YES. In fact, gratuities are used to supplement crew pay.
Here's a story form the Miami Herald, How do cruise gratuities work? Do I have to tip?, explaining how gratuities are adjustable and distributed to the crew. More below.
The "Undercover Investigation" referenced above is produced to fool people who are, for lack of a more gentle term, easily fooled, like the reporter.
- The YouTube Channel is owned by a law firm specializing in action against maritime operators. A story about well paid, happy crew would not be good for business.
- Given their knowledge of the industry, it would be trivially easy to construct this scenario so they are technically reporting the truth.
- There is no perspective on the season, capacity or load factor for the ship which directly affects work and pay of the hotel staff. This is why the 'reduce company cost' argument is fallacious. Note though how they don't credit the company for honoring the contract minimum.
- 5 Weeks? That's probably not even past the probationary period. Contracts are typically 6-9 months and often renewed after 2-3 months leave. To count visa, uniform & medical certificate costs against 5 weeks of wages is disingenuous at best. Visa & Medical are good for multiple years.
- They conveniently only mention upfront costs but make no mention of living costs which are minimal. Crew buy sundries but their quarters and the crew mess are included. The crew bar is enviously cheap, like $1 last time I was at one.
- 5 weeks is also probably not long enough to receive contract bonuses. I wouldn't shock me at all if 5 weeks was specifically chosen to result in lowest possible hourly rate.
They present the highly contrived situation of poor Paul paying $40 to work on the ship. If that was the case, literally no one would work on a ship.
Miami is headquarters for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises. With literally thousands of employees and crew available, even The Miami Herald has never even whispered about mishandling of gratuities. Believe me, an aspiring investigative reporter would love to break this story.