Carnival Shakes Down U.S. Military Serviceman

Carniival Cruise - U.S. ArmyA couple of years ago, I wrote a number of articles asking the rhetorical question why cruise lines have an image problem.

I discussed a number of rather outrageous cases where the cruise lines refuse to refund or credit cruise fares when their customers face a personal catastrophe, like the unexpected death of a loved one, or a customer needing emergency cancer surgery, or a father having to bury his police-officer son who had been shot and killed, or having their home destroyed by a natural disaster, or even when the cruise is to an area affected by a nuclear power plant leaking radiation and subject to a travel warning by the State Department. 

There is no shortage of ways that the cruise lines have tarnished their reputations.

Today, a reader of this blog sent me another example of a cruise line clearly doing the wrong thing.

It seems like a young man, identified as Stephen Madden, was booked to take a Carnival cruise with his wife when he received orders from the U.S. Army deploying him back to active military duty. He had the foresight to pay extra for the protection plan (titled "Carnival Fee Waiver Program"). But the insurance company (AON) sent him a letter denying his claim for a refund, saying that military deployment is not a reason stated in the insurance program. You can read about his situation on Facebook

I have never served in the Army or any other branch of the U.S. military services (although my Dad served in the U.S. Army). But I was taught to give great respect to members of the the U.S. Armed Forces, whether it be as simple as permitting active service men and women preferred boarding when I fly in airports.

I have taken a peek at Mr. Madden's facebook photos which show him in uniform, (I believe that he is a Sergeant), with the America flag on his shoulder. He is clearly a patriot. I have posted one photo above.  

Carnival professes that it takes care of our military, but it has done this several times before.

I would hope that by the time that this article is published, the Carnival claims representative have woken up and will do the right thing by reimbursing this army soldier his cruise fare.

Carnival has enough problems after the Costa Concordia deadly-debacle, or the embarrassing Triumph poop-cruise, or the recent DOJ fines of  $40,000,000 for the dumping of oil into the waters around the world for nearly a decade by its subsidiary Princess Cruises. Giving an U.S. army member a hard time like this is unconscionable. 

People may say that soldier Madden should have read the legal mumbo-jumbo in the fine print of the insurance policy more carefully. I say rubbish to that. Our servicemen and women deserve special treatment irrespective of the legal gobbledygook that the cruise giants and insurance companies place in front of their customers in order to to fatten their financial bottom lines.  

Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.

April 26, 2017 Update: Carnival sent the following statement today:  "This guest was given a full refund yesterday and it is our practice to refund service members who are called to active duty and need to cancel their cruise."

Photo credit: Stephen Madden

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing from Liberty of the Seas

Liberty of the Seas A number of newspapers in Galveston are reporting that the U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a Royal Caribbean crew member who apparently went overboard from the Liberty of the Seas this morning.  

ABC-13 News in Galveston is reporting that a 39-year-old Filipino crew member was reported missing from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship around 4:30 a.m. this morning.

Images of the unidentified crew member were reportedly captured by a closed circuit television (CCTV) on the Liberty of the Seas at about 1:30 a.m. Monday. He was later reported missing at 4:30 a.m. after he failed to report to his job station.  

The Coast Guard search involved an airplane dispatched from the Coast guard station in Corpus Christi and a patrol boat from Galveston. The crew member is believed to have disappeared approximately 170 miles southeast of Galveston. 

The three hour delay between the last images of the crew member on CCTV and the reporting of the missing crew member probably means that the cruise ship was not equipped with an automatic man overboard system which would have immediately notified the bridge that a person has gone over the rails of the ship and into the water.  

AIS tracking systems reveal that the Liberty of the Seas apparently did not conduct searches for the crew member in the Gulf of Mexico.

This is an issue we have written about regularly. 

Modern man overboard technology includes motion detection systems which can immediately signal the bridge and simultaneously capture an image of the person going overboard thus verifying that is not a false alarm. The technology can actually track the person in the water, even at night, with radar and infrared technology. 

Where most overboards involving cruise passengers seem to be the result of the sale of excessive alcohol, overboards involving crew members seems to involve employees jumping overboard (there is no evidence that this occurred in this specific case). In 2012, I chronicled a dozen crew members who went overboard from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships during a period of three years. I cited the difficult working conditions and low pay which crew members face which are almost unimaginable by U.S. standards: 12 plus hour days, 7 days a week, 30 days a month with no days off over the course of 6 to 10 month contacts, for as little as $550 a month for non-tip earning ship employees. I asked Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?

This problem is not limited solely to the Royal Caribbean brands.  We have written about crew members from Carnival, MSC, NCL and Princess who have apparently intentionally gone overboard. 

In our experience, the medical treatment for physical injuries involving crew members is spotty at best. Ibuprofen is often the only "treatment." Medical care for crew members suffering from depression and other emotional issues is virtually non-existent.

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

Photo credit: Hassocks5489 at English Wikipedia - Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing in Bonnaire

Adriana Morales de Florencio - Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing in BonnaireNewspapers in Bonaire are reporting that the police in that country are looking for a crew member employed by Royal Caribbean on the Navigator of the Seas who did not return to the cruise ship after going ashore in the port of Kralendijk two days ago.

Mexican national Adriana Morales de Florencio, reportedly left the Royal Caribbean cruise ship on Thursday, April 20th, around noon. But she did not return before the cruise ship left the harbor of Kralendijk, according to the BES Reporter

The Notisia ING Facebook page has several photographs posted of the missing young woman. 

According to police information, Ms. Morales was born in 1993; she was was wearing a black sleeveless blouse, short cut-off jeans and black shoes.

The young woman reportedly was in the middle of her second contract; she worked both contracts on the Navigator.

The majority of people missing under these type of circumstances are passengers who eventually turn up.  It is unusual for a crew member not to return to their job on a cruise ship. It is less than clear what, if anything, the cruise line is doing to search for her. 

Have information? Please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Notisia ING 

Royaal Caribbean Crew Member Adriana Morales de Florencio Missing in Bonnaire

Coast Guard Medevacs Passengers from Carnival Magic, Carnival Ecstasy, Celebrity Reflection and Norwegian Breakaway

Cruise Ship MedevacThe U.S. Coast Guard was busy on Thursday and Friday with four medevacs of ill cruise ship passengers off of the coast of Florida, North Carolina and Puerto Rico. 

The Coast Guard first provided an emergency airlift on Thursday morning to a 47-year-old male passenger from the Celebrity Reflection, to a hospital in San Juan Puerto Rico.

The Celebrity cruise ship was about 35 miles north of Puerto Rico, en route from St. Kitts to Miami, when the crew requested Coast Guard assistance in transporting the man who was described as being in "medical distress" to a local hospital.

On Friday, the Coast Guard reportedly medevaced a 53-year-old woman from the Carnival Ecstasy which was approximately 150 miles east of Port Canaveral. The crew of the Ecstasy contacted the Coast Guard at around 10:43 a.m., stating that a passenger was experiencing chest pain.

The Coast Guard station in Clearwater dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to the Carnival cruise ship. The helicopter arrived at the Ecstasy aroung at 2:30 p.m., hoisted the cruise passenger and a ship nurse, and transported them to Halifax Memorial Hospital in Daytona at around 4:45 p.m. A video of the rescue is below at the middle.

Also on Friday, the Coast Guard station in Miami deployed a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter which hoisted a 41-year-old passenger man from the Carnival Magic which was about 100 miles southwest of Key West.

The man was experiencing chest pains and was flown to the Miami-based air station, where EMS personnel drove him to Jackson Memorial Hospital. A video of the medevac is at the bottom.

A family member left a message on the Defense Video and Imagery Services (DVIDS) webpage stating:

So thankful for your service . My son-in-law is going to be fine. They put a stint in and we should be able to bring him home to North Carolina soon. God is Good !! Our prayers were answered. May God bless each of you for your service and for getting him where he needed to be to get help. Our family is grateful for all you did.

A third medevac also took place on Friday afternoon. The Coast Guard medevaced a 60 year-old man from a cruise ship off the coast of North Carolina after the crew reported that he was experiencing kidney failure.

The Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a C-130 Super Hercules aircraft which arrived at the Norwegian Breakaway, around 120 miles southeast of Wilmington. The helicopter crew hoisted the man to the helicopter and transported him to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington for treatment. 

There is no reported inforrmation regarding the status of this NCL passenger or the other passengers who were medevaed for emergency medical treatment ashore from the Carnival Ecstasy or the Celebrity Reflection.  

The costs involved in U.S. Coast Guard medevacs are paid by the U.S. government. 

Another cruise ship medevac took place on Friday after a 66 year old woman fell and broke both of her legs on the P&O Pacific Jewel off the north-east coast of Australia (Queensland).

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

Video credit: 

Top - 7News Australia.

Middle - Carnival Magic - U.S. Coast Guard District 7 via DVIDS.

Bottom - Carnival Ecstasy - Petty Officer 1st Class Luke Clayton, U.S. Coast Guard District 7 PADET Jacksonville via DVIDS. 

 

  

  

CEO Compensation: The Rich Get Richer

Richard Fain  RCL Royal Caribbean CEO Richard D. Fain's reportedly collected total compensation last year in the amount of $10,400,000 (million) compared to his total compensation in 2015 of $9,400,000 (million), according to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

CEO Fain recently sold 20,000 shares of  Royal Caribbean stock.  The RCL stock was sold at an average price of $94.92, for a total transaction of $1,898,400.00. Following the transaction, Mr. Fain now owns 1,027,741 shares in the company, valued at approximately $97,553,175.72. He also indirectly owns another 426,912 shares of RCL stock, for  the benefit of certain family members, worth over $40,230,479.

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

Bus Driver Shot & Killed in Tourist-Filled Downtown Nassau

Nassau Bahamas Shooting DeathThis morning, a driver of a minibus, reportedly operated by Stuart Cove Dive shop, was shot and killed in downtown Nassau, Bahamas. The Facebook page of Nassau resident Tellis Virgil‎'s Speak Up Bahamas discussed the incident and includes a photograph of the crime scene. 

Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas is described as "Nassau's leading full service dive resort."

Five cruise ships are in the port of Nassau today: Carnival Pride, Carnival Elation, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Breakaway. 

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that police "were called to the scene of the shooting at East Street North, near Prince George Wharf around 7am where they discovered the body of an adult male by a Stuart Cove's minibus parked near The Crew Pub and entrance to the cruise port." 

It is currently unknown exactly when the five cruise ships arrived at the port and disembarked passengers ashore. Several of the ships disembarked their passengers after 7:00 a.m., if this is in fact when the shooting occurred. But many people commented that tourists were waiting to board the minibus when the shooting took place.

One of the comments to the Tribune article expressed concern that the "man was murdered on the doorstep of our cruise ship industry in broad daylight." Other people voiced their concerns on the Speak Up Bahamas Facebook page of the impact of this crime on Nassau. Several people commented that there are already two police officers from the Royal Bahamian Police Force on virtually every street corner in downtown Nassau to try and deter crimes which may affect tourists.  

Cruise Law News has repeatedly reported on the high crime rate in this port city.  The murder rate in Nassau is around 8 to 10 times higher than the U.S. murder rate per 100,000. The murder rate in the U.S. is around 4.5 per 100,000; the murder rate of the Bahamas is over 30 per 100,000.  Considering that the vast majority of murders in the Bahamas occur in New Providence where Nassau is located, the murder rate is probably over 40 per 100,000 for Nassau.     

I have been quoted as saying that Nassau is one gunshot away from cruise lines pulling out of Nassau. Nassau is viewed by the Miami-based cruise lines as a convenient deep water port with cheap dockage fares and low passenger head-taxes. But Nassau has been the subject of at least a dozen critical crime warnings by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. embassy in Nassau over the last several years. Cruise lines will probably still continue to call on Nassau because it is a close, money-making port (although it will lose cruise tourists to Cuba over the years to come). But things will drastically change should a cruise passenger become a murder victim in Nassau. 

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

Photo credit: Tellis Virgil‎'s Speak Up Bahamas

NCL to Finally Hire Lifeguards

Norwegian GemNorwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced today that it will hire lifeguards on certain of its cruise ships, according to a press release.   

The press release, which also advertises "27 dining options, award-winning entertainment, superior guest service and more across all of the brand’s 14 ships," states that NCL will finally employ "certified lifeguards" on a limited number of cruise ships this summer. NCL will hire lifeguards throughout the rest of the NCL fleet sometime in 2018. 

NCL indicated today that it will first employ lifeguards on its largest ships, including the Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway

NCL says that for the last several years it employed what it called "pool monitors" to supervise swimming pools on certain of its ships. These individuals, however, were not certified in advanced life-saving training by the American Red Cross.

Disney Cruises has hired lifeguards for the past several years, following a near-drowning of a four year old boy which caused significant brain injury and eventually led to a multi-million settlement for the lifetime medical needs of the child.

Royal Caribbean became the second cruise line to hire lifeguards when it announced two months ago that it would abandon its ill-conceived swim-at-your-own-risk policy which led to numerous drownings and near drownings on Royal Caribbean ships.  

In the past several years, several children drowned in swimming pools on NCL ships:

Two years ago, a 10-year-old girl drowned in a swimming pool aboard NCL's Norwegian Gem.

In February 2014, two small children were pulled from a pool on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway as the cruise ship was sailing from New York to the Bahamas. Both children were unresponsive. The younger child (age 4) died on the cruise ship. The other child (age 6) was medevaced by the Coast Guard.  

Following the drowning on the Norwegian Gem, a woman on the cruise who witnessed what she described a "truly horrifying scene" with her family, started a petition via change org to convince NCL to hire lifeguards. 

As I have written before, there has never been a public consensus regarding this issue, at least among people who pay for cruises. The majority of people responding to articles about children drowning in cruise ship swimming pools quickly attack the parents and even suggest that the parents should be arrested. Other readers selfishly voice petty concerns that they do not want to pay higher cruise fares if the cruise companies pass the costs of hiring lifeguards along to their guests.

The hard-core cruise fan site Cruise Critic asked its readers after Royal Caribbean adopted its new lifeguard policy:  "Do you think cruise ships should have lifeguards?" Only a little over 30% said "Yes, you can’t be too careful," with around 20% saying that lifeguards should be employed only "on ships aimed at families." 40% of the Cruise Critic readers said "No, it’s not their responsibility," which seems heartless considering how many children have died on cruise ships without lifeguards.

So congratulations to NCL for joining Disney and Royal Caribbean as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to trying to keep children, and other guests, safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, industry giant Carnival will eventually follow suit.

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

Image credit: Corgi5623 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

April 20, 2017 Update: gCaptain published Norwegian Cruise Line Hires Lifeguards After Multiple Child Deaths. gCaptain writes: "The need for Lifeguards aboard cruise ships was first highlighted in the a highly controversial expose gCaptain published in 2013: Deadly Distractions – Parents Question Cruise Line Policy As Boy Remains In Coma..

Passenger Overboard from Norwegian Escape

AIS Norwegian Escape OverboardThis morning, a crew member aboard the Norwegian Escape notified me that a person went overboard from the NCL cruise ship early this morning.  

Automatic information tracking systems (AIS) showed as of shortly before 7:00 A.M., the Celebrity Summit & Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas joining the Norwegian Escape in the waters south of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to search for the overboard person. 

I posted images from the Marine Traffic AIS tracking program of these ships, as of around 6:45 A.M. this morning, on our Facebook page

The crew of the Norwegian Escape located the man's body shortly after 7:00 A.M. today.

The crew member indicated that the person overboard was a passenger who went overboard from the fourteen deck of the ship around 3:00 A.M.

There have been 292 people reported going overboard since 2000 according to the data maintained by cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein.

In January, a 22 year-old reportedly jumped from he 17th deck of the Norwegian Escape and landed on the 7th deck. He died from the injuries he sustained in the fall.   

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

Image credit: Marine Traffic

Carnival Fantasy Suffers Propulsion Problems

Carnival Fantasy A number of news sources are reporting that the Carnival Fantasy is experiencing a mechanical "technical problem" affecting its propulsion system, which limits the ship's maximum. Carnival said that because of this problem, the Fantasy will not call on its scheduled port stop, Cozumel, Mexico, and will remain at sea for the duration of the cruise.

Instead, Carnival will take the ship on a three-night "Cruise to Nowhere." 

Carnival offered its booked guests the option to cancel and receive a full refund, or stay on board and sailing on the "cruise to nowhere." Passengers who decided to stay on the cruise reportedly will receive a 50 percent refund of their cruise fare, a $50 onboard credit and a 50 percent toward a future cruise.

The Fantasy is 27 years old. 

"Cruises to nowhere" are illegal under the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) of 1886 unless the cruise line obtains a special waiver.

Recently, several cruises on Carnival and other lines have been affected by what the companies characterize as "technical issues" with the ships' engines.

The Carnival Paradise and the Carnival Splendor faces similar problems in the last six weeks.  Celebrity Cruises canceled or shortened cruises at the last minute on the Celebrity Summit two weeks ago. 

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

Photo credit: Ron Cogswell - CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Ken Carver Honored for Cruise Safety

Merrian CarverKen Carver, Chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award from the U.S. Department of Justice during the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards ceremony on Friday in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Carver founded the ICV after his daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship during an Alaskan cruise in 2004. In 2006, he formed the ICV which is a grass roots, victim organization of families who have lost loved ones on the high seas or have been victims of sexual assaults and other crimes at sea.  

I remember when I first heard of Mr Carver. In 2005, the Arizona Central newspaper published an article titled Daughter Vanishes While on Alaskan Cruise by Robert Anglen about the disappearance of Mr. Carver's daughter, Merrian Carver, from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.

The facts described in the article were bad enough: a Celebrity cabin attendant noticed that Mirrian was missing early in the cruise but when he alerted his supervisors, they told him not to worry about her. In the process, Merrian's clothes and personal effects were quickly disposed of at the end of the cruise.  But the cover-up of the disappearance was even worse: neither the FBI nor local law enforcement officials were notified when there was no sighting of Merrian at the end of the cruise. Celebrity Cruises lied to Mr. Carver about its policies which required it to keep CCTV tapes for at least 30 days; when Mr. Carver asked for tapes within that period, Celebrity falsely told him that none existed. 

The cruise line gave Mr. Carver about as much attention and respect as someone complaining about losing a piece of luggage during a cruise. He told the Arizona Central: "We've learned that if something Ken Carver - International Cruise Victimshappens on a cruise, you are on your own," he says, choking back sobs. "No other parents should ever have to go through the crap we've been through. We don't know if Merrian is alive or dead. We don't know if there was an accident or murder or suicide or something else. . . . It is a very sad story."

After reading the blockbuster article about the terribly sad story, I felt compelled to read first-hand the facts alleged in a lawsuit which Mr. Carver was forced to file to try in Miami-Dade County to try and find out what happened to his daughter. I was also curious which law firm Celebrity Cruises retained to represent it in the lawsuit. 

The clerk requires anyone asking for a copy of a court pleading to fill out paperwork identifying the name and address of the person requesting the file. When I looked at the clerk's forms, I could see the names of the defense lawyers who had previously requested the file and would be involved in the case.

Coincidentally, later in the week, I bumped into these lawyers on the sixth floor of the courthouse while attending a hearing in another case. I mentioned to them: so you guys will be defending the tragic case of the father whose daughter disappeared during the cruise to Alaska?" The lawyers first denied knowing anything about the case, but when I told them that  the clerk information confirmed their involvement, one of the lawyers remarked: that's a bullshit case; we're going to have it dismissed

I'll remember this rude conversation and the defense lawyers' smug attitude for the rest of my life. I recall thinking at the time that this was not going to end well for this cruise line or their heartless defense lawyers. 

Later, during one of many television specials about Merrian's disappearance, one of the defense lawyers said to Chris Cuomo, who was working for ABC News at the time, Merrian probably committed suicide. Of course, there was absolutely no evidence of this, but this didn't stop the defense lawyer from saying it. The smear tactic was clearly the result of the nasty attitude of the cruise line lawyers and their client. But it raised the obvious question that if it was somehow true that Merrian ended her own life, why wouldn't the cruise line simply tell law enforcement and Mr. Carver and timely provide evidence supporting this conclusion? 

I'll also never forget when I first met Mr. Carver. He attended the first Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. before the U.S. Senate on December 13, 2005, following the disappearance of George Smith III from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas. I was representing Mr Smith's wife at the hearing and was seeking information from an equally recalcitrant cruise line. Mr. Carver introduced himself at the hearing, smiled and asked me do you want to help me pass a cruise crime law? 

Quite frankly I didn't know exactly what Mr Carver was talking about. I thought to myself that any kind of law requiring the cruise line to report crimes, an issue the cruise industry always sought to suppress, was unprecedented. 

But a month later Ms. Carver created the ICV. And with the assistance of hundreds of crime victims who joined the ICV, and the convening of several more Congressional hearings addressing crimes and disappearance on cruise ships, Mr. Carver was successful in having Congress enact the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. His proposed legislation, requiring the disclosure of missing Ken Carver ICVpassengers, the reporting of crime on cruise ships, and the requirement for ships to be equipped with rape kits and anti-retorviral medications to automatic man overboard systems, passed the Senate and House on a nearly unanimous basis. 

Mr. Carver's goals were to create transparency in crime and missing passenger reporting and install man overboard systems on cruise ships. The cruise lines fought back vigorously. The cruise industry treated Mr. Carver like a villain and essentially painted a bulls-eye on his back. The cruise lines spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress to oppose Mr. Carver's proposed legislation. But ultimately Mr. Carver prevailed.

Over the past dozen years, I've seen dozens of cruise executives and cruise line defense lawyers come and go - as well as PR crisis managers and lobbyists in the cruise industry trade organization. Many have left the industry. But Mr. Carver is still standing. Cruising is safer today because of him.

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

Passenger Goes Overboard From The Carnival Liberty

Carnival LibertyA passenger went overboard early this morning from the Carnival Liberty cruise ship, per multiple sources. Pursuant to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a 32 year old man from Georgia went overboard from the Liberty around 5:00 a.m. this morning. 

According to cruise expert, Dr. Ross Klein, there have been 290 people who have gone overboard from cruise ships since the year 2000.  According to this data, there have been more people overboard from cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Lines than any other cruise line during this time period. As the table shows, there have been 60 people who have gone overboard from Carnival Cruise Lines ships.

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

Photo credit: Chargarther - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Cruise Excursion Passengers Watch Fishermen Slaughter Orcas

Orcas - Slaughter St. VincentIn a bizarrely cruel story, Caribbean 360 just covered the slaughter witnessed by cruise passengers from what has been described as the Thomson (TUI) Discovery cruise ship of two orca whales in the waters of St. Vincent. 

Whale watching tours conducted by the St. Vincent Fantasea excursion company involving passengers from the TUI cruise ship initially delighted the cruise guests when they were directed to the sight of a pod of four orcas (commonly known as "killer whales"). But the cruise excursion turned into a "bloody tragedy" as fishermen slaughtered two of the whales off of the coast of St. Vincent. 

The article says that cruise guests were "visibly shaken and many were crying" after fishermen on a boat, equipped with a shotgun-harpoon device mounted on its the bow, blasted the orcas while they swam in the waters before cruise passengers enjoying their excursion.   

Commentators say that while whaling remains a legal practice in St. Vincent, there is nothing traditional about people in speedboats using guns to kill whales.

Whale Killing - St. VincentThe orcas were them chopped up, fried and sold to locals on the beach

The horrific spectacle reminds me of the disgusting whale slaughter In the Faroe Islands which I have written about extensively. 

St. Vincent has a despicable history of killing humpback whales and marketing the meat as "Caribbean beef." St. Vincent  receives aid from Japan and votes with Japan at the International Whaling Commission to continue whaling.

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

Photo credit: Caribbean 360 - top; Adam Gravel via Daily Mail - bottom. 

Cruise Operators Continue to Hide Behind the Death on the High Seas Act

Amazon River Cruise BoatOne of the very first articles I wrote when I started this blog almost eight years ago was about the Death on the High Seas Act. "DOHSA," as it is commonly called, is one of the cruelest and most unfair, if not completely callous, laws imaginable. When an adult child loses a parent on the high seas (defined as outside of U.S. state territorial waters, including the rivers and waters of foreign countries), the law permits, at best, the recovery of only "pecuniary" (financial) losses, such as lost wages (assuming the person is employed). If the person is a retiree, the only damages permitted are the expenses of burying their loved one. Emotional damages such as grief, bereavement, mental anguish, sadness and suffering are prohibited. 

The article was titled The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years. It explains how families are not compensated because DOHSA prohibits non-pecuniary damages when their loved ones die on international waters. The cruise lines love DOSHA. Cruise lines have lobbied heavily over the years to keep the ancient maritime law on the books. DOSHA punishes families when they lose a parent, or child, on the high seas, notwithstanding the negligence of a cruise line. 

Today, Jill and Kelly Hammer, the daughters of Larry and Cristy Hammer, were reminded of the cruelty of DOSHA when several newspapers covered the latest development regarding their deceased parents, namely that the operator of the La Estrella Amazonica was reportedly grossly negligent and caused the fire which killed the Hammers while they slept in their cabin on La Estrella Amazonica, a river cruise boat on the Peruvian Amazon. It's a sad story which we wrote about earlier last year - Deadly Amazon River Fire Update: International Expeditions' La Estrella Amazonica (photos and video).

La Estrella Amazonica has now been renamed by International Expeditions as the Amazon Star.  

The Wall Street Journal's article today, When People Die at Sea, Cruise Operators Often Get a Pass, is "subscription only" although the title suggests that cruise operators are literally getting away with, if not murder, deadly criminal negligence.  Another article, published by the World-Herald Bureau, titled Report on Gretna Couple's Death in Cruise Ship Fire Finds Fault with Ship's Safety Features, Crew's Training, reaches the same conclusion.  

You can read these articles and make your own mind up about the reportedly unsafe conditions aboard La Estrella Amazonica, the lack of training and qualifications of its crew, and the shifty conduct of the owner and operator of the river cruise boat, International Expeditions, and its president, Van Perry, whose underwriters demanded that Jill and Kelley agree to a gag order (which they rejected) before the cruise operator would meet with them and talk about the circumstances surrounding their parent's death. 

The point to come away with after reading about this terrible ordeal is that this is the exactly the result that the cruise lines want after cruise passengers have been killed. Christina Perez, PR person for the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that if DOHSA was amended to permit fair damages "droves of foreign litigants would "burden an already crowded U.S. judicial system." She also resorted to other scare tactics, saying that "insurance rates for cruise ships would skyrocket, increasing prices and potentially jeopardizing thousands of jobs created by the industry." 

This is hardly true. The cruise industry is a rich, billion-dollar business, where it's CEO's regularly collect tens of millions of dollars a year, and which registers its cruise ships in foreign countries like the Bahamas and Panama, in order to avoid the taxes, labor laws and safety regulations of the U.S.  

Ms. Perez later contradicted herself by claiming that the U.S. Congress did not amend DOHSA to permit additional damages (like it did in aviation cases) because the "maritime industry has a superior safety record."*  

CLIA has poured around $30,000,000 into the pockets of Congress in the last decade, according to the Wall Street Journal, to keep the DOHSA legislation which it loves. 

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

April 13, 2017 Update: Fox News Travel, today, published Cruise ship responsible for couple's death, report finds which covered the story and discusses the harsh limitations of DOSHA.  

April 14, 2017 Update: The U.K.'s Daily Mail, the world largest online newspaper, published Cruise company is finally found responsible for fire that engulfed Amazon tour boat and killed retired Nebraska couple.

Photo credit: Wall Street Journal 

*/The cruise industry, in fact, has experienced far more deaths on its ships than the U.S. commercial aviation fleet in the last decade, although commercial airlines transport over 30 times as many passengers a year. Read our article from several years ago: Cruise Ships: The Deadliest Form of Public Transportation?  

Continue Reading...

USA TODAY Takes A Look At Cruise Ship Gratuities

 USA TODAY published an article today titled USA TODAY's Guide to Cruise Ship Gratuity Charges

This is a topic which we write about quite often, as the cruise lines try to maintain their high profits while building bigger and bigger cruise ships which are getting more expensive to operate.  

Any discussion involving cruise ship gratuities really involves three issues, in my view: (1) cruise lines are dictating that everyone pay a gratuity of a certain amount, regardless of the level of the services, (2) cruise line are diverting monies paid in gratuities to fund the salaries of crew members "behind the scenes" (like cooks, cleaners, etc.) who typically do not receive gratuities, and/or (3) cruise lines are Carnival Cruise Gratuitiesdiverting the income paid in gratuities into the cruise lines' profits?

The article addresses the first issue head-on and points to the general belief of the public that "tipping is a personal matter that should be left to passengers." Many critics of mandatory/automatic gratuities say that a gratuity must be earned; if the guest receives excellent service, they will tip well (sometimes more than the recommended amount), but if the guest believes the service is bad, they will pay a lower amount or perhaps nothing at all. 

But many crew members such as waiters or cabin attendants do not receive any salary at all. They earn 100% of their income from passenger gratuities. For the longest time, Royal Caribbean paid its waiters and cabin attendants received a salary of only $50 a month, although hard working waiters and motivated cabin attendant could collect several thousands of dollars a month from tips and gratuities. But the tips are tighter now and, with the auto-gratuities, less likely to end up with the waiters and cabin attendants. It is unfair for them to work for a pittance. 

Many cruise lines permit the guests to adjust or remove the gratuities while they are on-board the ship. NCL requires its guests to go through a onerous process of filling out forms after the cruise before a gratuity can be lowered or removed. 

Many crew members complain that many passengers wait until the last day of a cruise to remove all of the gratuities from their bills. 

Last year, Carnival crew members published a Facebook post (since taken down) showing the names (subsequently redacted) and cabin numbers of Carnival passengers who removed their automatic tips. Some of these people may have removed the pre-paid gratuities and paid cash but many may have stiffed the crew.

The real problem as I see it is that cruise lines are not being transparent with who exactly receives the automatic gratuities. The USA TODAY article writes that cruise lines say that the increased gratuities "will be passed on to crew members in recognition of their service." But many guests do not want to tip crew members who they never see (such as a galley worker). Many also believe that the cruise lines should pay their crew members decent wages and not require the passengers to be responsible for the crew's salary.

The USA TODAY article touches upon this issue, writing that "some see the charges as a thinly disguised method for cruise lines to push the responsibility for paying crew members to their customers." Disguising the real purpose of a gratuity is a type of fraud, in my opinion, where a cruise guest may believe that he or she is paying the extra gratuity to their wonderful waiter or cabin attendant who went above and beyond for their family for a week, but the reality is that their gratuities are spread throughout the housekeeping and dining room departments to pay salaries as well as for "alternative services," according to Carnival. (See Carnival's explanation of where the tips go here; and Royal Caribbean's explanation here; NCL does not disclose any details as far as I can tell). The USA TODAY article says that "as much as 95% of pay for some cruise ship workers now comes from automatic gratuities, according to CruiseCritic."

And does anyone really trust that the cruise lines are not pocketing the gratuities as part of onboard revenue? The USA TODAY article does not touch this topic. Over 25 million people will sail on cruise ships this year. Whereas the luxury lines like Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream do not charge automatic gratuities, the mass lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean do. If 15 million passengers are charged at a rate of several hundreds of dollars a week in auto-gratuities, there are many hundreds of millions of dollars at play over the course of a year. (Carnival charges an average of over $360 a week for a family of four staying in a standard stateroom). 

NCL's CEO Frank Del Rio said during an earnings conference in 2015 that for every dollar collected in an increased gratuity, NCL earns an extra $15,000,000. Does anyone really think that the crew members are enjoying this extra income?

Between the greedy cruise executives and the miserly passengers who remove gratuities, the hard-working crew members seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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

April 3, 2017 Update: A crew member wrote today, to me saying: Yes cruise lines are diverting tips to pay salaries of . . . even managers . . they use the tips to pay the bar manager, asst bar manager, housekeeper chief, asst housekeepers manager and food and beverage manager - they all get a slice of the tips."

NCL Imposes Keelhauling to Motivate Crew Members

NCL KeelhaulingSources report that Norwegian Cruise Line will implement keelhauling as a means to motivate crew members to work longer hours on NCL cruise ships.

The ancient maritime form of punishment, once meted out to sailors at sea, involves being tied to a line and pulled along the keel, either from one side of the ship to the other, or under the keel from bow to stern. It dates back to the ancient Rhodian Maritime Code (around 800 B.C.) and was used as late as the 19th century by the Royal Navy and the Dutch Navy until it was abolished as cruel punishment. 

NCL CEO Frank Del Rio, who is credited for the new motivational tool, says that he came up with keelhauling after watching his guests participate in the walking "The Plank" for a fee on the Norwegian Getaway.  

Cruise executive Del Rio, who boasted of the idea at the recent Seatrade Miami convention, was quoted as saying "NCL needed something to create motivation for our ship employees while creating excitement for our guests!" Del Rio said that NCL will charge passengers a fee of $19.99 to watch the crew members being keelhauled under the NCL ships. 

NCL has imposed every imaginable extra charge on its passengers, including increased room services charges, automatic gratuities and restaurant cover charges, which are diverted away from the crew Walk the Plank - NCLmembers to cover executive compensation. He said at an earning conference last year "... we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes can improve the bottom line... this is a bold move which differentiates us from our competitors and will put money into NCL's pockets. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line."

NCL is expected to seek a trademark on NCL Keelhauling, as a play on its NCL Freestyling slogan.

In-house lawyers at NCL, who did not wish to be identified, expressed concern that keelhauling probably violates 18 U.S. Code § 114, which prohibits "maiming within maritime and territorial jurisdiction."  Del Rio said that the U.S. federal statute applies only to state territorial waters, whereas the NCL fleet spends the majority of time in international waters. 

"Getting our crew members to work 110% remains our goal," said Del Rio who collected 350 million dollars, himself, last year. "Tying the crew to the mast and publicly flogging them with a cat-o'-nine tails remain options, if we can't get more work out of our crew."  

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

Interested in this issue? Read similar articles:

Breaking News: Carnival Incorporates in the U.S. and Subjects Itself to U.S. Tax, Labor, Wage, Safety & Environmental Regulations.

Royal Caribbean to Homeport Empress of the Seas in Havana.

Photo credit: Walk the plank - NCL; Keelhauling - Sea of Thieves

View Older Posts