The truth about cruise staff working conditions and pay?

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3,098 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
The one thing not shown is how cruise lines routinely bind, gag, drug and drag prospective employees from their homes at gunpoint under the cover of darkness and force them into slave labor on cruise ships against their will. Guess that's because anyone who works on a cruise ship does so willingly and in most cases, is happy to have the job - especially those who re-up their contracts over and over again. Of course, it couldn't possibly be that the reporter/producers had a preset agenda and sought out only those onboard who supported it. Nah, couldn't be.
London
75 Posts
Joined Sep 2012
Originally posted by lysolqn
The one thing not shown is how cruise lines routinely bind, gag, drug and drag prospective employees from their homes at gunpoint under the cover of darkness and force them into slave labor on cruise ships against their will. Guess that's because anyone who works on a cruise ship does so willingly and in most cases, is happy to have the job - especially those who re-up their contracts over and over again. Of course, it couldn't possibly be that the reporter/producers had a preset agenda and sought out only those onboard who supported it. Nah, couldn't be.
Read our take on last night's Cruises Undercover programme here: http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/blog/?p=6103
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Adam Coulter
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South Yorkshire UK
4,006 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
After reading all these posts, I'm more confused than ever. I agree with some aspects of both sides of the debate.

Why did the programme choose Celebrity to go undercover with? Why not the cruise industry as a whole? Low budget? Was it convenient for them to board the Eclipse from the UK? Was it a true representation of average gratuities if the passengers were mainly British, which in turn would affect the crew's total monthly pay? Too many anomolies to present this as being entirely indicative of the cruise industry as a whole.

I thought the British waiter stuck out like a sore thumb. Surely his colleagues would have noticed him chatting to the undercover passenger, who did a fair amount of noseying around and asking awkward questions of cabin stewards, who you could tell from his manner, didn't really want to answer her questions.

I can understand the fatigue the undercover waiter expressed, but it was a new, challenging job with lots to learn, which is exhausting in any new work place, so again, that wasn't a fair representation of regular crew.

I'm sure we've all seen crew members getting off ship in port to enjoy themselves. I've heard that they save up/trade their time off to visit ports they really want to. There was great excitement amongst the crew when we approched St Maarten both occasions, different cruise lines. While I believe they don't have full days off, I do believe that they have some negotiation re hours off.

I didn't like how, according to the programme, they had no real idea what pay they would end up with until they collected it. Wouldn't you expect deductions such as uniform to be clearly explained beforehand? I also didn't like the fact that compulsory training happened in their own time according to the programme?

Guess the non tippers will see this as more reason not to tip now they know the cruise line makes the difference up. The pro tippers will be even more generous to increase the crew bonuses. The bottom line is that if the cruise line has to make up the difference, base cruise prices will have to increase. What none of us really know for sure is how this gratuity is distributed and what happens to personal tips if the auto tips are removed. If the cruise lines became more transparent about this we could all make more informed decisions.
Kent, UK
1,773 Posts
Joined Jun 2005
Originally posted by Adam Coulter
Read our take on last night's Cruises Undercover programme here: http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/blog/?p=6103
An excellent review. Thank you
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Joined Mar 2012
[quote=Hawaiidan;35488900]EU countries that give 8 week paid vacations and 30 hour work weeks look in agast at how these people are treated
quote]


I have lived and worked in several EU countries, but haven't come across any of these countries with this kind of benefits yet
WEST MIDLANDS, ENGLAND
1,240 Posts
Joined May 2007
Originally posted by jenny wren

I thought they said that if gratuities were removed then the cruiseline paid the difference so that every crew member got the basic wage?...Why doesn't the cruiseline pay the basic wage in the first place and then tips are what they are meant to be...a bonus for excellent service!!
Because that would mean the cruise line having to put up the cost of cruises and then passengers would object to that which, going by these forums, is exactly what would happen - most seem to prefer to keep the wages of staff deliberately low, and then feel good about themselves because they are helping out the poor with their generous tips. It's outrageous.
Lancashire England
250 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
Originally posted by juggles
Celebrity are registered in Africa so that they can bypass USA/UK employment rules. I'm shocked that so many of you are cold and uncaring. So it's ok to use slave labour then? Regardless whether $640 equals a sort of wage in the staffs homeland, they work for ten months/12 hours a day without one day off. Most of you are saying that's ok, they're better off than at home. They haven't much of an option, have they? I won't be cruising again. It's disgraceful.

Princess ships are registered to Bermuda so they too can bypass UK/US employment laws. They pay their staff around the same basic wage and the rest is made up in tips and I guess their working conditions are probably the same too. But you know that already, don't you, as you've posted saying as much for over three years, so why didn't you pack in cruising then?
Lancashire England
250 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
Originally posted by nellydean
Because that would mean the cruise line having to put up the cost of cruises and then passengers would object to that which, going by these forums, is exactly what would happen - most seem to prefer to keep the wages of staff deliberately low, and then feel good about themselves because they are helping out the poor with their generous tips. It's outrageous.

Raising the basic rate of pay might also lead to a decline in standards on the part of cabin crew feeling that they've been paid enough and don't need to put the effort in anymore.
Orangeville Ontario
1,574 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
Originally posted by sloopsailor
And how many of these self righteous complainers who are so incensed about what the ship crews are being paid go out and purchase items made in third world countries where the pay is even worse than on cruise ships? I would wager that they all do, and conveniently ignore that reality as long as they benefit from it. Hypocrites!
Perhaps, but it's beneficial, in a free market, that the information re: remuneration be disseminated. For example, you are obviously aware that there have been a number of recent investigations into companies such as Foxconn in China. In fact, Apple made a recent effort to appear to distance itself from, and to ameliorate conditions in its Asian factories.

Of great value would be a show that compares worker conditions from fleet to fleet.
Yorkshire
1,528 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
Well presented and balanced blog.

We recently returned from a Celebrity cruise. Tips for room stewards were $3.50 per person. So $7 x 14 means that our tips were $98. If he covered 10 cabins, though possibly more then for two weeks tips he got $980 plus extra tips - he tended to bring our room service. Tips for main waiter was slightly more and second waiter a little less. Excellent service.
None of these staff would have earned these wages in their own country. A typical high wage for a builder, living on site in a tin hut has been risen to 300 baht ( for the lucky ones - many earn only 100 baht a day)
This is about £2 or .$3. Perhaps people could look at the places many cruise staff come from to see poor living and working conditions. That is why they queue to get a job on the ships. Comparatively excellent working and living conditions, high rates of pay. Long hours yes, but no longer than they would work in their own countries. They now own computers, cameras etc and tour the world.
Why should I feel guilty for going on a cruise? Without cruisers many would be out of jobs and families certainly living in extreme dire conditions. Lets get real.
Cambridgeshire Fens, UK
7,564 Posts
Joined May 2008
Originally posted by CostaSmurfette
The undercover waiter's cabinmate, however, is breaking rules by smoking in the cabin...and his attitude towards Celebrity within the first 30 seconds of opening his mouth would be grounds for discharge from duty. I suspect that he had been pulled up a few times with an attitude problem and has a basic downer on the firm.
Thank you for confirming about the smoking. I thought I had seen that and meant to go back and look at the end but deleted the programme before I did.

Sue
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Sue


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If anyone follows Celebrity Cruises on facebook, it would be very helpful if some of you would also post your thoughts on that site. There are many horrendous posts attacking Celebrity as a result of this program.
South Yorkshire UK
4,006 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
Originally posted by Project_gal
Thank you for confirming about the smoking. I thought I had seen that and meant to go back and look at the end but deleted the programme before I did.

Sue
I noticed that too, and must admit I found that very worrying. Don't they have smoke detectors in crew quarters?
Cambridgeshire Fens, UK
7,564 Posts
Joined May 2008
Originally posted by Esprit
An excellent review. Thank you
Yes, I agree, excellent and balance review of a programme that was less so.

Sue
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Sue


2018/19 [Christmas/New Year] Silhouette - Southern Caribbean Holiday
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2013 [November] Constellation - Westbound Transatlantic, [December] Constellation - Western Caribbean B2B
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Herts, U.K.
4,674 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
Originally posted by u2cruiser
I noticed that too, and must admit I found that very worrying. Don't they have smoke detectors in crew quarters?
I think it's probably more prevalent than we think. We were chatting to a bartender on a Royal Caribbean ship who had asked to move cabins - he told the company it was because he wanted to be with someone from his own country but it was because his cabinmate smoked in the cabin and the room stank.
Bear Mountain, Victoria, BC
5,413 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Originally posted by Esprit
We will watch the programme tonight when our daughter who works on Celebrity ships can watch it too.

One thing I can confirm is that in all the three contracts she has done so far she has never had a full day off and it wasn't such a big deal either. Obviously she had time off and some days were less busy than others. The worst being the debark/embark days.

As for the programme, for us it probably wont be very enlightening.
I have seen our cabin stewards in port shopping, touring, sitting outside wireless hotspots on their computers chatting on Skype to families at home etc on numerous occasions. As Esprit notes, they don't get full days off but the guys we talked to were having fun ashore. One had mentioned that when they got back to the ship then someone else could get off. The stewards have been a good source of advice of where things could be had at different ports and at the best price
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I've not seen the program, but I do find the subject fascinating. I enjoy talking with the crew and trying to dig below the surface to find out more about their lives on the ship. Room stewards and wait staff typically do no get days off, however, they do have downtime each day and if in port they are free to come and go during their down periods. Those working the shops, casino, excursion desk, etc... only work when these facilities are open and thus have a much more leisurely schedule. Musicians probably have it the easiest as they are free except when they are playing.

I've had room stewards who've put their kids through college to become doctors, lawyers and dentists. Without the cruise industry their kids would not have this opportunity. Yes, it is a huge sacrifice to be away from your family for 6-8 months, and you can say all you want about low wages, but their families have a high standard of living relative to the average in their communities. I've also had room stewards in their 50s, so while mostly a young person's gig, there are exceptions.
Suffolk, UK
146 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
Originally posted by nellydean
Because that would mean the cruise line having to put up the cost of cruises and then passengers would object to that which, going by these forums, is exactly what would happen - most seem to prefer to keep the wages of staff deliberately low, and then feel good about themselves because they are helping out the poor with their generous tips. It's outrageous.
The undercover reporter earned £532.59 (about $800) in 5 weeks, including tips. He also got free bed and board, which is probably the equivalent of at least £100 per week, ie £500 (about $750) for the time he was on board - more, if you include things like utilities, heating and lighting, transport, etc., and considerably more if you compare it with London prices.

This is much more than I get to live on on a monthly basis - though to be fair, I don't work 70 hours a week.

I'd also like to know where cabin attendants were able to recruit 'assistants' from, if everyone was worked to the point of exhaustion - who had the time and/or energy to do extra work?

Don't crew quarters have recreational areas, with facilities provided? I'm sure I've seen on other documentaries that there are such provisions made.

I've never sailed on Celebrity before - in fact, I've only ever done one cruise, 3 years ago on Royal Caribbean - so I don't have any motive for supporting Celebrity against all the evidence - but then, I haven't really seen any convincing evidence.

Just my two-penny worth.
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Cheers, Tricia

Scotland
89 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
Just back from the Summit and all the crew were of the same opinion that yes they worked hard and long hours but were grateful for the opertunities that they got. The Head Waiter admitted that he often stood on a corner and admired his car and house neither of which he would have had if he had not committed to a life on cruise ships. Pity C4 did not include that in their programme.

Channel 4 harped on about UK minimum wages which were totally irreravent in the scheme of things. I presume that they will now charter for all countries to pay their workers the UK minimum wage. They also featured the female who stated that it took her 25 minutes to clean the toilet in a cabin. Did she fall asleep on the job? Given the size of the toilets she cannot be serious.

Every staff member I have spoken to informed me that they loved life aboard and that they earned significantly more than they would at home. When you return to the ship at any port the terminal area is packed with crew members on laptops. How do you buy them if you area paid a pitance?

Typical crap programme by C4 showing one sided view which they wished to put across.