It's a long way home.

I know that this blog might get me in trouble with “the man” but I have gotten many emails from you all about this issue so I will blog on it today.

I wonder if cruise lines are perhaps a little bit unreasonable when it comes to contract lengths. I mean, what do they base the length of a contract on anyway? Why is it 6 months for some and ten months for others? I would understand if it turned out that 6 months was the “optimum” contract length for rotational purposes but then why is 6% of the crew force on ten month contracts? Why is this industry standard?

Is it because this is the limit they have discovered that certain nationalities can stand before they go stark raving mad? Why not be a revolutionary, industry changing cruise line in your treatment of crew and go with four month contracts? I for one would be happy to trade off my company paid flight for a four month contract. I am sure others would feel the same.

I know, I know… we all knew what we were doing when we signed on, but circumstances often play a role in decision making. Take me for example. I wouldn’t be out here any more if I could help it. I would rather be home raising my children. But I can’t work in Romania, and the difficulty of saving enough to move to Canada so I can stay home and work has proven to be really quite difficult. So I keep coming back. Circumstances have made it this way. It’s my only option right now. Why not just go to Canada and get a job and then bring the family over? Because if I work in Canada we have two costs of living to look at, mine and the family’s. This way, working at sea, at least I have no cost of living. For me four month contracts would be great, more time to spend with the family.

Let’s not forget that 65% of the crew has families at home. The cruise lines must realize this and also realize that 60% of those family workers are on ten month contracts! Ten months mind you! Why do they do it? Because they are from countries where there ARE no jobs. So they get a job on a ship and they do everything they can to hold onto it in order to feed their family. They essentially give up their family in order to feed them. Can you imagine being away from your wife and children for ten months? Then getting six weeks home and then gone again? Yes, yes, yes I know we all knew what we were getting into. My question is, in the year 2006, at the start of the twenty first century why don’t the cruise lines try and be a little more compassionate or understanding of the needs of the people who make up the crew?

I am not saying put everyone on four month contracts. Maybe some people don’t want that. How about this; open ended contracts? Whenever you want, after however many months, you can go to your crew office and fill out a “request for replacement” form. This form then goes into circulation and they start looking for a replacement for you, when one is found you are scheduled for disembarkation. Open ended. You decide. All I am saying is their must be a better way. A way that is more humane. Certainly even people without family are being stretched to the breaking point at ten months. At least using an open ended system would give everyone a “way out” if they wanted it. It would keep everyone happier. Why not? There has got to be a better way than just towing the hard line and telling people “you don’t like it? 1000 other people want your job.”

I don’t know. I know we all signed on for it. I know we all knew what we were getting into. Sometimes though, I just wonder why in the year 2006 some cruise line or other has not put any effort into trying to make it a better deal for crew. There has got to be a way to improve on the existing system. Maybe improving on the system would cost the cruise lines money? So what? In this day and age isn’t it about time they spent a little more on improving employee conditions? Isn’t that supposed to be the better way to go in the long run? If these lines can afford to build an 80 million dollar mega ship every year, can’t they afford to spend a little time and money on trying to improve things for the majority of their employee’s?

If all the cruise line companies shore side workers, managers and corporate leaders were suddenly told as part of their condition of employment that they could not see their families or loved ones for six to ten months at a time, I think we would see some rapid changes in the industry. Don’t you?

Let me know your thoughts on this one. Maybe some of you have some good ideas that some cruise line executive might consider. You never know. Stranger things have happened. ;0)

10 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    It's simple economics. They don't because they don't have to. And if they don't have to, then there's no need to. There really are literally hundreds willing to take the place of those currently on board. These employees can be treated and paid relatively poorly because by their standards, they are paid well. For those from Canada and the other "first world" countries, they have to offer a somewhat better deal but even here replacements are waiting in line if you stray too far.

    For you there must have been some other attraction that drew you towards your job; travel, free room & board might allow you to save some of your pay; easy access to other singles; whatever.

    Look at the difficulty NCL America has had staffing its ships with only American workers. They're American allright, but many of those "Americans" are from Puerto Rico, Guam and the Northern Mariannas. KINGBOB/Orlando

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I agree with you on having an open ended contract. When I sailed on Dawn I felt that it was the training ship for Princess. If employees are to have open ended contracts than Princess/cruise lines are going to have an open pool of employees...which could be somewhat difficult.

  3. JenMc Says:

    Yay! Finally someone who agrees with me. I've been in trouble with the office over this topic in the past, but I believe it needs to be addressed.

    2 years ago my husband was heading to the Star for 7 months and they wanted me to go to the Coral for 4. I asked to go to the Star, and was told that if I went to the Coral for a month or so they would move me to the Star. I agreed, and extended my contract to 7 months so we would be able to leave the ship together. So off I went to Fort Lauderdale while Kevin went to Sydney.

    Once I got to the ship, I was told that there was no way they would send me to the Star and to enjoy the next 7 months. I really don't think that anyone in the office realizes the stress that 7 months apart can put on a relationship. I couldn't imagine 10 months. We couldn't even talk to eachother (since you can't call ship to ship, at least with my rank), so Kevin sent me a CD of him telling me stories from his ship for Christmas. We made it through, and have sworn to never be apart that long again.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Such an interesting subject. As you say, it seems odd that in this age we, a cruise company could not lead the way with a new contract policy...the result would be a happier, more relaxed crew....and a happier passenger...happy families....quids in for all!


    I agree, It saddened me so much to hear how long cruise ship employee's are away from their families. It is tooooooo long. What concerns me is the question of people who are married. I don't like the fact that contracts are so long. It almost guarantee's spouses are going to be unfaithful. That is tragic

  6. mary Says:

    I agree that contracts should be more flexible but not open ended. I think that would be a logistic problem that the cruiseline would not want to deal with. A better idea might be that when you sign your contract, you have a choice of signing for 4 mos., 6 mos, 8 mos, or 10 mos. and not be told how long you have to sign for. That way, you know upfront how long you are going to be away from your family and the cruiseline knows well in advance when a replacement is required for each person.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Open ended contracts are not new. I started working for Princess in 1985 and was told that the job was mine for as long as I wanted. All I needed to do was to contact the office when I wanted to go on leave. Things were different in those day as there were only 4 ships! A colleague of mine at the time did an eighteen month contract without a break.

  8. Jill Miller Says:

    I agree that the contract should be shortened to 4 months, or at least should be an option at signing, with perks given if you sign on for a longer contract. Giving employees options makes for all around happier employees.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    As Micky & Ted, as well as You know, the bottom line is the Stockholders.
    It is very expensive to change over crew. Costs of flights, hotels, re-training, etc. really add up.
    The longer a crewmember can be held on the ship, the lower the expensive of finding, contracting with, and getting crew on board, as well as new training.
    The Corporations have the gold and the crew are at their mercy. It will always be so.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Yes, it's sad that they are gone for long periods of time. When you marry someone who works at sea, you have to realize that they will be gone for months at a time. My husband is gone close to 8 months out of the year at sea (not all at one go, mind you). Sure, I wish he was home a bit more...but SBM you of all people should know how valuable your job is to your family. You're able to save them the cost of your living expenses while making money to support them.

    I'm sure that there must be a better way to organize shorter contracts for those who work 10 months at a time. I do agree with that. Hopefully, a solution is just around the corner.

    In regards to the previous post...being concerned about the people who are married...that the separation "almost guarantees spouses are going to be unfaithful"...I have to disagree with that considerably. I guess it all depends on whom you marry. I trust my husband immensely, and he trusts me. I know that he would never ever be unfaithful to me...and he knows that I would never ever betray him. It's called commitment. We certainly don't take our commitment to one another lightly. When you marry someone who works at sea, you have to make peace with the fact that he/she will be away for long periods of time. If this is not something that you can live with...then don't make a commitment to that person.

    Sorry, I got off track and ended up on a soapbox...Anyways, those 10 month contracts are definitely way too long (and sadly, it has to do with economics). I do hope that there is a good solution (without a Human Resource nightmare) to help these hard workers to be able to spend time with their families.

    Great blog, keep up the great work.

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