NCL’s undercover CEO makes changes after TV “demotion”

by Christopher Elliott on January 31, 2011

I‘m not a big fan of cruises, in case you haven’t noticed. But I am a fan of Kevin Sheehan after his appearance on the CBS show Undercover Boss.

NCL’s chief executive went undercover and performed several menial jobs, including laboring for hours to set up a fake ice skating rink.

Now he’s taking those lessons to heart after returning to the executive suite. Among the changes he’s made is getting rid of the ice skating rink, according to the Miami Herald.

As a landlubber, I have to wonder what an ice skating rink was doing on a cruise ship in the first place. But never mind. Point is, Sheehan didn’t flee to the safety of NCL’s headquarters. He did something.

Another encouraging change was adding $100,000 to the crew enrichment program, which pays for activities, events and entertainment for crew aboard each ship.

Cruise lines have a reputation for exploiting their workers, particularly those who perform difficult, menial labor and who aren’t subject to U.S. labor laws. There’s a whole cottage industry of attorneys in Miami who specialize in seeking compensation for foreign nationals who are injured or abused on the job. There shouldn’t be.

I wonder what would happen if the CEOs of Royal Caribbean and Carnival did the same thing? Would that result in more compassionate bosses, if not happier employees? And would there be a trickle-down effect to consumers?

Idealist that I am, I think the answer is “yes.” And absolutely, travelers would see some benefits.

But I seriously doubt we’ll be seeing any more cruise CEOs on the show for a while.

Oh, if you’re wondering about airlines — here’s Frontier’s CEO from last season of Undercover Boss.

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  • dcta

    “I wonder what would happen if the CEOs of Royal Caribbean and Carnival did the same thing? Would that result in more compassionate bosses, if not happier employees? And would there be a trickle-down effect to consumers?”

    I guess you assume that all lines have the very same issues? NCL’s had problems for years – when they went to an all-American crew for their Hawaii ships, they had one almost mutiny after another! I have found on several lines that staff – even lower level – tend to stay with the cruise line for a long time, re-upping on their contracts over and over again. I would not assume that NCL’s problems are the very same at the CCL lines or the RCL lines.

    In the interest of full disclosure – I almost never sell NCL. There are several reasons, but one is complaints about service that I don’t see on the other premium lines. Perhaps with Sheehan’s new attention to the staff this will change.

  • Jim K

    I cruised on Crystal a couple of times. On one of the trips, one of the always friendly crew members told me that he had worked on a number of lines and Crystal treated the crew much better than the rest. Better cabins, better conditions and much better food. Is is no wonder that the crew works so hard to take care of the passengers. What goes around comes around.

  • dcta

    Precisely Jim K! It’s different from line to line.

  • lazuline

    Is this a re-post? I could have sworn reading this elsewhere.

    Might I add, “the last honest travel site” is really a super cheesy snowclone of “the last honest”.

    Every time I see that, the Shakey’s Pizza’s slogan comes to mind.

  • dcta

    NCL posted a $39M loss 4Q 2010. Nearest competitor, RCL posted a profit of $42M for 4Q 2010 (this well over the 4Q 2009 of $3.M). Interesting, just like NCL, RCL brought out an enormous ship in 2010 (and 2009 for that matter), charges a generally higher cruise fare than NCL, doesn’t nickle and dime the guests to the same extent as NCL (whose low cruise fare is really just a “loss leader”), and seems to not have similar staff issues…… It’s great to see NCLs execs trying to improve issues with staff, but really, they have much bigger problems than just that!

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