Flag change would allow Cunard weddings, and save on wage bill

//Flag change would allow Cunard weddings, and save on wage bill

Cruise line Cunard is reported to be considering a change in the registration of its ships so that its captains can perform weddings at sea.
Throughout its 171-year-history, and even during the last 13 years when the company has been owned by the American Carnival Corporation, its ships have been registered in the UK.
But the Financial Times reported this weekend that they might soon be flying Bermudian or Maltese flags because UK law does not recognise marriage ceremonies carried out by captains.
The change would allow Cunard to cash in on a lucrative market which is a big earner for sister lines such as Princess and P&O, also part of the Carnival empire.
P&O’s Azura was registered in Southampton when it was christened by prima ballerina Darcey Bussell in April 2010, but was changed to Bermuda from February this year. Many of Princess’s 16 Bermudian-registered ships have wedding chapels from where webcams broadcast ceremonies around the world. Couples happily pay £2,000-plus to have their weddings carried out at sea, and the revenue for the cruise lines is boosted by families and friends travelling with them.
The FT quotes Cunard president and managing director Peter Shanks as saying: “It’s no secret that weddings at sea are now very big business. However, this business is currently denied to us as our fleet is registered in the UK, and we have for some time been examining our options.
“One is to stay as we are and forego our share of this lucrative business; a second is to designate a wedding ship and change that ship’s registry alone; and the third is to maximise the opportunity and re-register all our ships.
“I must stress that at present no decision has been made.”
If it does go ahead, a re-flagged Cunard fleet – comprising Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth – would remain based in Southampton and a change to Bermuda registration would still allow the ships to fly the Red Ensign.
There is a belief in some quarters that a decision to change the ships’ registration has motives other than the sound of wedding bells.
Employment laws for the shipping industry changed this summer, and the Equality Act now applies, requiring the pay for European Union nationals such as Poles and Romanians to match that of British citizens. A change in registration would allow the company to escape big pay rises. Non-European employees such as Filipino stewards and Indian waiters are not affected.
Mark Brownrigg, director-general of the UK Chamber of Shipping, told the FT: “We had been seriously concerned about the likely scale of the flagging out but when the government took out non-Europeans it eased our concerns.” He said cruise lines, with large numbers of lower-skilled workers, would have most to lose from the new legislation, though it was too early to know what its full impact would be.

By | 2011-09-25T20:48:38+00:00 25 September 2011|Cruise News|3 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.


  1. Turneau Dratare' 28 September 2011 at 12:40 am - Reply

    I suspect this is that idiot Peter Shanks’ latest move to keep his own job in an economy where luxury is suffering.
    What is most disgusting about this whole thing is the potential disservice to loyal, hardly overpaid and mostly overworked employees. Greed has an end – and Micky should be very careful about these sort of decisions – so that this brand doesn’t become Arison’s first failure. Cunard is a brand name too valuable to squander!
    I, for one, however, will STOP sailing Cunard if they do pursue this sort of charade! Shanks and Co. insult paying customer intelligence once again with this kind of folly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. sandra 28 September 2011 at 11:58 am - Reply

    We recently switched cruise operators to take in a Baltic cruise with Royal Caribbean – i was disgusted to find out the staff earned the equivalent of £70 a month making them rely on tips.
    We will not be travelling with R C again because of this, but if they all treat staff the same there will be no ethical business left.
    We have always used Cunard but if this is their way of cutting costs at the expense of their staff we will not be travelling with them again either.

  3. Bruce Terrence 8 October 2011 at 12:54 am - Reply

    I also will not travel on Cunard again if they switch flags and become just like every other slave-ship company…oh excuse me, international cruise line. Mr. Shanks, beware. Many people are paying attention.

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