Jim Walker is a maritime lawyer who’s the primary author of Cruise Law News, a hugely popular blog that’s primarily focused on the negative elements of the cruise industry.
His posts include commentary on environmental issues, security issues, healthy and safety issues, labor issues, and any other subject area where the cruise lines ostensibly misbehave.
there is a cost, and i’m not talking about the 17 specialty restaurants with additional charges.
In his latest article he comments about the cruise lines’ desire and focus to modify legislation allowing them to limit having to play by US rules in regards to their labor. What makes his writing so insightful is that the cruise industry is so unique in how it’s structured. As he says in this particular article:
“None of the major cruse lines are U.S. corporations. Carnival, for example, is a Panamanian corporation and Royal Caribbean is a Liberian (Africa) corporation. Cruise lines are incorporated in foreign countries and register their cruise ships there in order to avoid U.S. taxes and wage and labor laws.”
This makes the cruise lines a bit of a case study. It’s great insight into how a corporation would behave if it didn’t have to follow any laws. It’s not just one corporation, it’s the entire industry. The product the cruise lines offer is very high quality, if a bit nickel and dimey of late. The takeaway here is that even if there is limited legislation and a good competitive market, the product quality stays high. But there is a cost, and i’m not talking about the 17 specialty restaurants with additional charges. The cost for producing a good product at a good price is burdened by the workforce. Longer hours, lower pay… and this isn’t just for the rank and file, this is for everyone on the corporate ladder all the way up to the top C suite management.
Although Jim continually makes the case that the cruise lines are misbehaving, I always wonder if a corporation acting in its own best interest is really intently evil. It’s more like a hungry fox to me. The fox is beautiful wildlife acting naturally… that is unless you happen to be the bunny the fox is about to eat. Then it’s a ravenous blood thirsty monster that must be avoided and restrained. In this case the cruise lines are just trying to maximize operational flexibility and profit while minimizing risk. This is exactly what emotionless institutional investors want to see.
No matter what your perspective is, investor or bunny, there is much to be learned from this industry, which is why I will continue to follow it. Years ago, I used to think that working for a cruise line would be an amazing life experience. I dreamed of being one of their onboard sales agents selling existing customers on future cruises. I would work regular office hours and see the world. Now that I know about the industry, I realize the hours would be brutal, the salary would be non-existent, and I would almost never get to go home. So today my perspective has changed and I have no desire to work for the cruise lines.
…you could say that ship has sailed.