Crew Member Allegedly Molests Child in Livorno, Italy.

A newspaper in Italy reports that two days ago police arrested a 51 year old crew member, who had gone ashore in Livorno, on charges of sexual assaulting a child believed to be around 7 to 8 years old.

The crew member is identified as a Filipino bar tender who arrived in Livorno on an unidentified cruise ship in port. He took a bus into the city and come across a group of school children when, according to an eye witness, he allegedly sexually molested the child.  The witness who observed the incident immediately alerted the teachers who accompanied the student group, while the 51 year old man attempted to get away. The witness followed at a distance without losing sight of the man and reported the alleged incident to the police who arrested him. Other bystanders were threatening to attack the man. 

According to the Crew Center website which reported on the alleged crime, there were five cruise ships in the port of Livorno that day: the Azamara Quest, Holland America Line Eurodam, Norwegian Epic, and Pullmantur Sovereign

Livorno is a major port called on by many cruise lines where passengers can take excursions to Pisa, Florence, or the Cinque Terre region.

Although this incident, if true, took off of the cruise ship, it should act as a reminder that pedophiles, both crew members and passengers, exist on cruises just like in your home town.  One of the first articles I wrote when I started this blog several years ago dealt with this issue - Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships.

May 29 2016 Update:  The bartendder, I have learned, was reportedly employed aboard HAL's Eurodam.

Photo Credit: Luca Aless - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia

Another Man Overboard Marks Three Year Anniversary of Disappearance of Richard Fearnside

A reader of Cruise Law News brought to my attention that a crew member disappeared at sea from a ferry operated by Irish Ferries from Rosslare, Ireland to Pembroke, Wales yesterday. A number of newspapers have reported that a a large air and sea search was just suspended after the crew member apparently went overboard into the St. Georges channel from a ferry during the cruise of less than five hours.

The crew member has not been identified but was said to be a member of the catering staff aboard overboard crew member disappearancethe ferry.

The Western Telegraph newspaper quoted the ferry company as telling the BBC "We just don't know where he is. Technically speaking it is possible that he walked off in Pembroke . . ."

This rather clueless statement reveals a problem with many ferries throughout Great Britain (Britain, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) and Europe. They have not bothered to invest in closed circuit television on their ships despite a series of overboards over the years

I have been critical of the U.S.-based cruise industry due to the failure to install automatic man overboard systems which can immediately send a signal to the bridge of the cruise ship whenever someone goes over the railing and also can track the overboard passenger or crew member in the water via thermal imaging and radar which increases the possibility of recovering the overboard person. But many U.K. and European cruise and ferry companies have not only refused to install this state-of-the-art technology, they have refused to even install old-school CCTV systems on their ships.  

A spokesperson for the Irish Ferries company, which recently won the Best Ferry Company award by a travel media public relations firm in Ireland, defended the company saying that "this is the first time in my memory for a crewman to go missing."

It seems that the ferry PR person has a poor memory. The disappearance of people from ferries, as well as from cruise ships, is well documented and includes crew members as well as passengers.

Last week (May 21st) marked the three year anniversary of the disappearance of 30 year-old Richard Fearnside from P&O Ferries' Pride of Kent ferry as it was sailing from Calais back to Dover. His girlfriend said that he was going to the top deck to smoke a cigarette. Richard never returned. 

P&O Ferries could offer no explanation to Richard's parents, Bob and Marianne, regarding what happened to their son.  Although P&O Ferries has experienced safety problems before in the past, the ferry company had not bothered to install a single CCTV camera on the decks of its fleet of P&O ships for safety and security purposes.

P&O chose instead to install surveillance cameras only in its duty free shops on the ferries. Jewelry and alcohol, it appears, are more precious to some ferry companies than its customers.

overboard passengerRichard's mother, Marianne, wrote a letter to P&O Ferries CEO, Helen Deeble, about her son's disappearance and sought information. P&O sent a boorish response, not from Ms. Deeble, but from a public relations representative at the ferry company. The PR company man told her that installing safety cameras was a silly, impractical idea.

In 2013, I sent an open letter to Ms. Deeble about the absence of CCTV cameras on P&O ferries. There are huge cruise ships in the U.S. that have literally over 1,000 CCTV cameras installed on board. Ms. Deeble chose to ignore my letter just like she initially ignored Marianne's letter. Marianne started a petition to require P&O Ferries to install CCTV cameras on its passenger decks. The petition resonated with the public. To date, over 99,456 people have signed the petition while making insightful comments explaining why safety cameras are required. You can see the petition here.

The overboard crew member yesterday shows that little has changed with ferries in the U.K.  "We don't know where he is" is reflective of negligence, if not wanton indifference, particularly coming from a ferry called the "best ferry company."

Please take a moment, sign the petition and voice your concerns.

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Photo credit:Bottom photo credit: Canterbury Times 

Passenger Goes Overboard from Coral Princess

On the heels of the passenger going overboard yesterday from the Carnival Liberty, I have learned from several passengers on the Coral Princess that a passenger went overboard from the Princess cruise ship on May 11th.

A passenger on the Coral Princess tweeted earlier this week: 

"Captain of the Coral Princess, my home away from home, advised that a male of Russian origin jumped overboard yesterday AM."

Another passenger commented that she had just returned from a Los Angeles - Vancouver cruise on the Coral Princess and that a man overboard incident has occurred during the cruise. She said that she Coral Princesswas shocked to come home and not be able to find any news on this incident.

She continued with an explanation regarding what happened:

"It was a passenger.  "The announcement said 'it appeared to be voluntary' that he left the ship. Only made the announcement once and we were outside so didnt hear it all. They had paged for him a number of times at dinner on Wednesday (early seating) and then came to a slow and stop for awhile....lots of security and other staff sweeping decks to check for him. The announcement was on Thursday morning to inform the rest of the passengers."

A third passenger added additional information on my Facebook page about what happened:

"He was on our Deck, Dolphin 614. Security was standing guard outside his cabin. At dinner time, May 11, 2016, the kept announcing for him to report to passenger services. Then the captain or the bridge make announcements in English and what sounded like Russian. He had a Russian sounding last name. The ship was stopped for a while, then we got underway again. At noon on May 12, 2016, the captain came on the intercom and s passenger had indeed jumped overboard and was lost at sea. Yesterday in Victoria, a three person CSI team was in the cabin doing a complete investigation. Princess kept the room sealed and guarded from the time they determined he was missing until the team arrived. He had to have gone overboard somewhere around Santa Barbara I would guess."

Two other people disappeared from this cruise ship since 2009.

A crew member from Italy disappeared from the Coral Princess without explanation in November 2009, in a highly suspicious set of circumstances. 

A passenger went overboard in May 2013 from the Coral Princess without explanation and without Princess even acknowledging the incident.

As I said after that last incident, there should never be a debate about what happens when a passenger or crew member goes overboard. All cruise ships should have state-of-the-art video cameras to document what happens when a person goes overboard. The ships should also have motion detection systems which signal the bridge immediately when someone leaves the cruise ship on the high seas - whether it be intentionally or accidentally or criminally.

As an aside, it also is an useful anti-terrorism system which can immediately detect whether a person is trying to come over the rails onto the ship and alert the bridge.  

This technology exists today with several manufacturers implementing reliable, high tech systems that utilize motion detection, heat sensor, and radar technology to alert the bridge that a guest or crew member has gone over the rails so that immediate rescue efforts can be started. 

May 15 2016 Update: I received the following email this evening: "I just got off the Coral Princess. On May 11 a passenger jumped from his balcony. A man was paged several times that afternoon. including pages in what sounded like Russian or a Slavic language. The following day the ship's captain announced the suicide, saying it had been captured on CCTV. He said the Coast Guard advised him to continue sailing. The ship stopped at Los Angeles on the 10th, but had originated in Ft. Lauderdale. There was no further information from the crew."

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Photo Credit: Roy Luck CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37338048

Passenger Goes Overboard from Carnival Liberty into Gulf

Passengers aboard the Carnival Liberty and a local news station in Houston are reporting that a thirty-three year old passenger went overboard early this morning. 

The missing passengers has been identified as Samantha Broberg who was initially reported missing by her traveling companions.

The Carnival cruise ship was apparently not equipped with a automatic man overboard system Missing Carnival Passenger Liberty Cruise Shipwhich should have alerted the bridge immediately when the young woman went over the rail so that immediate rescue measures could have been undertaken.

Carnival determined that she went overboard only after reviewing surveillance camera footage which "appears to show the woman going overboard around 2 A.M," according to a local ABC news channel in Houston. Previously, the crew engaged in the futile act of posting a photograph of the missing woman on the ship and conducting a search on the cruise ship. 

Carnival confirmed the overboard in a statement released to Houston station KHOU.

The Carnival cruise ship departed from Galveston on Thursday on a four-day cruise to Mexico.

Cruise lines may be unable to prevent overboards but there is reliable technology available to automatically detect and quickly respond to these type of emergencies. The cruise industry has come up with irresponsible reasons to delay the installation of the life-saving systems. One such system, the Mobtronic™ system, reportedly delivers more than 95% detection accuracy and low false alarm rates.  Such technology is required pursuant to the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act but most cruise lines refuse to install the technology due to costs. 

Professor Ross Klein's site indicates that 270 people have gone overboard since 2000.

The last passenger to go overboard disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas earlier this month.

May 15 2016 Update: A fifteen hour delay? ABC News says that there was a delay from when the passenger went overboard, at around 2:00 A.M., until 5:00 P.M. before the search was initiated.  An automatic MOB system would have obviously immediately notified the bridge, eliminating the fifteen (15) hour delay and increasing the chances of survival and a successful rescue.

Also the PR team at the cruise line is stating "based on the video analysis, we can confirm that it appears she climbed up and sat on a deck railing and subsequently fell backwards." Such conduct is foreseeable if someone is over-served alcohol.

Several people on our Facebook page are already blaming the passenger who many claim was intoxicated.  

My thought is that cruise lines owe a duty of reasonable care to passengers pursuant to maritime law. Cruise lines face potential liability if they over-serve alcohol to a guest past the point of intoxication and the guest is injured or killed. Carnival collects $500,000,000 a year selling alcohol on its cruise ships, plus it pays virtually no U.S. taxes. Its bartenders and waiters make greater gratuities the more Carnival booze they sell. On land, bars face liability when they over-serve people to the point that they become literally falling-down drunks. The same liability on cruise ships. Intoxicated guests acting foolishly are foreseeable, especially on cruise ships. Carnival encourages the drunkenness with all-you-can-drink packages. Carnival knows that people will become highly intoxicated but does not have reasonable policies to deal with the problem. Then it does not invest in the proven technology of automatic MOB systems to immediately alert the bridge when someone goes overboard.  It is a failure driven by the cruise line's overarching priority to place profits over safety.

May 16 2016 Update: The authoritative gCaptain covers the story: Cruise Ship Passenger Safety In Focus After Woman Falls Overboard from Carnival Liberty.

May 19 2016 Update:  Photos by passengers have appeared on social media bringing into question what a half dozen Carnival officers were inspecting the day after the passenger disappeared. Carnival's PR claims that the stains on the deck were from a spilled "red drink" and later said that it was from a "strawberry daiquiri." Another passenger pointed out what appears to be a broken light fixture lying on the deck. 

The Epoch Times picks up on the lack of an automatic man overboard system.

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Photo credit:  KVUE

NCL Cruise Ship Rescues Migrants at Sea

Cruise Refugees MediterraneanYesterday, I commented on our Facebook page on the report of a cruise passenger that the Norwegian Spirit, together with the Italian Coast Guard, were involved in assisting what were initially believed to be 300 Syrian immigrants at sea. The NCL cruise ship left Naples heading for Mikonos. A passenger said that that according to captain, the Italian Coast Guard took care of most of refugees and the NCL ship took two pregnant woman onboard who will be medevaced by helicopter for medical treatment. 

The incident was widely reported on television in Europe today.  Euronews reported today that the refugees initially believed to be from Syria, were Sudanese, Somalis and Egyptians. News accounts showed an Italian Coast Guard vessel taking hundreds of refugees aboard as well as medevacing a pregnant woman from what is reported to be the Norwegian Spirit.

Our posting of the event on Facebook sparked a number of hateful comments about refugees from the Middle East and Africa.  There is a long standing maritime tradition of providing aid to people at sea. But many people called the refugees "terrorists," although these poor people were probably fleeing from terror in their home countries.

Fear of refugees at sea is increasingly becoming a part of the debate whether U.S. travelers believe that it is safe to cruise in the Mediterranean this summer. Fox News Travel reports today that "the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and Turkey over the last year haven’t dissuaded Americans from visiting Europe, but they appear to be having an effect on the cruise line industry. Fewer Americans are signing up for Mediterranean cruises this year, according to executives at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Cruises, indicating that the attacks by Islamic State jihadists are affecting the industry."

Travel Market Report says today that "Norwegian Cruise Line released its first-quarter financial results this week, (and) it acknowledged that the attacks in Europe have impacted its bookings mainly among just one customer base: North America."

The Cruise Critic web site stated today that Carnival Cruise Line has canceled calls on the port of Izmir, Turkey, on all upcoming sailings of Carnival Vista, following a warning from the U.S. State Department. Cruise Critic says that "Izmir was specifically named in a March 29 travel advisory from the State Department, which warned against unnecessary travel to southeastern Turkey due to an increased risk of terrorist activity targeting American travelers."

If U.S. national politics are any indication, there is a significant percentage of U.S. citizens who are xenophobic and view Arab refugees as potential trouble.

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Rusted Window Frames on the Rhapsody of the Seas?

Rhapsody of the Seas  Two weeks ago, five windows on deck three broke on the Rhapsody of the Seas, injuring cruise passengers and partially flooding the cabins on deck three and also on deck two.

So why did the windows break?  We have heard dramatic stories of a "rogue wave" from passengers. Afterward, the captain announced (saying words to the effect) that the cruise ship had been caught between two large swells which caused the ship to flex and this allegedly caused the windows to break.

But photographs and comments from another cruise passengers may offer a more simple explanation - that the window frames in question were rusted, and they broke when struck with waves due to their state of disrepair and shoddy maintenance.  

The comments come from a seasoned cruiser, who wishes to remain anonymous.  He and his wife were on the third floor of the ship, on the opposite side or the broken windows. He sent photographs of the window in their cabin which was in a state of neglect.  He commented:

"Our window frames were rusted and water came in even when workers were cleaning the windows. Pathetic preventative maintenance.

At the 3rd floor, we were well above the water line but you could clearly see corrosion in the welds which needs to be repaired, not painted over.

For a ship built in 1997, that's pretty darn pathetic."

He sent a number of photographs, not of the damaged cabins, but of the window in his unaffected cabin (some of which you can see on our Facebook page).  

"This is my window . . . I attach a photo of the whole window, top dead center, missing screw, rust inside and outside of window. Zoom in, top of frame is brass colored, bottom is tarnished brass so bad you would think it was blue wood."

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Rhapsody of the Seas

Rhapsody of the Seas

Norovirus on Fathom Travel's First Cruise to Cuba?

The Sun Sentinel is reporting that the Fathom Travel's historical first cruise on the Adonia cruise ship to Cuba may have experienced a norovirus outbreak aboard the ship sickening passengers, according to reports from the captain. 

At around 2:45 P.M. this afternoon, there were at least 14 people on the ship complaining of diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps mentioned by the captain according to the Sun Sentinel. With only around 600 people aboard the cruise ship, that's over 2% of the cruise passengers which is near the threshold where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) become involved.

The photos and video from the cruise ship show crew members already rubbing and scrubbing the surfaces of the ship. Norovirus is primarily a foodborne virus although the virus can last for weeks on contaminated surfaces. It can also be spread by person to person contact. Hand shaking on the ship is apparently discouraged. Self-serve buffets have also reportedly been replaced with service by crew members wearing gloves. 

The cruise ship, of couse, quickly blamed the passengers with the ship doctor writing a letter saying "we suspect that the virus may have been inadvertently introduced on board by embarking travelers, even though the ship had not even performed tests to make such a determination.  One of those sick, a former public health social worker, said "I think it was something I ate." Read Fears of Norovirus mar last day of cruise to Cuba.

You can see a video related to the gastrointestinal virus on the Adonia here

Norovirus on the first cruise to Cuba?  There must be a Jimmy Fallon joke here somewhere. 

May 8 2016 Update:  Spin Masters? Carnival PR team tells the Sun Sentinel that there is no verification that the Adonia guests were sick due to norovirus.

 

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Fathom Travel Adonia Ship Doctor Norovirus

 

Carnival Hikes Pre-Paid Gratuities But Will Passengers Secretly Remove Tips?

Carnival Cruise Line is hiking its gratuity charge by nearly 8 percent, according to an article in Travel Agent Central today. The charge will rise to $12.95 per person, per day for passengers in most cabins, or $13.95 per person, per day for passengers staying in suites, effective September 1, 2016. There is a question posed on the comments section of the article; "does the charge actually go to the staff as a tip? or is it just a fare increase?" The question remain unanswered.    

Carnival said that passengers can lock in the current gratuity rate by pre-paying before Monday, May9, 2016.Carnival Pre-Paid Gratuity Removed

The gratuity charge, which crew members tell me does not all go to the crew members but is diverted to pay salaries or is considered revenue (profit) for the cruise line, is only a suggested amount. Carnival says that passengers can adjust it, or remove it entirely, by visiting the Guest Services desk while onboard the cruise ship.

You can read the Carnival tipping policy here.

Earlier this week, a Facebook page called "Complaining Crewship" complained that Carnival passengers were not paying tips and posted about 30 pages of photographed pages showing the names and cabin numbers of Carnival passengers (from an unidentified ship) who had their prepaid tips removed. There were hundreds and hundreds of passengers who removed their tips. Some of these people may have removed the pre-paid gratuities and paid cash but I was left with an unpleasant feeling that they were largely stiffing the crew.

I then shared the posting and photos on my Facebook page and started a discussion regarding the problem of passengers not tipping the crew members.  A firestorm of controversy then erupted. Some passengers did not like the fact that the names of passengers who removed the tips were revealed. Others expressed their feelings that it was outrageous that many people refused to pay any tips to the hardworking crew members.

Some readers seemed not to care at all about the crew and seemed concerned only with protecting the identity of those removing the tips. I guess the power of Wikileaks, Julian Assage and the Panama Papers escapes them. Several people complained to John Heald, the Carnival head cruise director and blogger at Carnival, about the release of confidential data. Others may have complained to Facebook about the "Complaining Crew ship" page, which may have been a page operated by either current or former Carnival crew members who were tired of being cheated by the guests.

The reality of the matter is that Carnival pays crew members like waiters. bartenders and stateroom attendants a small pittance by the cruise line (around $50 a month) and then requires them to work incredibly long hours, relying on tips for the majority of their compensation.  It's quite a business model. Carnival incorporated in Panama and registered its cruise ships in Panama and the Bahamas to avoid virtually all taxes and then requires U.S. taxpaying public to pay the bulk of the crew member compensation. But many passengers view a gratuity as reserved only for spectacular and far-beyond-normal service. These guests obviously don't tip at all or only occasionally and say that it's the cruise line's responsibility to pay the ship employees.        

Well, the original post by "Complaining Crewship" seem to have been taken down (as well as the entire Facebook page), voluntarily of involuntarily I can't tell, and so did the photos I shared in the process.  But I had previously copied them all and am posting a few here (with the names redacted of those who removed their tips) to show the large number of tips removed.

Cruise lines do not like their ship employees to "out" the guests or to name and shame them, although these type of people seem to be largely deadbeats in my view, or to reveal the cruise line's unfair treatment of the hard working crew members. For example, when a Royal Caribbean created a You Tube video a few years ago showing that the cruise line was in essence stealing automatic gratuities from the crew, Royal Caribbean threatened the crew members with legal action and petitioned You Tube to ban the video. Read: "Screw the Crew" Video: Banned By Royal Caribbean & YouTube!      

So the cruise line gratuity scam continues.  Carnival will create the impression that the increased gratuities are for the crew who, in reality, will never see a penny of the increase. Many passengers will remove all of the gratuities in their entirely and hide their cheapness behind their anonymity.

Carnival Pre-Paid Gratuity Removal

 

Pacific Dawn Drowning Report: Lifeguards and Risk Assessment are Required on Cruise Ship

In November of 2015, a 78 year old passenger from South Korea drowned in a swimming pool on P&O Australia's Pacific Dawn cruise ship that did not have a lifeguard.  The cruise ship was sailing from Brisbane, Australia to New Guinea.

The ship's un-monitored closed circuit television recording showed the passenger enter the adult-only lifeguard-less swimming pool around 10:37 A.M. and swim around.  At 10:51 A.M., another cruise passenger in the pool noticed that he was lying on the bottom of the pool and began to shout for help Pacific Dawn Drowning Report - MAIBone minute later. A security employee happened to see the bystander waving his arms and ran down to the pool. The drowned passenger was removed from the pool  and another security personnel called the bridge and the emergency telephone number. At 10:55 the bridge team made a tannoy announcement and summoned the medical department. Other passengers began chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.    

The ship's medical team (consisting of two doctors and three nurses) arrived promptly once summoned at 10:57 A.M. and administered treatment including the use of an external defibrillator. At 11:20 A.M., the senior doctor declared the passenger to be deceased.  

A subsequent autopsy found some signs of artery disease but concluded that the primary cause of death was drowning.  

Because the P&O ship was flagged in the U.K., the death was investigated by the U.K.'s Marine Investigation Branch (MAIB) which has done excellent work in other cruise drowning cases like the  passenger drowning case on the Princess Sapphire Princess last year. The MAIB concluded in that case that "a lack of dedicated pool attendants potentially delayed the emergency response, and that risks relating to the use of the swimming pools by unsupervised passengers had not been formally assessed and documented." The MAIB recommended to Princess Cruises that it perform a "suitable and sufficient risk assessment" regarding the cruise ships’ swimming pools.

In this case involving the Pacific Dawn, the MAIB concluded that "constant poolside supervision by lifeguards provides the best assurance of pool user safety." The cruise line also was required, but did not perform prior to the death, a risk assessment to determine whether pool supervision was necessary. 

Among other factors, the MAIB noted that "constant poolside supervision" is necessary when, among other factors:

  • the pool has water deeper than 1.5 m (the pool was deeper than this);
  • crowded conditions are expected;
  • food or alcohol will be available to pool users.

The MAIB noted that although the medical team’s response was swift once they were finally summoned, "if a dedicated pool attendant had been monitoring passengers in the pool, Mr Oh’s (the decedent's) situation could have been identified and an emergency response initiated at the earliest possible opportunity." 

The MAIB also said that the frequency of near drownings in unsupervised swimming pools should be considered when conducting risk assessments "so that an appropriate level of pool supervision is maintained in all circumstances." Consistent with other reports, the MAIB said that "constant poolside supervision" is required whenever "the pool will be used by unaccompanied children aged under 15 years."

As we have discussed many times, there have been numerous drownings and near-drownings on NCL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships in the last several years. 

It's a real shame that most Miami-based cruise lines which do not bother to hire lifeguards or conduct swimming pool risk assessments (because they usually flagged in places like the Bahamas or Panama) are not subject to criticism from reputable authorities like the MAIB.

Photo credit: MAIB gov.uk 

Hat Tip: Safety4Sea

Is There a Cruise Anywhere That Travel Writers Think is Dangerous?

I could not help noticing that USA travel writer Gene Sloan's article today entitled Afraid to cruise in Europe? Nuts! Now's a great time to go seems to be sponsored by Viking River Cruises.  The don't-worry-be-happy article starts after a 65 photo portfolio as part of an introductory summary of "Cruise ship tours: Viking River Cruises' Viking Skirnir" and then is followed by another 99 photos which were part of another article promoting Viking - "First look: Inside Viking Cruises' new Viking Sea." Just two days ago, Gene was hawking Viking cruises in another article - New Viking line plans epic, 141-day world cruise.

There's no question that cruising to Europe seems to be lagging behind cruises to other locations viking Cruiseswhich are perceived to be safer, like the Caribbean. We all know from comments by the cruise executives at Royal Caribbean following its last quarter that Americans Are Cruising Closer to U.S. Waters, due to the terrorist activities in Paris and Brussels.   

The number one location that we are asked about is Turkey.  To respond to such inquiries, we mention prior terrorist attacks there and the issue of immigrants from Syria and other countries, but the reader has to make up their own mind whether it is reasonably safe based on their own risk assessment.

But it's naive to think that cruising to the Caribbean is safer than cruising to Europe. I can readily say that cruising to the Caribbean will take you to some of the most dangerous ports of call in the world, not from terrorists mind you, but from common criminals. Some of the Caribbean ports have a lot of crime and high murder rates which make cruising to Nassau, St. Thomas and Roatan like cruising to East St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit except most U.S. citizens don't know any better.  Europe is far safer than the Caribbean in terms of rape, murder, harassment and theft. 

Regarding the threat of terrorism, we have written many articles pointing out what the true experts are saying, like U.S. and British naval commanders who are reporting about the threats of ISIS to Europe from North Africa. Take a moment and read the recent article by Captain Robert N. Hein, a career Surface Warfare Officer - Terrorists on the Ocean: Sea Monsters in the 21st Century via the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC). Captain Hein previously commanded the USS Gettysburg (a guided-missile cruiser) and the USS Nitze (a destroyer).  I also suggest that travelers consider the warning of retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis or the warning from the U.K. naval commander for NATO that ISIS presents a threat to shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Most experts seems to say it's just a matter of when and where, not if, ISIS will attack. The highly respected gCaptain reported yesterday that Captain William Nault, Chief of Staff with the multi-national Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), told Reuters that Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch remains a powerful force and poses a growing risk to ships.  

We have seen other don't-worry-about-a-thing articles from travel writers before, like the article in the Telegraph in February - Are Cruise Holidays Safe from Terrorism? written by U.K. cruise travel specialist Jane Archer, who appeared to us to ignore history and down-play the threat of terror.

Chances are remote, of course, that you will be attacked by terrorists when you cruise in or around Europe. The chances of being a victim of crime in the Caribbean are greater. But as far as cruises in either part of the world, you certainly aren't nuts if you decide to vacation somewhere else this summer. 

Photo credit:  By Viking Cruises - Viking Cruises, CC0, commons / wikimedia.org

Gastrointestinal Outbreak on the Disney Wonder

An unsettling development occurring on the Disney Wonder cruise ship was brought to our attention this morning. There has been an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) which exceeds the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) percentage (3%) of affected passengers and crew members.

The cruise ship still has two more days to finish its current cruise. The next cruise is the "14 Night Panama Canal: cruise which leaves from Miami headed for San Diego, California. 

There was an emergency meeting in the dining room, where crew members were informed that about 99 guests and 10 crew were ill with AGE. (The official report from the CDC estimates that there were 92 of 2679 (3.43%) passenger and 5 of 991 (0.5%) of crew members affected).

A sign was posted for the crew informing them that there is a high level of outbreaks over 3% of passengers"and crews sick on the ship. The Disney Wonder has a capacity of around 2,400 passengers and 945 crew members. This will result in the crew members working longer hours to try and sanitize the ship before the next round of families and kids embarkthe cruise ship in Miami on May 1st.

There have been 9 prior outbreaks on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports this year.  Disney is one of the few cruise lines which do not routinely suffer from gastrointestinal outbreaks. 

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The Disney Cruiseline Blog contains a copy of an email sent to future cruisers on the upcoming cruise.

May 2 2016 Update: The Sun Sentinel, the first major newspaper to report on the outbreak, picks up the story - Nearly 100 sickened on Disney Wonder cruise ship

May 3 2016 Update:  Gobal Dispatch says that "health officials now put the total cases at 145, 131 of 2680 passengers onboard and 14 of 991 crew members" 

Norovirus Outbreak Aboard the "Cursed Cruise Ship" Balmoral

The Fred Olsen Balmoral cruise ship has docked in Norfolk amidst what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is saying is a norovirus outbreak which has inflicted diarrhea and vomiting symptoms on 153 of 917 (16.68%) passengers and 6 of 518 (1.16%) of crew members, over the course of the two week cruise according to a CDC report

It is the ninth gastrointestinal outbreak this year involving a cruise ship calling on a U.S. port according to the CDC

The Balmoral is an old (1987) cruise ship flagged in Nassau which has struggled with gastrointestinal illness outbreaks over the years. 300 passengers were stricken with symptoms when the ship experienced aFred Olsen Balmoral massive outbreak in May of 2015. The cruise line curtailed the cruise from 8 to 7 days to return to Southampton for "barrier cleaning." In early 2010, a newspaper reported that the Balmoral could have been detained after 250 passengers fell ill with norovirus. In an article entitled "Cursed Cruise Ship Balmoral to be Investigated," the newspaper reported that the sick cruise ship was heading from the Canary Islands to Dover, England. From 2009 to 2010, the number of those affected in three sickness outbreaks on the ship was "541 in under 12 months."

Norovirus is a disease which, although common on shore as well, is a public relations nightmare for the cruise lines. Unfortunately, gastrointestinal outbreaks on the high seas are handled differently than ashore. The cruise lines cast blame on the customers 100% of the time.  

Norovirus, according to the FDA and CDC, is primarily a food-borne disease caused by contaminated food or water.  It can also be caused by ill food handlers as well as by cruise passengers who come aboard the ship already ill.  Chipotle, for example, has taken great responsibility for norovirus outbreaks whenever they occur in one of their stores, by not opening the stores whenever a food handler becomes ill, improving food-handling policies and procedures and carefully scrutinizing food sources to determine whether the outbreak can be tracked down before it infects customers in the stores.

On cruise ships, on the other hand, neither the cruise lines nor the minimally funded and staffed CDC conduct any epidemiology analysis. The cruise lines resort simply to massive spraying, rubbing and scrubbing every surface in sight. But such measures don't help if the lettuce comes on the ship contaminated or if handled by a sick chef who infects 75 passengers who eat a salad. Crew members are placed under incredible stress and work long hours whenever there is a code red issued. Crew lines automatically blame the personal hygiene of the passengers time after time, ship after ship, no matter the real source of the outbreak and even though no scientific process has taken place to pinpoint the true cause of the outbreak.  

I anticipate readers who will respond to this article by posting anecdotal stories of seeing passengers not bothering to wash their hands after they use public bathrooms or not using hand sanitizers, which are largely ineffective against norovirus in the first place.  

Chipotle has funded studies to investigate how it can ensure its food quality by improving food handling techniques. It clearly has a commitment to get to the root of the cause of the illness. I know of no commitment by the cruise lines to allocate any of their massive profits to study the problem. Indeed, no cruise line has even acknowledged the studies which indicate that the virus can become airborne when vomited, which seems like a massive problem given the confined space on a cruise ship. (Read: Airborne Norovirus - What Now Cruise Lines?

So there will be more and more outbreaks, the crew members will continue to be pressed to work longer hours spraying and wiping, the cruise lines will continue to blame the dirty hands of their customers, and no one will figure out the real cause of the outbreak.   

Statement by Fred Olsen: The cruise line is already blaming its guests.  It cites its alleged compliance with, among other things, the "strict" requirements of the "flag state" (Nassau).

May 8. 2016 Update:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 27 percent of the passengers aboard the Balmoral have gotten sick since the cruise began April 16th. WMTW-TV says that according to the CDC,  252 of the 919 passengers on the Balmoral have fallen ill, as well as eight crew members.   

May 11 2016 Update:  The CDC says the total number of passengers sickened since the beginning of the cruise has increased to 272 passengers. According to the Evening Standard, Cruise ship Balmoral was infected with vomit bug BEFORE setting sail.  

 

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Photo credit: LesMeloures CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia (photo taken 2008 before paint change)

    

Two Cruise Passengers Missing in Jamaica

The Jamaica Observer reported today that the police in Jamaica are seeking the public's assistance in locating two cruise ship passengers who went missing yesterday.

The newspaper identified U.S. citizens, 33-year-old Hayden Gerson and 32-year-old Alisha Frank. These two Americans were passengers on a unidentified cruise ship which docked in Falmouth Jamaica. (Readers have quickly told me that only the Oasis of the Seas was in port that day).

The Observer says that the passengers left the cruise ship around 9:30 in the morning and apparently intended to "make a trip to Montego Bay, St James; they have not been seen or heard from since." 

Cruise Missing in JamaicaOver the last four years, there have been many cruise ship passengers who have gone missing, and later appeared unharmed, in Jamaica.  

In July 2012, three passengers of one family from the Carnival Freedom went missing for a short while in Jamaica after disembarking the cruise ship in Ocho Rios.

In August 2012, a fifty year old U.S. citizen disappeared for a period of time after disembarking from the Carnival Freedom in Ocho Rios. 

In January 2015, two U.S. passenger went missing after leaving the Carnival Victory in Falmouth Jamaica.

All six of the passengers eventually showed up or were located in Jamaica. They all voluntarily over-stayed their legal status. It is against both Jamaican and U.S. law to fail to return to a cruise ship in the middle of a cruise.

As I mentioned in the last article, Jamaica seems to be a favorite place for cruise passengers to "get lost" and later show up after what appears to be an extended vacation. Let's hope that is true with the latest passengers.

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Photo credit: Carnival scans via Jamaica Observer

April 28 2016 Update: The New York Daily News, Inquisitr and the U.K.'s Daily Mail cover the story with a more ominous tone.

NBC 7 San Diego: the "missing" cruise couple in Jamaica has checked in and is fine says mother. 

May 4 2016:  The "other side of the story" from one of the "missing passengers" - Cruise Out Of Control: Part I and Cruise Out Of Control: Part II.

Royal Caribbean Crew Members Smuggle Cocaine from St. Maartan to Port Canaveral

Royal Caribbean Cruise DrugsWFTV reports this evening that two Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral.

One of the Royal Caribbean crew members identified is Junior Ellision, age 31. The news station said that when "Ellision left the ship, he took a shuttle to a Merritt Island Walmart. Authorities said Ellision would pick up sandals filled with cocaine in St. Maarten and would wear them off the ship. Ellision would then go to the Walmart, buy a pair of sandals, and then put the cocaine filled sandals in the Walmart bag to deliver to someone else."

The other Royal Caribbean crew member, also from the Freedom of the Seas, is identified as Sheldon Grant. We do not know the job positions or the home countries of these two ship employees.

WFTV reports that the two crew members admitted that "they had made multiple deliveries and that someone paid them $1,250 each time" that they delivered the drugs. 

Drugs busts of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity passengers and crew members are not uncommon:

Allure of the SeasEmpress, Enchantment of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, HorizonJewell, Liberty of the SeasSplendor of the Seas, and Summit.  

Video and image credit: WFTV

April 27 2016 Update:  Crew members have told us that the two crew members on the Freedom of the Seas are from Jamaica and worked as galley utility. 

 

 

Wave Damages Rhapsody of the Seas

Rhapsody of the SeasLast night / early this morning around 4:A.M - 4:30 A.M., a wave struck the Rhapsody of the Seas, breaking the windows of five passenger cabins on deck three, injuring cruise passengers and partially flooding the cabins on deck three and also on deck two. 

One passenger, Kerry Boyd, tweeted; "Woke up at 4:30 am on our cruise first night when 5 windows on our floor burst open flooding the floor with sea water. All well, but tired"  She tweeted that 60 cabins were flooded.

Another passenger, Todd Scuderi, tweeted a series of three tweets publicly about the incident. 

"I'm on Rhapsody of the Seas. Last night 4am wave hit ship and knocked out my window and 4 others on deck 3. lucky we weren't swept out.

(2) ceilings and walls collapsed. We were all bleeding and hallway was flooded. Royal Caribbean has not handled this well.

(3) ship staying in Corsica till 12am to "fix it" This was only night 1 of 9 nights."

The Rhapsody will have its broken cabin windows replaced in Corsica.

Please contact us if you are a crew member or other passengers with additional information. 

Photo Credit: Benyoch CC BY-SA 3.0 commons / wikimedia

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April 26 2016 Update: a comment left on our Facebook page: 

"Freak wave hitting Rhapsody o.t.Seas... Ron & my Cabin Windows scattered, hughe wave crushing in at 4am/25th April, while we were asleep. Cabin totally flooded, we were covered in Blood, Seawater, scattered glass, ceiling panels, insulation, metall racks and debris, which used to be cabin interior. Partition Walls caved in, Doors crushed and bent, stuck in the frame with passengers trapped inside.

So far we are ok, bruises and cuts taken care off, most luggage, clothes rescued, but missing Glasses, Medication, Mobile Phone...probably at the bottom of the ocean.
Our "well being" mentally wise is not really 'back to normal".... we are very much shaken up.
Very, very poor Handling of us Survivors by Company.... took 7 hours to get one person saying "i will take care of you"....and 15hours for the Captain to talk to us...!!!!"

From another passenger on our Facebook page:

"We were disembarked from this ship yesterday along with 50 other passengers. Some are lucky to be alive after their windows cracked, sea water poured in & they were trapped in their cabins.

The Captain made an announcement & said that the ship had been caught between 2 large swells which caused the ship to flex & popped the Windows. We have just landed at Heathrow. Came via Orly & now have to get to Gatwick to collect our car. R Carribbean v unsympathetic & some passengers were injured & very shaken."

Statement by Royal Caribbean:

The cruise line issued the following statement, which is posted on the Cruise Hive site.

"On Monday, April 25, while sailing to Ajaccio, Corsica, Rhapsody of the Seas encountered inclement weather. Five stateroom windows on the third deck were broken, resulting in water incursion. Six rooms were damaged, and carpeting in some nearby hallways and staterooms on deck three was soaked by water. No serious injuries were reported. The windows were replaced and the ship resumed her itinerary.

Because of the soaked flooring, which could not be immediately replaced without causing great inconvenience, 45 guests were relocated to other staterooms, and 44 departed the ship in Corsica. We have compensated all the affected guests with a full refund and future cruise certificate in the total amount of the cruise fare they paid for their sailing, as well as handling accommodations and travel costs for those who left the ship."

A newspaper in New Zealand is the latest to report on the fiasco.

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