"Before I boarded ship, I'd held an executive position with Hilton International Hotels, and there was better training in the hotel industry than on that ship," he said. For example, the ship's safety training was conducted in English with no visuals for a crew that consisted mostly of non-English speakers. That meant that they had no idea what their duties were in the case of an "Abandon Ship" order.
"I've been a boater all my life, so I know how important it is to know what to do," said Meier. "But my superiors felt that because the ship had underwater sonar, GPS and automatic water-tight doors, it could never sink. Unfortunately, that mentality is industrywide."
Additionally, the ship began its voyage in "code red" due to an outbreak of Norwalk virus, a highly contagious cause of gastroenteritis. "The ship's doctor told the passengers it was sea sickness, and the rest of us were under orders not to discuss it in front of passengers or on phone calls," said Meier.
Meier jumped ship before his contract was up, but the experience was so disturbing that he decided to write about it. As he researched the cruise lines, he learned of cases of people who had disappeared or been raped aboard cruise ships. "I also found out that traveling under flags of convenience enables the ships to dodge criminal investigations if the incidents occur in international waters," he said.
"The cruise industry needs reforms because they're putting people's lives at risk," Meier continued. "It'd be more expensive but I think people will pay more to be safe."
Meier's recommendations include the following:
- All employees should know enough English to be able to understand training.
- New crew members should be trained before joining a ship and have ongoing training once aboard.
- Safety training should be comprehensive so all crew members know their duties in an emergency.
- Passengers should receive emergency procedure presentations just as they do when they fly.
Meier is presenting his findings in a novel titled "The Cruise" (http://thecruisenovel.com), currently in final editing. Meier is currently seeking publishing for the novel.