Crew and passengers pay price for fun on cruise liners
BBC Radio 4 takes an in depth look at life on cruise ships and finds shocking personal testimony alleging that crews are exploited, working 18- hour days in some cases, whilst others have to pay agents to secure their jobs.
The Price Of Fun also features interviews with female passengers who claim they were sexually assaulted by crew members.
Journalist and producer Jolyon Jenkins speaks to crew members and passengers as well as representatives of the Cruise Line International Association about the alleged practices. He finds they exist for the most part because cruise ships do not seem bound by the laws of any country.
Cruise companies register their vessels in countries with accommodating attitudes to labour laws such as Panama and the Bahamas. Furthermore, legal redress for crews and passengers is often too costly and/or complicated to pursue.
Some crew members, many of whom come from third world countries, tell Jolyon that they work up to 18-hour days but their time sheets are falsified so it appears they only work eight-hour days.
However, with basic pay as low as $50 a month, crew members have no option but to work the longer hours if they are to earn a decent wage in tips.
He is also told about a system of backhanders and subcontracting with crew members employed as waiters claiming they have to pay kitchen staff to get the cutlery to lay tables for the passengers and cabin stewards who have to pay the laundry room for sheets.
One lawyer interviewed in the programme, Charles Lipcon, who has been successful at taking action against the cruise companies, tells Jolyon:
"When you work somebody seven days a week, 16-hours per day, they are the functional equivalent of a person who's intoxicated. So in effect you have a lot of these ships being operated by crew members who are the equivalent of being drunk."
When the accusations are put to Terry Dale, President of The Cruise Lines International Association, an organisation which represents many of the cruise companies, he defends members of the Association saying:
"We (members of The Cruise Line International Association) have the highest integrity within our cruise line members and we are about honesty and the accurate timekeeping. And making sure the appropriate maritime laws are being abided by."
Two female passengers interviewed for the programme, Laurie Dishman and Jamie Decker, tell horrific stories of how they were sexually assaulted by crew members on board Royal Carribean and Carnival cruise ships.
Jamie was a 12 year-old-girl at the time. Both talk about their frustration at being unable to secure prosecutions. Security officers interviewed in the programme talk about destruction of crime scenes.
Royal Carribean and Carnival cruise liners declined to be interviewed for the programme though Royal Carribean gave a statement saying the crew member in question had not complied with company policies regarding fraternisation with a guest and had subsequently been fired.
They accepted they had failed to provide Miss Dishman with information she sought in a timely manner, they had not adequately secured her cabin and this was inconsistent with their policies their practises and their ethical obligations to guests.
They also stated that they should have done more to support Miss Dishman's personal and emotional needs on board ship. They said they were improving their procedures.
Jamie Decker's parents say they felt forced to accept a financial settlement when they realised they had no hope of securing a prosecution and Carnival told them they would thoroughly investigate the background of their 12 year-old daughter and their family if they did not agree to settle.
The Price Of Fun, Monday, 27 August and Monday 3 September 2007, 8pm, Radio 4
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