Agony on the Ecstasy: What Causes People to be Cruel in Times of Tragedy?

Yesterday was the worst day in the lives of a family from North Carolina. A 20 year old fell twenty to thirty feet from a mast on the Carnival Ecstasy at the port of Miami. The young man was later pronounced dead at the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

What started as a tropical dream vacation had instantly turned into a nightmare. 

The local news stations rushed teams of reporters and film crew over to the port to cover the sad story. The reporters were all solemn and respectful in their tone and demeanor while covering the tragedy.

Carnival EcstasyI wrote a short article about what happened and posted it on Facebook

Cruel and hateful comments soon followed.

Joanna Medvesek commented: "WTF was he doing up there in the first place. Some people are just plain stupid. Did it not even enter his pea brain that it was RESTRICTED because it may be dangerous. Serves him right."

Samantha Mills de Rosas said "Idiot . . . Sorry no sympathy from me here."

Troy Madsen called the dead young man a "dumb ass."

Monte Mathews called him a "moron."

Ms. Medvesek's cruelty was "liked" by 14 others on Facebook. Saying that a young person involved in an accident deserves to die ("serves him right") infuriates me. It literally spikes my blood pressure. How can people be so uncaring and abusive?

But others who commented on Facebook were kind. 

Marianne Fearnside, who lost her son last year during a ferry cruise, summed up my feelings perfectly, saying "how very sad."

Leslie Hall was obviously troubled by all of the selfish and mean-spirited comments. She gave the matter some sensitive and meaningful thoughts:

"A man fell to his death on the Fantasy during my first cruise several years ago. He had been extremely verbal throughout the entire cruise, loud, obnoxious, he stayed hammered the whole time, and spent his evenings at the various bars complaining to everyone about how he didn't want to work in the family business. One evening he decided that he should do handstands off the atrium balcony after a night of drinking and it ended in his death. Needless to say, even after witnessing his behavior throughout the whole trip, I could never think of a reason why it would have "served him right" to be dead.

That's what's wrong with so many people in this country these days - empathy and humanity have been replaced with the ease of speaking the hatred in their hearts without thinking first. For the [selfish], inhuman people who think death is deserved just because someone entered a restricted area, I truly hope no one close to you ever dies due to a sudden accident. I'm sure you wouldn't walk up to his grieving parents at the wake and shake their hand and say 'well, the moron deserved it'. No one should break the rules and go into a restricted area, of course, but by no means does that give any imperfect human being the right to place judgment on his lost life."

25 people on Facebook "liked" Ms. Hall's comments. Others left respectful comments offering their blessings to his family. 

I can offer no explanation for the wide disparity between the hateful words of some and the compassionate words of others.

 

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Photo Credit: Local 10 via Cruise Fever

Carnival Passenger Falls to His Death on the Ecstasy

A twenty year old cruise passenger from North Carolina fell from a mast on the Carnival Ecstasy this morning, according to several local television stations. 

Channel 10 (video credit) says the passenger fell as the cruise ship was underway returning to the Port of Miami. Channel 6 says that the ship was docked as Terminal E at the port.  

The area was reportedly restricted.

There is no indication whether alcohol was a factor. 

The fall was equivalent to falling two stories, approximately 20 to 30 feet..

The man was taken to a trauma unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital where he later died.

Carnival released the following statement:

"Earlier this morning as the Carnival Ecstasy was approaching PortMiami, a 20-year-old male guest entered a restricted area and climbed up onto the ship’s forward mast. He subsequently fell and landed on the deck. He was initially treated by the ship’s medical team and later transferred to a local trauma center in Miami. Unfortunately, he has passed away. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones at this difficult time."

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"Seasick Princess" Redux: Princess Cancels Another Cruise on the Sea Princess

The newspapers in Australia are blasting Princess Cruises for canceling another cruise on the Sea Princess, again at the last minute, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

We previously reported on the cancellation of the September 14th sailing because the cruise ship went into dry dock to try and perform repairs to the ship engines after the Sea Princess had missed ports in Broome and Bali because of what Princess nebulously called a "technical problem" which reduced the ship's speed. 

The ship has been wracked the week before with norovirus during a cruise from Fremantle to Sea PrincessSingapore, causing as many as 400 people became to be ill.

Last Friday, Princess told passengers that the Sea Princess will not depart Brisbane as planned but the ship would leave from Sydney, and Auckland will not be included in New Zealand trip.

Princess has known for months that there have been problems with the engines on the cruise ship but has put off placing the ship in dry dock. This has caused great uncertainty with the passengers and, ultimately, ruined their vacations.

The cruise line promised a refund of their cruise fare, air costs, taxes, fees and port expenses, and a future cruise credit equal to the cruise fare paid for this voyage.  

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Bahnfrend Creative Commons 3.0

P&O Ferry Erupts in Flames

P7O Ferry FireA P&O ferry erupted in flames as it sailed from Dover, England to Calais, France this morning.

A number of news sources report that a fire broke out in the engine room of the Pride of Canterbury as it was approaching port in France.

337 passengers and 119 crew members were aboard the ferry at the time of the fire. 

Many of the on-line newspapers carried video and photographs taken of the fire by passenger Ed Sproston, from Kent, who recorded images of what he described as "thick toxic fumes" which "left him struggling for breath."

Mr. Sproston said the fire blazed for "a good 20 minutes" before before it was extinguished. He told the Dover Express that he observed crew members "wearing breathing apparatus as they tried to tackle the blaze."

Mr. Sproston told reporters that a "lot of people were panicking and the crew were trying to calm them Pride of Canterberry Firedown. But it was all a bit disorganised. My lungs are still hurting now . . ."

P&O down-played the fire, claiming that it "was extinguished straight away by the sprinkler system." P&O also quickly claimed that "there were no injuries, either among the crew or passengers. The passengers disembarked as normal."

P&O has been in the press repeatedly following the disappearance of passengers at sea. The mother of one passenger, Marianne Fearnside mom to her son Richard, started a petition to require ferries to install CCTV cameras. 

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Video and Photo Credit: Ed Sproston via Daily Mail; lower photo - Julien Carpentier (Facebook)

 

 

Coast Guard Medevacs Injured Passenger from Grandeur of the Seas

The U.S. Coast Guard was summonsed to a Royal Caribbean cruise ship Friday night after a 58 year old woman was severely injured in a fall.

News accounts say that the Coast Guard responded to the Grandeur of the Seas.

The Coast Guard launched a rescue boat from a station in southern Maryland on the the Chesapeake Bay.

The 58 year old passenger and her husband were transported to the Point Lookout Marina and then airlifted to a trauma unit in Baltimore.

Photo credit: Wikipedia / J. Glover creative commons 3.0

Grandeur of the Seas

False Man Overboard Alarm on the Royal Princess

A passenger commented on Cruise Critic this morning that the Master of the Royal Princess cruise ship announced that a person had been reported overboard and the ship was going to take a head count of the passengers and crew.  

The cruise ship performed a partial Williamson maneuver (as shown on AIS systems) and also deployed a rescue boat.

The passenger commented later that all that was found was a fishing marker. "Nobody missing from our crew and pax, so we've been given the all clear!" 

Royal PrincessThe ship was heading to New York.

It always good news when a man overboard turns out to be false.

But false positives are one of the reasons that the cruise industry claims that automatic man overboard systems (required long ago by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act) haven't been installed. The cruise lines claim (falsely I believe) that the man overboard systems are not reliable and can be triggered by birds or debris. The cruise industry says that it doesn't install man overboard systems because it would be too expensive to turn the ship around and deploy rescue craft if the automatic system malfunctioned. 

In my opinion lives are being lost because of the cruise lines refuse to comply with the law. It's excuse that responding to false man overboard alarms is too high is bogus. The cruise industry is already responding to false reports.  

This is the second man overboard report in less than two weeks.  We most recently reported on a false report on the Pacific Pearl on September 14th.  

There will be some false reports with both the automatic systems and with no automatic systems. There is no justification to ever say that it's just too expensive to invest money into saving lives. The cruise industry collects $40,000,000,000 a year and pays no taxes. Its CEO's make tens of millions of dollars. Its greed is endless.  

Automatic systems, even if not 100% perfect, are a far cry better than no automatic system on a cruise ship when a passenger or crew member goes overboard and disappears into the dark waters as the cruise ship continues to sail on.    

 

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What Happened on this Costa Cruise Ship?

Costa Cruise A reader of Cruise Law News sent me a link to this Costa crew member's Facebook page which contains video and photographs of hundreds of broken dishes in the ship's galley.

It appears that the cruise ship experienced some type of incident affecting the ship's navigational system; I'm not sure of the details.

You can see a video of the damage here

I have seen this type of damage before in cases of rough weather, but it appears that weather was not a factor in this incident.

Does anyone know about this incident, including the name of the Costa ship and the itinerary? 

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September 25 2014 Update: We received a number of comments on our Facebook page indicating that the cruise ship involved was the Costa Fascinosa. An Italian newspaper says that the cruise ship was sailing from Venice to the Greek islands when it was struck by bad weather and rough seas for two hours. The newspaper says (translated) the ship "yanked from the waves and with one engine failed, it began to turn on itself. It was like being on a spinning top."

Passengers described "glasses, plates and utensils flying in the air." Several passengers fell "driven by the centrifugal force" imposed by rotation of the ship. People cried and prayed.  

Another Italian newspaper refers to the ship being hit by a water-spot / tornado. The article has a video of the captain's announcement about the storm. The captain reportedly informed the passengers to put life jackets on.

Costa released the following statement today: "We are very sorry for what happened and any inconvenience this caused. We confirm that the evening of 22 September, the Costa Fascinosa met with winds over 90 knots that have influenced the course and met with the inclination of the hull . . . The command of he ship immediately activated the procedures necessary to re-establish a regular and normal navigation, and then proceeded to warn and assist passengers. Costa has taken the route planned in the program."   

 

Photo Credit: Facebook

 

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Miracle

Yesterday we mentioned that the U.S. Coast Guard flew 400 miles out to sea from Honolulu to drop blood supplies to the Carnival Miracle to help the ship medical team treat a passenger with internal bleeding.

But the passenger's medical condition continued to worsen, and the Coast Guard returned to the Carnival cruise ship with a helicopter to medevac the sick man.

The Miracle was approximately 80 miles north of Oahu at the time of the rescue. The crew hoisted the man from the cruise ship around 9 p.m. Tuesday and took him for emergency medical treatment.

Video credit: U.S. Coast Guard via Star Advertiser 

 

Need Blood in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean? Call the U.S. Coast Guard!

The Coast Guard is back in the news with emergency medical supplies delivered to a cruise ship passenger in distress.

Yesterday a C-130 Coast Guard aircrew flew over 400 miles to drop units of blood to a Carnival cruise ship northeast of a island (Oahu) in Hawaii.  

The Carnival Miracle contacted the Coast Guard in  Honolulu Sunday afternoon requesting medical assistance for an ailing 76 year old passenger with internal bleeding.

After the passenger's condition worsened, the Coast Guard launched the C-130 from Air Station Barbers Point in Honolulu early Tuesday morning. It arrived at the cruise ship in the afternoon and dropped the blood via a small parachute. 

Photo and Video Credit: U.S. Coast Guard via KHON 2 

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September 25 2014 Update: The Coast Guard returned to the Carnival Miracle with a helicopter and medevaced the passenger after his medical condition continued to deteriorate.

 

Will the Cruise-Dependent Caribbean Islands Embrace Marijuana Tourism?

There's an excellent article in Travel Pulse today entitled Caribbean Tourism Officials Talk Marijuana Tourism. Written by Brian Major, the article takes a look at how the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) may capitalize on marijuana tourism.

The article cites the growing legalization of pot here in U.S., and the fact that several Caribbean islands, like Jamaica, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago, are considering decriminalizing weed in the future.

As Major points out, it's no secret that people are cruising to Jamaica to smoke ganja. My observation is that the cruise lines know it and make an effort to profit from it. Why shouldn't the islands profit as Falmouth Jamaica Marijuanawell?

For passengers cruising to Falmouth, Royal Caribbean offers the "Bob Marley Experience" up to the village of Nine Miles. Carnival offers an identical tour in their "Zion Bus" to the reggae king's birthplace. These cruise lines may say that they have a "zero tolerance" policy for pot on the ship, but they don't seem to care that their guests get high in the hills, at least not when the cruise line collects $100 a person for the excursion. 

Jamaica would be smart to decriminalize the weed, tax it, profit from it, and involve its citizens in a growing and finally legal industry.  It would be one of Jamaica's few sustainable industries. 

But other island destinations seem to be heading the other direction. I have written many articles about the customs police in Nassau boarding cruise ships in port without probable cause or a search warrant and searching passenger cabins and even safes for pot when the passengers are ashore. The local magistrates will then shake down the passenger for a $1,000 or so, threatening a jail sentence of a month or two in Her Majesty's prison if the fine is not immediately paid. Meanwhile dealers are offering to sell pot to tourists up and down Bay Street.  

The revenue collected by these type of arrests is a drop in the bucket compared to the money which can be generated by legalized marijuana sales catering to the tourists. Plus the islands can avoid the bad publicity and consequences associated with burdening police resources to target and arrest tourists for non-violent misdemeanors while being unable to stop violent, armed robberies and murders in the ports of call which frighten tourists away. 

I think we are going to see trends developing in the next decade between those cruise destinations in the Caribbean which embrace or reject pot. Certain places which view marijuana in practical terms as a source of substantial business will benefit. On the other hand, those ports which view weed in emotional or religious terms, as a product of the devil, will lose visitors and revenue. 

All of these Caribbean destinations have high crime rates. St. Thomas USVI which hosted the CTO “State of the Industry” conference mentioned in the Travel Pulse article has an incredibly high murder rate of over 50 per 100,000. Jamaica's homicide rate is 39 per 100,000 and the Bahamas is 30 per 100,000. (The U.S. murder rate is 5 per 100,000 and Canada is only 2 per 100,000)

Its time to get the marijuana out of the hands of the gangs and into Caribbean owned and operated business that can be taxed and the money invested into the port islands.

 

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Read: Is Jamaica's Ganga Tour the Best Cruise Excursion? 

Photo: Top - Falmouth, Jamaica by Jim Walker

Micky Arison Cashes In On Carnival Stock, Again

Carnival Chairman and major stockholder Micky Arison sold 212,474 shares of Carnival stock on Friday, September 19th at an average price of $40.22 for a total of $8,545,704.28, according to the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Yes, this is a serious amount of money. But its peanuts for this cruise tycoon. 

By last June, Arison had unloaded over $490,000,000 of Carnival stock in a little over 3 months.

Arison is the richest person in Florida. He's worth between 5 and 6 billion dollars.

I was interviewed in a special about him last year.

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Canada Issues Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas

On Wednesday, Canada began advising its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution, especially in Nassau, due to high rates of crime.”

On its government website Canada urged Canadian travelers to be vigilant and raised the alert status from normal. The warning effective September 17 2014 states:

"There is no nationwide advisory in effect for the Bahamas. However, you should exercise a Canada Crime Warning Nassau Bahamashigh degree of caution, especially in Nassau, due to high rates of crime." 

The headline of the Tribune newspaper in Nassau is Crime alert for Nassau Tourists - Canada Urges Visitors to be Vigilant.

We have written frequently about the high incidents of murder and armed robbery in Nassau (New Providence). About half of the Bahamians who read our articles acknowledge the issue of crime and are frustrated that the government can't do more to address the problem of armed robberies and murder. The other half of our readers are in denial and have a false sense of patriotism. This leads to to threats and accusations that crime is higher in the U.S. with references to the high crime rate in Detroit, for example.

My response is to simply state that everyone knows that its dangerous in Detroit. But most visitors to Nassau naively think that Nassau is some type of idyllic paradise. They need to be warned.

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas.  You can read a few of our articles here and here.

According to the Tribune, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said he was worried about the effect of the warning on tourism because there are lots of tourists from Canada who visit the Bahamian islands.

 

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Mystery Shrouds Disappearance of 23 Year-Old Macedonian Crew Member from M/S Serenissima

A newspaper in Macedonia, Press 24, published an article "Семејството ја бара веќе 4 дена: 23 годишна Македонка отишла да работи на брод и исчезнала" ("A family looks for 4 days for a 23 year-old Macedonian went to work on the boat and disappeared.")

It's about the disappearance of a young crew member from the M/S Serenissima five days ago, as the cruise ship sailed between Rhodes to Crete. We mentioned the young woman's disappearance in an earlier blog.

The article in the Macedonian press identifies the crew member as Denisa Markoska. The article Denisa Markoska Cruise Ship describes Ms. Markoska as a happy person who shared the joy of her job with relatives and friends. Other news accounts (link here) indicate that she signed a new contract and looked forward to working on the ship when it re-positioned to the Caribbean. But then she just "disappeared," or so the story goes.

The article states (translated): 

"Denisa mysteriously disappeared from a ship that sails the seas, in the early hours of September 13. Serenissima ship sailing under the Russian flag in the territorial waters of Greece. And no one saw what happened ... investigation is conducted with many gaps and inconsistencies by Greek police in Crete.

Parents still have not received any official report from the captain of the ship, or from the Greek police, nor by any competent Macedonian institutions. Parents are desperate. Crying for help as well as pressure on the authorities of all the countries involved to find out what happened to Denisa and where she is. Perhaps the girl is kidnapped or killed ... God forbid."

We have spoken to people in Macedonia who know Denisa and her family.  The captain of the cruise ship, a Russian citizen, kept sailing the ship for two or three hours after Denisa was reported missing. He permitted all of the passengers to disembark the ship when it reached the next port, "not to disturb the guests," before notifying the police. Denisa was last seen smoking a cigarette on the open deck with several other Macedonian crew members around 2:30 A.M. There was a video camera on the ship; however, there was no recording device connected to the video camera.

No serious investigation of any type took place, is what I am being told. The captain sent a short note to the family expressing his condolences without an explanation regarding how Denisa disappeared.

Complicating matters is that the ship was registered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to avoid taxes. St. Vincent obviously has no interest in Macedonians citizens or ability to investigate disappearances from vessels bearing its flag. There is information that the ship is owned and/or operated by Premier Cruises based in Finland. Premier is owned by Russian Vladimir Esakov, who owns the Russian Volga Dream company.  

There is a suggestion from the captain that the young woman must have committed "suicide."  But there is no evidence of that. The available information is to the contrary - that she was happy, popular, and a good employee, according to her friends and family. Denisa looked forward to continue her job, sailing in the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, "suicide" is the favorite excuse of cruise lines whenever a young woman disappears at sea. It's a cruel ploy. It is heartless to suggest such a thing when there is no evidence to make such an accusation.   

Are there crew members or passengers on the ship who have accurate information to share?

Please contact us confidentially if you want to pass on information directly to the family. Please email me at jim@cruiselaw.com 

If you wish to offer words of support for Denisa's family, join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Denisa Makoska

 

California Court Dismisses Costa Concordia Lawsuit

Earlier this week, a federal district judge in California dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of two cruise passengers against Carnival arising out of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster, ruling that the case must be pursued in Italy where Costa Crociere is located.

The name of the lawsuit is Patricia Sandoval et al. v. Carnival Corporation et al., Case No. 2:12 CV 05517, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Judge Fernando M. Olguin applied the doctrine of forum non conveniens, where the courts determine Costa Concordia the appropriate location of lawsuits.

The Court concluded that the majority of the physical evidence and witnesses are located in Italy and the passengers can obtain an appropriate remedy in Italy. The decision is not surprising at all.  

The Costa cruise line is based in Italy where the company is incorporated.  Its principal place of business is in Genoa, Italy. It registers its ships like the Concordia in Italy. Much of the crew is Italian, including the captain, and cruise the ship departed from an Italian port and sank in Italian waters.  The Italian Coast Guard responded to the disaster and of course there is an Italian criminal trial which has been ongoing for year. The passenger ticket specifies Italy as the location where litigation must be pursued. 

Our firm advised Concordia passengers long ago not to waste time and money filing suit in the U.S. because their cases would likely be dismissed.  

We advised our clients to proceed directly to Italy and retain Italian lawyers to pursue compensation. Here is one of such articles, published back in January 2010: Are Lawyers Taking Costa Cruise Survivors Into Dangerous Legal Waters?

 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jean-Philippe Boulet Creative Commons 3.0

It's Always Bigger in Texas: Cruise Passengers Taxed on Cruise Booze

KHOU 11 reports that alcohol and cigarettes purchased by cruise passengers, represented by cruise lines as "duty-free products," are being taxed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) once the ships return to Galveston.

The state of Texas will start collecting similar taxes from cruise passengers at the Port of Houston by in October.

The television station says that the state of Texas has collected over $280,000 from cruise passengers since January. 

The cruise lines misrepresent that the liquor and cigarettes are tax free, and then the TABC officials confront the returning cruise passengers as they come through customs.

The station quotes a passenger saying "They advertise it as duty free on the ship and when we get off the ship, to our surprise, it's not duty free. I think it's wrong." 

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