It is undeniable that working on a cruise ship was a dream for thousands, if not millions of people around the world. The promise of earning big bucks, seeing the world, and not having to pay for food or rent has made cruise ships one of the most popular job choices for those looking to expand their horizons. .
However, once the pandemic hit, one thing became painfully apparent. There is no job security when it comes to working on cruise ships.
A recent survey of 1,011 cruise professionals by Faststream, a global maritime employment agency, showed that more than 50% of hotel service crew members on board cruise ships lost their jobs during the pandemic.
It highlights recent problems for cruise lines to find enough crew to work on board, with cruise cancellations and lower maximum occupancy levels as a result.
Has the bubble burst?
During the pandemic, the cruise industry has gone through one of the greatest crises in history. No one has escaped the financial blows from ocean cruise ships and from expedition ships to river cruise ships.
In an industry governed by temporary contracts, one group of people has suffered more than any other, the crew members.
A recent survey conducted between March and April 2022 by maritime employment agency Faststream showed that 39% of seafarers working in the cruise industry found themselves unemployed between 2020 and 2022. Although the deck and engine departments were less affected at 31% and 24%, 53% of aircrew lost their jobs in the hospitality department.
Kelsey Purse, Shipping Manager for Faststream: “When offshore cruise operations became unsustainable, many positions were simply not needed. If there are no guests, the number of people needed to work in hospitality and guest services decreases, as does the kitchen.“
“On the other side, ships must continue to be maintained and therefore the bridge and engine professionals were still needed to ensure the proper maintenance and safety of the ship wherever it was berthed.
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Of these 39%, only 60% returned to work for the same employers when the ships started sailing again. A staggering 40% did not return to sea at all or started working for a new employer.
There are several reasons for this, but one reason above all. In an industry where crew members are only contracted for the time they are on board, there is no safety net for crew once ships stop sailing.
The job security that many took for granted suddenly crumbled. 71% of survey respondents expressed concern that they had no job security in the cruise industry.
Mark Charman CEO and Founder of Faststream Recruitment: “The pandemic has caused people to lose their jobs in many cases, not because of their performance, motivation or work ethic, but simply because operations were unsustainable. However, unemployment feels personal for whatever reason and I think the statistic of 71% of those who became unemployed worry about their job security just shows the impact it can have.
The fact that they were unemployed also meant that the crew members had to find new jobs, and many did. In fact, so many people have found jobs ashore that cruise lines are struggling to find the crew needed to operate the ships.
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But that’s not all. Rising inflation, wages kept the same, stress, turnover issues, denied shore leave and COVID-19 infections add to crewmembers’ choice to find new jobs instead of returning at sea.
In fact, 82% of survey respondents said they would be looking for new jobs in the next 12 months.
Impact on ships’ crew
Over the past few weeks, we have seen the effects crewing issues are already having on the cruise industry. Two cruise lines reported that they could not take on enough crew to operate their ships efficiently, Cunard and P&O UK.
As Cruise Hive reported on May 12, Cunard has canceled cruises for some guests to be able to limit the number of guests aboard its ships, citing crew shortages.
The cruise line said: “As you may have seen in the news, the wider impact of COVID-19 is affecting hospitality and disrupting airlines and as such is impacting membership numbers. crew that we can bring on our ships.”
On April 10, P&O Cruises has canceled seven departures from its Arcadia cruise ship, just days after the ship restarted. This was done in order to redeploy crew members to other ships.
P&O Cruises responded “The current and extraordinary impact of COVID-19 in the UK, across the hospitality, services and airline industry, has resulted in a temporary disruption of crew members available to join our ships.”
The question now is what will happen later this year once cruise lines plan to start increasing occupancy levels to 100% if there aren’t enough crew to crew the ships. .
As one respondent put it, I believe we need a breath of fresh air in this industry, especially at the top. We need people ready to lead the industry into the 21st century. Sometimes I feel like we’re still doing business like it’s the 1970s.
The cruise industry has long been an industry where hard work and dedication have paid off handsomely. Something many crew members seem to be missing right now. Cruise lines will need to ensure that crew have the right environment, job security and benefits that will entice them to stay.