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Cruise ships forbidden for cuban crews

hey could really foresee what was coming, though information transmitted to the cruise ships from Pullmantur Company at the end of August 2006, said all operations would remain the same, the news that it had been bought by Royal Caribbean, one of the US corporations and one of the most important of the world in the branch, indicated to the Cuban crew members already hired in the Spanish navy that sooner than later they would listen to the phrase: "you go home."

It was not the first time, José Orestes López Nodarse knew it very well, and who was the hotel assistant at the R6 Blue Dream cruise ship, of Pullmantur, until September 28, 2006.

"We have been through this situation before at Costa, an Italian company when in 1997, parts of the shares were bought by Carnival Cruise Line, a cruise leader in the world, with a North American capital."The same situation was faced by Carlos Julio González Hernández, a restaurants waiter.

In that occasion, it was something unexpected, with the ultimatum given on November 20, 1997, all Cubans had had to leave Costas ships.

The story goes on
Memories are still fresh in the mind of those people who have felt in their own flesh the effects of the North American blockade against Cuba.

Bismark Nieto Acebal, also a restaurants waiter at Pullmanturs cruise ships said: "I worked at the Oceanic in 2005, and I can tell that since then officers of the Royal Caribbean were on board, with the pretext of verifying how the company worked.

"Orestes and I worked at R6 cruise ship at the moment of the purchase. We were eight Cubans in the restaurant area and the ship was being operated at the Adriatic Mediterranean zone.

As Orestes was our immediate higher chief, he already knew the news, he had high blood pressure and he had made some comments to the hotels maitre, with an Italian nationality that in a matter of days we would be left without a job.

"When the Cuban team was called as a whole, we all looked at each other and coincided: "Going home, in a few days" and it was so later. Foreign executives of a higher level of the ship told us: it is sad news; Pullmantur thinks this is discriminating and we are satisfied with the Cubans fulfillment, but we can do nothing. Now we are Royal and instruction is all Cubans had to leave the ship before September 28.

This day, we were sent to Barcelona port, there we slept one night and the next day we flew to Cuba."

Orestes, "the Royal Caribbean has its headquarter in Miami, and I learnt by means of a Pullmantur high executive that the North American lawyers had been very clear in the purchase contract: Fully forbidden to hire Cuban personnel. The US laws ruled this way. Neither the Holliday Dream cruise ship from Pullmantur with a Havana base, could not arrive to Cuban ports anymore, due to US blockade regulations against our country.

This same executive made the following considerations as some others did, that from now on it would be very difficult to replace such efficient crews as Cubans were." Carlos Julio: "when we began in Pullmantur, in 2003, the company had two ships. It had six in 2006, and the Cuban crews were acknowledged as the personnel having contributed with this progress, due to their yield, professionalism and high technical preparation and human values.

"However, not even a sole parameter was taken into account, like the Royal purchase; personally I think it is something frustrating, you feel a great uncertainty, anxiety, and incapacity of not being able to defend yourself. Some people think working in a cruise ship is great due to its payment, but it is not easy you have a constant pressure on everything going on board.

"Contracts range between six and nine months and you really do not have a sole day of holiday. With your labor fulfillment, you gain a prestige and a position within the company, but when you arrive to another one, you have to begin all over again, even though you are highly skilled.

"And I am not talking about economic affectation. Think about everything, your family, children, a monetary planning. If you are on holiday, you are certain of continuing with your contract and all of the sudden something like this happens, you have economic problems.

"Much more important than this situation is our contribution to the Cuban states budget, with respect to wages earned, only the three of us, Cuba ceased to receive one thousand 500 convertible pesos every month.

"I formed part of the last group that left the ship Sky Wonder, the latest purchase made by Pullmantu, where 40 Cubans worked. It was October 11th 2006, at the Greek islands area."

Obsessive to economically drawn Cuba

José Orestes: "The economic impact of operations such as this one is significant for our country. It is not only due to incomes based on a job concept in foreign shipping companies, but also due to other concepts such as airport services, pilots, buying of supplies for cruises, money paid by tourists during their stay in Cuba, also other cruise members of different nationalities that work in those ships.

"The Holliday Dream came to Havana every week with some 700 passengers on board."

Bismark: "We feel the international acknowledgement Cuban crews have in the world cruise market. Of course, the United States tries to hide all this, since 90 % of these companies are owned by the US or they have North American capital. There you may find the first sword, the Helms-Burton Act that drastically penalizes ships with other nationalities that arrive to Cuban ports, with millionaire fines or the forbiddance of not being able to visit the United States in a six months term.

It is an evident sample of the extra territorial character of the North American blockade."

Nearly a year later

Like many other Cuban workers in similar circumstances, the lives of these three men go on.

Carlos Julio: "I am 37 years old and I long for the sea. I am a college graduate and I have received several post graduates on gastronomy, since I began my working life eleven years ago I did it with Selecmar agency with a service for cruise ships, the Cuban agency by means of which we are hired, have given us the best of treatments with several employment offers.

"I decided to study; first I joined a course to train myself as room captain at the High Hotel and Tourism Studies and I am about to begin a training course for hotel maitre, in order to have all requirements to work on land."

Bismark:" I also decided to study. I am already 45 years old and though it is true the briny gets into your soul, all has its moments.

Like the rest of my comrades, I teach courses at Selecmar agency for the formation of new crews and I form part of the competence courts with Cuban and foreign specialists to assess new registrations and employment requests" Orestes: I preferred to go on sailing.

I was hired by another company since last March. I am 34 years old and when I left Pullmantur I was being proposed to be promoted as a hotel maitre, due to my work results. In any case, a Cuban crew member was left alone.I have been twelve years working with the cruise ships and I can say that if the Cuban market in this field is depressed it is due to the North American blockade.

We keep on struggling facing this kind of situation. Most of us that lost their jobs are on board once more."

During the third quarter of the year 2006, the Pullmantur cruise Ship Company was bought as a whole by the Royal Caribbean; the second North American cruise ships corporation. Therefore, 230 jobs were lost that belonged to Cuban crew members, this meant a loss of one million 923 thousand dollars and the lifting of operations on October 2006, Holliday Dream cruise ship with a Havana base, this caused some 12 thousand 375 tourists to stop visiting the island.


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