Pride of Aloha Still Stinging NCL

May 19, 2008

Pride of Aloha, once one of three Hawaii-based ships under Norwegian Cruise Line's American-flagged fleet, may now have been transferred back to the parent company and is headed to the Bahamas. But problems from the ship's troubled three-plus year tenure in Hawaii continue to emerge. The latest? Last week, according to Pacific Business News, the cruise line settled a racial discrimination lawsuit for $485,000.

The case was brought against NCL by the U.S. federal government on behalf of seven former Pride of Aloha crewmembers who claimed unfair termination in July 2004. Six were officially handed walking papers; the seventh quit because he feared he'd be fired as well.

It's difficult to say what actually happened almost four years ago, but according to the Pacific Business news report, the "firings occurred when one of the Muslim men asked another crew member about the location of the ship's security office, engine room and bridge. The crew member notified ship's security and NCL contacted federal authorities to investigate whether the man, as well as six other crew members who were Muslims, posed a threat."

The men, all Muslims from Yemen, had their case taken up in August 2006 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal employment protection agency, who said that six of the men were unfairly fired from the Hawaii-based ship after being labeled "terrorist risks" (the other, as we noted, had resigned for fear of firing).

NCL has remained mum on the reason for the firings. A spokeswoman also did not immediately respond to other queries about the men -- in what capacity they worked, if they had previous experience working with NCL -- or offer any details about the line's hiring practices. At the time of the firings, 75 percent of workers onboard were required to be U.S. citizens. The other 25 percent could be made up of either U.S. residents or green card holders, which we assume -- but can not confirm since our questions have not been answered -- that the fired men were.

NCL has issued a statement:

"NCL America has agreed to settle the crew members' claims, but continues to deny that it acted improperly.

"We are proud of our employment practices and record and do not condone discrimination of any kind. Our employees come from a very broad range of ethnic and religious backgrounds, which provides an excellent diversity among our staff."

Along with the financial settlement, NCL America has agreed to hire an equal employment consultant, as well as revise its policies on equal employment opportunities.

As we've reported elsewhere on Cruise Critic, Pride of Aloha has moved back into the NCL internationally flagged fleet and has finished its assignment in Hawaii. The ship, after a refurbishment and a change of name back to Norwegian Sky, will begin sailing three- and four-night Bahamas cruises from Miami in July.

--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor