Time to Inflate

May 31, 2022

The other day my niece lost her first tooth and as tradition follows, I told her that the tooth fairy will leave her a dollar. She looked at me puzzled and started laughing. I became more puzzled and asked what is so funny. My niece responded with “the tooth fairy better learn about inflation as what am I suppose to do with a dollar, the rate for a tooth is $10 nowadays.” Well, I realized how much in trouble we are with my niece being 6 years-old and already knowing and understanding inflation. But made me wonder with the pouring emails from crew members whether the cruise companies may need this lesson from my 6 year-old niece as well. 

And how does this relate to the cruise industry and crew members? Well, with the growing inflation of the cost of living and also gas, crew members have a growing need for cruise companies to reassess their salaries and make some decisions that align with the growing inflation all over the world with post-Covid and also the war in Ukraine. The salaries of non-tiping crew members appear to have not been increased in close to a decade. Yet, the cost of living and prices of flight tickets have been exponentially increased which greatly affects crew members. Furthermore, crew members appear to be working longer contracts and longer hours with the crew shortage on board majority of the cruise liners. Yet, the pay is the same as when they are fully staffed and also have healthy ratio of on board versus vacation time. And while some cruise companies have made effort to increase the tips that guests are paying onboard a cruise ship for the duration of their stay, the crew who are non-tip remains in the shadows.

Another consideration that cruise companies may need to take is the comparable pay in regards to experience. Many crew members have expressed dissatisfaction that they get the same amount of pay as someone who just got the first time boards a ship and needs training. There doesn’t appear to be difference between experienced and seasoned crew members and those who are first timers. This affects the seasoned crew members morale and considerations to explore their options elsewhere where their seniority and expertise is both acknowledged and appreciated by receiving bonuses and annual raises, not to mention family benefits which the cruise industry has yet to even chart its waters. When a person works on land, they receive medical benefits for self and their families. Some of these benefits include medical, dental, paid leave, paid sick time, etc. But more importantly, salaries on land are governed by laws that reassess frequently to bring the salaries to the growing inflation of the cost of living. Furthermore, many land companies also provide time based salary increases between 2-6% per allotted time. At this time, some cruise companies provide a lump sum of approximately $10000 one time bonus for those who stay 10 years or more. This does not appear to be a great motivator for many to do more than few contracts, obtain the experience and utilize it with a land based company where they can be closer to family and obtain better family benefits.

Finally, cruise companies may need to reassess the crew member generational switch. While the previous generation of crew members often had an approach of how can I show my value and worth to the company in order to be selected and maintained, the millennials and Gen Z often ask what can the company do for me, what are the benefits for me to chose your company, what’s my ability to grow and expand with the company, and if I were to make this a career what are the long term benefits to me and my family? It is time for the cruise industry to get with the times not only with the growing inflation, but also with the generational switch. It is indeed time for the cruise industry to complete analysis and research of the changes that have occurred and yet to be occurring should they wish to be fully staffed moving toward as in time even the previous generation will retire their uniforms or remind themselves that they can no longer work for more than one person with the pay that they’re currently receiving.