Master of the Anthem of the Seas: Storm Not Accurately Forecast

A YouTube video of the Master of the Anthem of the Seas was broadcast to the staterooms on the Anthem of the Seas internal channel the day after the storm. A passenger, Sean Ferguson, recorded it with his iPhone.

The captain stated that, in his opinion, the low pressure system was not forecast accurately and the Anthem of the Seas faced wind and wave conditions much worse than were forecast.

His comments are in stark contrast to a number of meteorologists who have stated that the storm was accurately forecast last week. Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, a local meteorologist from Ohio, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page. Another meteorologist, Ryan Maue, a "digital meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, said it's hard to believe no one at Royal Caribbean had been aware of a storm system that had been forecast — and included in official advisories and warnings issued by the National Weather Service — days in advance, " says NJ.com in the article Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing 'Anthem' cruise ship into storm.

The meteorologists at the Weather Channel were highly critical of Royal Caribbean last night and stated that the storm was accurately predicted in several programs and widely reported. The Weather Channel broadcast images showing that the seas were predicted to be over 30 feet last week (see photo below), which sharply contrasted with the Royal Caribbean captain's claim that the waves were forecast to be only 12 to 15 feet in height.   

Of interest is the Master's statement that the winds which rocked the cruise ship were up to 170 MPH which is actually higher than the estimates of many terrified passengers who contacted us of around 150 MPH.  He also stated that the passenger were understandably extremely uncomfortable and fearful of the weather conditions.

Ar the 18 minute mark of the video, the Master used an online chart from PassageWeather.com which, ironically, accurately predicted the development of this storm before the Anthem of the Seas sailed into danger. 

Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean's claim that the storm was not predicted:  "Royal Caribbean's claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers.

USA TODAY published Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm. 

Florida Senator Bill Nelson was quoted in the press asking why would the ship continue right into the path of the ferocious storm that had been predicted at least four days on February 3rd, before the cruise encountered it, according to the Daily Mail.

Storm Anthem of the Seas Cruise

 

Anthem of the Seas Cruises Into Rough Weather

Anthem of the Seas StormRoyal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas was pounded by rough weather last night, according to passengers leaving comments, photos and video on the internet.

New accounts initially indicated that there was no damage to the cruise ship or injuries to the passengers but this notion was quickly dispelled by images of extensive damage caused by the storm.

Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page.

The storm was the result of a sudden although predictable intensification known as "bombogenesis," which is explained by this article in Forbes magazine.

ABC News reported that "after seeing pictures and people’s comments on Twitter and other social media platforms, the USCG contacted the Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas to check in.”

Passengers contacted us indicating that several guests were injured in the mayhem caused by the hurricane strength 125+ MPH winds and 30+ foot waves.  

The cruise line said initialy that it would be late getting to Port Canaveral but later said that the Anthem would return to New Jersey. Passengers would be refunded 100% and, in addition, receive 50% of their fares a future cruise credit in compensation. 

The storm and damage to the ship reminds me of a harrowing incident on the Brilliance of the Seas when several passengers were seriously injured when a storm hit the Royal Caribbean cruise ship in December 2010. The ship tried to outrun a known storm into Alexandria, Egypt. Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story in the media, saying that the storm was far worse than expected. 

Watch Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos

February 8 2016 Update: Seems that Royal Caribbean is playing the "unforseeable" weather game again. Weather professionals are not buying it  - Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing 'Anthem' cruise ship into storm. Also read 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm.  The Weather Channel pointed out that several weather programs predicited the high waves and high winds last week, and questioned where the cruise line obtained its weather forecasts.

February 9 2016 UpdateMaster of the Anthem of the Seas: Storm Not Accurately Forecast.

Image Credit: NOAA/NASA via Forbes

Storm Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

Customs & Border Protection Arrest Passenger on Kidnapping Charges, But Only After Cruise

News accounts are reporting that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested a cruise passenger in Miami on charges that he has outstanding arrest warrants for kidnapping as well as assault and battery. 

The charges involve criminal allegations made in South Carolina. The newspaper said the unidentified person is now awaiting extradition to South Carolina.

A CBP spokesperson at the port in Miami was quoted saying: "intercepting wanted criminals and detaining them on behalf of a law enforcement agency is part and parcel to what CBP does to ensure those crossing the border into the United States do not pose a risk to our nation and its population.”  

The above quote is rather bizarre because the man arrested is apparently an U.S. citizen who went on a cruise out of Miami which included a port in Jamaica.  So the CBP should have arrested the cruise passenger on the assault and kidnapping charges at the beginning of the cruise rather than at the end.

The news release by the CBP is misleading and says that the man was arrested "after he arrived here on a cruise ship from Jamaica." Of course, there are no cruises which originate in Jamaica.  

The CBP boasts that the arrest demonstrates "vigilance and dedication exercised every day by CBP officers to secure our homeland and safeguard our citizens."  But the truth of the matter is that the CBP didn't bother to screen the cruise manifest and arrest the wanted man before he sailed from U.S. waters.

We have seen this problem many times. Read our article two years ago - Are You Cruising with a Wanted Felon? Five Passengers Arrested on Carnival Magic in Galveston.

This reveals a major flaw in the CBP which does not bother to review who is leaving the country on cruises.  This person had an outstanding arrest warrant for serious violent felonies yet he was permitted on the unidentified cruise ship to mingle with passengers when potentially he posed a danger to others.  

The CBP's primary mission is anti-terrorism, it admits, so it is inexcusable that it does not scrutinize passenger lists before cruise ships sail out of U.S waters.       

The Customs and Border Patrol should begin vetting the name of passengers before the cruise starts, rather than screening passengers only at the end of the cruise. Unfortunately this is standard practice Customs and Border Protection - Cruise Ships for the CBP, which routinely permits rapists, criminals with outstanding warrants and other misfits to board cruise ships. Then there is great fanfare at the end of the cruise when the CBP finally take a look at the ship manifest. 

As we reported before, cruise passengers Steven Mark Anthony Requena (photo right), age 28, was arrested while disembarking the Carnival Inspiration at the Port of Tampa two year ago. His name was flagged by a sweep of the manifest of passengers by Homeland Security officials who determined that the passenger was wanted for sexual assault in addition to assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. The U.S. Marshals arrested Requena only after the cruise ship returned to port. Regretfully, our federal government routinely looks at the ship passenger list only after the bad guys have already boarded the cruise ship.

It is one of the reasons why cruising is more dangerous that it should be. At a time when the world is focused on dealing with ISIS, it is irresponsible for our Federal employees not to look at the passenger list before the cruise ship leaves a U.S. port. 

Carnival Passenger Dies During SNUBA Excursion in St. Kitts

Carnival Excursion Death St. KkittsWe were informed yesterday that a Carnival cruise passenger from the Carnival Glory died in St. Kitts during a SNUBA excursion booked on the ship. 

A cruise passenger who witnessed the spectacle but wishes to stay anonymous states that it allegedly took an ambulance 20 minutes to arrive. The vehicle allegedly had no medical equipment or defibrillator. The passenger who contacted us says that there was "zero medical help" from the St. Kitts paramedics. "They just looked at the guy, said he's dead, and walked away."

Nurses and a firefighter vacationing on the Friar's Bay beach reportedly performed CPR on the passenger for 15 minutes without success.  

The passenger complained that there was allegedly no doctor available who could even pronounce the passenger dead so they could take his body away instead of being left in the sun for hours.  

Cruise lines need to require every tour operator to have defibrillators and proper first aid equipment with them, particularly in countries where they take their passengers that have ambulances without defibrillators or basic emergency equipment. 

Carnival declined to respond to our request for a comment. 

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from NCL's Norwegian Breakaway

The United States Coast Guard medevaced a 61 year-old woman from a NCL cruise ship near Cape Hatteras on Monday.

The Coast Guard crew was notified that a female passenger was found unconscious aboard the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship, around 1 P.M. 

The Coast Guard deployed a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from U. S. Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C.

The helicopter crew took the woman to the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Va. where EMS personnel were waiting.

Video Credit: Defense Imagery and Video Distribution System

Cruise Law News Named One of the Best Law Blogs to Follow

Jim Walker Cruise Law BlogFirst Site Guide just announced the Best Law Blogs to Follow. It names 23 law blogs to follow and ranks them on three criteria: Alexa rankings, social media followers (total number of followers combined from the  blog's social media profiles including Facebook and Twitter), and SemRush Rank (ranked by organic traffic coming from Google's top 20 organic search results).

It says that is is "judge, jury, and executioner as far as this list is concerned. The chosen blogs are guilty of being the best law blogs on the internet."

Cruise Law News is first of all law blogs in social media followers (around 210,000); fourth in Alexa rankings and fourth in SemRush rankings. We have a popular Facebook page and we are active on Twitter.

The list includes 23 law blogs, many of which I read regularly. There are a few that are new to me, like Hugh Hewitt, the self-titled blog which has been very informative during this election year.   

Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas Fire Cruise Law News was read by over 2,000,000 different people last year (2015) who read over 7,000,000 pages. 2006 looks like another popular year, with over 200,000 different people reading over 650,000 pages in the last month. 

Our motto is "everything cruise lines don't want you to know." We try to be among the first to report when things go wrong on the high seas,  We have many friends on cruise ships at sea who contact us when there has been a fire, or a crime, or someone who has gone overboard.

For example, when the Freedom of the Seas caught fire heading into Falmouth, Jamaica this last summer, a crew member friend of ours videotaped the fire. The video was watched over 1,150.000 times on our Facebook page and was widely circulated by international news outlets. We also posted photographs of the extensive fire damage Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas Fire taken on the ship. Marine experts around the world chimed in.

The cruise line effectively misled the public about the extent of the fire and acted recklessly continuing to sail without a thorough post-fire inspection and survey.  Read the Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax.

We have also exposed crew members ordered to hide food and galley equipment from U.S.P.H. inspectors and dumping garbage bags and oily rags into a marine sanctuary at night

When the cruise executives say that they are going to make a lot of money sailing passengers into North Africa and the Middle East, we will be the first one to urge caution and call them out when they sail their guests into danger.

We have a perspective which comes from representing many hundreds of cruise passengers and crew members and battling the cruise lines here in Miami.  

Thanks for reading our blog!  Don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter,

UK Naval Commander Warns that ISIS Could Target Cruise Ships in Mediterranean

Multiple news outlets in the U.K. are reporting that the U.K. naval commander for NATO is warning that ISIS presents a threat to shipping in the Mediterranean Sea.

The popular Daily Mail published UK Commander Warns Mediterranean Cruise Ships Could be Terror Targets.  

It's a topic we cover often.  It is our belief that cruise ships are woefully unprepared to address the threat of an ISIS attack on a cruise ship and when cruise passenger are sent ashore on excursions, where they are particularly vulnerable.  

We were interviewed in several online articles about the issue, including Yahoo Travel: Is Your Cruise SISIS Terrorismhip Prepared for a Terrorist Attack?

There are few travel writers willing to have a frank and realistic assessment of the vulnerability of cruise ships to terrorists.

We have been criticized before for discussing how how ISIS will attack cruise ship passengers:  How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen.

Today the Telegraph published an article Are Cruise Holidays Safe from Terrorism? written by U.K. cruise travel specialist Jane Archer who, in our assessment, down played the threat or terror.

She argues that: "One of the benefits of a cruise holiday is that cruise companies can change itineraries immediately in response to incidents. Hotels cannot do that. If the cruise lines believe it is dangerous to visit a particular port, they can simply alter course and so (sic) somewhere else so holidays are not ruined."

Ms. Archer also says that "there is no evidence at all that terrorists have targeted cruise passengers in the past."

She also claims that "cruise lines conduct stringent security checks on everyone embarking their ships. Luggage is put through X-ray scanners, just as it is at an airport before flying, and passengers have to walk through detectors before being allowed on board." 

Ms. Archer's article is essentially a regurgitation of the talking points released by the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association

In response, I would point out these facts: 

22 cruise tourists from a Costa and a MSC cruise ship were slaughtered when they disembarked excursion buses at the Bardo museum in Tunis with absolutely no security and no warnings even though it was widely known to these cruise lines that ISIS presented a danger in the region.  The cruise lines cruised their guests into danger and should have sailed them elsewhere but didn't. Cruise lines are often motivated primarily by financial considerations, not the safety and security of their passengers.  

Yes, of course terrorists have targeted cruise passengers in the past. Putting aside the Achille Lauro terrorist attack back in the 1980's, the Rand corporation has more recently stated that cruise passengers are targets. CNN reported that al Qaeda contemplated seizing a cruise ship, forcing the passengers to dress in orange Guantanamo Bay-like suits, and videotape their executions to inflict maximum terror on the public. Read al Qaeda Planned to Seize Cruise Ships, Execute Passengers. Of course, ISIS just targeted the cruise passengers' excursion buses in Tunis.

Think that all passenger luggage is carefully screened for security purposes? Ask yourself that question after reading Port of Miami Security Guards Arrested for Stealing Cruise Passenger iPads. Large quantities of drugs are also often smuggled aboard cruise ships by crew members without detection. If crew members or passengers can smuggle large quantities of drugs onto ships in luggage or taping the drugs to their bodies, they can do the same with explosives. 

U.S. immigrations officials typically do not review passenger manifests until after the cruise ship sails and arrest people with outstanding warrants only when the cruise ship returns to port.  Are you about to cruise with a terrorist in the cabin next door?  Maybe. The Customs and Border Protection officials may arrest the bad guys but only if you make it back to port.

ISIS already blew up an Egyptian frigate at sea, just last year (photo above).  As we all know, Islamic extremists blew up the USS Cole many years ago, by ramming a small boat packed with explosives into the naval ship, killing many U.S. service men and women. 

The warning signs are all there. It's your decision who to believe or disbelieve. Do you tend to trust the top NATO naval commander for the U.K. or a cruise writer for the Telegraph? 

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

Excursion Bus with Passengers from MSC Orchestra Crashes in Dominica

Excursion Bus in DominicaA newspaper in Dominica reports that an excursion bus taking passengers from a MSC cruise ship to a tourist attraction crashed today in Dominica.

An infant reportedly died in the accident, according to the online newspaper in Dominica. 

The bus was heading on an excursion to Trafalgar Falls.

The newspaper says that five people have been taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital. MSC Cruises indicates in a statement (below) that seven passenger were injured.

The MSC cruise ship is the Orchestra. The cruise line says that the passenger had "independently booked through a third party."

There have been a number of deadly bus excursion accidents involving cruise passengers.

Most recently an excursion bus was struck by a truck as the Royal Caribbean excursion was returning to the Freedom of the Seas in Falmouth, Jamaica, resulting in one death and multiple serious injuries.

Prior to that accident, two passengers from the Celebrity Summit were killed in Tortola, British West Indies when the excursion bus apparently lost control near "Round Hill" on the Cane Garden Bay Hill.
The cruise line earlier tweeted that "16 of 20 passengers reported injured, 2 critically."

In 2010, an excursion bus carrying Princess cruise passengers crashed in Tortola, killing one young man.

Cruise passengers from the Celebrity Summit cruise ship were seriously injured in an excursion vehicle mishap in the Caribbean islands. In 2009, a dozen passengers from the Summit were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica. We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident. You can read information about the Dominica excursion accident in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

There were two cruise excursion bus crashes in 2012 in Caribbean islands, both involving Royal Caribbean passengers.

Photo Credit: dominicanewsonline

MSC statement:

"It is with deep sadness that MSC Cruises confirms that a tragic accident involving seven of its guests happened earlier today at approximately 11 AM, local time, in Trafalgar on the Caribbean island of Dominica.

The seven guests involved in the accident were five Italian and two Brazilian nationals. They were on their way to a on shore visit which they had independently booked through a third party.

Immediately after the accident, the guests were transported to the nearby Queen Margaret Hospital in Trafalgar and a support team from the ship has since arrived to the hospital to assist them in every way they can.

Simultaneously, MSC Cruises’ crisis team was activated and has already contacted all the families and relatives of the guests involved in the accident.

The guests were all aboard MSC Orchestra which was calling at Roseau, Dominica, for the day.

Since then, we are glad to report that two Italian and two Brazilian nationals are safely either already back on board or on their way. Regarding the young boy and his family, his parents are out of harm’s way but still at the hospital. I am unfortunately not at liberty to disclose the condition of the young boy, since the relevant authorities have yet to make a formal assessment. Having said this, I have also been reading that he has passed and we are led to believe that this is sadly the case."

Court Dismisses Passengers' Costa Concordia Lawsuits Filed in Miami

Costa ConcordiaAn appellate court in Miami has ruled that Costa Concordia passengers, both U.S. residents and non-U.S. residents, cannot seek compensation in the U.S. for any injuries which they suffered arising out of the Concordia disaster in 2012.

Yesterday, the Third District Court of Appeal published its decision in Denise Abeid-Saba, et al. vs. Carnival Corp., Carnival PLC, Costa Crociere, S.p.A., Costa Cruise Lines, Inc., and Joseph Farcus Architect, P. A.

The appellate court was faced with two orders of trial courts in litigation filed shortly after the Costa Concordia disaster. The cases involved two groups of passengers: one case involved fifty-seven plaintiffs, of whom five are United States residents. The other case involved fifty-two plaintiffs, of whom seventeen are U.S. residents. Carnival moved to dismiss the cases based on the legal doctrine of "forum non conveniens," arguing that the U.S. is not an appropriate location to litigate the cases. In one case, the trial court ruled that both U.S. residents and non-U.S. residents were prohibited from pursuing their cases here in Miami. In the other case, the trial court permitted U.S. residents to continue to pursue their cases here in Miami. 

Long ago, we advised passengers on the ill fated cruise ship to either consider accepting Carnival's minimal settlement offer or proceed to Genoa, Italy to make a legal claim against Costa and its parent company. Costa of course is based in Italy; the shipwreck, Italian Coast Guard and most of the witnesses and evidence are located there; and the passenger ticket requires that legal claims be pursued in Genoa which is the principal place of Costa's business and the location where criminal proceedings were pursued against the infamous captain Schettino. It was our opinion that all of the factors favored the filing of cases in Italy and that there was little chance that a Florida court would entertain litigation here.

In a twenty-two page order, the appellate court ruled that none of the passengers, whether U.S. residents or not, could pursue their cases here in Miami or anywhere in the U.S. They must all pursue their cases in Italy where the accident occurred and most of the witness and evidence are located. You can read the twenty-two page opinion here

We previously warned that filing suit here was a long shot: Are Lawyers Taking Costa Cruise Survivors Into Dangerous Legal Waters?

The billion dollar Carnival corporation has escaped virtually all legal accountability for the disaster.

Photo Credit: By Soerfm - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

RCCL to Hire 30,000 Filipino Crew Members Over Next Five Years

SeafarerThe Manila Bulletin reports that Royal Caribbean announced yesterday that it is "hiring a total of 30,000 Filipino crew members over the next five years" as the company "expands its fleet and routes to Asia."

The newspaper also states that the cruise line currently employees around 11,000 Filipinos as crew members.

Filipinos seafarers have a proud tradition of working at sea. Unfortunately, Filipinos have perhaps the fewest legal rights of any crew member working for a cruise line. That's because the cruise industry is enforcing arbitration which requires them to pursue their claims in Manila pursuant to the Philippines Overseas Employment Agreement (POEA) which places a cap on their damages when they are injured during their work.   

The compensation is ridiculously low. For example, a Filipino crew member employed on a bulk carrier as a senior engine fitter received sustained serious burns of his abdomen and legs when scalding water overflowed a tank. The crew member underwent extensive and painful medical treatment in the burn units of West Jefferson Medical Center and Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Louisiana, U.S.A.

The Filipino underwent skin grafting burns of 35% of his body.

He thereafter was returned to the Philippines where he continued undergoing medical treatment at a number of hospitals and with a number of doctors who performed plastic surgery. He is now unemployed, disabled and scarred for life.

He filed suit in state court in Jefferson Parish where the accident occurred, but his case was dismissed and he was ordered to proceed with arbitration in the Philippines.

The shipping company argued that the case was controlled totally by Philippine law and the crew member had no rights whatsoever under U.S. law. The company argued that under the Philippines Overseas Employment agreement (POEA), the crew member suffered a grade 14 disability which would entitle him to only 3.74% of USD $50,000 or a total award of $1,870.00 (US).

The Filipino Labor Board agreed and awarded the crew member just $1,870. You can read about the case here

When Filipinos are killed at seas due to the negligence of the cruise line, the POEA has a cap of only $50,000.  

If Royal Caribbean hires some 30,000 Filipinos over the years, it will save many millions of dollars by sending them back to Manila when they are injured and forcing them to accept the limited compensation under the POEA.

Photo Credit: By Maxime Felder - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia

Coke Bust on Jewel of the Seas

Jewel of the SeasThe Daily Star reports that U.S. authorities in San Juan arrested seven people after finding 24 pounds (11 kilograms) of cocaine aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship just before it was to set to sail. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said today that a canine doing cabin inspections aboard the Jewel of the Seas found the drugs on Sunday.

Royal Caribbean says six of the arrested were U.S. male passengers. The identity of the seventh was not disclosed. 

Photo Credit:  Dave Souza Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5 / Wikipedia

 

Bahamian Police Arrest U.S. Cruise Passenger for Rape

The Tribune newspaper reports that the Royal Bahamas Police Department arrested a U.S. passenger from Missouri over the weekend for allegedly raping another passenger on an unidentified cruise ship.

The Bahamian police is holding the U,S, citizen for "indecent assault" of the cruise passenger of a female on Saturday morning.

The newspaper says that "shortly after 9am a female visitor on a cruise ship moored at Prince George Wharf reported to police that she was indecently assaulted on board by the suspect, who is also a Nassau Bahamaspassenger on the ship." 

We have seen cruise ship sexual assault cases prosecuted in Bahamian courts before, but we have never seen a Bahamian jury convict anyone for sexually assaulting a woman at sea before. Sexual assaults, in our view, should always be reported by the cruise line to the FBI or the police departments of the U.S. port where the cruise ship is home ported. The FBI / DOJ and Florida prosecutors have jurisdiction to prosecute U.S. citizens on cruise ships even thought the crimes occur on the high seas or the territorial waters of a foreign country.  

The Bahamanian newspapers often do nor identify the name of the cruise ship or cruise line to avoid embarrassing them.  Many cruise lines are flagged in Nassau to avoid U.S. taxes and regulations. 

Photo Credit: "Prince George Wharf in Nassau Harbor" by TampAGS, for AGS Media - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Wikipedia

LabadeeĀ® in Limbo - When Will Royal Caribbean Return to Its Private Resort?

Today is the third occasion when Royal Caribbean has canceled a port call in its private destination of Labadee, Haiti. The Vision of the Seas was supposed to call on Royal Caribbean's fenced-off private port today but instead the cruise line has chosen to avoid Labadee and take passengers on the Vision of the Seas to San Juan a little earlier, according to the unofficial RCL Blog.  

The last two times a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was suppose to call on Labadee ( Freedom of the Seas on January 19th and the Navigator of the Seas on January 21st), the cruise line initially encountered a small group of boats with protesters aboard and then on the second occasion refused to disembark its passengers there because it had not yet received assurances from the Haitian government that the drama would not be repeated. It replaced the port on these two cruises with a sea day. Royal Caribbean has reportedly returned the passengers' port taxes for Ladabee, as it is permitted to do in its one-sided passenger ticket. There are rumors and a couple of postings on social media sites that Royal Caribbean has replaced Labadee with Belize, but the company has decided not Labadee Haitito post anything official. The cruise line has done a poor job notifying guests who are booked on cruises which include Labadee in the next few weeks exactly what is happening. 

Today was suppose to be the day of the much anticipated national elections in Haiti. Royal Caribbean has implied that the protests in Labadee were about the national elections, but there appears to be far more to the story that the cruise line is admitting publicly.  

The cruise line took over sovereign Haitian land when it made its deal with Baby Doc Duvalier in 1986. It separated the village of Labadie with a 12 foot chain-linked fence, covered with barbwire, from its private resort which it trademarked Labadee®.  

Labadee® is a major money maker for the cruise line. Royal Caribbean pays no actual rent of any kind for the 260 acres of waterfront property, but its passengers pay a $10 to $12 head tax. Few people will argue that this money reaches the local villagers in Haiti, which some local people contend is the real source of the local protests last week. Passengers pay hundreds of dollars to Royal Caribbean to ride on the "Dragon's Breath Flight Line" (a zip line which towers over the beach), or to rent jet-skis, or to lounge in a private cabana.  A "Labadoozie" frozen rum drink costs a whopping $14 plus 18%. Needless to say, Haitians on the other side of the barbwire do not receive any of this money and are mired in abject poverty. The local artisans, who are permitted thought the barbwired scurity fence, receive only a pittance selling their local artwork. In contrast, cruise ships from Royal Caribbean and its sister company Celebrity bring many millions of dollars of money generated in Labadee back to their headquarters in Miami on each cruise.  

Many cruise passengers don't know, or seem not to care, about the troubled history of Haiti or Royal Caribbean's sharp deal with the former corrupt leaders of Haiti, which resulted in the Miami-based cruise line obtaining 260 acres of water front land for 50 years. Many people don't seem to understand that the resort of Labadee is part of Haiti. Some still believe that it is an island unto itself or is part of Hispaniola, a marketing image encouraged by the cruise line knowing that selling a vacation spot in an impoverished and sometimes violent country like Haiti was a long shot. Even a travel article published recently in the News-Gazette newspaper in Champaign, Illinois about cruising to Labadee mistakingly calls it a "private island" located just "off the shore of Haiti."  

Indeed, Royal Caribbean's official video of Labadee misleadingly refers to it as "Royal Caribbean's Private Island Paradise."

Large multi-national companies obtaining sweet deals for valuable land of impoverished Caribbean or Central America nations for private destinations seems like business as usual in the winner-take-all world of the cruise industry. Multi-billion dollar, Fortune 200 companies gobbling up ports in one-sided deals with beholden and often corrupt leaders of tiny countries in the Caribbean and Central America seems to be viewed as just good business.  

Cruise lines are making sharp deals throughout the Caribbean. The government of Belize just passed a bill which "legislates tax and duty exemptions for Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), a billion dollar multi-national company that has been given a 25-year exclusive contract to control cruise operations in southern Belize," according to a local newspaper in Belize. The Supreme Court of Belize earlier found that NCL "fast-tracked" its dredge-and-fill Harvest Caye project with the government hastily approving the NCL’s new port and resort project over environmental concerns. 

The indefinite postponement of the elections, apparently due to violence and fear of corruprion, will result in Royal Caribbean postponing its decision when it will return its ship to Labadee.  Have no doubt about one thing - Royal Caribbean will return to Labadee. It has directed far too much of its profits on building a pier, zip-lining and roller-coaster rides and cabanas to walk away from such an immensely profitable waterfront boondoggle that it has tied up for the next 24 years.

It seems questionable to me whether any significant percentage of Royal Caribbean passengers care about whether the cruise line is exploiting the local villagers. It's just another private destination, they say, like Coco Cay (another Royal Caribbean private resort), or Half Moon Cay (operated by HAL), or Castaway Cay (operated by Disney).  

But it seems, unnfortunately, that Royal Caribean feels compelled to first make a point with the protesters. It will continue to freeze out the local people, just like Carnival Corporation did when 150 Indian P&O waiters congregated on the pier in Seattle and politely protested their low wages and the withholding of tips. When it was over, despite promises that there would be no retribution, the Carnival CEO's terminated all of the waiters and black-balled them from ever working in the cruise industry

One Royal Caribbean crew menber left a comment on my Facebook page: "guests did not pay to change the world during their visits but to relax and have fun." Is this true? Once Royal Caribbean shows the protesters who is boss of Labadee®, will passengers again be unloaded into the cruise line's private resort to zip-line, parasail and drink $14 Labadoozies in their private cabanas, or will they wake up to the injustice of Labadee®? 

Photo Credit: Tancy Talks Cruising Part 2: Fake Haiti

January 26, 2016 Update:  Time magazine weighs in

January 28, 2016 Update: A travel agent takes a look at Labadee.

 

 

 

Pukefest on the Crown Princess - Why Does Princess Cruise Have So Many Norovirus Outbreaks?

The first norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship calling on a U.S. port this year has been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And, no surprise to anyone that follows cruise ship outbreaks, it involved a Princess Cruises cruise ship. 

The Crown Princess just returned to Los Angeles following a two week cruise from January 3 - 18, 2016. 180 of the 3,060 passengers (5,88 %) aboard the cruise ship were sick with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. 24 of 1,168 crew members (2.05%) became ill with gastrointestinal symptoms which the CDC confirmed were due to norovirus.  You can read the CDC report here.

During the six year period from 2010 to the current date, Princess Cruises experienced the most Princess Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreaknorovirus outbreaks on its cruise ships calling on a U.S. port, according to the CDC. Princess reported nineteen (19) cases to the CDC during this time period. Carnival cruise lines reported just two (2) cases during the same time period.  

Celebrity Cruises reported 15 cases (and Royal Caribbean reported 9).  HAL also reported a high nummber (12) during the 2010 to 2016 time period.

Cunard reported 4; NCL -3; Oceania - 3; and Crystal - 2.  

The Crown Princess alone has suffered through five (5) norovirus outbreaks since 2010 to the present. Before the current outbreak, the last outbreak on the Crown Princess was from October 18 to November 16, 2014. Prior to that, it was February 5 to 12, 2014. It also experienced back-to-back outbreaks from January 29 to February 4, 2012 and February 4 to February 9, 2012 (photo above).

The Crown Princess alone experienced two and one-half time more norovirus outbreaks that the entire fleet of Carnival cruise lines from 2010 to the present!

So why is Princess Cruises far more prone to norovirus outbreaks than Carnival cruise lines, for example?

The cruise industry always blames the passengers for bringing the virus aboard, rather than its food handlers, or contaminated food or water. So are Princess Cruises customers the sickest and the least hygienic cruisers around? Do they wash their hands the least of any cruisers?  That seems like a absurd argument to make.

Is there a correlation between the age of the cruise ships and gastrointestinal outbreaks?  Are different food sources and food handling techniques a more reasonable explanation?  How about different sanitation procedures?  I'm not sure. The CDC doesn't have time to determine the source of the norovirus outbreak (sick food handlers versus contaminated food or water or a sick passenger) so it is of no help.  

But blaming the passengers when one cruise line (and one cruise ship in particular) has far more gastrointestinal outbreaks than its competitors is certainly not the answer.  

CDC Expands Zika Travel Warning

Zika VirusThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added eight (8) more destinations to its recent Zika virus travel alert yesterday.

In addition to the 14 countries already on the CDC list (Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti , Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela), the CDC added these 8 more countries:

Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde, and Samoa.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) states that the move to add countries where a traveler could be injected "follows the CDC's initial Jan 15 travel advisory recommending that pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant consider postponing travel to countries where Zika virus is circulating, and if they must travel to the destinations they should follow strict steps to avoid mosquito bites."

As we explained in our first article, there is a risk of to pregnant women of having a baby with a small, underdeveloped heads (microcephaly).

This latest development comes at a time when "three travellers who returned to the UK from South and Central America have been diagnosed with the Zika virus."

So far, we have heard of some cruise lines which are cruising to one of the countries subject to the CDC warning are refusing pregnant women to cancel their cruises.  We do not know whether those travel insurance companies are providing coverage when a pregnant cruiser cancels and submits a claim.

The CDC's Recommendations for Pregnant Women Considering Travel to an Area of Zika Virus Transmission

Because there is neither a vaccine nor prophylactic medications available to prevent Zika virus infection, CDC recommends that all pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If a pregnant woman travels to an area with Zika virus transmission, she should be advised to strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite both indoors and outdoors, mostly during the daytime; therefore, it is important to ensure protection from mosquitoes throughout the entire day. Mosquito prevention strategies include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA - registered insect repellents, using permethrin-treated clothing and gear, and staying and sleeping in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms. When used as directed on the product label, insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 are safe for pregnant women. Further guidelines for using insect repellents are available online (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites).

January 26, 2016 Update: The CDC added  the United States Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic to the list of destinations with Zika virus disease outbreaks.

Photo Credit: "Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany" by James Gathany - PHIL, CDC. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons Wikipedia

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