Cruise Chief Defends Rival Line in Wake of Undercover Documentary

October 16, 2012

(7:30 a.m. EDT) -- A rival cruise line head has defended Celebrity Cruises following Channel 4's recent undercover documentary which aimed to expose working conditions onboard cruise ships.

Norwegian Cruise Line's chief executive Kevin Sheehan -- who himself went undercover on two of his ships -- described the programme as “unfair” and claimed his staff were happy, according to the Daily Telegraph .
The programme, Cruise Undercover: The Truth Below Deck, took place onboard Southampton-based Celebrity Eclipse.

It revealed that many crew earn just $600 (£375) per month, the equivalent of around £1.30 an hour, and received no tips. It also claimed many crew work eight months in a row without a day off; some are required to pay an agency fee to join the ship, as well as their air fare; and some even clean other crew's cabins to earn extra money.
The reporter, Paul Miles, also did not receive his contract until a few days into the cruise, which showed his earnings would be much less than expected.

Sheehan told The Telegraph:
“Although I've not watched the [Channel 4] programme, [its] conclusions are unfair. We have an incredible number of people, from many countries around the world, who are desperate to work on board our ships because they can earn a lot more than they can at home. You should ask them how they feel. They will tell you the money they earn with us can change their lives, enable them to send their children to college and offer unlimited opportunities they would otherwise not have.”

Celebrity issued a statement following transmission of the programme, condemning it as "negative" and "unbalanced".
Chief executive, Michael Bayley, added his view in a Q&A session onboard last week's pre-inaugural cruise on the line's latest and last Solstice-class ship, Reflection.

Bayley said: “We felt it was sensationalized and very biased. Yes the employee's contract hadn't been handled correctly, but we have people coming and going all the time and if there is a problem with pay they deal with it so it's corrected.
We investigated the situation with a hiring agent and it has been dealt with.

"We are a reputable, professional, caring group of people. Without our employees we have nothing so why would we mistreat them? It's a crazy proposition.”

Many Cruise Critic members have come out in favour of Celebrity, dismissing the half-hour documentary as “biased”, “unfair” and “untrue”.

--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor