What happens if a crew member gets pregnant on cruise ship?

Jun 11, 2018

Pregnancy for cruise ship crew members is pretty much a taboo. There is not much on the net about this subject and not many cruise ship employees want to come forward and talk about their experience. However crew members fall in love, start a relationship onboard and conceive a child.

What are the Seafarers Rights if they become pregnant onboard? According to the International Transport Workers' Federation, ITF Offshore Collective Agreement, Section 30, if a crew member becomes pregnant during the period of employment:

  • a) The Seafarer shall advise the master as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed;
  • b) The Owners will repatriate the Seafarer as soon as reasonably possible but in no case later than the 26th week of pregnancy; and where the nature of the vessel’s operations could in the circumstances be hazardous – at the first port of call;
  • c) The Seafarer shall be entitled to 100 days basic pay;
  • d) The Seafarer shall be afforded priority in filling a suitable vacancy in the same or equivalent position within three years following the birth of a child should such vacancy be available.

Does the Cruise Lines follow these regulations?

The answer is YES and NO. Some of them follow the rules and others bend the rules just because of one reason, the crew don’t know their rights and don’t have any info on this subject. All crew members receive is a “Getting Onboard Employee Handbook” where there are general rules and regulations about their duties and responsibilities and that’s it. Here is a test for you. If you are a crew member just go to the crew office or HR and ask what the company policy is if a crew member gets pregnant onboard. What do you think how their facial expression will be and what will they tell you?

Positive Experiences

Last year a good friend of mine, who was working on a cruise ship for a popular cruise line, came to visit me and told me the happy news. His girlfriend who he meet onboard was pregnant. They found out about the pregnancy while they were working on the ship. I ask him what the company policy on these subject was. He told me that after signing off the mother received two basic monthly salaries for maternity and she can join the company if she decides after the child is one year old.

Negative Experiences

A couple of days ago a crew member wanted to share her experience after she got pregnant while working for another popular cruise line. The employee says that she was treated without respect by the management and the doctor when she told them she was pregnant. She also needed to pay for supplements and test just because her department “Was making money”, and the ship's management wanted to send her home ASAP.

This is her story.

“So many things are happening there. One week it’s not enough for me to write all that I want to say. 

This story happened a couple of years ago. One day when I was out in port with my friends, I started to feel sick. I decided to go back onboard and on the way back I stopped to buy a pregnancy test. My friend saw how sick I feel and decided to come with me. As soon as I get on board I did the test and was positive. This was the happiest moment of my life, and from here the nightmare began. First time pregnant, didn’t know what I have to do considering that I was on the ship so I went to the medical center and asked to speak with the doctor, told them that I think I am pregnant. So after a while, the doctor called me in the office, asked me if I want to keep the baby and I said, of course, I want to keep the baby and very rude he asked: Who is the father, does he wants the baby? Replied yes both of us wants to have this baby, I’ve been trying a long time to get pregnant, after few weeks they send me outside for a checkup and when I came back on board the doctor said that I need to go home. I asked what the reason is. And he said that the medical office decided like that. I went to talk to my manager and together we went to human resources to explain the situation and is nothing wrong with me and the baby. 

The HR Director send a mail the Miami office and said that: “It’s the decision of the crew-member if I want to go home or stay and work onboard “and if everything is fine I can work up to 5 months and half of pregnancy. 

I went back to the doctor, told him what is the answer from the office and my decision was to stay on board, he was very upset coz I don’t want to go home. After another 4 weeks went back to him to ask if he schedules my next appointment, he didn’t do it coz he forgot that he has a pregnant woman on board. After few days he finally make an appointment for me, meantime in that port he signed off together with the HR Director and new doctor and new HR come onboard. Saw that the new doctor was a lady, heard only good things about her and I went to speak with her to give the papers I got from the ultrasound. She looked very surprised at me and said that she didn’t know that she has a pregnant woman on the ship and the other doctor didn’t mention me. Her response was “I open the drawer and didn’t find anything about you”, was upset, make some research and told me to go see her next day, I guess. Told me that she did some research and I supposed to be at home a long time ago, I explain to her that the previous HR director said that is my decision if I want to leave or not and by procedure he cannot sign me off without reason. ( being pregnant it’s not a sickness). 

Talking more with her she explain me the steps i have to do during my pregnancy, need to take some vitamins and before they had all this on board but now not anymore and if i want to take them i need to buy by myself from outside and that’s not going to be a problem for me coz my department is making money (the only person who really had money on my department was my manager). Anyway i bought them from outside, didn’t know what type to buy I just chose something from the shelf- vitamins for pregnant women’s.  And that day she also said that i need to do a genetic test to see if the baby has any anomaly but if i want to go outside for this test i need to pay it by myself like $600 coz she’s not going to ask approval for me from the office and also its not covered by the company. Said that if she’s going to call the office will put the other doctor in troubles because she didn’t knew about me and I supposed to be long time ago home. I just remembered her that I don’t need to go home as i told her a while ago and it’s my decision if i want to leave or not. She saw that cannot convince me and started to say that the genetic test it’s very important for me and i really have to do it and it’s better at home coz the company it’s not paying for me, I told her that I’m not the only pregnant women on the ship and all my friends did this outside in ports and company paid for them, why i have to pay it with my own money or to go home? Didn’t expect that response from me and started to talk some nonsense.

Went to the new HR director-a lady first contract, didn’t knew the procedures and her answer was just: I don’t know, I don’t know. Well, why she was paid if she doesn’t know anything? I don’t know also

I beg them to let me stay on board as I need to save some money for my baby, I had no savings at home, family cannot help me too much, a baby on the way, medicals to pay at home( in my country I had to pay everything, here if you don’t have a job you have no assurance and had to do all the medicals in a private hospital ). In 3 days they signed me off for no reason and asked me to pay.

When I left they only said that I will get no money from the company for pregnancy and what they will do for me is that they will keep my position (and I need to send them the baby certificate)for 1 year if I decide to go back to work, if I remember well, otherwise if I will go after that period will consider me as a rehire and start again from low position. Since I came home I have no news from them, not even an email, nothing.

Why I was really upset is that the doctor who forced me to go home with no reason said that MsA got the flight ticket for me for free, the Hr director was saying to me that my company will buy me the ticket and my manager told me that I need to pay the ticket by myself coz I’m returning home before my contract expires. I only got it for free after saying that I’m not going to pay anything as I don’t want to go home and they can do whatever they want, not going to take any cent from my pocket and my manager wrote again to the big office and said to buy me for free. But in reality, it’s just the doctor who didn’t want to have responsibilities on the ship”


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