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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Florida Remains Cruise Ship Lawsuit Capital of the World

According to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), more cruise passengers have sailed in Florida and around the world than ever before.

Last year, the number of passengers taking cruises on North American cruise lines increased approximately nearly 4 percent to 17,600,000.

6,150,000 passengers sailed from Florida, an increase of 1.3 percent to 6.15 million from the prior year. Miami saw more than 2 million cruise passengers boarding ships, and Fort Lauderdale saw Crew Ship Capital of the World more than 1,800,000 passengers.

Florida also remains the lawsuit capital of the world against cruise lines. 

Most cruise lines insist that lawsuits involving injuries to cruise passengers must be filed in Florida. Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Silversea Cruises require in their "forum selection clauses" that passengers file suit in this state of they are injured or a victim of a crime during the cruise.

It doesn't matter where the cruise departed from (a different state or even country), the passenger tickets of these cruise lines state that their guests must pursue their cases here in Florida.

Several years ago, the Miami Herald published an article "Lawyers Turn Cruise Lawsuits Into Industry." The article stated that between 2001 and 2006, over 2,100 lawsuits were filed against the Miami based cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

The article begins: 

"How many lawyers does it take to sue a cruise line?

Only one, or one too many if you're the cruise line.

The $25 billion-a-year cruising industry has faced more lawsuits than it cares to count over the past few decades -- some 2,100 in South Florida alone since 2001.

Many are filed by a small group of lawyers -- about 15 locally -- who specialize in representing injured cruise passengers and crew members and make up a thriving cottage industry in South Florida."

The article mentioned that I was one of the "big three" leading adversaries of cruise lines.

Cruise Ship Capital of the WorldI have not seen an analysis of lawsuits recently, but we know that the number of people cruising since 2006 has increased substantially.

The cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger and the fleets have grown substantially.

There has also been an unprecedented number of cruise ship disasters which have plagued the cruise industry as of late. 

Every single day we receive a telephone call, or an email, or a Facebook inquiry, or a comment to this blog about a serious cruise ship injury.

In the last few days, we filed:

  • a lawsuit when a child from Mexico was seriously injured on the Flow Rider;
  • an arbitration claim on behalf of an Indian crew member (waiter) with a serious back injury who was denied appropriate medical care;
  • a lawsuit by a Canadian passenger whose finger was amputated by a cabin door which slammed shut due to a wind current from an open balcony door; and
  • an arbitration claim filed on behalf of a crew member who was denied medical treatment from the cruise line for advanced Hodgkin's Disease.      

Yes, most people have a fun time on a cruise vacation. But many passenger and crew members become seriously injured or denied appropriate medical treatment during cruises, particularly crew members from around the world.   

 

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Read: Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses

Photo Credits:  Jim Walker

Measles On Alaska-Bound Cruise Ship

According to Alaska Business Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Anchorage Quarantine Station notified the Alaska Section of Epidemiology on September 11, 2014 of a "suspected measles (rubeola) case associated with the cruise industry."

The press release stated that "an adult crew member had recent contact with a confirmed measles case abroad, and subsequently developed classic clinical symptoms of measles on September 9 while onboard a ship in Alaska waters."

The patient apparently flew on international and domestic flights as well as cruise travel while infectious. The release says that "all cruise passengers will be informed of possible exposure directly Cruise Ship Measleswhile on board the ship."

The release downplays the chances of the crew member infecting someone who might have disembarked in Alaska. But there remains the possibility that the infected crew member may have infected passengers or other crew members (to the extent that they were not vaccinated) who could get off the ship either in Vancouver or Seattle, assuming this was a cruise which originated in these cities.   

The governmental agencies did not mention the name of the cruise ship, but claims that all cruise passenger who possibly could have been infected "will be" notified.

The report raises troubling issues.

Why would the governmental agencies keep the name of the cruise ship secret, except to avoid embarrassment to the cruise line? 

Have the cruise passengers (and crew) in fact been informed? 

If not, when will the passengers (and crew) be notified?

I'm asking the readers of Cruise Law News the following questions:

Has anyone been notified of the risk of being infected during a cruise to Alaska?

Does anyone know what cruise ships were in Alaskan waters on September 9th?

Measles outbreaks on a cruise are very serious. We reported on such an outbreak earlier this year - Measles Outbreak On Costa Pacifica Cruise Ship.

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September 16 2014 Update:  We received the following comments on our Facebook page:

"I just returned from a cruise to Alaska I was on the cruise ship the Pearl we were notified on Saturday that we may have been exposed to the measles.

"We were notified - the crew member was removed from the ship while we were at sea." 

NCL Cruise Measles

Graphic (top): www.gmanetwork.com

Cruise Safety: Be Prepared Before Things Go Wrong (Via Travel Channel)

The Travel Channel just posted a cruise safety video as part of it's Travel 911 series (be prepared before things go wrong on a cruise ship).

Its a very friendly sounding video that says that there's nothing better than a cruise, but bad things can happen on cruise ships.  

Here are some tips:

  • Bring anti-bacterial wipes and avoid public bathrooms. And check out which ships have high scores on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
  • Attend muster station drills. They are mandatory before the ship sails and can be a life-saver.
  • Limit your drinks. The number one reported crime during cruises is sexual assault. The victims are usually intoxicated.
  • Don't flaunt your jewelry, handbags, or money. Yes, there are thefts during cruises.
  • Be extra-safe during shore excursions. Keep your cash and jewelry in the cabin safe and wear a traveler's pouch.   

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Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Carnival Inspiration

The United States Coast Guard News reports that a Coast Guard  helicopter from San Diego performed a medical evacuation of 34 year old a passenger who was suffering from appendicitis aboard a cruise ship 35 miles southwest of San Diego on Sunday. 

The Carnival Inspiration contacted the Coast Guard early Sunday morning and requested a medevac for the passenger. 

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter flew to the cruise ship, hoisted the passenger aboard, and transported him to San Diego for  emergency medical treatment. 

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Carnival Inspiration

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Matthew Baker Creative Commons 3.0

False Man Overboard Report on the Pacific Pearl

Pacific PearlThis morning I received a message from a Facebook friend that there was a search underway for a man overboard from the Pacific Pearl. The cruise ship was sailing off Newcastle, New South Wales.

But the only information I could find were a couple of posting on the Cruise Critic board. 

One person said that " . . . all passengers had to go back to cabins for over an hour and do a rollcall. The ship was stopped and they found 2 lights in the water, apparently lifejackets. It is believed someone threw them in the water."

It was interesting to see the path of the cruise ship on a AIS tracking system. You can clearly see the ship make a Williamson maneuver to return to the spot where the ship thought the person went overboard.

It was nice to see that it turned out to be a false alarm.

Freemantle - Brisbane Cruise Canceled: Princess Cruises To Finally Fix Sea Princess Engines

The Sea Princess is back in the news.  Following widespread coverage of "cruise from hell" articles about a noro-infected  cruise from Freemantle where the ship was nicknamed "Pandemic Princess," Princess Cruises announced that the sailing to Brisbane was canceled in order to address "technical problems" causing the ship to lose speed. 

Perth Now reports that Carnival Australia spokesman, which is responsible for the Sea Princess, stated that “all guests will receive a full refund of their cruise fare plus a 100 per cent future cruise credit.”

Passengers had complained during earlier cruises that the Sea Princess had been suffering from Adonis Sea Princessreduced speeds which shortened times in certain ports of call and required changes in the ship's itineraries including dropping Bali and Broome.

A poster commented on the Cruise Critic boards: "this ship has been limping along slowly and arriving late to ports/missing ports for months. Princess handled this situation badly."

Another person commented: "Really disappointing. All summer long people have been saying that Princess should just bite the bullet and cancel a couple of cruises down the line and fix this ship. People would have had at least a couple months' notice. Instead, they now have 1900 passengers kicked off on the second day of a cruise that never left port. What a mess."

It's currently unknown how many cruises will be affected.

The Sea Princess is an old ship. It was built by Fincantieri, Italy and began sailing in 1998. It was transferred to P&O Cruises in 2003 and renamed the Adonia (photo above right). It was transferred back to Princess in 2005.  

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Cruiser1210 Creative Commons

Carnival Reimburses Couple for Cruise After Kicking Them Off For Husband's "Minor Alzheimer Moment"

WTSP 10 in Tampa reports on a cruise where Carnival disembarked a couple in Cozumel from the Legend after the husband had a "minor Alzheimer's episode, leaving his stateroom alone at 4 a.m. for a cup of coffee."

Carnival personnel claim that they found the husband disoriented and the ship doctor declared him to be a danger to himself, so the ship disembarked the couple off the ship at the next port.   

But when the news station contacted Carnival, the cruise line "quickly admitted the situation was Carnival Legendmishandled" and reimbursed the cost of the cruise and the airfare home. 

Carnival claims that it initially provided a future credit for the unused days of the couple's cruise. However, given the "specialized circumstances" in this case, Carnival said that it was proceeding with a full refund for the unused days of the cruise as well as reimbursement for their flights home. 

The strange thing about the story is that neither the cruise line nor the passengers explained what the "specialized circumstances" were.

Cruise lines are legally entitled to remove a passenger from a cruise ship if the captain or ship physician determine that they present a risk to their own well-being or that of any other passenger or crew member. 

We have reported on cases similar to this before. It sounds like Carnival handled the situation better than Celebrity Cruises did when it kicked an elderly couple off the Millennium and abandoned them after the wife exhibited signs of dementia. 

Watch the video here.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Robertsrules Creative commons 3.0

23 Year Old Crew Member Overboard From M/S Serenissima

Serenissima Cruises A reader of Cruise Law News has informed us that a 23 year old female crew member disappeared from the M/S Serenissima cruise ship.

A Greek newspaper has a short article about the disappearance.

The crew member is reported missing north of the island of Crete, Greece.

The cruise ship is a small vessel carrying only 110 passengers with 48 crew members.  You can read about Serenissima Cruises here.

Before this incident, cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has recorded 238 people going overboard from cruise ships since 2000.

If you have additional information about this overboard case, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Serenissima Cruises.

High Times in Nassau Will Cost You $500 or 2 Months in Her Majesty's Prison

This spring I wrote a couple of articles about cruise passengers getting busted in Nassau for small amounts of pot.  

In April, I wrote about seven passengers from various cruise ships who were arrested for possessing one or a few marijuana cigarettes. In several cases of those arrested, the Bahamian customs officer boarded the Miami-based ships without an arrest warrant or probable cause and confiscated the pot in the cabin safes and arrested the passengers when they returned to the ships.

I commented on the double standard where cruise lines like Royal Caribbean or NCL make hundreds of millions of dollars pushing booze on their ships to the point that the passenger are knee-walking-Nassau Bahamas Potdrunk, but the cruise ship security officers will nab a guest for a single joint and turn them over to the police.    

A common complaint we hear from those who get off the ships in Nassau is that pot dealers canvas the port and sell pot up and down Bay Street and in and around every bar in town. And of course Nassau has a major crime problem which the local police can't control.

Nonetheless, the Bahamas devotes considerable resources into making tourist-related pot arrests, even though the majority of those arrested don't even try and leave the ship with the pot.   

You can read my articles here: 

Reefer Madness: Bahamas Magistrate Taunts & Shakes Down Royal Caribbean Potheads

"Dangerous Drugs?" Nassau Nabs Two More U.S. Cruise Passengers for Pot

Well yesterday the issue resurfaced.  The Tribune newspaper reports that the Bahamian police arrested four young men in their early 20's from several cruise ship for small amounts pot.

The first two men arrested were from Georgia and disembarked an unidentified cruise ship. They had possession of one gram between them when the police arrested them on the cruise wharf.  The magistrate told them that they "could have faced up to seven years in Her Majesty’s Prison." He questioned whether they knew that marijuana was illegal in the Bahamas. One of the men told the magistrate “it’s everywhere.” He fined each passenger $300 to be paid by 5:00 P.M. or they could spend a month in prison.

The second arrest involved a passenger from Miami. The customs officers came on board the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas and arrested the passenger for possessing three grams. He told the magistrate that he "wasn’t planning on bringing it off the ship.”  The magistrate threatened the passenger with "sitting in a prison cell for seven years," and fined him $400 or two months in jail. 

The third and last arrest involved another young man from Miami who was aboard the Norwegian Sky. The NCL security chief invited the Bahamian police onto the ship and led them to the passenger's cabin. The police discovered 12 joints and arrested the passenger.  The magistrate fined him $500 or 2 months in prison.

The comments to the article mocked the magistrate. My favorite was "7 years for a dime bag? GTFOH." The last comment said: " . . . stop wasting the tax payers money with this crap, I hope the fine is more than your $800 per hour charge Magistrate Forbes." 

Nassau has a major problem with gangs, drugs and armed robbery involving young violent men. But the local magistrates and police officers would rather round up stoned American cruisers with a joint or two back in the cruise ship safe. It's easy pickings for the local law enforcement and judicial departments who have otherwise lost control of Nassau. 

 

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Photo Credit:  feathersboutiquevintage.com

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From HAL Oosterdam

OosterdamThe Coast Guard News reports that a Coast Guard MH-60 helicopter medevaced a 84 year old passenger from the Holland America Line cruise ship Oosterdam near Glacier Bay last week. 

The helicopter flew from Sitka and hoisted the elderly passenger from the cruise ship and transferred her to Juneau.

The Oosterdam reported that the woman was possibly suffering from a stroke. The Coast Guard flight surgeon recommended that the woman be medevaced from he cruise ship. 

We first heard of the incident from another passenger who emailed us today, saying:

"While sailing on the Oosterdam on 9/5/14 in Glacial Bay Alaska, we had a helicopter medical evacuation. The conditions were very poor, heavy fog. The Coast Guard out of Sitka, Alaska did a great job. The Coast Guard in Alaska, work in hazardous conditions, and deserve many thanks."

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Sergey Yarmolyuk Creative Commons

"Virus From Hell" - Gastroenteritis Strikes Passengers on Sea Princess

MSN / Ninesman reports on a viral outbreak aboard a Princess cruise ship cruising from Australia which sickened "hundreds" of passengers this week.

A passenger who was interviewed by MSN refers dramatically to being inflicted by a "virus from hell" with sounds of "vomiting echoing down the hallways."  The Sea Princess left Fremantle on August 18th and was heading, eventually, to Singapore. This was reportedly not the first outbreak.  New passengers who boarded in Singapore were not warned of the outbreak and were described by one passenger as "lambs being Sea Princess led to the slaughter . . . they just didn't know what they were in for."

The virus was allegedly on the cruise ship "for months." One passenger says that some of the bar and wait staff were already sick, when some passengers boarded, with gastroenteritis and influenza.  The passenger said that the sick crew members were afraid to report to the infirmary out of fear of losing their jobs. In our experience, some crew members who rely on tips keep working after they are ill.

MSN says that around 500 people were affected; however, Princess claims that this was not a major outbreak with only around 100 passengers becoming ill.  Princess confirmed to a newspaper in Australia that 100 passengers were sickened by what it innocuously referred to as a "tummy bug."

Princess is declining to compensate passengers for the outbreak and will not be reimbursing them for the shipboard medical treatment needed on the ship. 

We asked Princess for a comment but have not heard back from the cruise line.  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Bahnfrend Creative Commons

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Read about cruise norovirus cases from Barfblog.

September 11 2014 Update: We just received a couple of comments from passengers on the ship (below), stating that the story is over-dramatic and the criticism of Princess is overblown.

September 12 2014 Update: Passengers who were struck down by the gastro-intestinal virus have disembarked at Fremantle this morning, according to abcnet.au. One passenger said he "was compensated for his bad experience. We got a special on our next cruise deal and the compensation was a couple of dollars as well, so they looked after us." Another passenger said "they were not told about what had happened but believe they should have been."

September 13 2014 Update: PerthNow reports that passengers said up to 400 people were ill on the ship which many are nicknaming “Pandemic Princess” and “Purgatory Princess.” Princess is sticking with its story that only a “small percentage” of passenger were affected. Passengers were offered a 50 per cent refund to be discounted from their next cruise. One retiree said that a "nice glass of brandy every night” kept him from becoming sick. 

Crystal: A Cruise Line with a Conscience? Try Again.

The headline in the Asbury Park Press stunned me - "Crystal: A luxury cruise line with a conscience."  

Surely this must be a joke I thought, given Crystal's dreadful environmental record of polluting the oceans and air.

But the article was serious. it talked about Crystal donating used furniture to a "Spanish organization that supports recovering addicts." It mentioned that it turned the guests' used toiletries into soap for Crystal Symphony Cruise Ship"800 impoverished families" over three years. It "contributed goods to charities in Africa." 

The article also mentioned that Crystal is refurbishing the staterooms aboard the Serenity later this year to install purification equipment, "creating the industry’s first hypoallergenic cabins for passengers with allergies and/or respiratory ills."

But neither the Serenity nor the Symphony have installed advanced sewage treatment systems, resulting in a grade of "F" for the company’s zero percent sewage treatment score. The Crystal cruise ships also burn dirty fuel, including burning cancer-causing sulphur fuel in port because Crystal has not invested in shore-side power hook-ups. Friends of the Earth has consistently awarded Crystal "F's" in how this cruise line treats the water and air.

In the eyes of environmentalists, Crystal is best known for an incident in 2003 when a Crystal ship dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. It had promised earlier not to foul the marine sanctuary's waters.

According to the L.A. Times, Crystal Cruises said didn't have to report the incident to authorities because it broke no laws. It is "perfectly legal" under maritime laws to discharge even untreated wastewater more than 12 miles offshore, and the ship was 14 miles offshore at the time, said Crystal spokeswoman Mimi Weisband.

"We didn't break any law," Weisband said. "We did break a promise."

The city of Monterey thereafter banned all Crystal cruise ships for life.

When the Friends of the Earth gave Crystal Cruises an "F," Cruise spokesperson Weisband responded by saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A ... if not an A+."

The elite Conde Nast Traveler cruisers may consistently vote Crystal the "world’s best cruise line," but its the one cruise line that has never exhibited an environmental conscience. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Princess Tours Bus Accident in Alaska Kills Princess Cruises Employee

Princess Cruise Bus AccidentNews sources in Alaska are reporting that a Princess Cruises employee was killed when a Princess Tours excursion bus overturned on a rain slicked highway in Alaska.

The accident occurred at mile 173 on Parks Highway, approximately 200 miles south of Fairbanks.

The Frontiersman reports that this is the second serious incident involving a Princess-owned bus on a remote stretch of road in the past month. Here's a story about the prior accident involving a Princess bus.

The photograph of the crushed bus (left) was published by the Frontiersman via Tim Whitney.

The Cruise Fever websites says that "the bus was heading northbound along the Denali National Park from Mt. McKinley Wilderness Lodge to the Princess Wilderness Lodge" when the accident happened. 

KTUU states that three people, all Princess employees, were on board the bus when it crashed and the front end was crushed. 

The woman who died was from Malaysia and working in Alaska. A second Princess employee was seriously injured. The bus driver was not injured.  

State Troopers say that excessive speed was a factor in the accident.  

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Overworked & Underpaid on the High Seas

This weekend I read an interesting article in the Springfield Register-Guard about Royal Caribbean Cruises' plans to add employees at its call center in Oregon.

There are currently over 700 employees at the call center in Oregon, according to the newspaper. The cruise line is planning to add another 220 mostly full time employees.

What struck me about the article was the lucrative pay and benefits which the cruise line provides to its employees. The newspapers says "Royal Caribbean touts its modern facility, which includes a fitness center and cafeteria; base pay that starts at $8.85 to $10.50 an hour, not including incentive pay; Royal Caribbean Call Center Spinngfield Oregonhealth care insurance; a retirement plan; the chance to advance rapidly, and cruising privileges."

The cruise line also received lucrative incentives to open the call center back in 2006. The state of Oregon provided $1.3 million in incentives, including a $600,000 loan. The company was required to pay back only around $64,000. 

What a great employment package for the people in Oregon (especially compared to the Royal Caribbean operations in the U.K. which was out-sourced to Guatemala earlier this year). They can make over $400 working 40 hours a week, plus benefits, in a nice facility doing a cushy job. 

How does that compare to a cleaner from Jamaica who works on a Royal Caribbean ship 10 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no time off and no benefits?  A cleaner on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship makes around $550 a month performing strenuous work under difficult circumstances, far from the comforts of home. That turns out to around $1.75 an hour. They are tied to contracts lasting anywhere from 6 to 9 months without a single day off.

The cruise line pays no taxes on the billions of dollars paid each year by cruise passenger, because it is incorporated in Liberia and it registers its ship under flags of convenience (Bahamas and Liberia) on its cruise ships. It rakes in millions and millions each year in profits. Its cruise executives, Mr. Fain and Mr. Goldstein, are collectively worth well over $100,000,000 because of the hard working and minimally paid crew, mostly from the Caribbean islands, east Europe, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The U.S. executives are swimming in cash while paying the "foreign" crew peanuts. 

There is something wrong when a U.S. call center employee sitting in a cubicle answering the phone for the cruise line can work less than one-half of the hours of a shipboard employee yet earn three times more, plus benefits and perks.   

 

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Don't forget to read:  

Cruise Law Visits Royal Caribbean in Oregon

Globalization at Work? Royal Caribbean's U.K. Call Center Outsourced to Guatemala

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