Undercover Boss: CEO Of Norwegian Cruise Line: Where Are They Now?
Kevin Sheehan, the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, has his cover blown while working undercover as a waiter on one of NCL’s cruise ships.
Company Name: Norwegian Cruise Line
Undercover Boss: Kevin Sheehan
Are They Still There?: No!
Welcome to “Undercover Boss” at sea! Kevin Sheehan, the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), joined the company in 2007 with the goal of taking the cruise line from good to great. He’s made lots of sacrifices to achieve this goal, including living in Miami near the NCL headquarters instead of with his wife and family in New York. Now, he has decided to go undercover to see if his efforts as CEO are paying off. He assumes the alias of an unemployed taxi driver, Peter Francis, and prepares to set sail as a crew member on one of the world’s largest cruise lines.
Job #1: Deck Repairman on The Pride of America Cruise Ship
For his first job undercover, Kevin travels to Hawaii to board the Pride of America cruise ship. At the time this episode of “Undercover Boss” was filmed, this ship was already 5 years old. Since the sea can cause a lot of wear and tear on ships, it’s important to Kevin that it’s able to maintain the look and image it should. To learn more about ship maintenance, Kevin joins a deck repairman named John to find out what it takes to make the ship look its best.
Kevin quickly realizes that this job is harder than it looks. The manual labor of power washing the sea salt away and fixing paint makes the CEO feel like he’s being hazed. Making matters harder, employees have to do all this hard work without being able to go home to their families afterward, as crew members live on the ship for months at a time. For John, this is particularly hard because his pregnant wife was due to give birth to their daughter anytime.
All that said, John still really enjoys working at sea. He loves his job most of the time and is happy to be there. John has a great attitude where he is simply grateful to be on board and tries to be an efficient worker by getting everything done right on the first attempt. This is something that makes his boss very happy to see.
Job #2: Recreation Staff Member On The Norwegian Epic
After exploring one of the cruise line’s older ships, it’s time to go undercover on the newest NCL ship at the time: The Norwegian Epic. The cruise ship cost over $1 billion to design and build and it was packed full of unique experiences for guests to enjoy at sea, such as rock walls, ice rinks, and water slides. Kevin wants to see how guests are responding to the innovative experiences offered onboard, especially as he is working on designing new ships to add to the fleet in the future.
For his second job, Kevin joins a bubbly recreation staff member named Jessica. He begins the day by learning how to work the rock wall, which includes rappelling down the tall structure himself. Kevin is glad to see the rock wall is well received by guests, but gets nervous interacting with the participating passengers, especially when he has to help female travelers put on their safety harnesses.
Next, Kevin joins Jessica and other crew members as they have to assemble the ice rink, which he quickly realizes is a flop. Making the ice rink involves going up to the sports court to manually lay out several heavy sheets of fake ice. The process takes a long time and is physically taxing. It even made Kevin say he felt like his back was going to break. The worst part is the crew does all of this work for no passengers to actually come skate. Jessica said it’s not uncommon for the ice rink to be empty for hours at a time, making all that labor pretty pointless.
Job #3: Waiter For The Manhattan Room On The Norwegian Epic
The Norwegian Epic has 20 restaurants onboard the ship, but Kevin said the Manhattan Room is the most important. While this CEO is on board, he wants to make sure the restaurant staff is providing the exceptional service to the customers that he expects. But when he walks in for his shift, Kevin is immediately recognized by his trainer for the day, a waitress named Silvia.
The first time Silvia shouts his real name, Kevin isn’t sure he heard the waitress correctly. But as he walks away in a panic, Silvia just keeps repeating his name. Eventually, Kevin walks up to Silvia and introduces himself as Peter. Luckily for him, Silvia plays along. When she takes him outside to change into his uniform for the night, Kevin explains that it’s important for him to stay undercover and Silvia promises to keep his identity a secret. After that, Kevin’s shift was pretty much smooth sailing. He personally struggled in the role of waiter, but he thought the staff did an excellent job running the dining room.
Since Silvia already knows who he is, Kevin asks her to recommend improvements to be made by NCL once his shift is over. Silvia says that she wishes it was easier to grow within the company, explaining that there are not a lot of promotion opportunities for current crew members. Silvia adds that the crew makes a lot of sacrifices for NCL by being away from their families to work on board the ships, and she would like it if the company would hire from its loyal workforce. Silvia has personally worked on NCL ships for 6 years at this point and was also in the process of planning a wedding to marry her girlfriend.
Job #4: Entertainment On The Norwegian Epic
The cruise staff on the Norwegian Epic are essentially the social hosts for the ship. These staff members plan and host over 100 activities on a weekly basis to engage and entertain the guests. For his final job, Kevin is joining Michael to find out what it takes to prepare and host the NCL’s signature white hot party.
Before the party, Michael has to show Kevin a line dance that they will teach to guests at the party. Kevin isn’t a dancer and this takes him way out of his comfort zone, but he does his best to learn the moves. Later, Michael and Kevin go around the ship to interact with guests and invite them to the party. Kevin loves how Michael interacts with passengers, and even knows some of their names. Kevin thinks this is great because those connections help make the cruise experience extra special for travelers.
Once it’s time for the party, Michael and Kevin don all-white outfits, including white angel wings, and get ready to lead the fun. Despite his nerves about dancing in front of a crowd, Kevin actually has a great time helping to teach the line dance and passing out glow sticks to the crowd. He is just delighted to see all the guests having a blast.
Kevin’s other favorite part of the ship was having lunch with Michael. During the meal, the pair bonded over losses they had experienced. Kevin had lost his brother suddenly and Michael’s mother passed away from brain cancer when she was only 51. Michael said he held a benefit in her honor and raised thousands of dollars to donate in her memory. He also said he thinks his mom would be proud of him for working on the cruise ship and doing what he loves. Kevin was inspired by Michael’s ability to endure such tragedy and still find ways to do good and be positive.
The Big Reveal:
After a week filled with emotional highs and lows, Kevin returned to land feeling inspired and humbled by the hard work he saw from the NCL cruise members. Realizing the sacrifices they make to work onboard a cruise ship and keep his company afloat made this boss want to do more to make their lives easier and more enjoyable. He starts by inviting the employees he met to the Pride of America cruise ship for his big reveal.
Kevin tells John that his love for the sea and the way he does his job with pride were inspirational. In an effort to say thank you, Kevin offers to send John, his wife, and their soon-to-be-born daughter on a trip to New York to visit John’s parents. And once they are all in New York, Kevin plans to send the entire family on a cruise to spend some quality time together.
Kevin’s reveal to Jessica included a lot of laughter. But when he got down to business, he wanted Jessica to know that he saw opportunities to make crew life easier and he would be taking them. For example, the back-breaking process of building the ice rink onboard would never be happening again. Because of her performance and constant smile, Kevin also invited Jessica to join the management training program so she could get on a path to becoming an executive within Norwegian Cruise Line. By the end of their meeting, Jessica was shaking with joy.
Even though Silvia immediately recognized Kevin, she hadn’t actually heard of “Undercover Boss” before this meeting, so the boss still got to reveal some new information. Kevin tells Silvia that she did a great job of making guests feel important and that the insights she gave him were very helpful. For these reasons, Kevin wanted her to join the shipboard advisory committee and was also promoting her to the role of senior waitress. Lastly, Kevin said he wanted to host a nice wedding for Silvia and her girlfriend on board one of the NCL ships.
Kevin informs Michael that he loved watching him do his job and was impressed by how he interacted with customers. In fact, the boss was so impressed by the crew member that he talked to the powers that be to get Michael promoted to assistant cruise director onboard the Norwegian Epic. Next, Kevin wanted to give Michael another fundraising opportunity to honor his mother’s memory. Kevin told Michael to host another benefit and that Norwegian Cruise Line would match all the money he raised with a donation of its own.
To Everyone At Norwegian Cruise Line
Most “Undercover Boss” episodes end with the executive telling his company as a whole about his time undercover. But this speech was extra special. Kevin revealed that he would be making a $100,000 contribution to the crew enrichment program to help make ship life more enjoyable for crew members, such as by hosting employee-only parties. He wanted crew members to see how much he appreciated their hard work and sacrifice by making their lives more enjoyable while they were away from their families.
Where is Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, now?
Kevin Sheehan abruptly left Norwegian Cruise Line in 2015 and it doesn’t seem like the former CEO left on good terms. At first, Mr. Sheehan’s abrupt departure was given no explanation. But it soon became clear that the boss resigned due to allegations of misconduct when his predecessor at the cruise line, Colin Veitch, filed a lawsuit in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court against Kevin. The suit accused Kevin of breach of contract and libel and claimed he abused his power as CEO. In one popular press article from Skift, we read:
“According to the suit, Sheehan resigned after a month-long investigation that revealed ‘a long pattern of personal and professional misconduct and recklessness, stunning in its scope and hubris, corrosive and detrimental in its impact on the company, and deeply undermining of the workplace culture’ that Veitch had established during his tenure.”
Kevin denied the claims made against him, and he eventually won in court when a jury cleared the former CEO in the $90 million defamation and breach of contract lawsuit. In 2017, it was reported that Kevin returned to the cruise industry as a Non-Executive Chairman of CruisingStore.com and a stakeholder in Paradise Cruise Line. It’s unclear if he is still in these roles.