Many crew members decided to stay on our ships because they didn’t want to go home and were fearful for their families. And then our crew got home, and it was just as difficult in dealing with the pandemic in their home countries, concerned about their families and their livelihoods. As a company, we tried to care for them and pay them as much as we could before they went home and created a fund for hardship to help with medical bills, mortgages, etc. to try to help them through this. Nevertheless, this has been a long period of time and extremely difficult for our employees all over the world. The world changed, and many lost family members, but what has been amazing is we have been in constant communication with our employees. Not long ago, we sent a survey and asked our more than 80,000 employees if they are coming back, and 98% said they were excited to come back. During this period, we have operated our ships with minimal crew, around 100 per ship, and now we are starting to open operations – announcing 7-8 ships starting in May-July. We’re starting to now bring crew to the ships, and today we took delivery of Odyssey of the Seas and already have hundreds of crew on that ship. Things are starting to become more optimistic, but crew today have to go through a lot of hurtles related to COVID that are not easy for them. We have entered a new phase, and the vast majority of crew understand that and the fact that we will have protocols, vaccines and guidance. But we will soon get through this, and life will return to a new normal. The thing about our crew is they are always optimistic, they have a can-do attitude, they’re great problem solvers, wonderful communicators and will always find solutions to the issues we have to deal with. As Amy said, we’ve got new ships coming and a lot of employment opportunities – and the thing about growing is it gives you promotion opportunities. Our entire system is built on promotions. We love to promote our people because they have the passion for our company, they learned a lot about our business, they understand our customers and are experts at making them happy. In my whole career, especially as I
was shipboard, I watched so many of my colleagues be promoted up to senior management positions – so many of those people were from the Caribbean. This is the way Royal Caribbean has always worked, and I think that is how we will continue to work. What is a change you have seen in crew over the decades? MB We have always recruited around the world – and one of the aspects our guests love is the ability to interact with crew from around the world. However, in the 70s, the majority of our crew came almost exclusively from the Caribbean, and recently that has shifted to large sourcing from the Asia/Pacific – and it would be great if we could find more balance, certainly for the Royal Caribbean brand, we would love to have more Caribbean crew working on Royal Caribbean ships. Why do you think this shift has happened? MB I think one of the reasons is related to the disproportionate number of claims we have received from our employees from Caribbean countries, possibly related to the active lawyers in Miami creating a network in Caribbean countries to solicit and talk to former crew members. Because of all the time we may spend in the various litigations that come from that, it changes the whole dynamic – and we just do not see that from other parts of the world.
How can the destinations work with FCCA to increase employment opportunities? MB If you’re competing, albeit for a job or in business, you need to understand the competitive landscape. We’ve had conversations in many Caribbean countries about what is happening in different parts of the world and what’s favoring more hiring in different regions, and a contributing factor to that is legislation put into place by various countries focused on both seafarer rights and ensuring a process and dispute resolution where things are fairly handled. For example, the Philippines – which has seafarers as one of their largest exports – has tried to figure out seafarers’ rights and put in a mechanism that protects the employee and the employer while making things fair in terms of resolution. That’s a model that Caribbean countries should look at and understand. With FCCA’s help, we should have discussions on seafarers’ rights and ensuring things are set up the right way so that it works for the employee and employer. We’ve had more detailed conversations with some countries, and they seem more open to this idea. Royal Caribbean Group has been named one of the world’s most ethical companies – and has been for a number of years. We pride ourselves on how we connect with, manage, support and provide for our employees wherever they come from, and we have a very focused culture in terms of making sure everybody can do well and thrive.
SECOND QUARTER 2021 | TRAVEL & CRUISE 17