TV viewers will tonight see claims of crew on a Southampton-based cruise ship facing below British minimum working standards.

Undercover reporters say their secretly-filmed footage on Celebrity Eclipse, which left Southampton on Saturday on a two-week trip to the Canaries and Azores, shows staff facing poor conditions.

However the head of the firm which runs the ship has already said she expects Channel 4’s Dispatches show, which is due to air tonight, to be “biased and unbalanced”.

It comes just months after Southampton-based Carnival Cruises was criticised for withholding tips from low-paid workers unless they hit performance targets.

It was revealed some crew were being paid as little as 75p a day.

Reporters travelled as passengers and spent time working on board Celebrity Eclipse for tonight’s programme, which producers say is an examination of “life below deck for the multi-national workforce who toil behind the scenes of glamorous ocean-going holidays”.

Jo Rzymowska, vice-president and general manager at Celebrity Cruises – part of the Royal Caribbean firm, which is the second biggest cruising company in the world, behind Carnival – has made a pre-emptive attack on the documentary and refuted its claims.

She said: “Sadly, we are anticipating a biased and unbalanced programme about the labour and wage issues in the cruise industry – with Celebrity Eclipse as the show’s primary example.”

Ms Ryzmowska said the company is “committed” to providing quality cruise holidays, and had already taken steps “to investigate all of the allegations” made in the programme.

Promoting the show, Dispatches’ makers said: “Almost two million Brits took a cruise last year. For many, it’s the holiday of a lifetime with hard-earned savings going into a dream adventure.

“Glossy marketing films and brochures depict a cheerful workforce dedicated to making a cruise a five-star experience.

“Channel 4’s Dispatches goes undercover to investigate the reality of life below deck for the multi-national workforce who toil behind the scenes of glamorous ocean-going holidays.

“The cruise industry generates billions of pounds in revenue each year and working on a ship provides many people from around the world a muchneeded source of income.

“However Dispatches reporter Tazeen Ahmad – travelling as a passenger on a European cruise – and an undercover reporter working as an assistant waiter discover working conditions below the legal minimum in the UK.”