It is often said that you can tell the quality of a company by the way it treats its employees. But when it comes to cruise lines their standard of employee care often falls well short.
Many cruise lines, including the major players such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean, are registered overseas, not only so they are not subject to United States taxes, but also so they do not have to comply with the labor regulations in the U.S. This means that they can employ staff from all over the world, and often from under developed countries such as India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The cruise lines can basically treat the staff as they wish with no threat of legal action.
There is no job security, no effective union representation, and most crew have no retirement or other benefits. The cruise lines can make the staff work as long as they wish, with many working up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week for around ten months a year. Most do not have a day off and often there are often no organized rest periods. In some cases, crew members to work up to 20 hours a day, which can lead to severe stress, both physical and mental, and can lead to breakdowns and violent outbursts which can affect passengers.
Some crew members do not even receive a wage as such, but instead rely on the automatic tips which most passengers pay. But some passengers are now refusing to pay the gratuity, and even when it is paid there is no guarantee that the crew members actually receive it. One might think that the crew would rebel, but given the strength of the cruise lines it has proved to be futile in the past. For example, when a group of waiters protested on a Carnival ship, not only were they all fired, but other cruise lines were warned not to employ them. Those that do complain are often terminated, and those who are injured on the job may be terminated as well. Apart from Disney all of the cruise lines based out of the United States have taken the rights away from crew to file lawsuits in the United States.