Spain Charters Cruise Ship to House Police to Quell Catalans Seeking Independence

Spain has quitely chartered a cruise ship to be positioned at the Port of Barcelona as housing for thousands of riot police and security officers in order to try and suppress rebel Catalans who are seeking an independence referendum.

You can read about the dispute in Spain in a New York Times article As Catalonia Referendum Nears, Tensions Rise in Spain

According to Bloomberg Politics, Spain hired the the Rhapsody to house a portion of the 16,000 security forces in advance of the October 1st referendum passed by the Catalan Parliament but declared illegal by Rhapsody Spain’s highest court. The riot police are intended to try and control the pro-independence campaigners. 

Bloomberg writes that Spain is putting "more boots on the ground" near Barcelona in order to arrest local officials and raids regional-government offices prior to the referendum.

In addition to the Rhapsody which has a capacity of 2,448 people and can accomodate 700 vehicles, Spain is chartering two additional unnaned ferries to house the riot police. Not to be confused with the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas, the Rhapsody is a RoRo ("roll on - roll off) cruise-ferry operated by the Italian shipping company Grandi Navi Veloci SpA. 

Chartering cruise ships to provide housing is not particularly uncommon, at least where extra housing is needed following hurricanes or for special events such as the Olympics. But it seems highly unusual for cruise ship or ferry operators to agree to lease their ships as housing for riot police to be used in such a hotly disputed political and probably violent dispute.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Photo credit: Grandi Navi Veloci 

Engine Room Fire Breaks Out on the Aurora

AuroraA fire reportedly broke out in the engine room of the Aurora this morning, causing the P&O cruise ship to lose its electricity and its propulsion. 

The fire was extinguished after approximately an hour, following which emergency generators were eventually started.

At the time of the fire, the Aurora was in the mid-Atlantic sailing for the Azores. 

There has been no official statement from the cruise line; the details of the fire are admittedly sketchy. There are a few comments about the fire on the Cruise Critic message board

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: MacdonaldAndy - CC BY 4.0; commons / wikimedia.

Cat-5 Hurricane Irma Threatening South Florida, Scattering Cruise Ships

Hurricane Irwin Cruise ShipHurricane Irma, which continues to strengthen as it heads west toward the Leeward Islands and Virgin Islands, is now a Category 5 storm with winds of over 175 mph (with gusts up to 215 mph) as of this morning's advisories. The huge storm is predicted to continue west across the Caribbean, north of Dominican Republic/Haiti and Cuba, and then turn to the north, likely hitting the Florida Keys and South Florida by late Saturday / early Sunday morning.

Irma will continue as a category 5 storm for the next few days, although its intensity will decrease to a category 4 with winds of 150 mph. 

The most reliable computer models (the U.S. and European models) show Irma continuing to head west before making a sharp turn to the north towards South Florida, although there are no guarantees exactly where or when that northward turn will occur. 

"Spaghetti models" via Mike's Weather Page (image below) is my favorite page to follow the progress of the hurricane. You can see the probable path of this dangerous storm heading into the Florida Keys and South Florida here.  

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was the first cruise ship to alter its itinerary from its original Eastern Caribbean schedule to the Western Caribbean. The Allure's itinerary was changed to Cozumel, Labadee, and Falmouth. It appears likely that Royal Caribbean's private destination in Labadee (Haiti) will be directly impacted by Irma later this week; cruises to that destination seem likely to be rescheduled. 

Royal Caribbean's changes to its itineraries are listed on its Facebook page. The cruise line cancelled the September 8th cruises to the Bahamas by the Enchantment of the Seas and the Majesty of the Seas. Royal Caribbean is saying that the cruise fare and fees for these cruises will be 100% refunded to the original form of payment, and we are also offering a 25% future cruise credit, based on the cruise fare, if a new cruise is booked in the next 30 days.

Regarding the Allure of the Seas (September 10 Western Caribbean), Anthem of the Seas (September 9 Bermuda), Empress of the Seas (September 9 Cuba) and Harmony of the Seas (September 9 Eastern Caribbean), guests are asked to check on updates at the cruise line's Facebook page.

Royal Caribbean's Chief Meteorologist, James Van Fleet, who the cruise line hired after the debacle when the Anthem of the Seas sailed into a well-forecasted storm last year, will be on the hot seat responding to questions posed to him on line. Mr. Van Fleet is already fielding inquiries via his Twitter account. The last question posted was "I'm currently on harmony and someone thinks Irma is going to Hurricane Irma Cruise Shipcause us to reenact titanic. Can you confirm?"  (A PR video produced by Royal Caribbean is below.)  It remains to be seen whether Mr. Fleet was hired for public relations purposes or to provide meaningful information and insight to the Royal Caribbean ships at sea.

Carnival will also be changing its fleet's cruise ship itineraries. The Carnival Glory, scheduled for an Eastern Caribbean itinerary, will switch to a Western Caribbean cruise, which will include Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize City and Cozumel. Carnival's changes to the itineraries of the Carnival Magic, Carnival Splendor and Carnival Pride are explained below. 

NCL canceled the three-day cruise to the Bahamas from the port of Miami on the Norwegian Sky scheduled for September 8th, as well as a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Norwegian Escape scheduled for September 9th. NCL will offer full refunds and 50 percent future cruise credits.

The itineraries of the cruise ships of other lines are certain to change as Irma heads toward Florida. Additional days at sea and more ports of call in places like Roatan and Belize seem likely.

A large number of air carriers are permitting flyers to cancel their scheduled flights to the Caribbean islands, with some adding flights from the islands to Miami to accommodate people wanting to escape the storm. Cruise lines typically do not permit such cancellations and have policies which permit the ships to change itineraries at their sole  discretion. Unless the passengers have purchased insurance applying to this situation, there is little that families themselves can do to cancel their cruises without incurring penalties or forfeiting their fares.

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Photo credit: Top - NOAA via AP; middle - Mike Weather Page. 

HURRICANE IRMA ITINERARY CHANGES (courtesy of Carnival)
September 3, 2017

CARNIVAL GLORY (SEVEN-DAY CRUISE FROM MIAMI)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 2 – Miami Sept. 2 – Miami
Sept. 3 – At Sea Sept. 3 – Half Moon Cay
Sept. 4 – Grand Cayman Sept. 4 – At Sea
Sept. 5 – Mahogany Bay (Roatan) Sept. 5 – St. Thomas
Sept. 6 – Belize Sept. 6 – San Juan
Sept. 7 – Cozumel Sept. 7- Grand Turk
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Miami Sept. 9 – Miami

CARNIVAL MAGIC (SIX-DAY CRUISE FROM PORT CANAVERAL)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Port Canaveral Sept. 3 – Port Canaveral
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – Nassau
Sept. 5 – Cozumel Sept. 5 – At Sea
Sept. 6 – Belize Sept. 6 – Amber Cove (Dominican Republic)
Sept. 7 – Costa Maya Sept. 7- Grand Turk
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Port Canaveral Sept. 9 – Port Canaveral


CARNIVAL SPLENDOR (SIX-DAY CRUISE FROM PORT FORT LAUDERDALE )
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Port Everglades Sept. 3 – Port Everglades
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – Nassau
Sept. 5 – Cozumel Sept. 5 – Half Moon Cay
Sept. 6 – Mahogany Bay (Roatan) Belize Sept. 6 – Grand Turk
Sept. 7 – Belize Sept. 7- Amber Cove (Dominican Republic)
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Port Everglades Sept. 9 – Port Everglades

CARNIVAL PRIDE (SEVEN-DAY CRUISE FROM BALTIMORE)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Baltimore Sept. 3 – Baltimore
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – At Sea
Sept. 5 – Charleston Sept. 5 – At Sea
Sept. 6 – Freeport Sept. 6 – Grand Turk
Sept. 7 – Nassau Sept. 7- Half Moon Cay
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – At Sea Sept. 9 – At Sea
Sept. 10 - Baltimore Sept. 10 – Baltimore 

 

Carnival Passenger Missing in St. Thomas Located; Was She Kidnapped?

Carnival Passenger Regina Gilliam Located The cruise passenger reported missing last week after she disembarked from the Carnival Splendor in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, has been located. We wrote about the incident - Passenger From Carnival Splendor Missing in St. Thomas, USVI.

A family friend left a message on this blog, stating that " . . . she was kidnapped and managed to escape. She ran to the local authorities and now help is on the way . . . "  A post on an article in a Virgin Islands newspaper (which has not been verified) explained that "she was allegedly "kidnapped by gun point somewhere close to where it docked."

This account, if true, has not been confirmed by the local police in St. Thomas. 

This morning, a local newspaper in St. Thomas, published an article reporting that yesterday (Sunday):

". . . at around 11:05 a.m., Regina Gilliam approached a Virgin Islands Port Authority (V.I.P.A.) officer at the Cyril E. King Airport and identified herself as the missing person from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship. The V.I.P.A. officer was able to verify that she was indeed Ms. Gilliam, and notified 911 immediately . . . "

The article continued:

"Ms. Gilliam was subsequently interviewed by the V.I.P.D.’s Investigations Bureau as part of the force’s standard procedures for missing persons. An investigation was launched to locate Ms. Gilliam on Thursday, when she did not reboard the ship before it was scheduled to depart St. Thomas at 4 p.m.

Mr. Dratte (the V.I.P.D. Public Information Officer) said the force was working with all relevant authorities to ensure Ms. Gilliam’s health and wellbeing, and to protect the integrity of the investigation . . . "

The official account, or course, raises more questions than provides answers.  Was Ms. Gilliam really abducted? And if so, when and by whom?  Carnival reported her missing when the Splendor left port on Thursday afternoon and she was located on Sunday morning, three days later. Some people are questioning whether she was really kidnapped. At the same time, the Virgin Islands has motivation to downplay the incident; the islands obviously do not want the bad publicity of cruise passengers being abducted playing out in the international press.

Women going ashore from cruise have been victims of foul play in the past, such as in Mexico and in Bonaire, where Royal Caribbean crew members were murdered after going ashore in ports of call. If Ms. Gilliam was in fact kidnapped, this is obviously is a serious matter that should be acknowledged by the police in St. Thomas; those responsible for the crime should be arrested and help responsible, and the USVI tourism people and the cruise lines have a duty to warn the public.

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Photo credit: vifreepress.com

Passenger From Carnival Splendor Missing in St. Thomas, USVI

Newspapers in the United States Virgin Islands are reporting that a Carnival cruise line passenger has gone missing in St. Thomas after disembarking from the Carnival cruise ship on Thursday, August 31, 2017. 

The missing passenger has been identified as 26-year-old Regina Gilliam, who is reportedly 5 ft 4 inches in height.

Photographs released by the Virgin Islands Police Department and available online at the Virgin Island Free Press are below.

Ms. Gilliam left the Splendor, after it reached St. Thomas, at 8:19 A.M. last Thursday, but did not to the cruise ship by the time it left port on Thursday afternoon. 

Comments posted on the Virgin Islands Consortium are expressing hope that Ms. Gilliam has not been met with foul play, with one person commenting that " . . . we don't need the cruise ship industry to have yet another reason to pull out."

Carnival pulled out of St. Thomas after one of its guests was shot and killed during a shore excursion there in 2010. We represented the young girl's family. The case resulted in one of the leading decisions explaining the cruise line's legal obligation to warn of dangers ashore in the ports of call where it frequents - Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call.

There have been a few cases where cruise ships have left ports of calls without their female crew members who have met with foul pay like this case and this one as well. 

Fortunately, most passengers who "disappear" at ports of call in the Caribbean (it seems like most such cases occur in Jamaica like these three, and this one, and these two, and these two as well) eventually turn up safe and sound.  

Let's hope for the best with Ms. Giliam. 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

September 3, 2017 Update: According to the comment below, a friend of Ms. Gilliam reports: " . . . she has been found and is awaiting a ride to get back home. She was kidnapped and managed to escape. She ran to the local authorities and now help is on the way . . . " There has  been no formal announcement from the Virgin Islands Police Department. 

September 4, 2017 Update: The St. Thomas Consortium in an article today states that:

"... on Sunday at around 11:05 a.m., Regina Gilliam approached a Virgin Islands Port Authority (V.I.P.A.) officer at the Cyril E. King Airport and identified herself as the missing person from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship. The V.I.P.A. officer was able to verify that she was indeed Ms. Gilliam, and notified 911 immediately, Mr. Dratte (Public Information Officer)said.

Ms. Gilliam was subsequently interviewed by the V.I.P.D.’s Investigations Bureau as part of the force’s standard procedures for missing persons. An investigation was launched to locate Ms. Gilliam on Thursday, when she did not reboard the ship before it was scheduled to depart St. Thomas at 4 p.m.

Mr. Dratte said the force was working with all relevant authorities to ensure Ms. Gilliam’s health and wellbeing, and to protect the integrity of the investigation."

Of course, this account, which does not explain why she went missing, raises more questions than provides answers. 

Photo credit: vifreepress.com

Regina Gilliam Carnival Passenger St Thomas Virgin Islands

 

 

Passenger Charged with Raping Boy on NCL Cruise Ship

Adam ChristopherOn August 30, 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts filed criminal charges against a man reportedly from Bay Springs, Mississippi for allegedly raping a 15-year-old boy on a NCL cruise ship during a seven-day cruise from Boston to Bermuda. The sexual assault reportedly occurred on August 14, 2017 while the cruise ship was docked in Bermuda, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston.* 

The incident was first reported by the newspapers in Bermuda, including Bernews and the Royal Gazette, which did not mention of name of the assailant or the cruise ship where the incident occurred. The newspapers in Bermuda, which typically do a poor job of reporting about crimes on cruise ships, did not provide any details regarding the alleged shipboard crime.  

The federal court filing in federal court in Boston (see below) indicates that the United States charged Adam Christopher Boyd, age 30, with one count of sexual abuse of a minor. Mr. Boyd was arrested in Bermuda and faces extradition back to the United States. The court filing indicates that the cruise ship where the rape occurred is the Norwegian Dawn. According to an affidavit from a FBI agent in support of the criminal charges and arrest warrant, the Dawn arrived at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda on August 13, 2017 where it was scheduled to spend three days before returning to Boston.

The FBI affidavit states that before the rape, the 15-year-old boy was drinking alcohol on deck 13 of the ship with other passengers who he met during the cruise.  Mr. Boyd met the child and informed him that he was an hairdresser and offered to braid the child's hair. Mr. Boyd reportedly asked the child his age and the boy said he was 15-years-old. The FBI reportedly later interviewed another passenger who stated that Mr. Boyd asked him if the boy was really just 15-years-old, and the passenger confirmed that the minor was, in fact, 15-years-old and not 18 as Mr. Boyd later claimed.  

According to the court filing, Mr. Boyd volunteered to escort the boy back to his cabin and offered the boy to stay in Mr. Boyd's cabin which the child declined. The ship's surveillance footage reportedly showed Mr. Boyd and the boy leaving deck 13 early in the morning of August 14th; another passenger verified that the boy appeared to be intoxicated at the time. When they reached a secluded area of deck 14, Mr. Boyd kissed the child and put his hands down the minor's pants and felt his genitals, following which he anally raped the child, according to the affidavit.  After the incident, the boy told a group of other teenagers who he previously met during the cruise, that he had been sexually assaulted. He also he told the police in Bermuda, who later came onto the ship to investigate the incident, that he had been "raped."

The court filing further indicates that other passengers stated that later that morning they saw the boy sitting by himself on deck 13, appearing upset and crying.  The child eventually returned to his cabin and reported the sexual assault to his family who alerted the ship's security personnel who, in turn, notified the police in Bermuda. The local police took the child to a hospital where a rape kit was administered. The police arrested Mr. Boyd who denied that penetrated the child.

The FBI agent, who prepared the affidavit, stated that she believed that there was probable cause that Mr. Boyd violated Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 2243(a) which defines sexual abuse as knowingly engaging or attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor who has not attained the age of 16 and is four years or more younger than the assailant. The sexual abuse of a minor carries a jail sentence of five to fifteen years and a fine of up to $250,000. 

Sexual assaults of minors on cruise ships is an issue which I write about often; last month NBC News aired an investigation into the sexual assault of minors on cruise ships - NBC News: Hidden Dangers for Children on Cruise Ships. We have written about boys as well as girls being victimized during cruises, not only by crew members but by other adult passengers. Cruise lines are in the business of selling carefree, dream vacations to idyllic destinations; the cruise industry will never warn passengers of the dangers of their children encountering predator crew members or pedophile passengers. 

The U.S. government has jurisdiction to prosecute cases of rape on cruise ships when a U.S. citizen is involved, as either the victim or the assailant.  The criminal charge in federal court in a case of rape of a child is characterized as the "sexual abuse" of a minor; there are no criminal federal statutes for "rape" or "sexual assault."  

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Photo credit: Rap Sheets - of Adam Boyd for arrest on charges of driving under the influence in Mississippi in August 2015. 

*Note: The Department of Justice writes: "The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."  

 

 

Tainted Alcohol & Crime: Mexico Struggles With Image As Cruise Destination

A couple who went on an excursion during a cruise to Cozumel had "no idea how they made it back to their cruise ship cabin" after they "had a few drinks" ashore, according to the Journal Sentinel newspaper.  In an article titled As Dozens More Report Blackouts at Mexico Resorts, Country Says It Will Act on Tainted Alcohol, the Journal Sentinel explained that a couple from North Carolina who cruised to Cozumel went drinking after a snorkeling excursion. "The last thing they remember is vomiting . . . They woke up hours later and felt lucky to be alive. One had a large bruise on her thigh. Both her knees were scraped and bloody."

The story is one of several dozen incidents in Mexico investigated by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that surfaced in the wake of the death of college student Abbey Conner who visited a resort in Playa del Carmen earlier this year. In an article titled A Mexican Vacation, a Mysterious Death, and Now Mexico Travel CruiseEndless Questions for Wisconsin Family, the paper reports that 20 year old Abbey was vacationing with her parents and her 22 year old brother, Austin Conner. Abbey and Austin went to the swim-up bar at the resort where they "toasted the completion of final exams with a couple shots of tequila." 

But a short time later, the hotel staff found them both unconscious, face down in the pool. The parents were later notified that their children were taken to a local hotel; the Mexican doctors diagnosed Austin with a severe concussion with a "golf-ball sized lump on his forehead."

Abbey was reportedly unresponsive and in a coma, on a ventilator, with no reflexes to light, touch or pain. Her collarbone was broken, according to an account in the newspaper. 

Abbey's parents flew her to a hospital in Cancun and then on to a hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, where doctors concluded that she was brain-dead.

Another recent story (video bottom) involved a tourist from Texas who enjoyed a few rum and cokes over the course of several hours at a swim up bar at a Mexican resort, only to be later found floating unconscious in the swimming pool. He incurred $57,000 in medical bills from the local hospital. 

Travel Weekly was just one of many travel journals reporting on what it characterized as "deeply disturbing" incidents in Mexico where "American visitors believe they may have been drugged, incapacitated and possibly abused." Travel Weekly went on to opine on the apparent "indifference to the victim's plight from resort personnel and police, reports of an avaricious medical system eager to exploit foreign patients and the seeming impossibility of justice" which "could have a chilling effect even on repeat visitors who love the country." 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State just issued an updated travel advisory for Mexico, and expanded its warnings about crime and violence in several regions which are home to Mexico's most popular tourist destinations. The U.S. cautioned U.S. citizens that homicide rates are on the rise in areas such as the states of Quintana Roo, which includes Cozumel, and Baja California Sur, which is home to Los Cabos, where Cabo San Lucas is located.

The State Department stated that "resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes." Nonetheless, while most of the homicides are targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shootings, in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed, have occurred.

Many fans of vacationing in Mexico may say that the violence is limited to the drug trade but the Department of State warns that innocent tourists are at risk of becoming victims.

The Travel Weekly article warns that tourism to Mexico is at risk if Mexico does not implement training to resort staff and tourist police, as well as place pressure on local medical facilities to stop exploiting tourists. But it seems highly unlikely that these proposed changes will take place anytime soon. 

Many people contact our office asking whether it's safe to cruise to Mexico. My thought is that 95% of the visitors who get off a cruise there will have an uneventful experience, if not an enjoyable time, assuming travel to Mexico is your thing. (I wouldn't recommend cruising to Acapulco because of the problem with violence there, as I have stated before.)

But between the Department of State warnings and the reports of tainted alcohol deaths coming from Mexico, if I were considering a vacation cruise, I might think that sailing out of Seattle or Vancouver through Canada and Alaska might seem a little more appealing.     

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Photo credit: Mexico - Miami Seatrade Convention Miami - Jim Walker   

 

NCL Cancels Right Wing "Rebel" Cruise

Rebel CruiseYesterday, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) canceled a cruise organized by a Canadian media group, Rebel Media, in response to pressure from an anti-racist organization.

The "Rebel Cruise" was touted by Canadian media personality and far-right provocateur Gavin McInnes who advertised the cruise aboard NCL's Getaway as "a week at sea with like-minded folks . . . talking about making Canada great again."

In the past, Rebel Media has sponsored cruises with Miami-based cruise lines. 

McInnes has made outrageous statements about Jews, women, and blacks, according to news reports. Rebel Media has been accused of promoting far right, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, white-supremacist fringe groups, according to numerous newspapers including the Independent.

An U.K.-based group, Hope Not Hate, campaigned against the "Rebel Cruise." Hope Not Hate described the cruise as a "hate-filled holiday." It asked its supporters to sign a petition calling for NCL to ban the group. The advocacy group say that Mr. McInnes had ties to Jason Kessler, the white supremist activist who organized the neo-Nazi / KKK/ alt-right "Unite the Right" protest which erupted in violence in Charlottesville this last weekend. Both McInnes and Kessler are reportedly members of Proud Boys, a far-right male-only organization, according to the Miami Herald.

Rebel Media demanded that NCL reinstate the cruise, claimimg that NCL should "announce that they will not discriminate against conservatives on their cruise line." A representative of Rebel Media argued in an email to the Miami Herald that NCL "wasn't fair, and they smeared our reputations too."

The Canadian newspaper, the National Post, meanwhile, reports that Rebel Media seems to be falling apart. Mr. McInnes announced that he is leaving Rebel Media and the media group just fired a prominent Rebel Media reporter, Faith Goldy, who had covered the "Unite the Right" protest in Charlottesville and provided a perspective which was sympathetic to the neo-Nazis. She recently appeared in a podcast from Charlottesville on the "dailystormer" website, operated by neo-Nazis and white supremecist groups (before they lost their web hosting by several internet providers). 

Ms. Goldy and Mr. McInnes were listed as "featured speakers" on the now cancelled "Rebel Cruise."

Kudos to NCL for not not giving cover to this group of bigots. 

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"Speed Restrictions" Plague Allure of the Seas

Allure of the SeasSeveral Royal Caribbean customers have reported that propulsion issues which the Allure of the Seas experienced several years ago have returned and will interfere with the cruises which are scheduled in the future.

One guest sent us an email she recently received:

"Dear Valued Guest,

We have updated information about your sailing.

Allure of the Seas currently has a speed restriction that will result in slight adjustments to your itinerary. For your convenience, the updates are noted below. The new port of San Juan, Puerto Rico offers the opportunity to visit the culturally rich city of Old San Juan and the lush rainforest of El Yunque. We apologize for this change, but have no doubt that your vacation will be nothing short of amazing. We can't wait to welcome you on board."

The guest who contacted us said that Royal Caribbean replaced St. Kitts with San Juan (others said that Royal Caribbean replaced St. Thomas with San Juan on other itineraries) and the duration of time that the ship will remain in the other ports of call has changed.

Many quests have made their plans a long time ago and chose the itineraries for the specific ports in question, with some people planning honeymoons and anniversaries.  They naturally feel disappointed. They are prohibited from canceling the planned cruises at this point without a penalty being assessed. Many have asked whether compensation is in order.

Unfortunately, the one-sided terms of their cruise tickets permit Royal Caribbean to change ports like this. It's not nice bit it's not illegal.  It is a matter of goodwill and the company's view of its own PR. Compensation is usually reserved for missed ports.

The cruise line that will say that, notwithstanding the propulsion issues, the guests are still receiving the value of a 7-night Caribbean cruise.

Back in November of 2013, passengers aboard the Allure began noticing that the cruise ship was shortening its stay in Nassau and then arriving late in St. Thomas; some excursions were canceled. We wrote about the problems in Dry Dock Cure for Allure of the Seas?

The Allure eventually went into dry dock (with the use of cofferdams) in the Bahamas in early 2014 for the repair of the bearings in an azipod, which was the subject of an interesting YouTube video

To our knowledge, Royal Caribbean has made no official announcements regarding this issue; there is no indication one way or the other whether the cruise line will respond to the ship's reduced speed with an early dry dock again. 

Stay tuned . . . 

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August 18, 2017 Update: The Allure is scheduled for dry-dock repairs on Janaury 21, 2018, according to Royal Caribbean. The cruise line says that the cruise ship will undergo "standard maintenance work."  The specfics of the work is not specified.

Photo Credit: Allure of the Seas (in Falmouth Jamaica) - Jim Walker

Cruise Lines Return to Acapulco Amidst Violence

Acapulco Travel CruiseYesterday, two articles about Acapulco caught my attention due to the widely different headlines and photographs of the former popular tourist destination.

The Los Angeles Times featured a beautiful photo in its article titled International Cruise Lines are Putting Acapulco in Their Itineraries Again. The Times wrote that tourism representatives announced that the number of cruise ship calls to Acapulco increased to 32 this year from 18 in 2016. The visits to Acapulco are from a variety of U.S. and European based cruise lines, including NCL, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Oceania, Crystal, Global, Saga and Hapag Lloyd Cruises. 

But the BBC published an article styled Acapulco: Four Killed in Popular Mexico Resort, with a graphic photo showing a grieving Mexican woman with the caption "More than 400 people were murdered in Acapulco in the first six months of 2017."

But the violence in Mexico is not limited to Acapulco. 

Three days ago, the New York Post published an article titled Drug Cartel Violence Hits Tourist Hotspots Cancun, Los Cabos. The Post vividly pointed to Acapulco as a top spot for out of control crime due to the drug trade: "Drug war violence has already turned one of the country’s preeminent tourist hotspots, Acapulco, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities with dead Acapulco Travel Cruisebodies being hung from bridges, human heads being left in coolers outside city hall and shootouts occurring at posh hotels."

Due to the U.S. demand for heroin fueled by the opioid crisis, Mexican cartels collect between $19 and $29 billion annually according to this newspaper. The extradition of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the U.S. reportedly created a power struggle within the drug cartels which is playing out in Mexico.  

Tourism officials, concerned with the violence affecting travel to Mexico, have worked with the cruise lines to promote cruises to the Mexican ports. They say that the violence is limited to “criminal groups settling scores among themselves” and that Mexican authorities are taking action against the criminals. Also, "the majority of the violence has occurred far from the all-inclusive resorts frequented by tourists."

I've written about cruising to cruising to Acapulco and Mexico before - Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

Photo credit: Top - Acapulco - LA Times; bottom Getty Images via BBC.  

Carnival Dream Limps Back to New Orleans Following Engine Problems

Caarnival DreamNumerous passengers have informed us that the Carnival Dream has incurred power problems which have necessitated the Carnival cruise ship to skip the port of Cozumel.  

The ship is now heading back to the home port of New Orleans at a reduced speed (although I am also receiving comments from passengers that the Dream has either lost all propulsion or stopped several times to conduct tests).

The popular Cruise Hive website was the first blog to write about this issue.

Last year, there were 19 cruise ships which experienced partial or complete loss of propulsion due to engine problems, including problems with the Carnival Elation, Carnival Legend, Carnival Liberty and Carnival Vista as well as the Carnival owned Adonia, Caribbean Princess, Emerald Princess, and Costa neoRiviera

This year has seen a number of Carnival cruise ships experience engine problems, such as the Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Paradise, and Carnival Splendor.  

Carnival has not yet responded to a request for a comment.

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Photo credit: Longbowe at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Update August 11. 2017 @ 5:00 P.M.: Statement from Carnival:

"Carnival Dream is presently experiencing a technical issue which is affecting its maximum cruising speed. All other systems are functioning normally. As a result, Carnival Dream was unable to call in Cozumel today and will be returning to New Orleans for arrival on Sunday as per its normal schedule.

Guests sailing on this voyage were provided with a $50 per person onboard credit. The ship did make its scheduled calls in Montego Bay, Jamaica and Grand Cayman earlier in the voyage.

We sincerely apologize for this disruption to our guests' vacation plans and for any disappointment this has caused."

Update August 12. 2017 @ 9:45 A.M.: Statement from Carnival:

"The problem on the Carnival Dream has been fixed and the ship is heading to New Orleans where it will arrive on Sunday as scheduled." 

Grand Princess Strikes Humpback Whale in Alaska

Multiple news sources are reporting that the Grand Princess operated by Princess Cruises struck a humpback whale two days ago. The dead whale was discovered lodged on the cruise ship's bulbous bow upon entering the port in Ketchikan, Alaska. 

Cruise ship-whale strikes are hardly uncommon. This latest incident is reportedly the second time in two years involving a whale strike caused by a cruise ship in Alaska; Holland America's Zaandam struck an endangered fin whale last year and carried the dead whale into port in Seward on its bulbous bow. 

The Princess Cruises PR spokesperson claims that the Princess cruise ship did not spot any whales near the ship as it sailed toward Ketchikan. Princess also floated out the possibility that the whale was "already deceased before becoming lodged on the bow" - the usual PR spin when a cruise ship strikes a whale. 

A necrosis will later address whether the whale was in fact alive or dead at the time that the cruise ship struck it.

A cruise passenger sent photographs of the incident, one of which is below.  

Grand Princess Whale StrikeSeveral years ago, environmental groups filed a petition with the federal government seeking to force cruise ships and other large vessels to slow down in order to reduce the chances of whale strikes. The petition was focused on the waters between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but it signaled the importance of environmental groups concerned with marine life who share the oceans with super tankers and today's increasingly larger cruise ships.

In one of the most graphic photographs of a cruise ship / whale strike, in 2009 the Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess arrived in port in Vancouver, unaware that the cruise ship impaled a fin whale on the ship's bow while in Alaskan waters. The whale was a female fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus). Princess claimed that the whale was already dead when the cruise ship hit her.

Of those whale-strikes which are reported, it is quite unusual for the dead whale to be noticed only when it is brought into a port on the bow of a large ship as indicated on this comprehensive report published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service.

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August 11, 2017 Update: Meanwhile, Ottawa to force ships to slow down to prevent whale deaths in Gulf of St. Lawrence.

COO Goldstein Sells Over $14,000,000 in Royal Caribbean Stock

Richard Fain Adam Goldstein Royal Caribbean CruisesRoyal Caribbean President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Adam Goldstein (photo, to the right) sold 120,000 shares of his company's cruise stock on August 2 and 3, 2017.  The stock was sold at an average price of $118.21 for a total sale of $14,185,200.00, according to the SEC.  

This follows the sale of RCL stock by CEO Richard Fain earlier in the week, where he collected $24,406,075.98. Cruise executives Goldstein and Fain, who often sell big blocks of company stock in tandem like this, together sold over $38,500,000 in RCL stock last week. 

Following the sale, COO Goldstein still owns 191,252 shares of RCL stock, valued at $22,607,898.92. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC

After the sales last week, Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Fain now own over $134,000,000 of RCL stock.

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Photo credit: Royal Caribbean press center.

CEO Fain Rakes In Over $24,000,000 In Sale Of RCCL Stock

Royal Caribbean Richard FainRoyal Caribbean chief executive officer Richard D. Fain sold 210,706 shares of his cruise line stock in a transaction on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at an average price of $115.83, for a total value of $24,406,075.98.

Mr. Fain was last in the news in April when a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission reflected that his total compensation last year was in the amount of $10,400,000.

Maritime Executive recently reported that Royal Caribbean's income for the second quarter reached $370 million, the highest second quarter earnings in company history. The cruise line's financial performance, the maritime journal wrote, "vindicates Fain's prediction that 2017 would shape up to be a 'sensational year.'"

Following the stock sale, CEO Fain reportedly now owns 967,741 shares of his company’s stock, valued at $112,093,440.03. 

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Interested in this issue? Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Photo Credit: CNBC

Coast Guard Medevacs Injured Woman From Carnival Valor Near Galveston

Carnival ValorThe U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a passenger from a Carnival cruise ship this evening near Galveston, Texas after it left port heading to Cozumel.

The Coast Guard News reports that around 7:00 P.M. today, a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew rescued a 30-year-old woman from the Carnival Valor approximately 10 miles east of Galveston, Texas. 

The Carnival Valor contacted the Coast Guard station in Houston-Galveston and requested assistance for a woman who has suffered a head injury after a fall.

The Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the passenger from the Valor and transported her to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston where she reportedly was in stable condition.

I first heard of the incident on Twitter when the USCG Heartland posted news of the medevac.

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Credit: YouTube

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