Royal Caribbean Facing Huge Fines For Labor Law Violations

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Royal Caribbean fines
Oasis of the Seas during its recent dry dock in Rotterdam. Photo by kees torn.

Royal Caribbean Facing Fines For Possible Labor Law Violations

If you have ever cruised, then you have probably noticed that most workers aboard are generally from less developed countries. These workers often leave home for 8-9 months at a time, work extremely long hours every day and are not paid very well. Since ships are at sea for long periods of time and are registered in countries like Panama and the Bahamas, they generally don’t have to follow the labor laws of the country from which they depart.

Royal Caribbean recently placed their Oasis of the Seas ship in dry dock in the Netherlands for some enhancements. During the dry dock period, new cabins were added and many of the ships dining venues were switched over. While the changes look nice, the Dutch government was concerned about something else.

Illegal Workers & 16 Hour Days

According to a Dutch newspaper, Royal Caribbean was warned ahead of time that they would be subject to the labor laws of the Netherlands while the ship was in dry dock. Dutch inspectors made two inspections during the dry dock, each of which uncovered many violations. In addition to workers being forced to complete long hours, the inspectors found as many as 85 who were illegally in the country.

The company now apparently faces a €12,000 fine for each violation found. This could mean that they will have to pay more than €1,000,000 to the Dutch government. While the investigation is still ongoing, a huge fine is expected. I’m not sure if it is related or not, however the Allure of the Seas, the sister ship of the Oasis, is having a similar dry dock next year, however it will be in Spain and not the Netherlands.

This May Be Common Practice

According to Cruise Law News, Royal Caribbean workers often complain about being forced to work long hours in violation of the Maritime Labour Convention. They are often forced to arrive early for meetings without being paid and required to stay more than 10 hours if their work is not completed.

Hopefully these fines will be a wake up call for the industry, although I wouldn’t count on it. Taking a huge ship like the Oasis of the Seas out of service costs the company a lot of money. My guess is that they figured it would be cheaper to pay the fines then to comply with the laws.

What do you think about cruise line labor practices? Do you feel bad for the workers? Let me know in the comments!


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  1. The treatment of the employees is definitely something people should consider when taking a cruise. Is that cheap deal really that great when you think about the workers being away from home for that long?

    That said, they make more money than they could back home, so there’s a trade-off for them. On one hand it’s a great opportunity, on the other it’s cheap labor making far less than the normal wages in the departure countries. I don’t know how to think of it.

    My parents go on cruises sometimes, and my mom once told me about how the staff on a particular cruise had always been so nice & enthusiastic. One day, one of the guys had seemed a bit down, so my mom asked him if everything was ok. He finally admitted that he was homesick. Heartbreaking.


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