Q – Just returned from a sensational Silverseas cruise in Alaska. You don’t praise this line enough as it is, based on our 13 prior cruises, the very best of the best. There was an interesting discussion one evening at our table about the rights of crew members like the lovely folks from the Philippine who served us. Are they protected by US law?
A – Complicated question which we are totally unqualified to answer. That said – here’s our response: Crew legal rights, of which there are few, come under the Jones Act passed in 1920 to protect American seaman. The test case occurred in 2006 (Bautista vs. Star Cruises) in which it was ruled that Philippine nationals working on board cruise ships can only be employed if the employer signs a mandatory contract, This contract requires that legal matters be arbitrated in the Philippines where no-fault worker’s compensation has been in place for many decades.
One of the questions that comes up often has to do with the rights of a crew member in international waters who is charged with a crime. In that scenario, the home country of a non-US citizen has the right to investigate an allegation of a serious crime.
Although the mouthpiece of the cruise industry, the Cruise line International Association, would disagree with the following conclusion, we are of the opinion that the average luxury cruise passenger would be shocked at the labor law restrictions placed via limited-term employment contracts on foreign national crew.It is not a coincidence that, except for certain areas in the Entertainment Department, American workers are rarely found working on upper end cruise ships. It is highly unlikely they would put up with the contractual working conditions.