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Why Cruise Ships fly Flags of Convenience

Flags of Convenience

Have you ever noticed the flags flown by cruise ships? Admittedly, the grandeur and pomp of these floating hotels leaves very little space for one to notice ‘small’ things like flags, but these actually form a significant part of cruising.

Cruise ships fly flags of the countries they are registered in. This means they, like all other marine vessels, are subject to the rules, regulations and safety norms of that particular country.


The use of flags of convenience dates back to the 1920s when the US imposed prohibition, a nationwide ban on the production, import, sale and transport of alcohol. To circumvent this, many cruise ship owners began to register their vessels in nearby countries that had relatively more lenient laws.

The trend expanded to include a circumvention of other regulations from countries like the US and Norway to help the cruise ship companies be more profitable. Owing to this, the flags they flew began to be known as flags of convenience.


Today, most ships fly flags of convenience. It might come as a surprise that while a large majority of cruise lines visit US ports and even have headquarters in the US with American owners, their flags indicate affiliation to another country.

They do this simply because it is a good business decision as certain countries have lower fees or taxes, and other rules that enable lower operating costs. Financially, fewer regulations mean more profit. Countries like the US have stringent rules when it comes to environment and labour protection laws and relatively higher corporate income tax.

It is estimated that more than half of the world’s merchant maritime vessels are registered under flags of convenience, and 90 per cent of those touching ports in the US come under these.


The Bahamas typically has the most number of cruise ships registered to its name, with Panama being another popular choice. Primarily, this means that the US’ stringent labour laws do not apply to cruise ships registered in these countries. If a cruise ship flies a US flag, American maritime laws take charge for any rules, regulations or even complaints filed against the company. When flying flags of convenience, this role is often played by the captain whose word is law.


International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), a global union of employees working in the transport industry, has expressed concern over vessels flying flags of convenience due to their relaxed labour laws which can open up avenues for poor working conditions, busy schedules without sufficient rest and uncertain compensation in case of accidents.


Cruise ship companies often choose countries to register their vessels in depending on their ability to deliver services, their global reputation, performance, fees and taxes, as well as how well the vessel’s crew meet the country’s needs.

The cruise industry typically enjoys the huge benefits offered by flags of convenience even though stray incidents have brought them under the scanner.



How Internet at sea has made life for Cruise Ship Chefs so much easier

Internet at Sea

Not too long ago, cruise ship chefs spent months on board with barely any communication with their families while sailing. They resorted to sending postcards, emails and even calling only when they reached port. All of this depended on whether they got shore leave or not.


A cruise ship chef’s job is hard, and getting through the contract without daily contact with their loved ones at home makes it so much harder. Cruise liners have now made things a little easier by upgrading their technology so that there is internet at sea 24/7.

Nearly all cruise ships now offer Wi-Fi on board, and large scale investments in communication technology has meant that prices are being driven down each year. Still, internet at sea can never be as reliable as it is on land. Any obstruction to the antennae sending or receiving signals from the satellite is likely to cause an interruption.

If you’re lucky to be sailing in the Caribbean, the quality of internet access is much better than elsewhere thanks to efforts by maritime communications company Ob3 Networks. It came up with a way for its satellites to stay aimed at ships as they move so that the vessels almost always are within reach.


Emails and voice calls are rather easy for the internet company to deal with. It is video calls and streaming video that take up a lot of bandwidth. So many companies either block applications like Skype, FaceTime and YouTube, or charge more for passengers or crew to avail of these facilities.


Depending on the cruise ship, the crew can also get a variety of internet facilities, ranging from access in cabins to internet cafés on board. All of it is rarely, if ever, free. But prices range from cruise ship to cruise ship. The crew also gets a discounted rate compared to passengers. Norwegian Cruise Lines, for example, charges their crew 10 cents per minute at its on-board internet cafés, compared to 75 cents per minute for passengers.


Cruise ships often add restrictions on use or websites that can be accessed on public computers. For those with their own laptops, this may not be the case. To save money, it is advised that one avoids uploading images or using video calls. Instead, downsize the image if absolutely necessary and use voice calling instead. On cruise ships where internet prices are high, it might make sense to switch off the internet after email has been downloaded so you can take your time to write a reply before switching it on again to send.


With vessels hitting port every so often, Skype or FaceTime calls can be delayed until then. Cruise ship chefs, who get time off at port, can use free Wi-Fi facilities available in public places ashore. Fellow crew members might also be able to suggest places that offer free or cheap internet facilities. In addition, many internet cafés at popular ports offer special rates for cruise crew, so asking around could help you save some money.

cruise ship tattoos

Cruise Ship Tattoos: A Love-Hate Relationship

Tattoos are art that one carries everywhere. Most often, they mean something special to the owner and are close to his/her heart. Cruise ship jobs can impact and influence lives more than regular shore jobs, simply because of the time spent on board, the hours and hard work put in and the people you meet. Many like to show their loyalty to the company and life, or simply get a tribute to a life-changing event inked on their skin.

It’s not easy to be carefree in the hospitality industry – guest experience, appearance and service are vital to the venture’s success. So when tattoos are such a big part of people’s lives, how do they fit into the cruise industry?

Some cruise ships offer tattoo parlours on board, such as the Oasis Of The Seas on its Boardwalk deck. The Royal Caribbean can give guests a temporary experience with airbrushed tattoos in a shop on the Royal Promenade. Royal Caribbean’s Liberty Of The Seas even came up with the idea of a tattoo-themed cruise called Ink or Swim with world-famous artists on board.

However, these are all services dedicated to guests. As aspiring cruise ship crew, it is can be difficult to even get an assignment should you have very visible tattoos. It does not mean that cruise lines are against tattoos.It is simply a company policy that falls in line with other codes of appearance such as avoiding bright hair colour, many accessories or jewellery, or wearing t-shirts with certain type of slogans on them even during off-work hours. These are all means of self-expression, and to maintain a uniform code or style, cruise companies enforce rules.

This policy is not restricted to cruise ship companies alone. Many other businesses, from retail like Calvin Klein, beauty products firm like The Body Shop, restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory and McDonald’s have had policies that request employees to cover up any visible tattoos, particularly those on arms, legs, and from the neck up.

If you plan on getting a tattoo, it is advisable to know what role you are expected to fulfil, and as a general rule, avoid getting inked in places that are easily visible. If you already have one that is in a visible zone, it might be a good idea to ask the cruise ship company about its policy on tattoos and whether you can cover them up using bands, sleeves or make up.