Princess Cruises Avoids West Africa Ports Because of Ebola

Princess Cruises announced that it is canceling port calls to West Africa because of the Ebola epidemic.

The cruise line is avoiding Cotonou, Benin; Lome, Togo; Team, Ghana; and Dakar, Senegal.

Princess had scheduled a 30-day West Africa Adventure cruise departing May 5, 2015.  

Ebola As we reported two weeks ago, Regent Seven Seas, Seaborne, Fred Olsen and Holland America Line canceled stops in West Africa. 

Princess issued this statement:

"As you may know, there has been an epidemic of Ebola virus disease in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As the safety and well- being of our guests and crew are our top priority, and in working closely with and following the guidance issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we have made the necessary decision to cancel our calls to Cotonou, Benin; Lome, Togo; Team, Ghana; and Dakar, Senegal."

 

Don't forget to read our prior article: Ebola on the High Seas: Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Becoming Infected?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Mikael Häggström Creative Commons 3.0

A Sick Ship? Adventure of the Seas Can't Shake the Bug

Earlier this month, we were contacted by passengers aboard the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas because of back-to-back norovirus outbreaks requiring "deep cleaning" of the cruise ship.You can read our article about the situation here

A number of passengers complained of some pretty gross conditions:

One lady said "i was swimming and had to go round feces, which was also in the jacuzzi...it was reported but nothing was said . . . "

Another man said "the most serious issue on board the ship was the failure of its sewage system, a point admitted by its officers during the Q and A session. The ship stank like a Royal Caribbean Cruise Norovirussewage farm throughout the 14 days. We we also found the bed linen in our cabin filthy (pillows were brown and needed to be replaced) . . . This ship has problems!"

And then there was the inevitable debate whether the virus outbreak was caused by the failure of some passengers to wash their hands versus noro-contaminated food or water versus a virus-laden ship itself.

Passengers are now telling us that the norovirus outbreak continues on the third consecutive sailing of the Adventure which is scheduled for yet another so-called "deep cleaning" this weekend. Passengers received an email from the company explaining the the ship will undergo the enhanced cleaning before it leaves Southampton on Sunday, October 26th. Will the next cruise become the fourth consecutive "Norovirus on the High Seas?"

Some of the people who contacted us have small children, elderly parents, elderly grandparents or they are recovering from cancer, or have suppressed immune systems. They are asking whether they can cancel and obtain a refund or reschedule. They are asking us what to do.

Unfortunately the cruise line holds all of the cards in this situation. Royal Caribbean will certainly keep your money if you don't show up for the cruise and it will absolutely not issue you a refund. The only issue is whether the cruise line will permit a few people to reschedule on a case-by-case basis. 

Royal Caribbean just announced yesterday that it made almost $500,000,000 in profits for the third quarter of this year (and pays no U.S. taxes on that loot) so you might think that it has sufficient money to be understanding and reasonable under this circumstances. After all, its ship is sick. Who on earth wants to voluntarily subject their family to disease? But Royal Caribbean has a strict attitude against permitting fearful customers to reschedule even if there's something wrong with its ship. 

One person who contacted us said he was nervous about his family "catching the bug" but fell that he has no chance to reschedule. He said he "will let you know how it went!"

Customers should not become human guinea pigs like this. A good vacation should not depend on the success of another last minute "deep cleaning" of a sick ship which repeatedly failed.

The ship is enormous - 15 decks, 10 pools and whirlpools, 15 bars, clubs and lounges, and thousands and thousands of cabins packed into its 1,000 plus feet. Its an enormous undertaking to clean a ship like this. The chance of a 100% eradication of the nasty bug is slim, no matter how hard the crew is pressed into working overtime.  It takes only a few microbes of noro to sicken the next round of guests. The norovirus could be hidden under the commode seat cover or in the fabric of the duvet covers where the prior passengers were blasting millions of microbes of noro-infected vomit and diarrhea into the bathroom's and cabin's crooks and crannies. 

There are few laws protecting consumers on the high seas. There should be a norovirus policy where a passenger can obtain a hassle-free refund whenever there is a consecutive disease outbreak.  

If you get sick on the upcoming cruise, consider hiring a lawyer. No, not me. There's a good firm in the U.K. which has successfully handled cases this like. You can contact them here.

The cruise line is counting on the hundreds of its customers who fall victim to the pukefest not knowing what to do. After all, you and your family are really not guinea pigs, even if the cruise line treats you like one.   

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Carnival and Royal Caribbean Threaten to Pull Out of Belize Due to Ebola Screening

7 News Belize reports that after Belize’s Ministry of Immigration announced new stringent measures for Ebola screening at the Belize Harbor, Carnival and Royal Caribbean "threatened to pull scheduled cruises fast and furious."

In an article entitled Cruise Ships Balk At New Ebola Screening, Threaten Mass Cancellations, the leading news station in Belize said that the new stringent Ebola protocols caused delays due to the tight schedules and the large number of cruise passengers who come ashore.

There is mention in the article of Belize customs representatives taking and inspecting the passengers' passports during the screening. Belize’s government has already stopped issuing visas for nationals from Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Travelers who have visited any of these four countries in the past 30 days will be prohibited from entering Belize. This will require an inspection of passports, not just birth certificates many people use to cruise.  

The cruise industry protocol so far relies upon passengers to voluntarily disclose this information on questionnaires, rather than the cruise lines inspecting the passengers' passports before the cruise to verify that they have not traveled to these countries in West Africa. Unlike Belize, the U.S. has not banned travelers from the infected African countries.

7 News Belize reports that Royal Caribbean threatened to cancel earlier this week; however, the Ebola Carnival Magicscreening process was streamlined and the Navigator of the Seas called on port  as scheduled. 

The Minister of Tourism in Belize told the news station that " . . . as a government we have to be extremely cautious. The tourism industry is a very sensitive industry and it's the bread and butter of many destinations." 

Last week, Belize barred the quarantined Carnival Magic passenger from coming ashore after it was disclosed that she handled the blood samples of the deceased Ebola victim who was treated at the Texas hospital in Dallas. 

According to the news station, around 1,000,000 tourists will arrive in Belize via cruise ship this year.

 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Longbowe Creative Commons 3.0

The Predatory "Sweet Spot" - Bahamian Tourism Police Arrest U.S. Cruise Tourist for Pot Possession

Bahamas Weekly reports that last weekend the police in Nassau, Bahamas arrested a U.S. citizen for possession of marijuana. The report says that he was a 33 year old man from Jacksonville, Florida.

The Florida man was arrested for possession of pot on Saturday, October 18, 2014.

Around 4:30 PM last Saturday, the "Tourism Policing Unit Officers" went to an unidentified cruise ship moored at Prince George Wharf where they boarded the ship and arrested the cruise tourist for a Nassau Bahamasquantity of marijuana. 

The Bahamas supplements its income by arresting cruise passengers with small amounts of pots. The police board cruise ships without either probable cause or search warrants and then fine them $500 to $2000 under threats of jail sentences of 30 - 60 days terms at Her Majesty's Prison

Violent crime is out of control in Nassau. There are many armed robberies, rapes and murders in the capital of the Bahamas each week. The country is heading toward a record number of homicides this year. The murder rate for the country of the Bahamas is substantially higher than the murder rate for Florida.

There were 970 murders in Florida with a population of over 19,000,000 in 2013. New Providence (including Nassau) in the Bahamas had over 100 murders last year even though it has only 250,000 residents.

The tourism police unit was formed to create the impression that it's safe for tourists to come ashore in Nassau.  The truth is that these local tourism police officers pend more time busting tourists than arresting armed criminals or Bahamians selling the tourists pot at the straw market or up and down Bay Street.

It's a racket we have written about many times

A reader of Cruise Law News sent his comment last month:

"As an expat who lives here in Nassau, I'm privy to a fair amount of insider news from the embassy as well as Bahamian govt employees. One friend who previously worked at the US Embassy, told me that her only job was processing US Citizens (mostly middle aged women) through the system to 1) pay their 500 fine, and 2) get them back onto their ships or back to the states after they had been caught carrying and or purchased some pitiful small amount of marijuana etc . . . and that the Bahamian government saw this as a "sweet spot" for getting revenues into the country with little effort. Entrapment being legal here is the cautionary phrase i tell people visiting us. And yes, you can't walk down by the docks WITHOUT getting harassed by guys selling weed . . . but you'll never see the bahamian cops busting them . . . cause it would affect revenues streams to the country . . . so be warned travelers!"

Update: A headline in the Nassau Tribune today: Two Murders In Six Hours. Murder count up to 93 so far.  

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / BrokenSphere Creative Commons 3.0

Carnival Magic Returns to Galveston - "#EbolaCruise" Scare Over?

This morning the Carnival Magic returned to the U.S. as the sun arose over the sleepy little town of Galveston.  

The Texas Presbyterian Hospital worker who handled Ebola-infected Thomas Duncan samples disembarked the ship after attempts to fly her back to the states from Roatan failed. As the Magic headed back from Mexico, a helicopter arrived courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to pick up her blood samples to make certain that she was not infected with the Pier 23 Galveston Carnival Magicdeadly disease. 

Ms. Clueless-Cruising-Ebola-Handling-Healthcare-Worker is probably the most hated cruise passenger in the world right now after a boat load of fun seeking cruisers had to miss two ports of call and endure wild speculation whether they all could become infected during what Twitter was calling the #EbolaCruise

Carnival is telling everyone that the healthcare worker was at low risk of becoming infected because the virus is difficult to contract and she was already at day 19 of the 21 day incubation period. But this is a cruise line which refuses to consider issuing a refund to a passenger who discloses that they may have come into contact with Ebola. And this begs the question why Ms. Typhoid-Mary-Cruiser was on the cruise during the incubation period of such a deadly disease in the first place,

Carnival didn't bother to have an Ebola health questionnaire in place to screen the worker from the cruise ship (assuming it would be answered honestly) , a major faux pas from a cruise line still stinging from the Triumph "poop cruise" and Concordia "crash cruise" blunders.

Carnival also invented a new phrase during the #EbolaCruise scare - "self quarantine."  I would have loved to have seen the Cruise Director's face when the CDC informed the Carnival ship that the Texas Presbyterian Hospital worker was aboard. I wonder where they found her? On the Lido deck by the pool? In a jacuzzi with a pina colada in her hand? Loading her plate at the buffet?

Carnival assures us that she had "self quarantined" herself in her cabin. B.S. I say. The cruise line tried to get her the hell off of the ship and into a waiting jet in Roatan until Honduras government officials nixed the emergency flight.

I wonder whether Carnival insisted that she use a red bio-hazard bag when she emptied her bowels and bladder during the cruise? Or did she just use the cabin bathroom and her feces and urine were dumped untreated at sea by Carnival with everyone else's raw sewage?  Oysters-Ebola anyone?

There is a joke circulating on the internet that the first symptom an Ebola patient suffers from is an uncontrollable urge to go on a cruise.

Carnival was not going to let this lady wander around the decks for no other reason than drunk angry passengers might have thrown her overboard.  

 

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Photo Credit: Galveston.com Pier 23 Web Cam

Ebola on the High Seas: Will the New Cruise Health Questionnaire Work?

The cruise industry finally instituted Ebola-specific protocols after the highly publicized incident yesterday when a healthcare worker from Dallas was discovered to be on a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean. 

TravelPulse published an article discussing the new protocols Cruise Industry Adopts Stricter Ebola Screenings.

Cruise lines like Carnival are finally asking cruise passengers whether they have come into contact with an Ebola patient or worked at a healthcare facility where such a person was treated, within the Cruise Ebolalast 21 days. Cruise lines are also finally inquiring whether the passengers have visited Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone within the last three weeks.  It was a glaring error not to have such a basic protocol before yesterday.    

But there is a problem with the questionnaire. It doesn't address what happens if a passenger checks "yes" to these questions.  

Obviously the questions are designed to bar the passenger and his companions from traveling on the cruise ship. The issue remains will the passenger's cruise fare and travel expenses be refunded? Will the cruise passengers receive a full cruise credit?

We know from norovirus cases that many cruise passengers, although they are symptomatic, refuse to disclose that they have a fever and a runny nose. They then get on the cruise ship and infect others. 

Many passengers are inherently selfish. They have planned the cruise far in advance. They have obtained vacation time from work and blocked a week of "family time." They have looked forward to the cruise for many months. They have flown or driven long distances to the cruise port at considerable expense. They realize that they will be barred from embarking and their vacation will be ruined if they provide full and complete answers about their health.  

Cruise lines are inherently selfish too. Although they collect literally billions and billions each year and pay no U.S. income tax, cruise lines are notoriously stringent in not permitting cruise vacationers to cancel if they experience last minute medical emergencies or even deaths in the family.  There is great debate about the need for travel insurance. The attitude toward people who don't purchase insurance and then suffer a medical problem is often "screw 'em." 

The result is that cruise passengers are often not honest about their health and the cruise lines are often unreasonable in not permitting their guests to reschedule and issue them a cruise credit.

So they sneak aboard, already infected with the nasty norovirus.

But unlike the noro bug, Ebola is deadly. The consequences of carrying Ebola aboard a cruise ship packed with 5,000 passengers and crew members is too great. 

The health questionnaire should include language which states that if you checked "yes" to any of the Ebola questions, don't worry. No you won't be able to cruise, but you are entitled to a full refund and your travel expenses will be refunded as well.  

Cruise Critic posted an article today about the new questionnaire. The articles states: "Notably, cruise lines rely on passengers and crew to provide honest and accurate answers in health screenings and on health questionnaires. CLIA said intentionally providing false or misleading answers is a criminal offense and is subject to prosecution."

Threatening cruise passengers with criminal prosecution is ridiculous. It's the wrong idea. First of all, there is no criminal law which applies and no prosecutor will ever take such a case. You can't scare a consumer into doing the right thing. 

Instead, the cruise industry has to anticipate that cruise passengers will be less than candid. Cruise lines need to provide an incentive by way of a refund. You can call it the "Ebola refund."

This will require a substantial change in the greedy attitude of the cruise industry. But it's absolutely necessary to prevent what happened yesterday on the Carnival Magic.Cruise Ebola Questionnaire

 

Cruise Industry is Completely Unprepared for Ebola Outbreak

A week ago, I went to Twitter and complained that the cruise industry had not issued an Ebola-specific protocol for the cruise lines to follow. The threat of Ebola was growing, but the cruise lines seemed asleep at the helm.  Neither the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) nor its CEO Christine Duffy had even mentioned Ebola.

I had received many inquiries from the public about whether it was safe to cruise. So I tweeted:      

"Passengers fearing #Ebola asking me whether its safe to #cruise / Why no statement byCruise Ebola Scare - Carnival @CruiseFacts or @CLIACEO?"

The popular cruise blog Cruise Hive (@CruiseHive) followed up on the issue and asked via Twitter about the cruise industry's protocols: "I asked the major cruise lines about their Ebola preparation but not one replied! Costa did but no details . . ."

I wrote a short article Ebola on the High Seas: Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Becoming Infected?

CLIA and its CEO didn't tweet or blog or post a story on Facebook about the threat. This is during the heart of the popular CLIA "Cruise Week" when travel agents are in a marketing frenzy to sell cruises. Better-not-scare-the-business-away seemed to be the attitude.

So today we learn that a Dallas health care worker who handled clinical specimens from Ebola-infected Thomas Duncan is on a Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Magic.  She apparently went ashore with other passengers in Roatan. When the cruise ship sailed to Belize, the government barred her from going ashore. The government of Belize and the U.S. State Department were in discussions to permit her to board an air ambulance and be flown back to the U.S. When Belize prudently refused, she was stuck on the ship, which sailed on to Cozumel which also barred the ship from port. The Magic is now returning to Texas.

Carnival calls this a "self quarantine." That's hardly true. The U.S. scrambled to fly a jet to medevac her back to Texas. Carnival negligently permitted her aboard in the first place and is not going to let her wander around the ship while she is still within the incubation period.        

Carnival didn't even have a questionnaire to ask passengers whether they had come into contact with an Ebola patient or had worked at a hospital or healthcare facility which treated such a patient in the last three weeks.

Certainly it was easily foreseeable that a nurse might drive down to Galveston for a cheap cruise on a Carnival fun ship.

The reality is that cruise ships are perfect petri dishes for diseases to flourish. 5,000 passengers and crew members are mashed together for a week on the Carnival Magic, using public restrooms and spooning food using the same ladle from gigantic buffets. No wonder in the last ten years we have seen ships plagued not only by outbreaks of gastrointestinal diseases, noro virus and e-coli, but measles & rubella, Legionnaires Disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and other infectious diseases.

It's outlandish that the cruise industry has no protocols specifically related to Ebola to keep hospital workers who worked around Ebola the heck off of cruise ships.  And if this lack of preparation is any indication, I shudder to think how ill prepared the cruise ships are to respond if an outbreak occurs.

This afternoon, ABC News published a photo taken by a Carnival Magic cruise passenger Jeremy Malone who saw 30 to 40 crew with buckets of disinfectant to deal with the Ebola scare. I think the photo says it all. No protective clothing, no protective boots, no protective masks, etc. Just tired, hard-working, low-paid Filipino crew members assigned yet another extra job without sufficient training or equipment.

Think that the cruise lines' slogan that the "health and safety of our guests is our highest priority" is true regarding Ebola? Think again.

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

 Photo Credit:  Jeremy Malone via ABC News

Texas Hospital Worker Who Handled Ebola Samples is on the Carnival Magic

ABC News reports that a Dallas health care worker who handled clinical specimens from Ebola-infected Thomas Duncan is on a Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Magic.

The cruise line says that the female worker is allegedly being "self-quarantined" and is being monitored for signs of infection. She apparently has no symptoms yet. 

She departed on a cruise ship from Galveston, Texas, on October 12th was out of the country before being notified of active monitoring required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She works at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, which treated Mr. Duncan (who died) where nurses Carnival MagicNina Pham and Amber Vinson tested positive for Ebola.

The hospital is being roundly criticized for having sloppy and irresponsible procedures to respond to an Ebola patient.

Carnival released a statement, saying:

"We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation on board." 

But there is a dispute whether Carnival had any choice but to keep the worker on the cruise ship. 

Belize (the port of call yesterday) banned the passenger and her traveling partner from entering the country. The ship has already stopped in Mahogany Bay, Honduras on Wednesday and is scheduled to sail on to Cozumel. 

A newspaper in Belize contains dramatic information indicating that the Prime Minister in Belize denied entry into Belize for the "stricken U.S. nationals to be air lifted to the U.S.A. for treatment." 

A news reporter in Belize quotes on her Facebook page an official source in Belize that after talks were concluded between Belize and the US State Department officials, Belize will not be permitting access of the Dallas hospital worker into the country to fly back to the states. 

So it seems unlikely that this case simply involves a situation where the woman is simply "self quarantining" as Carnival suggests. It appears more likely that efforts were unsuccessfully made to get her off of the cruise ship. 

Carnival Cruise EbolaThe cruise lines need to institute a protocol where they simply ask all passengers whether they have worked around an Ebola patient in the last three weeks. The cruise lines should prohibit them from cruising and refund their cruise fare. 

I have written about Ebola and the safety of the cruising public issue last week: Ebola on the High Seas: Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Becoming Infected?

Update: Carnival sent me a statement this morning which you can read here.  Meanwhile, Mexico bars the cruise ship from disembarking passengers.  Over two weeks ago, I was tweeting and asking why the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) had not issued Ebola-specific protocols. 

ABC News reports that the reaction on the Carnival cruise ships ranges from passengers being completely unfazed sitting by the pool to others being panicked and crying. The news accounts includes a photograph taken by cruise passenger Jeremy Malone who "saw 30 to 40 crew members with buckets of disinfectant who were lined up on along his hallway as they prepared to clean the ship . . . " It looks like these poor crew members not in protective suits were completely unprepared if this was really Ebola.

Carnival Cruise Ebola Scare

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Update: Cruise Industry is Completely Unprepared for Ebola Outbreak

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Thomas Doerfer Creative Commons 3.0 (top); Jeremy Malone via ABC News (bottom) 

Netherlands Fines Royal Caribbean Over $750,000 for Overworking Crewmembers

A newspaper in the Netherlands reports that Royal Caribbean has to pay at least €600,000 in fines for violating labor rules and regulations while the Oasis of the Seas was in the Netherlands. The newspaper says that ship employees lacked proper residence papers and worked excessive hours. Some of the crew members worked "up to 16 hours per day" the inspectors found.

The newspaper explains that the Oasis was undergoing maintenance and repairs while in dry-dock in in Rotterdam last month. Inspectors at the Netherlands labor department informed Royal Caribbean Cruises in advance that when its cruise ship would be in Rotterdam it would have to adhere to Dutch Oasis of the Seasrules and legislation.

According to the newspaper, when ten inspectors boarded the Oasis they found certain working conditions to be in violation of Dutch law. This lead to a second visit by 45 inspectors.

The inspections reportedly revealed that at least 48 crew members did not have proper Dutch work permits. The majority of these crewmembers were from the Philippines and South America.

The reported fine of at least €600,000 turns out to be over $760,000.The inspectors can access a fine of €12,000 per violation. The precise fine will be determined when the investigation is completed.

This fine may be an eye-opener for many people who are unfamiliar with the inner-working of the cruise industry. But it is business as usual as far as we are concerned.

When we interview Royal Caribbean crew members, without exception they tell us that the cruise line requires them to work in excess of the hours permitted by the Maritime Labour Convention. The ship employees have to arrive at work early and attend meetings but they are not permitted to clock in. When they work over 10 hours, they have to clock out and keep working. When they are pressed to work extra hours preparing for USPH inspections, they are required to work off the clock.

It remains to be seen whether Rotterdam receives any more work from Royal Caribbean in the future. Royal Caribbean has decided that the dry-dock repairs needed for sister ship Allure of the Seas will be performed in Cadiz, Spain.

Royal Caribbean has not responded to our request for a statement. 

October 15 2014 Update: A Dutch law firm indicates that 77 Philippines and 8 South-Americans worked on the Oasis without a permit. With a €12,000 fine per person, the fine could amount to one million euro’s. The Dutch firm is urging Royal Caribbean to appeal the fine, claiming that there is an exception for crew members working aboard sea going vessels.

October 16 2014 Update:  There is a very active discussion about this story on our Facebook page. Over 1,600 people have liked it, over 500 shared it and over 400 people have commented.  Most seem to be crew members. As the cruise line overworks and underpays its crew members, the cruise executives at Royal Caribbean enjoy over $100,000,000 in cruise stock. Read: The Rich Get Richer

 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040 Creative Commons 3.0  

Cruise Ship Law: Don't File Suit at the Last Minute in the Wrong Courthouse

Last week, the Third District Court of Appeal in Florida enforced the terms of a Royal Caribbean passenger ticket and dismissed a lawsuit filed at the last minute in the wrong courthouse.

The case was filed on behalf of a passenger against Royal Caribbean for personal injuries sustained in a cruise ship accident. The passenger hired a local law firm which filed suit a few days before the expiration of the one-year limitation period set forth in the ticket. But instead of filing in federal court as required by the terms of the ticket, her attorneys filed in state court in the Miami-Dade courthouse Roya; Caribbeanwhere most negligence cases can be pursued.

Royal Caribbean filed a motion to dismiss the case. The trial court denied the motion, and the cruise line appealed.

The appellate court reversed the trial court. The appellate court ruled that the cruise line had reasonably communicated the important terms and conditions of the ticket to the passenger before she boarded the cruise ship. The ticket stated in bold and capital letters that the ticket contained important terms and conditions, including a one year limitations period to file suit and a forum selection clause indicating that suit must be filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The appellate court held that it is irrelevant whether the passenger actually received or read the ticket contract, as long as the ticket contained conspicuous terms and conditions.  

The decision was consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991).  

The appellate court also ruled that Royal Caribbean had no obligation to remove the case to federal court after the lawsuit was mistakenly filed in the wrong state courthouse. Because of her counsel's error in filing suit in state court rather than federal court, and the running of the one year limitations period in the interim, the passenger was prohibited from filing suit against the cruise line in the right courthouse.

The only lawsuit the passenger can possibly pursue under these circumstances at this time is a legal malpractice claim against her attorneys.

Practice Tips for Passengers:

  • The cruise line must receive a written notice of your intention to seek compensation within six (6) months of your accident. Have your lawyer write the letter.
  • You must file your lawsuit within one (1) year of the accident.
  • The lawsuit must be filed in the location specified in your ticket.  Most cruise lines like Carnival, Celebrity, NCL and Royal Caribbean require that lawsuits be filed in federal court in Miami. 

Read the terms of your ticket!  The terms are legally enforceable.  

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040 Creative commons 3.0

Terrorists Arrested Aboard the Costa Magica?

Several readers of Cruise Law News sent us articles today reporting that Greek police officers boarded the Costa Magica while it was in the Port in Piraeus, Greece and arrested four passengers who had possession of firearms.   

The Croatian newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija Daily reports that the incident occurred on Thursday October 2nd.

Approximately 3,000 other passengers embarked from Venice on a seven-day Mediterranean cruise. Once the ship reached Greece, the Greek police boarded the Magica and arrested one woman and three men for possession of firearms (pistols).

The cruise ship was delayed departing from Piraeus because of the incident. The incident was not announced on the ship and the passengers seemed to be unaware of it. 

The newspaper says that the news about the arrest of four passengers could not be found either in the Greek or in the Italian media. The newspaper interviewed crew members from Dubrovnik who explained the circumstances surrounding the arrests.

The newspaper say that the information was suppressed because it was bad for the cruise industry's business. 

Those interviewed explained that there are 3,000 passengers and 6000 suitcases simultaneously screened in just a few hours and it is impossible to effectively screen so many passengers and luggage in such little time.

This is particularly worrying, the newspaper suggested, when the Islamic states repeatedly threaten harm to the Americans and their allies.

The article is entitled The Terrorists Tried to Hijack the Cruise Ship with 3,000 Passengers.

There is no indication why the 4 passengers had the guns nor is there any proof or explanation in the newspaper that they were in fact terrorists. 

The Costa Magica participated in anti-terrorist exercises last year. 

Anyone with more information about this incident please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

October 14, 2014 Update: Costa Crociere posted this statement on Twitter: "Segnalate alle autorità 5 persone che hanno tentato l'imbarco su Costa Magica con documenti falsi. Nessuna arma è stata trovata." Translated: "5 people reported to the authorities who have attempted boarding on Costa Magica with false documents. No weapon was found."

Costa Magica

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Abxbay Creative Commons 3.0

Norovirus on the Adventure of the Seas?

We have been contacted by passengers on the Adventure of the Seas, complaining about an a norovirus outbreak.

This morning we received this latest comment:

"My family have just returned from a European cruise onboard Royal Caribbean's Adventure of The Seas. There was a nasty outbreak of noro virus inboard affecting many guests which led to a full deep clean in port here in the UK today before the ship set sail again.

Rather worryingly, my family was told by a crew member that this was the second consecutive cruise by the ship to be affected by noro virus."

The Adventure is currently on a Mediterranean itinerary.

On November 2, 2014 the ship will sail from Southampton, England on a 14 night transatlantic cruise. It will reposition for Caribbean cruises sailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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

October 24 2014 Update: Sick ship? Adventure of the Seas Can't Shake the Bug. The Adventure suffers through its third consecutive norovirus outbreak. Will the "deep cleaning" work this time? Will Royal Caribbean permit its customers to reschedule?  

Adventure of the Seas

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Brian Burnell Creative Commons 3.0

Can a Canadian Porn King and the Cruise Lines Keep Cruise Passengers Safe in the Banana Coast in Honduras?

This week the "Banana Coast" cruise port in Honduras opens for mega-cruise ship business.

The travel publications all appear to have written essentially the the same article announcing with great fanfare that large cruise ships will begin calling at the port in the Bay of Trujillo, Honduras. Billed as the newest cruise port in the western Caribbean, the facility in Trujillo (mainland Honduras) will host the arrival of Norwegian Cruise Line's (NCL) Norwegian Jewel on October 15th.  

Ships from Holland America, Silversea, Oceania and P&O Cruises will follow. 

Banana Coast Travel Agent Central and TravelPulse each describe the new port as including a jewelry shop, a shop selling organic frozen coconut drinks, a duty-free liquor, a gift shop, and kiosks offering refreshments and souvenirs crafted by local artisans. Sounds like every other cruise port in the Caribbean designed to separate cruise visitors from their cash as soon as possible. 

The official website of the Banana Coast says that the Bay of Trujillo was the first mainland landing spot of Christopher Columbus in 1502 during his fourth voyage to the New World. It also says that this part of Honduras has a rich cultural heritage and visitors will experience the culture of the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna, an indigenous group who have lived in the area for centuries. 

What the developer and travel publications aren't saying is that there has been considerable controversy surrounding the development of the Honduran port and condominium projects. 

One of the principal developers of the mega-tourism project in Trujillo is Randy Jorgensen, general manager of Grande Trujillo Authoridad. He's a Canadian multi-millionaire who reportedly became wealthy in the pornographic video business. Several publications call him the "Canadian Porn King" (photo below with former Honduran President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa). He created Adults Only Video (warning XXX). Canada's Macleans magazine reported in 2001 that Jorgensen had been "accused of making X-rated films with underage girls in his vacation home in Honduras," according to Media Lens organization.

Jorgensen and others are accused of converting the beautiful Honduran coast into a large scale tourism project that includes vacation condominiums and the cruise ship facility, which have displaced and destroyed the indigenous Garífuna communities. The developers are accused of illegally obtaining the land and expelling the Garífuna people from the Bay of Trujillo.

Travel Pulse says that cruise tourists will be "welcomed by local Garifuna performers . . .  and dancers in colorful attire." Sounds to me like a faux Disney World recreation of the displaced local inhabitants for the amusement of the arriving U.S. cruise passengers.

In related news, Cruise Critic reports that the airstrip at the Mayan site of Copan in Honduras will open in December and will provide flights for cruise passengers to travel to Copan as a shore excursion. Cruise Critic says that this will "allow passengers, for the first time, to make an excursion off the island (from Roatan) to the country's interior."

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been working with the cruise lines and representatives of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) to market Copan as a cruise Randy Jorgensen "Porn King"attraction

There's no mention in any of the travel publication hullabaloo of the fact that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, or that it is subject to critical crime warnings from the U.S. State Department.

Real estate developers and agents, resort owners, dive and water-sport companies, and land-owners in the Honduran cruise port of Roatan have touted Roatan as a crime-free paradise, even though cruise passengers and crew members have been victims of violent crime and one NCL crew member was killed there this year. The U.S. expatriates claim that as an island, Roatan is much safer than the mainland of Honduras. 

So what's going to happen when the cruise lines embark passengers in the Honduran mainland or fly passengers to the country's interior? The murder rate in Honduras has ranged between 70 and 90 per 100,000 in the last several years compared to 4 to 5 per 100,000 in the U.S. What safeguards do the cruise lines, the Honduran president, and the Caninadian porn businessman have in mind, if any, for those cruise tourists arriving in Trujillo?

 

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Photo Credit: Top - Banana Coast via Travel Agent Central; Bottom - Honduras Living The Top 10 Reasons to Invest in Trujillo Honduras  

 

Ebola on the High Seas: Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Becoming Infected?

I have received a dozen inquiries in the last few days about the chances of contracting Ebola during a cruise. My thought is that the chance is slim that anyone is going to go on a cruise and return home infected with the virus.  But there are some issues that concern me.

For U.S. Travelers, Chances of Infection Are Slim at this Time

From what I have learned, it's very difficult to contract the the virus. A cruise passenger would first have to come into close personal contact with an infected person. The infection could come from contact with the infected victim's bodily fluids (blood, saliva, vomit, feces, urine, or semen) or through contaminated needles. This would first require travel to the affected countries in West Africa (Liberia, Cruise Ship EbolaSierra Leone, and Guinea) and then intimate contact with an Ebola victim.

So far, the only victim in the U.S. is Thomas Duncan who traveled to Dallas from Liberia and since died. There is a chance that the persons who he came into contact with could develop the disease, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is carefully monitoring the health of all persons who possibly could have come into contact with Mr. Duncan.  

Cruise lines are prudently avoiding ports in West Africa. Holland America Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Fred Olsen are dropping West African ports in Ghana, Gambia and Senegal. Princess Cruises is considering rerouting its 30-day "West Africa Adventure," according to the L.A. Times. 

Royal Caribbean does not call on any ports in West Africa, although ironically Royal Caribbean is incorporated in Liberia to avoid taxes and regulations.

Bloomberg says that the Ebola scare has lowered cruise stocks. Carnival's stock price fell 5.5 percent, NCL was down 2.8 percent, and Royal Caribbean fell 5.9 percent even though it doesn't sail near the affected (infected) area.

To my knowledge, there are no cruise lines which routinely hire from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. In fact, I have never met or even heard of crew members from these countries. I anticipate that if there are any crew members from these countries, they will not be be re-hired when they return home on vacation. Miami-based cruise lines enacted such hiring freezes on crew members from affected areas during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in the past.

But I'm Uncertain About the Future

There are some factors, though, that make me nervous about the future.

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that as many as 1,400.000 people could be infected with Ebola by January 2015.  
  • The virus will get worse in the West African countries.
  • Experts predict the virus to appear in Europe within the month.
  • There are reports that Ebola can survive on surfaces for anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the type of surface, the temperature, and the amount of light. 
  • According to the CDC, the average time for symptoms of Ebola to appear is 8-10 days. 
  • Many travelers don't disclose illnesses either before or during their cruises because they don't want to be barred from the ship or confined to their cabin.   
  • Some employees don't report to the ship infirmary because they don't want to lose their tips.

My concern is that the outbreak will continue and expand. It has already reached Spain. Jacquie Kubin writes in her article Ebola: Lessons Learned from SARS, the Flu, and HIV / AIDS that there is a 75% probability that the virus will reach France by the end of October and a 50% chance that Ebola will migrate to the U.K.

If the virus reaches Europe so quickly, future cruise travelers and employees could become infected. If those infected are booked on cruises, it is foreseeable that an infected person will fail to disclose the early symptoms of Ebola (intentionally or simply because they doesn't know they have been infected) when they appear at the airport or terminal and then embark the aircraft or cruise ship.

We already know from noro virus cases, many cruise passengers are ill when they come to the cruise ship. Unfortunately, they sometimes lie to get on the ship, and they won't stay in their cabins even when they are infectious.

We also know from past experiences that some crew members report to work when they are ill, including food handlers. This is documented in the CDC literature.  

Cruise ships are not prepared to handle a situation with an infected Ebola victim aboard. Any crew Cruise Ship Ebolamembers called upon to clean up the vomit and diarrhea and other bodily fluids of a sick passenger would likely become infected. An infected chef or waiter shedding Ebola would be a disaster and could potentially infect hundreds of passengers.  

We have seen that cruise ships can easily be plagued by outbreaks of diseases which include not only gastrointestinal diseases, noro virus and e-coli, but measles & rubella, Legionnaires Disease, SARS and other infectious diseases.

Unlike noro virus which lasts a few days, Ebola is potentially deadly. The victim needs immediate and specialized treatment that a cruise ship can't provide. An Ebola outbreak on a cruise ship could result in deaths as well as a public relations disaster.

Stay Tuned and Hope for the Best

There currently is no vaccine for Ebola. Clinical trials are just starting.

For the next many months, cruise lines will consider West Africa to be a no-man's land. Until the disease is eradicated, the cruise lines must avoid the ports there. Cruise ships will continue sailing wide of West Africa until the coast is clear. Hopefully the virus will not spread to Europe and find its way onto cruise ships. 

October 17 2014 Update: Texas Hospital Worker Who Handled Ebola Samples is on the Carnival Magic

October 18 2014 Update: Cruise Industry is Completely Unprepared for Ebola Outbreak

 

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

Read circular letter (No. 3484) about Ebola published by the International Maritime Organization.

Photo Credits: Top - Daily Times; Botton - CDC via AP

Costa Terminates Crew Member Who Posted Broken Dishes on Facebook

Costa Fascinosa  Ten days ago, the Costa Fascinosa was hit by 90 knot winds after the cruise ship left Venice. The captain failed to give any warnings to the passengers and crew members before the storm struck. The cruise ship listed heavily and plates and glasses crashed to the decks and floors throughout the galleys and bars on the ship. Passengers experienced widespread panic.

A Filipino pastry chef working aboard the Fascinosa posted his accounts of the storm on Facebook and included photographs and video of considerable damage in the galley where he worked.  

Other crew members shared his account on Facebook. Several Italian newspapers published his photos and video accounts. Cruise bloggers (such as Cruise Fever, Cruise Hive, Cruise Currents, etc.) also recounted the story and included his images of the mishap in their publications.  We were the first blogger here in the U.S. to link to the crew member's Facebook posts and to cover the story of the violent storm and the Costa officers' poor response to the incident. 

Costa issued a press release, downplaying the incident, after the photos and video were widely distributed on the internet. You can still see the video below, via the Cruise Fever website.

Today, we learned that Costa terminated the pastry chef's employment for mentioning the incident on Facebook. Costa flew the crew member back to the Philippines where he remains currently jobless, unable to support his family.

This is how Costa and parent company, Carnival Corporation, treat their employees. Embarrassed by the scene of a thousand plates and covers on the galley floor, Costa retaliated against the chef for simply recording what happened and saying it was the most terrifying experience of his life. Meanwhile, the Costa captain remains at the helm. 

Concordia-plagued Costa has a culture of cover-ups. 

When the Costa Europa slammed into a pier in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, ripping a hole in the ship's hull and killing three crew members, Costa was tight lipped. It didn't mention the casualties until photographs were leaked to the press in the U.K. Neither Costa nor flag state Italy refuse to release reports on the deadly accident to this day. 

This is business as usual for Costa's owner, Carnival Corporation. Carnival terminated and black-Costa Fascinosaballed 150 Indian waiters who quietly protested low pay when the P&O Arcadia cruise ship was in Seattle. The captain promised that there would be no reprisals if the crew members would return to the ship and wait on the guests. But Carnival quickly fired them all and made certain that the hiring agency would never consider rehiring the men on another Carnival owned cruise line. 

We have seen the same vindictive, retaliatory conduct by other cruise lines.

When the MSC Magnifica smashed into a pier at the entrance to the port in Piraeus Greece, the cruise line issued a statement claiming that the damage was minor and that the vessel's itinerary was not affected. However, a crew member photographed widespread damage to the ship and extensive repairs needed to repair a large hole in the hull which delayed the ship's departure. After the photos appeared on Facebook, MSC quickly terminated the crew member's employment for releasing the photos.

The cruise lines rely on carefully crafted images of idyllic vacations at sea. But when crew members complain about unsafe conditions or merely take photographs showing the truth of the matter, the company views them as expendable.  

Like Vegas, what happens on the ships is supposed to stay on the ships. It's an unwritten rule that a crew member who airs the cruise line's dirty laundry risks immediate termination and a one-way ticket back to Manila.

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