The Real Cost of Cruises
I've been consuming a lot of bad news to stay up-to-date on this pandemic and it has taken its toll on my mental health. Yet, in the midst of all the bad news, we see lots of motivational posts talking about taking this time to have faith, recharge, reset, and stay positive including a fake letter claiming to share Bill Gates’ thoughts on the coronavirus crisis. The so-called ‘open letter’ that was circulating on social media claimed to show that Bill Gates believes there is a ‘spiritual purpose behind everything that happens.”
I know that there’s a lot of misinformation out there including the US president touting the mainstream media as fake news. I just find it ironic that the real fake news like John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” and cartoonish editorials like “A Closer Look” by Seth Meyers open my eyes to the honest truth. One take away for me is that this health crisis exposes the good, the bad, and the ugly like our dishonest leaders, weak health system, inequality in America, and corporate greed to name a few. And speaking of corporate greed, I’d like to focus on the travel industry and share Hasan Minhaj video that exposes the cruise industry. I must admit, I'm not a fan of cruising, but I’ve cruised with different cruise lines to see places and to experience something that could only be experienced with cruising like going through the locks at the Panama Canal. I'm not trying to promote this video or any shows. However, this video from a comedian offers some explanations to some of my concerns and questions from my past cruising experiences. Please click below to watch the video if you have the chance. Otherwise, here's the summary of the real cost of cruising:
- Shitty air
- Poisoned water
- Piles of garbage
- Tax Revenue Loss
- Workers abuse
- Climate Change
- Unreported crime and preventable death.
Not Great for the Environment
Cruise ships aren't great for the ocean. In the last 30 years, the industry has been caught dumping and polluting 100 times and paid more than $100 million in fines for illegal dumping. Legally, cruise ships are permitted to dump food waste, cleaning agents, cargo residue, and animal carcasses.
Cruise ships emit 3-4 times carbon dioxide per passenger-mile than jets. Carnival emits more CO2 than all of the 260 million European cars in one continent alone.
While the cruise passengers are living large, crew members are not. CDC says luxury cruise lines hid food from cruise inspectors. For example, over fifteen full trolleys of food including milk, raw meats, pasteurized eggs, cheeses of all types all hidden in the individual cabin shared by two or three galley crew members in order to avoid inspection.
Many cruise employees say they can work between 70-90 hour week with no overtime pay for months straight, making as little as $500.00 per month (that comes out to $1.80 per hour). And who's working these jobs? Almost a third of cruise employees are Filipinos. Cruise liners love hiring Filipinos. That's because the Philippine government bars its citizen working on ships from taking legal action against a foreign company. The process is complicated, but here's basically what ends up happening. If a worker gets hurt, the Philippine government forces them to accept a low payment based on what body part is injured.
Workers face low wages, brutal hours, disgusting working conditions, and often have little recourse and it's all legal because of this one subset of law called "Maritime Law". It lets cruise lines play by a completely different set of rules.
Flag of Convenience
Companies register most of their ships in small countries across the globe and because they fly those foreign flags, they don't have to abide by strict US regulations even though they operate out of US ports and carry mainly US passengers.
90% of cruise liners fly foreign flags to save on taxes and wages. Although their executives are in Miami and make all their decisions out of the offices in the US, somehow, legally their company is in Panama. One of the biggest cruise lines made almost 9 billion in income and paid less than 2% in taxes and wages.
Crime on High Seas
Also, "Flag of Convenience" hurt passengers when it comes to crime. Most of the crime at sea goes unpunished. For nearly a century, cruise ships are not legally required to report any crime to anyone. Then in 2010, President Obama signed into law the "Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act" and improved tons of safety measures but failed to fix one of the most common crime committed onboard - sexual assault. And sadly, a third of sexual assault victims are minors. The shady reporting tactics protect the cruise ships but nothing protects them more than the mother of all maritime laws "DOHSA" (Death on High Seas Act), a US law that goes back almost 100 years which allows survivor's family members to sue the cruise lines. But damages in the case of death are limited, the cruise is only responsible for actual expenses and any dependent beneficiaries. Actual expenses mean the cost of funeral expenses, and dependent beneficiaries mean you can recover what the dead person would have earned over their expected lifetime. So if you're a minor or retired couple, DOHSA says your life has no economic value.
Lastly, drowning is a pretty common occurrence because some ship don't provide lifeguards. Sadly, a passenger cannot sue the cruise ship for negligence.