Cruises are great and guests under cruise deals are well-taken care by service-minded cruise staff. But reports said the wages and working conditions of cruise workers in many cruise ships are appalling.

A majority of cruise staff work more than 70 hours a week, per the latest news. A report by Business Insider compiled interviews with 45 current and former cruise-ship employees.

They described grueling hours, low pay, and a strict hierarchy micromanaging what they eat, drink, met, sleep. Many of them said they work for many months without a day off.

The workload related to stress is in addition to unforeseen events like customs raid or police check. According to an employee in Norwegian Cruise Line, she faced a raid from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials who showed up with a sniffer dog in her cabin.

According to cruise news, the employee was from Jamaica and she was interrogated based on an innocuous conversation she had with a security officer in the previous week who later flagged her to the agency. The matter was about buying powdered milk from outside.

The female employee left the company four months later. Earning $1,600 per month she worked 70-hour weeks and alleged she was discriminated against for being black.

“Working on a cruise line, you have to be mentally prepared to be there. If you're not a strong person, you will not survive,” she said. Norwegian Cruise Line did not react to requests for comment.

Cruise Companies making profit

The plight of staff is in sharp contrast to the cruise industry companies bulging profits. In 2018, market leader Carnival owning nine cruise lines earned a $3.2 billion profit.

Royal Caribbean Cruises with six cruise ships and Norwegian Cruise with three cruise lines made profits of $1.8 billion and $954.8 million.

The three companies made nearly $2 billion in combined profits during the first half of this year. But the financial success of cruise companies is taking a toll on workers' satisfaction.

Well-paid cruise-ship employees are also subject to grueling work schedules rivaling time-intensive investment banks and restaurant kitchens.

Work overload more at the bottom level

In the hierarchy, officers are at the top. They are managers responsible for navigation. In the middle is staff such as workers in entertainment, retail, and guest services. At the bottom are crew members, responsible for serving guests. They include servers, bartenders, and cleaning staff.

Cruise ship
A cruise ship is pictured in the Marseille harbor on September 20, 2012. Gerard Julien/AFP/GettyImages)

The report noted that crew and lower-paid staff members had a more difficult working and living conditions than officers, and many reported monthly earnings of $2,000 or less. Of the 39 current and former cruise-ship workers who told Business Insider their monthly earnings, 18 said they at one point made $2,000 or less per month.

Those reported highest monthly earnings between $5,000 and $10,000 hailed mostly from the U.S. or Canada.

Those reported measly earnings of $2,000 or less tended to be from South America, Eastern Europe, or Southeast Asia.

A former Viking Cruise employee put it like this: “It's a very hard life to work onboard. You get used to the money, but then it comes with a price, and the cost is very high.”