Soaked Serenade of the Seas Suffers Major Power Loss to Cabins

Cruise passengers are saying that the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas, in New Orleans, suffered a major power loss today.

A passenger says that the cruise ship was partially flooded during a heavy rain storm. The Coast Guard says a broken water pipe caused the problem. This reportedly caused a large part of the cruise ship to experience electrical problems.

Royal Caribbean sent this message to the passengers scheduled to board the ship today:

Serenade of the Seas"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International. We would like to provide you an update regarding your sailing today onboard Serenade of the Seas out of New Orleans. The U.S. Coast Guard is currently onboard inspecting the ship. We are waiting for authorization from the Coast Guard to begin boarding. Because the cruise terminal in New Orleans is very limited in space, we ask that guest explore the local area until we can begin boarding. We will contact you again once we have received permission to begin the boarding process. We appreciate your patience and understanding, and we look forward to welcoming you onboard."

A few hours later, it sent this message:

"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International with an update your sailing today onboard Serenade of the Seas. The U.S. Coast Guard has given us permission to begin the boarding process. Please return to the terminal so that we may check you in for your cruise. Our entire onboard team look forward to welcoming you onboard, and will do their very best to make your sailing as enjoyable as possible."

Serenade of the SeasOne passenger who was apparently on the Serenade when it returned to port in New Orleans said that power was lost to around 175 cabins.  

Apparently, according to this passenger, 400 passengers will not been to cruise because their cabins have no power. 

Nonetheless, the Coast Guard cleared the Serenade to cruise.  

Royal Caribbean has not commented on the condition of the vessel or whether some of the passengers will remain in New Orleans. 

Update: Media reports say 417 cabins affecting some some 800 passengers have been affected.

 

Have a comment or additional information to share? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

The Cruise Industry's Internet Travel Trolls

Every year or so, a travel agent with a blog will take it upon himself to level personal insults against us in a half-baked effort to defend the cruise industry. 

One year ago, Richard Turen, a CLIA-certified travel agent, criticized me in an ill-conceived article which appeared in Travel Weekly. Mr. Turen's blog, the ironically entitled Travel Truth, is 100% promotional-hype designed just to sell cruises. Mr. Turen is one of several travel writers, drunk on the CLIA Kool-Aid, who will never mention unpleasant issues like crimes on ships against women and children, exploitation of crew members, and fires & other maritime casualties involving the cruise Eric Goldring Goldring Travelindustry. My response to his article, which you can read here, was one of my most popular articles last year.  

Yesterday, another CLIA travel agent and a Travel Weekly Silver Award Winner named Eric Goldring (photo right) of Goldring Travel in New Jersey, took a cheap shot against our firm on his blog Goldring Travel's This is My Yacht - Cruise & Travel. He accused our firm of "Trying to Defend Their Bringing Frivolous Cases Against Cruise Lines." He posted his article on Twitter and Facebook. He states that he's "taking aim" at me. 

Mr. Goldring responded to a recent article where I said that we are going to start mentioning the actual cases we file against cruise lines this year on Cruise Law News rather than just mentioning hot topics affecting the cruise lines in general. The Florida Bar's ethical rules permit lawyers to discuss their cases as long as they don't make statements that are likely to influence the jury to decide the case based on extrajudicial comments. The local federal rules expressly envision attorneys quoting portions of their lawsuits to the public or even attaching their lawsuits to their blogs or websites. 

The reason I decided to do this is that many cruisers, including travelers in the "Cruise Critic" type of community, like to think that lawsuits against cruise lines are filed by "stupid" people who don't accept personal responsibility for their own reckless behavior and the lawsuits are usually frivolous in nature and will end up making cruising more expensive. The cases we handle should dispel that notion. 

Mr. Goldring, however, insists that our firm's cases are "frivolous." He says that we don't disclose claims "which they lost in court (and there are many of those)." 

Now I should mention that travel-agent-Goldring is also an attorney who calls himself a "maritime lawyer." So he is not just a travel agent trying to use legal terms which he doesn't understand. He's a lawyer who should know the meaning of legal terms. Rule 3.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct states that lawyers can’t file a lawsuit “unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous.” Black’s Law Dictionary, in turn, defines “frivolous” as “lacking a legal basis or legal merit; not serious; not reasonably purposeful.” 

Filing a frivolous lawsuit has dire consequences. The federal and state rules include severe disciplinary and monetary sanctions against lawyers who engage in frivolous filings and baseless argument. It is also a violation of the ethical rules in Florida to make false and misleading allegations against another lawyer.

As a lawyer licensed to practice in Florida as well as New Jersey, Mr. Goldring is bound by these ethical rules. With this in mind, I challenge Mr. Goldring to find a single case where a judge, jury, or ethics committee of a bar association has ever found that we filed a frivolous case or made a frivolous argument. He will find none. He will not even find a single maritime case out of the many hundreds upon hundreds that we filed where a cruise line has even claimed that we filed a frivolous case or engaged in frivolous conduct.

I also challenge Mr. Goldring to tell the public about the cases which we allegedly "lost in court." He states that "there are many of those."  He will find none.    

Mr. Goldring fancies himself as a defender of the cruise industry. His website contains diatribes against others who criticize the cruise lines. He attacked the well respected consumer advocate and National Geographic ombudsman Christoper Elliott in an article entitled "Christopher Elliott Engages in Yellow Journalism on MSNBC; A Misleading Attack on the Cruise Industry." 

But his articles reveal him to be a buffoon. Goldring's poorly written article contains many factual inaccuracies, embarrassing legal errors, grammatical mistakes, incomplete sentences, and misspelled words. He evens refers to my partner, Lisa O'Neill, as "McNeil." Let me point out a few other of Goldring's confused rants:  

Goldring claims that our firm "even (has) an app which encourages you to make claims through their firm, regardless of the facts (sic) that you probably will not recover anything. . . " This is patently false. Another law firm, not associated whatsoever with us, created an iPhone and Android app for passengers to take with them on cruises. (I agree that it's tacky, but it's not our idea). 

Goldring says passengers shouldn't consider seeking compensation because "in many instances if you are 50% or more at fault you receive nothing." Goldring is absolutely wrong about this too. New Jersey, where he has his law firm, is one of twenty-two (22) states which follow the archaic "51% Bar Rule," under which an injured party cannot recover if he is 51% (not 50% as Goldring says) or more at fault. But maritime cases are not governed by New Jersey law. The General Maritime Law applies to maritime cases. Maritime law applies the "Pure Comparative Fault Rule" which allows an injured party to recover even if he is 99% at fault (although the recovery is reduced by the party’s degree of fault). A competent lawyer learns this in law school.

Goldring claims that crew members have to prove that the cruise ship caused them to develop cancer before they can make a claim against the cruise line for the disease.  Again, Goldring is wrong. Under the ancient maritime doctrine of "maintenance and cure," adopted into U.S. maritime law in the early nineteenth century and the Jones Act of 1920, crew members are absolutely entitled to receive the payment of living expenses, unearned wages, and medical treatment for all medical illnesses, including cancer, which manifest during their work on the ship. The crew member does not have to even prove that the cruise line is at fault. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that cruise lines often abandon the crew member in a distant country to die in order to avoid paying for the medical care. Punitive damages may also be assessed against recalcitrant cruise lines which callously refuse to provide maintenance and cure to ill crew members, a holding reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc., v. Edgar L. Townsend, 129 S.Ct. 2561 (2009), which is one of the most important maritime cases in 25 years. Any attorney calling himself a "maritime lawyer" should know this. 

Goldring uses legal terms he doesn't understand. He ends his embarrassing article saying "there is a simple concept in the law that applies in a number of negligence cases: Res ipsa loquitor (sic). (The thing speaks for itself)."

Putting aside that he misspelled "res ipsa loquitur," he misused the term to suggest that many passengers engage in such reckless conduct that it is obvious that they are to blame for the accident and their injuries. But the term deals with the presumed negligence of the defendant. In litigation involving the Carnival Triumph "poop cruise," a federal district judge recently applied "res ipsa loquitur" after reviewing the evidence of the cruise ship fire and resulting conditions suffered by the passengers. He concluded that these events ordinarily do not occur in the absence of negligence of the company operating the ship. The passengers were therefore relieved of the burden of proving that the cruise line was negligent. Lesson to be learned by Mr. Goldring, don't use words you can't spell, don't understand and probably can't pronounce. 

At the end of the day, it ultimately does not matter whether Mr. Goldring, or any travel agent or cruise fan, agrees with me. I like a difference of opinion about issues involving the cruise industry. I look for dialogue and discussion. I don't want a cult-of-personality audience. My goal is to raise awareness of issues that affect cruise passengers and crew member safety, security and well-being. Around 150,000 people, including many travel agents, around the world follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Over 1,700,000 people read over 6,100,000 pages of Cruise Law News last year. I encourage readers to leave comments. Well over 50% of the readers and people on Twitter & Facebook disagree with me. I have learned from listening to my readers and my opinions have changed. Debate is important, irrespective of a reader's ultimate conclusion about the issue. Debate expands the circle of knowledge and brings changes which improve the world of cruising. Over the past decade I have seen hundreds of cruise passengers attend and testify at eight Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. where laws have been passed, over the cruise lines' opposition, to make cruising safer.

The cruise lines, many travel agents and publications like Travel Weekly do not like critical information about shipboard crime and vessel safety to be freely exchanged via social media on blogs like ours and others. The cruise industry wants loyal CLIA members who will parrot the industry's message, write about fantasy vacations on the high seas, and make the industry money. It wants critics and free-thinkers to be intimidated. Tactics of people like Mr. Goldring making false and misleading statements to sell cruise tickets in order to line their pockets underscore the industry's dishonesty and greed. 

 

Note: Mr. Goldring writes this about himself on his travel blog:

" . . . I am not only a luxury travel agent, but attorney specializing in yacht and ship law . . . I have litigated maritime cases from Norway to Australia . . .  That is why I have such a good reputation with my clients and the cruise lines! I am, to self-promote, a knowledgeable, honest and fair travel agent."

Comment: Florida ethical rules prohibit a lawyer to state that he "specializes" in ship law unless he is board certified in maritime law by the Florida Bar's board of certification. Mr. Goldring is not board certified. 

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

Photo Credit: Eric Goldring / Goldring Travel Facebook

What's Worse? Royal Caribbean's Safety or Public Relations Department?

The bizarre story of the overboard Royal Caribbean passenger being rescued by the Disney Magic near Cozumel is still trending. 

Everyone who's cruised or is thinking of cruising has by now read at least one story about the 22 year-old passenger who fell off of the Oasis of the Seas and then was magically rescued by a Disney ship almost 5 hours later. 

The story was first published by a newspaper in Mexico and then translated and published here on Cruise Law News on January 9th. Dozens of publications and news networks have since covered the Royal Caribbean Man Overboardstory. 

Today the Wall Street Journal's Risk & Compliance Report published an article entitled Crisis of the Week: Royal Caribbean Goes Overboard by Ben DiPierto.

As DiPietro points out, it's bad enough that the cruise line lost another person overboard without even knowing it (a result I say of not investing in automatic man overboard technology required by the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act) but the Royal Caribbean passenger was rescued by competing cruise line Disney (which has installed the latest in MOB technology). We have reported on dozens of passengers and crew members who have disappeared on Royal Caribbean ships before, including the Oasis of the Seas, but Royal Caribbean seems more interested in filling its new so-called "smart" ships with gadgets to "wow" the passengers (like the simulated balconies, bumper cars, FlowRiders, rock walls and the North Star capsule) rather than investing in lifesaving personnel and technology.  

The man-overboard story represents the continuation of recent bad news for Royal Caribbean.The cruise line is still reeling from the recent horror story of a near drowning of a 4 year-old child in a life-guard-less pool on Oasis of the Seas on January 3rd. Disney not only has MOB lifesaving technology, but it is one of the few cruise lines with fully staffed lifeguards. Given it's refusal to staff its ships with lifeguards or implement MOB technology, Royal Caribbean is definitely 2 big steps behind Disney in safety. 

Plus, Royal Caribbean just weathered a highly publicized  sexual assault of a woman in her cabin by a mini-bar attendant with unsupervised access to a master key on the Quantum of the Seas on December 29th.  Women being assaulted by cabin attendants entering cabins via master keys has been a problem on Royal Caribbean ship for decades. 

Royal Caribbean appears clueless in handling the MOB public relations fall-out. The crisis management experts cited in DiPietro's article criticize the cruise line for lacking empathy and transparency in its response to this story which has rocketed across Facebook, Twitter, cable new and television. One expert in the Wall Street Journal article says “the company is lacking serious crisis management communications."

There is no doubt about that. But if the cruise line would install MOB devices, hire lifeguards and restrict cabin key-cards, Royal Caribbean wouldn't need to hire new PR people. 

 

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

Photo Credit: DailyMail 

Cruise Ship Lawsuits: What the Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know

I've written thousands of articles here on Cruise Law News about all type of issues - cruise ship air pollution, cruise waste discharge, mistreatment of crew employees and the cruise industry's exploitation of the Caribbean ports of call all the while cruise executives pocket obscene amounts of money.

But one of the issues that I rarely write about are the actual cases which we handle against the cruise lines. 

Starting today, I'm going to start posting a brief description of the cases which we file, whether it's a Cruise Ship Lawsuitlawsuit on behalf of a passenger injured on a cruise ship, or an arbitration claim filed when a cruise line refuses to provide basic medical care and treatment to a sick crew member. 

Many people like to think that cases filed against cruise lines are frivolous, or silly, or filed just for the purpose of trying to get a free cruise and will result in higher cruise fares. Hardly.

Some of the cases which we file reveal the cruise industry at its absolute worst. The cases include issues like the cruise line's mistreatment of female crew members who were sexually assaulted on so-called luxury cruise lines. Other cases involve the cruise lines' refusal to provide and/or delay in providing life-saving medical treatment to crew members diagnosed with cancer. 

We will explain the applicable law so you can understand how legal issues are different under maritime law on the high seas. We'll provide you with information that the cruise lines would prefer that you do not know.

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Norwegian Breakaway

Newspapers in New Jersey are reporting that the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a passenger from a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship on January 15th, approximately 75 miles east of Atlantic City.

The NCL ship doctor on the Norwegian Breakaway contacted the Coast Guard shortly before 8 P.M. to report that a 67 year old woman was in need of immediate medical assistance. A Coast Guard helicopter from Atlantic City arrived at the Norwegian Breakaway at around 9:30 P.M., hoisted the woman aboard, and transferred her back to in Atlantic City for further medical assistance.

The helicopter crew stated that their primary concern was keeping the passenger warm because of freezing temperatures. 

 

Coast Guard Considering New Rules for Crimes on Cruise Ships

The Hill reports today that the most recent edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for investigating crimes on cruise ships.

The Hill says that cruise ships face "new security protocols, such as informing passengers about crime aboard the ship, installing systems to detect if someone falls overboard, and crime scene preservation and evidence gathering training, under proposed rules from the Coast Guard."

"Congress found that serious incidents, including sexual assault and the disappearance of passengers at sea, have occurred on cruise vessel voyages, that passengers lack adequate understanding of their vulnerability to crime on board cruise vessels, that inadequate resources are available to assist cruise vessel crime victims, and that detecting and investigating cruise vessel crimes is difficult," the Coast Guard wrote.

The issues of crime on cruise ships and man overboards have been the topic of eight Congressional hearing since 2005 attended by members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV). The photo below is from the last Senate hearing before Senator Rockefeller and shows me (far right), ICV Chairman Ken Carver (right) and Laurie Dishman (far left). The cruise industry essentially boycotted the hearing.

The recent man overboard from the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas reveals that the cruise lines have a long way to go. The passenger went overboard without the cruise ship even knowing that it lost one of its guests. The vast majority of the cruise lines have developed all types of attractions and contraptions to wow the passengers but refuse to invest in state-of-the-art technologies to make cruising safer.

The public has 90 days to comment. 

Cruise Ship Crime

Passenger Medevaced from the Seabourn Odyssey

VesselTracker reports that a 23-year-old cruise passenger from the Seabourn Odyssey was medevaced to the hospital after suffering what is believed to be a heart attack today. 

The Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand received an emergency call from the Seabourn Odyssey ship this morning at approximately 12.30 a.m.

The cruise ship left Dunedin, New Zealand on the evening of January 13 evening and was in Foveaux Strait when the female passenger became ill.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Ivan T. Seabourn Odyssey (ship, 2009) IMO 9417086: in Split, 2011-11-16

Seabourn Odyssey

Two Carnival Cruise Passengers Disappear in Jamaica

Cruise Passengers in JamaicaNewspapers in Jamaica are reporting that two U.S. citizens from a Carnival cruise ship are unaccounted for after disembarking in Falmouth on Monday, January 12th.

The two men are identified in the Jamaica Observer as 42-year-old Shelby Person and 45-year-old Tyrone Rideout, both of Weeping Willow, Maryland.

They disembarked from the Carnival Victory shortly after its arrival in port around 10:00 a.m. The Jamaica Observer newspaper said that the men have not been seen or heard from since. Police officers conducted checks at various hospitals and the surrounding areas but they proved futile.  

There is speculation on the Jamaican Observer website about what might have happened to the men, ranging from the men might be partying out in the mountains to being victims of a crime.

There were a couple of incidents like this a couple of years ago when a passenger from the Carnival Freedom disappeared when the ship reached Ocho Rios in August 2012.  

A family of three temporarily could not be located after the Carnival Freedom ported in Ocho Rios in August 2012. They left with their luggage but were later located by police.

Please leave a comment below if you have any information or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

January 15, 2015 Update: Carnival said today: "Please note that these guests simply missed the ship but we have been in contact with them and are assisting in getting back home."

 

Photo Credit: Jamaica Observer

 

Dawn Princess' Gastro-Hell-Cruise Finally Over

A news station in Australia reports that passengers on a Princess cruise ship, the Dawn Princess, from Melbourne to New Zealand, are relieved that their cruise has ended after norovirus has plagued their ship.

The report stated: "It is believed as many as half of the 1800 passengers were forced into quarantine after suffering from vomiting and diarrhea as crews desperately tried to stop the gastro from spreading."

Some passengers reportedly criticized the ship's operations, saying that the cruise ship should have recruited extra cleaners in New Zealand,

 

Disney Magic Rescues Overboard Passenger From Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the SeasA Mexican newspaper reports that U.S. cruise passenger from Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas fell overboard as the cruise ship sailed to Cozumel. The Disney Magic, sailing the same route, then rescued the passenger, identified as Frank Jade. 

The newspaper reports that the Oasis didn't even realize that the passenger had gone overboard. 

After spotting the Royal Caribbean passenger floating in the sea, the Disney Magic stopped and lowered a rescue boat.

The Magic reportedly docked at the dock of Punta Langosta and transferred the passenger to a private clinic for medical care. 

It should be a major embarrassment that a passenger can go overboard without Royal Caribbean detecting that it lost a passenger at sea.  Unfortunately, this cruise line has made no efforts to comply with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act which requires the installation of automatic man overboard systems.

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040

Why the New Cruise Crime Disclosure Law is Necessary

There has been a lot of news coverage lately about Senator's Rockefeller's new cruise crime law. For the first time, the cruise lines will be forced to disclose the full range of assaults, rapes and other crimes which occur on cruise ships, and inform the public which cruise ships the crimes were the alleged crimes occurred.

The old law, which was part of the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act (CVSSA), included an attempt to compel the cruise lines to disclose all of this information four years ago. 

But the cruise industry altered the language at the last moment, inserting language requiring the Karan Seechurndisclosure of only those crimes opened by authorities and then subsequently closed.  

This language was an attempt to hide the crimes. The disturbing fact of the matter is that the FBI opens a minuscule number of investigations into crimes on cruise ships. The FBI testified at Congressional hearings which I attended that it opens only around 7% of crimes which are alleged to occur in the cruise industry. So by requiring the cruise crimes to be reported only when they are actually investigated and then closed, the cruise lines ensured that 93% of those crimes would never be revealed to the public.

This runaround was not lost on Senator Rockefeller. He vowed to fix the language before he retired. He was successful in improving the language so that the cruise lines have to report all crimes regardless of whether they are investigated or closed. This was the original intent of the CVSSA, so that the public can see which cruise ships have more crimes than others.

However, the cruise line's trade lobbying organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), claims that the amendments are not necessary. CLIA said in a press release:

"CLIA's position is that the new provision is unnecessary, because it largely duplicates information already available to the public . . . "

Is this true? Consider this example.

A number of newspapers recently announced that a mini-bar attendant entered a woman's cabin with a master key and molested her.  The FBI agent refused to identify the cruise line or the cruise ship in his arrest affidavit. All of the newspapers referred to the sexual assault as occurring on an "unidentified cruise line." As I explained in my prior article, FBI agents routinely do this as a favor to the cruise line which regularly hire former FBI officials to head up their security departments (like Royal Caribbean). Under the old law which is still in effect, because the FBI file had an open file on the crime, there is no requirement for the cruise line to disclose it. The crime will not appear on the Coast Guard database. The cruise line can hide it.

But a number of people contacted me on our Facebook page and explained that the only cruise line sailing out of Bayonne at the time was the Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas. I quickly found the crew member on his Facebook page, verified he worked for Royal Caribbean, and published his name in our story. There are a number of photographs which the crew member posted from his Facebook page and Google+. (One photo ironically shows him drinking a Corona while wearing a FBI shirt).  A number of other web sites then began reporting that the Quantum was the location of the alleged crime. It was only then, when the cat was out of the bad, that the cruise line decided to release a PR Karan Seechurnstatement stating that it had terminated the crew member.    

When the new law goes into effect, the cruise lines can't play such cat-and-mouse games. The FBI can't play hide-the-ball. The alleged crime has to be reported on a new Department of Transportation database. 

The new cruise law is absolutely necessary for the public to finally see the big picture of cruise ship crime. Crimes involving cabin attendants, room service attendants and mini-bar attendants entering cabins with master keys are hardly rare.

Last year CNN reported that of 959 crimes reported to the FBI since 2011, only 31 were disclosed on a web site maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Crimes occur with disturbing frequency on cruise ships. Isn't it time for cruise passengers to know?

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

 

Photo Credit: Google+

HAL Crew Member Sentenced to 30 Years for Violent Attack on Passenger

The crime started with the room service attendant using his master key card to enter the passenger's cabin.

As reported by the Sun Sentinel, when the woman returned to her cabin for the next 30 to 60 minutes, the Holland America Line attendant Ketut Pujayasa beat and choked the woman. He tried to snap her neck, broke teeth in her face, knocked her out, choked her with a telephone cord, sexually abused her and tried to throw her off her balcony into the ocean.

The Sentinel wrote that the victim said crew member Pujayasa "spoke not one word" and was deathly Ketut Pujayasacalm "not frantic or fumbling" as he repeatedly assaulted her.  She thought she was going to die, The newspaper reports that the victim suffers from "post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and cannot be left alone for more than a few minutes."

Federal guidelines suggest punishment of 14 years to 17.5 years in prison, but prosecutors requested  U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez to jail Pujayasa for 30 years.

The judge sentenced Pujayasa to 30 years and five months in jail.

 

Here's our article last February: Holland America Line Crew Member Raped Passenger & Tried to Throw Her Overboard.

If you have a thought please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Connecticut FBI Closes Investigation into Disappearance of George Smith

The family of George Smith announced today that the Connecticut FBI notified their family that it is closing its investigation into Mr. Smith's George's death aboard the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.

Mr. Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise in July 2005 under mysterious while the Royal Caribbean ship was sailing to Kusadasi, Turkey.  

The Smith family said on their Facebook page that "we were told by the Connecticut FBI that there was not enough evidence to prove that George had been murdered and that his death may have been the result of an accident!"

The FBI has a dismal record solving crimes at sea. In my opinion there was nothing accidental about Mr. Smith's disappearance.

The Smith family said that they intend to move the investigation into their son's disappearance to another jurisdiction, such as New York. They are offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

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

Video Credit: CBS News / 48 Hours  

Disney Kicks 4 Month-Old Baby Off Cruise Ship

There is a story in the Naples Daily News about Disney deciding to kick a 4 month old baby off one of its cruise ships that leaves me scratching my head.  When the parents booked the cruise, Disney permitted infants 12 weeks or older to cruise but it later changed its policy to 6 months or older effective January 1, 2015.

The newspaper says that the extended family sailed out of Miami on December 30th with 31 family members. The baby's grandmother is sick with cancer and the cruise was part of her "bucket list."

But when the parents took their baby to the infirmary and the ship doctor treated the infant for seasickness, the cruise took a turn for the worst. The ship doctor said that the child was too young to Disney Cruise Shipbe on the cruise and had to immediately leave the ship along with the parents, notwithstanding a Disney representative's assurances that all parents who had existing reservations would not be affected by the changes in Disney's policy's about the permitted age of infants.

The parents were sent into Nassau (a port I named the most dangerous port in the world) and forced to stay in what the parent's say was a “fleabag motel” after paying a $1,200 bill from the local public hospital.

The Naples Daily News quotes the father saying:

“No one would care if they took us off the ship and we were in complete safety in comparable accommodations and brought home,” he said. “They were deceitful about it. No one can believe that Disney would send a 4-month-old baby off into the dark in a foreign country that they say in their brochures is dangerous.” 

It seems inexplicable to me that a cruise line which says that it caters to families with kids can send a 4 month old and his parents into Nassau under these circumstances.

I posted the story on the Cruise Law News Facebook page and received several dozen comments, ranging from criticism of the cruise line to blaming the parents.

My take on the issue is to simply ask, is it any surprise that the cruise industry has an image problem?   

 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Nozzleman75 Creative Commons 1.0 

Three Reasons Cruise Passengers will be Safer in 2015

Cruise passengers will be safer on the high seas in 2015, for three reasons.

1.  Disney cruise line began employing lifeguards. After a 4 year old sustained a catastrophic brain injury when he nearly drown, Disney began hiring lifeguards to supervise cruise ship pools. Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival don't, even though children have recently drowned or nearly-drowned in their ships' pools. Disney should be acknowledged for taking responsible steps to make cruising safer for kids. Expect more cruise lines to come to their senses and hire lifeguards this year.   

2.  Passengers can sue cruise lines for the medical malpractice of cruise ship doctors and Cruise Ship Safetynurses. Under the antiquated "Barbetta doctrine," Passengers could not sue the ship doctors who were considered to be "independent contractors."

Passengers injured by the medical malpractice on a ship leaving Miami were left to seek accountability by trying to sue the doctor who inevitably does not live in the U.S. (Try suing  a doctor or nurse in South Africa, Egypt or India). It was next to impossible to serve a ship doctor with a lawsuit or obtain personal jurisdiction over him in a U.S. court. Many ship doctors do not have liability insurance and have few assets. This case  reveals the outlandish steps that the ship doctors and cruise lines took to avoid liability even in clear cut cases where the doctor acted irresponsibly.

With the recent 11th Circuit Court of Appeal's decision in Franza v. Royal Caribbean, the law has changed. The court abolished the "Barbetta doctrine" and provided a basis for families whose loved ones are maimed or killed to seek compensation from the cruise line itself. The cruise industry has been fighting to keep their immunity for decades. This represents a big loss for the $45,000,000,000 non-tax paying cruise industry, and a big win for the rights of cruise ship consumers. Cruise ship medical care should improve now that the cruise lines will finally face legal and financial consequences when their doctors negligently injure passengers.

3.  Congress passes a new cruise safety law.  The new law will force cruise lines to disclose all crimes on cruise ships and requires the name of the ship to be identified on a data base maintained by the Department of Transportation. Previously, the cruise industry's trade organization watered the old law down such that only crimes which were officially investigated by law authorities who then closed their investigation had to be reported. This meant that cruise lines kept 95% of crimes on cruise ships secret. The cruise lines also refused to disclose which cruise ship was involved. With the new law, consumers will finally be able to see which cruise lines and which cruise ships have the most crimes and present the greatest danger to families. 

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