retirement benefits for the crew members working for Carnival Cruise Lines. There are some 24 Carnival Cruise Line cruise ships with over 20,000 crew members working aboard the ships.  Cutting an average of just $5,000 per crew member may result in a savings of $100,000,000 over the next few years.

But at what cost in loss of morale? I doubt that the affected crew members "feel very confident in the future of the company" now, considering the comments to our article yesterday:

A comment from a crew member:  ". . . This is terribly disadvantageous and unfair if not outright discriminatory to the more than 6,000 Filipino crew members who have been working hard for Carnival Cruise Lines all these years. This retirement benefit is so important and is the very reason crew members chose to stay with Carnival for at least 10 years . . ." 

A comment from a former crew member:  "I retired from Carnival 4 years ago in order to pursue a university education. At that point I was at cross roads whether to stay or go. I am glad I choose go."

A tweet by a cruise fan: "This will trickle down 2 to me the passenger & not in a good way. Carnival could become the Self Serve Cruise Ships."

You can read other comments here or on our Facebook page.

As of publishing this article, Carnival still describes its "Fun Ship Retirement Plan" as providing a "lump-sum benefit upon team members’ retirement from Carnival, provided they have at least 10 years of continuous service . . . The longer a team member is employed beyond the initial 10-year period, the faster the benefits increase. Simply put, the longer you stay with Carnival, the larger your benefit payment will be upon your retirement."

But that’s no longer true. 

Carnival announced over the last two years that it is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in its ships in technology, equipment and safety systems to avoid a repeat of the Splendor and Triumph mishaps and the Concordia disaster.  But it is taking money out of its loyal crew members to do so. It’s no different that robbing Peter to pay Paul.      

There’s not much the crew can do. The last time Carnival crew members went on strike for protesting low wages and the cruise line’s withholding of their tips, they were all terminated, sent back to India, and blackballed from ever working on the cruise industry.

Do Carnival crew members feel like the "winners" Mr. Arnold described this summer? Should the crew feel confident in their future with Carnival?  

I suspect right now that the crew members feel like losers, cheated by the company which still promises on its website that ship employees will benefit by staying longer at Carnival.   

 

Photo Credit: Local10.com

Cruise Law News has received inquiries from several Carnival Cruise Lines crew members complaining that the cruise line recently terminated the retirement benefits for crew members.

Like many other cruise lines, Carnival Cruise Lines previously offered a small retirement benefit which crew members were eligible to receive for working a number of years of uninterrupted service to the company. Although the benefits were small, many crew members we spoke to considered the benefits to be an important reason why they worked long hours under difficult circumstances away from their loved ones. Some viewed the benefits as a means to make payments toward a house when they retire.

However, the crew members recently received a short memo from the cruise line telling them that their retirement benefits were suspended. Many of the crew members who contacted us felt betrayed that Carnival had promised them retirement benefits which they relied upon to continue working with the cruise line.

It is well known that Carnival Cruise Lines is under severe financial constraints following the Triumph "Poop Cruise" fiasco including other other engine room fires (such as the Splendor) and propulsion failures. And cruise fares are historically low following the public relations fall-out.   

Carnival Cruises Lines Retirement BenefitsThe question remains whether the termination of benefits applies to all crew members at Carnival Cruise Lines of all nationalities. As best as we can tell, it does not apply to the other Carnival Corporation brands, such as HAL, Princess Cruises, or other companies.    

We reached out to Carnival Cruise line for an explanation regarding the end of the retirement benefit program. Here were some of our questions:  

Does this apply to all Carnival Cruise Line crew/staff/officer positions?

Does this apply to all nationalities?

How many crew members are affected? What is the anticipated savings to the company?

How does the termination of benefits work? For example, if a Carnival ship employee worked 14 & ½ years, he or she will not be entitled to the 15-year retirement benefits upon reaching 15 years of service. Is this correct? Will that employee be entitled to the retirement benefits associated with 10 years because he or she have already worked over 10 years?

Below is the response from the cruise line late this afternoon. 

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC 2006), which came into effect on August 20, 2013, embodies up-to-date standards of international maritime labor laws and recommendations. As of August 20, 2013, MLC 2006 was ratified by 50 countries representing 75% of global shipping. The enactment of MLC 2006 resulted in several changes to our benefits and compensation plans for shipboard employees. One such example is that we will begin paying contributions to government mandated social security programs for applicable seafarers instead of providing a company-run retirement plan. As a result of MLC 2006, Carnival Cruise Lines’ total financial investment in benefits and compensation for shipboard employees has increased significantly.

Carnival does not explain which crew member nationalities are subject to "government mandated social programs." If the crew member is not part of such a governmental program, then it appears that the crew member is left without a retirement benefit of any type from this point forward.

Also the question arises whether the crew members themselves will have the amounts paid to the governmental programs deducted from their pay. 

Is the ending of the retirement benefits program really tied to the MLC as Carnival claims? Or is this an excuse and diversion to the fact that Carnival is simply slashing benefits of its ship employees to add to the company’s profitability? 

If you are a crew member with Carnival Cruise Line and just had your retirements benefits terminated, please tell us what you think about the situation. Please leave a comment below.

Do you have to make payments for the social programs of your home countries? Do you know what, if anything, the government social programs provide to you for retirements benefits?

Please feel free to leave an anonymous comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

October 24 2013 Update: Here’s what Carnival’s website says about "The Fun Ship Retirement Plan:"

"To acknowledge and reward Team Carnival’s significant contributions to The Company’s success, and to help team members plan and save for retirement, Carnival has developed ‘The Fun Ship Retirement Plan.’

This plan provides a lump-sum benefit upon team members’ retirement from Carnival, provided they have at least 10 years of continuous service.

A prorated lump-sum benefit will be paid based on the individual’s position within the company. The amount of the lump sum payment will be based on the last position held for the previous five years prior to the retirement date.

The longer a team member is employed beyond the initial 10-year period, the faster the benefits increase. Simply put, the longer you stay with Carnival, the larger your benefit payment will be upon your retirement."