People from dozens of countries make up the seafaring workforce of the cruise industry, but few countries are better represented than the Philippines, the site of the year’s most devastating natural disaster.
Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central portion of the Philippines on Nov. 8, causing widespread destruction; according to reports, tens of thousands are dead or missing.
Aboard the Vision of the Seas at a travel agent event Sunday evening, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman Richard Fain said that 223 of the Vision's crew, or nearly a third, were Filipinos.
“Some of them have had a rough time of it,” Fain said. “We are obviously allowing them and helping them to try to make contact, but there is no telephone service within the Philippines.
“Many of them are not able to check back with their families and friends to find out how badly they’ve been hurt, or if they’ve been hurt, so I would just like to point out that the fact they continue to provide such an exceptional level of service, while they are of course under this strain, is remarkable.”
A day later, Fain announced that Royal Caribbean would make various disaster aid contributions expected to total $1 million.
The cruise industry has a history of stepping up when disasters strike, especially disasters from the sea.
And it appears that they are moving quickly out of the gate to help with Typhoon Haiyan.
Most immediately, they are taking care of their employees. Costa Cruises said it has set up a $100,000 fund to help support employees and families.
Norwegian Cruise Line said it has been in contact with its partners in Manila, who are actively reaching out to contact crew members and their families located around Manila and outlying provinces.
"Crew members on board are being supported to help make contact with their families, and we are making arrangements for those who need to return home to do so,” a Norwegian statement said.
Carnival Cruise Lines said it is providing free phone calls, Internet access and personalized logistical support to its Filipino crew, and on the ships crews are instituting fundraisers to support their fellow team members.
Carnival Corp. is working on the details of a corporate-level charitable contribution, while Princess Cruises and Holland America Line have donated through the Red Cross.
Norwegian set up a relief fund and is collecting donations from employees company-wide and across the fleet.
RCCL said that Filipinos are the largest single nationality represented on its cruise lines, which together employ more than 41,000 people at sea. Together with its local manning agency, Philippine Transmarine Carriers Inc., it is sending an emergency team to the hardest hit areas in the island nation.
These efforts should get the attention of the general public and lawmakers, some of whom are quick to criticize the industry for its flaws. There’s no doubt the cruise industry has benefited from the hard and often unheralded jobs done by its Filipino cabin attendants, cooks, entertainers and deck-and-engine staff. There is no better time than now for everyone associated with the cruise industry to show just how much the Filipino contribution is appreciated.