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).      

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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.

New Orleans Jazz Fest 2016

NCL New OrleansI left New Orleans in November 1987 after attending law school at Tulane and  practicing law in the Big Easy for four years.  There were no cruise ships based in or visiting New Orleans back then. The closest thing was the Natchez riverboat which would paddle around the muddy Mississippi for a few hours.

This weekend my partner and I went back to New Orleans for the beginning of Jazz Fest 2016.  I had not been back to New Orleans for over ten years. The city looked more vibrant than I remember. Its seems to have come a long way since the devastation of Katrina back in 2005.  

We had a fantastic time, as you can see here in my photos if you are not a friend of our Facebook page.   

Yes, New Orleans is a cruise port now.  Early this morning, the Carnival Triumph arrived into port as we left the city.  It is a strange phenomenon to see a huge cruise ship sailing on the Mississippi.     

It has been a while since I wrote about my time in New Orleans.  

One of the few articles I wrote about New Orleans was Oysters, Dixie Beer & My New Orleans Saints.

Photo: Jim Walker

 New Orleans - Carnival Cruise

   

ISIS: 21st Century Sea Monster or Much Ado About Nothing?

Stephen L. Caldwell,  a member of the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee. down-played the threat of international radical Islamic terrorism on the cruise industry in an article for Maritime Executive entitled Tightening the Security Envelope - Despite all the hoopla about terrorist threats and onboard crime, cruise ships are among the safest places on earth. He suggests that talk of terrorism is "much ado" about nothing. I posted Mr.Caldwell's article on our Facebook page with the comment that "if the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security is listening to this committee on USS Cole - ISIS Terrorinternational maritime security matters, passengers are sitting ducks."

My view is that Mr. Caldwell's naive article might as well have been written by the Cruise Line International Association for PR purposes. It is dangerously irresponsible to crew members and cruise passengers alike. I have expressed my feelings here about the threat of ISIS on cruise shipping many times before, including How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen

Fortunately, other knowledgeable experts have provided a more realistic view of ISIS's motivations. Captain Robert N. Hein, a career Surface Warfare Officer, wrote an article which was published today, Terrorists on the Ocean: Sea Monsters in the 21st Century via the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC). Captain Hein is hardly an arm chair quarterback; he previously commanded the USS Gettysburg (a guided-missile cruiser) and the USS Nitze (a destroyer).  

He suggests that it is not if, but when will ISIS and "other terrorist organizations bring their brand of mayhem to the oceans?" Citing the many examples of attacks ashore, Captain Hein suggests that an ISIS attack on an underway cruise ship is real. Like assaulting a "large and remote or underdefended luxury hotel," the "narrative ISIS hopes to convey from attacking a cruise ship at sea is akin to many horror movies: a captive victim with nowhere to turn for help."

He estimates that the chance that ISIS will attack "blue water objectives out of sight of land" is still remote as long as navies of the world continue to provide a credible presence on the oceans. However, coastal attacks like that committed by ISIS predecessor Al Qaeda against the USS Cole (attack diagram above) remain more probable. And he specifically cites the terrorist attacks last March at the Bardo museum in Tunis, when cruise passengers from a Costa and MSC cruise ship were killed. He also cites a shore-launched rocket attack on an Egyptian naval ship in August of last year.

Photo Credit: USS Cole diagram - Reuters; Video credit: U.K.'s Mirror

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April 24 2016:  "Special forces guard cruise terror targets: Commandos trained to take out IS suicide boats" via UK's Daily Star. 

International Cruise Victims: Advocating for Cruise Victims for 10 Years

Washingtom DC Cruise Law NewsLast week we attended a reception at the Capital buillding in Washington D.C. with over 30 congressional offices in attendance, honoring the International Cruise Victim ("ICV")  organization.

The ICV was founded in January 2006 following the Congressional hearing in December 2005 regarding the disapperances of Merrian Carver from the Celebrity Mercury and the murder of George Smith III on the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas. 

In attendance at the reception were our friend and former client Laurie Dishman and her Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) who was a co-sponsor of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety  Act.  Also in attendance were Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Congressman Jim Hines (D-CT), from the Smith family's home state. Senator Blumenthal was an original supporter of the pending Cruise Passenger Protection Act, He stressed the need for fair, accurate and accurate information regarding crimes on cruise ships.

Appearing at the reception were Georgia and Dean Ananias who barely escaped the sinking of the Costa Concordia with their two daughters in January 2012. Their remarkable story is on the ICV website. They wrote S.O.S. Spirit of Survival: One Family's Chilling Account of the Costa Concordia Disaster. They survived physically but heard the screams and witnessed many crew members and passengers needlessly die. 

One mother talked about the sexual assault of her teenage daughter in which the FBI botched the investigation including not prosecuting the rapist and leaving the rape kit on the NCL cruise ship.  

Another family, the Ricci family, in attendance discussed the medical delay and neglience of Carnival cruise line which refused to send their daughter, Christina,  a young healthy woman,who hit her head and experienced strokes on the Victoriy, ashore to a medical trauma unit via a medevac helicopter resulting in her untimely death. 

The reception was moderated by ICV president Jamie Barnett who also lost her daughter, Ashley Barnett, aboard a Carnival cruise due to medical negligence.

ICV Chairman Ken Carver testified at a hearing regarding the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime entitled "Transportation.Maritime Transportation Safety and Stewardship Programs." Mr. Carver addressed, among other issues, the cruise industry's refusal to fully implement the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act with an effective date of January 2012 and the need to pass the Cruise Passenger Protection Act . You can read his testimony here.  

 Video credit: ABC News 7 Los Angeles via Jamie Barnett

You can see photographs of the reception here.

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Coral Princess Rescues 7 Cubans at Sea

This morning I received a message from a passenger on the Coral Princess that the Princess Cruises cruise ship picked up 7 Cuban migrants in a small make-shift boat.  

The photo sent to me showed what appeared to be at least one man in distress lying on his back near the bow of the boat. 

Here's the message which I received:

"Coral princess just rescued 7 cubans on a damaged small boat off the coast of cuba...we are on our way back to FL with 7 cubans on board."

Usually cruise ships which take Cuban migrants aboard deliver them to a Coast Guard vessel and the migrants are returned to Cuba.

Cuban Migrants

Cruise to Cuba: Lawsuit Filed Against Carnival and Fathom Travel

AdoniaYesterday. a lawsuit was filed against Carnival Corporation and Fathom Travel for discriminating against Cuban-Americans who were excluded as passengers on the the May 1st cruise to Cuba.  The lawsuit alleges that these cruise lines violated the civil rights of two Cuban-Americans by denying them reservations on the Adonia because they were born in Cuba.

The lawsuit seeks class action certification. It was filed by the law firms of Koyzan, Tropin and Throckmorton and Robert Rodriguez P.A. 

You can read the lawsuit here.

Yesterday, the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale published an article by its editorial board stating that until Cuba changes its policy of prohibiting native-born Cuban Americans from arriving by sea, "all American cruise lines, ferry operators and shipping companies should collectively call a time-out on plans to sail to Cuba."  The newspaper states:

"It is not OK for an American business to abide by policies that discriminate against Americans. It is not OK for an American business to check the birthplace on citizens' passports before letting them aboard. It is not OK for an American business to create two classifications of Americans, no matter the rhetoric of presidential candidates who would discriminate against Muslim-Americans ."

Yesterday, the Cuban American Bar Association sent a letter to Carnival chairman Micky Arison protesting Carnival's enforcement of Cuba's discriminatory policies against Cuban-Americans.

Fathom Travel was last in the news earlier this week when the U.S.Coast Guard shut down the Adonia, scheduled to cruise to the Dominican Republic, for safety violations. Travel Weekly reported that the ship had numerous fire doors which were inoperable. Inoperable fire doors on an inaugural cruise should be a major embarassement for a cruise line with a history of fires at sea.

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April 13, 2016 Update:  

An embarassing day for Carnival's so-called "social impact" cruise line. 

Newsweek asks WHY ARE CARNIVAL CRUISES DOING CASTRO’S DIRTY WORK?

Miami-Dade mayor says Carnival Cuba cruise policy violates county human-rights law.

The Miami Herald joins the Sun Sentinel and asks Carnival to stop discriminating.

John Kerry: "American citizens, Cuban Americans have a right to travel, and we should not be in a situation where the Cuban government is forcing its discrimination policy on us . . .  Carnival needs to not discriminate."

The Miami New Times article A Cuban Millennial's Take: Obama, Not Carnival Cruise Line, Is the Problem in Cuba has a slightly different view, saying that Carnival is is "merely a pawn in a much larger political game."

April 15 2015 Update: Miami Hearld Carnival cruise to Cuba leads to rare, unintended bipartisan agreement against company's plans.

April 16 2015 Update:  The Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board (CRB) and the Hispanic Affairs Advisory Board (HAAB) are urging Carnival Cruise Lines to reverse its decision to not allow Cuban-born County residents as passengers on Fathom Travel's cruise to Cuba.

April 18 2016: Former Miami U.S. attorney had asked Justice Department to investigate Carnival cruise to Cuba ("Shamelessly, Carnival tries to absolve itself from its illegal conduct by pointing its finger at the Cuban Government and blaming it for its discriminatory laws. But, it is Carnival that is playing the role of the Cuban Government police, doing its dirty work by enforcing the Cuban Government's discriminatory laws. Carnival is willing to play that role for business reasons.")

April 19 2016 UpdateMiami-Dade’s human-rights law requires Carnival to sell tickets to Cuban-born passengers, county lawyers say.

Carnival finnaly comes to its sense. Carnival cruise lines says it will allow Cuban-born passengers to book travel to Cuba, but will delay trips if the island's government does not change its policy allowing nationals to return by sea.

Photo credit: MrDerails English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

 

Carnival's Cruise to Cuba Discriminates Against Cuban-Americans

AdoniaI couldn't believe what I was reading in the Miami Herald article "Carnival Cruise to Cuba Discriminates Against a Class of Americans"  Carnival's new Fathom "impact" brand, scheduled to be the first U.S.- based cruise line to cruise to Cuba in over 50 years (on May 1st), is refusing to permit Cuban-born Americans on the cruise.

Written by Fabiola Santiago, the article quotes Cuban American Maria de los Angela Torres, who came to the U.S. as a Pedro Pan child in the early 1960's, after she tried to book a cruise to Cuba. Everything was proceeding smoothly in booking her cruise until the Fathom agent learned that she was born in Cuba. The agent then told her that "Current Cuban law prohibits Cuban-born individuals from entering Cuba via ship or other sea vessel, regardless of U.S. citizenship status. For that reason, at the present time, Fathom cannot accommodate Cuban-born individuals." 

The Herald analogized the discrimination to a cruise line refusing to take American Jews to Israel or African Americans to Africa. 

Two years ago, the Tunisian government prohibited Israeli passengers from disembarking from the Norwegian Jade during a stop at the Tunis (La Goulette) cruise port. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) told the Israeli citizens that they were not welcome by the Tunisian government and had to stay aboard the cruise ship.

NCL quickly decided to boycott Tunis and issued the following statement: 

“We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests. We are outraged by this act and the fact that we were not notified in advance of this practice. We apologize sincerely to our guests who were affected and want them to know that we have taken the appropriate action in response.”

Carnival, on the other hand, is acting in "cahoots" with Cuba, as the Herald points out. It's pathetic and disgraceful on Carnival's part. Carnival acquiesced to the discriminatory policies of the totalitarian Castro regime as a quid pro quo to be the first cruise line to do business in Cuba. When faced with an important principle, Carnival sold out for profits. 

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April 8 2016 Update: Breitbart asks whether Carnival has violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act in an article titled Cuban-Americans Banned from Carnival Cruises Trips to Cuba. Title II of the act prohibits American “places of public accommodation” from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.” Place of birth, naturally, would fall under “national origin.” In federal caselaw, the U.S. Supreme Court held that foreign flagged cruise ships were subject to federal statutes which prohibited discrimination against U.S. citizens.   

April 10 2016 Update:  A look at Carnival's "social impact" brand, Fathom Travel, which I published last summer - The "Fathom" Ruse Revealed: Carnival Really Wants to be Friends with Cuba.

April 11, 2016 Update:  The U.K.'s Telepgraph newspaper comments on the ban of Cuban-Americans on the Adonia to Cuba: Cuban Americans banned from first cruise to Cuba in decades.    

Photo credit: Fathom's Adonia

What Will the Panama Papers Reveal About the Cruise Industry?

This week we have seen the leak of 11.5 million financial documents over a period from the 1970s to December 2015 from the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. These documents allegedly reveal the identity of individuals involved in creating shell companies, ponzi deals and tax evasions schemes.

The law firm at the center of the leak is only one of many law international firms involved in setting up off-shore accounts in places like the Bahamas, Panama and the British Virgin Islands. The offshore corporations are not criminal per se in nature but are often used by unscrupulous types to secret away money Panama Papersfor nefarious purposes. 

The leak of the proprietary, sensitive information is remarkable not only in the breadth of the information (estimated to be 1,000 times more megabytes than the Wikileaks data) but in the number of world leaders, political figures and celebrities outed for creating offshore corporations associated with money laundering and other financial mischief. 

At the moment, the major media outlets are reporting on the obvious crooks and scammers, like President Putin and his cronies who reportedly funneled 2 billions dollars through dummy corporations. The vast majority of the massive amount of data is still unreleased to the public. Journalists have said that the next wave of incriminating information and individuals of interest will be released in May.  

The information is organized in a manner like the Wikileaks information that can be searched by offshore entity and the names of the clients and officers. The names of all of the cruise lines, the dummy corporations created to be the owners of cruise ships, and the principals of the cruise-related companies need to be analyzed.

The cruise industry is, of course, essentially an offshore industry designed to avoid U.S. income tax and labor / wage / environmental laws. Corporations like Royal Caribbean, registered in Liberia, and Carnival, registered in Panama, are exactly the type of companies motivated to avail themselves of tax-avoiding mechanisms, or associate themselves with people and companies that do like the Mossack Fonseca law firm and their ilk.

Forbes said today that "the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 100 reporting partners around the world started publishing stories on Sunday that tied 140 politicians, 29 billionaires and at least 33 blacklisted people to 214,000 offshore entities. The impact of the leak could reverberate for months."

The cruise industry already has the distinct benefit of large loopholes in the U.S. tax code which permit the major cruise lines to avoid virtually all U.S. taxes. So perhaps nothing of significance regarding the major cruise lines will come from scrutinizing the Panama Papers. But the offshore cruise catering, food and beverage, ship chandler companies and crewing agents which do business with the cruise industry need to be searched in the Panama Papers database. Of course the names of politicians and leaders of Caribbean and Central American countries, which are heavily dependent on income generated by the cruise industry, also need to be scrutinized.

The Nation reported that when asked why none of the information so far seemed to implicate many US-based individuals or businesses, the editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung said, “Just wait for what is coming next.”

People in the cruise industry and doing business with the industry are probably waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has an interesting and informative web site where you can follow the investigation and also sign up for email updates.

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Image and video credit: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

  

U.S. Tourist Alleges Rape in Nassau

Nassau BahamasThe Nassau Tribune reports that a U.S. woman alleges that she was a victim of rape over the weekend. The Tribune article today reports that the local police in Nassau said that it has arrested a man for the "alleged rape of an American tourist early Sunday morning."

Royal Bahamian police officers were reportedly "on patrol on Charles Saint Vincent Street when they came upon a vehicle with an man and a woman visitor inside. The woman told police that the man had just sexually assaulted her."

As we reported in February, the Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that the Bahamas leads the Caribbean in the number of recorded rapes, according to a report by the National Task Force for Gender Based Violence.

The Tribune says that "over a 10-year period, from 2003 to 2013, there were 1,109 reported rapes, according to police statistics. In addition, from 2008 to 2012, annual police reports documented 9,045 incidents where females were the victims of assault in the country. These reports also alluded to there being numerous cases of domestic violence of a non-sexual nature."

The report stated that “the Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape per capita in the Caribbean. The UN Woman narrative on gender-based violence in the Caribbean cites ‘while the worldwide average for rape was 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)."

The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita.

A recent report from the U.S. State Department warns U.S. tourists of the the fact that there have been sexual assaults on American tourists by jet ski operators in Nassau. The U.S. Embassy in Nassau reported that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 U.S. tourists in just 18 months.

The Bahamas also had a record number of murders last year, which were primarily in Nassau (New Providence). The murder rate in the Bahamas is far more than 30 per 100,00, compared to the U,S, per capita rate or around 4.5 per 100,000. 

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April 8, 2016 Update: It turns out that the Bahamian man who allegedly raped a U.S. tourist was a taxi cab drier, according to the Nassau Guardian newspaper in Nassau

Photo credit: Jpatokal at wts wikivoyage, GFDL, commons / wikimedia.

P&O Oceana Flunks CDC Sanitation Inspection

P&O OceanaA month ago, a crew member aboard the P&O Oceana notified me that the cruise ship failed a sanitation inspection by the enters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while the ship was in port in Charleston, South Carolina.  Oceana received a score of 82; 85 or lower is considered a failure.

I have been checking the CDC's online inspection scores since then. I have been asking the CDC when it will release its report on the Oceana.

The report was finally released today. You can read the report here. The report indicated that several back-flow prevention devices, to prevent the contamination of potable water, did not have test results and appeared not to be tested. The ship's Riviera swimming pool and Crystal whirlpool did not have adequate levels of chlorinated and bromine, failed to have hair and lint strainers / filters and were not disinfected. The inspector closed the recreational water facilities on the ship.   

The report also revealed that a food handler had an onset of Acute Gastroenteritis (AGE) and exhibited symptoms at 9:00 A.M. in the morning but did did not report to the medical center until 11:20 A.M. A review of the crew member's work history indicated that this crew member worked, notwithstanding his illness, from 7:30 A.M. until 10:30 A.M.

The ship's galley appeared dirty. There were comments like "the tile grout in this area was soiled and in disrepair."  "The deck below under counter refrigerator . . . had a significant buildup of more than a week's accumulation of food debris, dirt, equipment parts, and what appeared to be insect remains." Food service equipment was broken or out of service and many operational ovens and ice-makers were overflowing their drip pans and/or leaking onto the floor.

Oceana has not prepared a "corrective action report" in response to the failed score, as required by the CDC.

In an era when cruise lines are quick to blame every single norovirus outbreak on the passengers, this CDC report provides an insight into how deficient water sanitation and disgusting food handling practices by a cruise line can jeopardize the health of the traveling public.  

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April 4, 2016 Update: The CDC vessel sanitation inspectors inspected the P&O Oriana in February.  Although the cruise ship passed with a score of 90, there were several significant sanitation problems including dirty and out of service galley equipment.  Also food handlers working while ill with gastrointeritis: "A Chef de Partie experienced onset of GI symptoms on 20 January 2016 at 6:45 am. This crew member worked from 7 am to 11 am, took lunch at the crew mess, then returned to work from 1 pm to 5 pm. The chef reported his symptoms to the medical center at 6 pm."   You can read the report here

April 5, 2016 Update:  Cruise Law News was quoted today in the Southampton's Daily  Echo and the U.K.'s Daily Mail.  

Fortune magazine also covered the story, writing that it "raises questions about the industry’s squeaky-clean image, and indeed, that there may be more unreported cases that were either ignored or dismissed by the sickened passengers or the cruise lines themselves."

April 6, 2016 Update:  FoxNews covers the story today - Health inspectors find cockroaches, 'potentially hazardous' food aboard two luxury cruise ships.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) interjects the blame-the-passenger-wash-your-hands excuse but ignores the fact that crew members were handling food while contagious and the ship's galley was found to be unsanitary and potentially hazardous to the guests' health. 

Photo credit: Piergiuliano Chesi, CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Royal Caribbean to Homeport Empress of the Seas in Havana

CubaIn breaking news, Cruise Law News has learned that Royal Caribbean will be home-porting the refurbished Empress of the Seas in Havana, Cuba.  

Effective August 14, 2016, the Empress of the Seas, originally named the Nordic Empress, will be sailing 7 day cruises from Havana to Nassau Bahamas, Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica and Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. In a starting move, the cruise line will be changing the name of the cruise ship to the Cuban Empress.

The cruise ship left the Royal Caribbean fleet in 2007 and, since then, has sailed for Royal Caribbean's Spanish subsidiary Pullmantur Cruises. Last year, Royal Caribbean announced that the cruise ship would be returning to its fleet in March of this year. The ship has been undergoing extensive renovations, first in Cadiz Spain and currently in Freeport Bahamas for the past several weeks. The ship was supposed to be sailing a Caribbean itinerary this summer but recently canceled six weeks of cruises because the cruise ship's renovations were behind schedule.  

Many travel agents have speculated that the cruise ship, because of its smaller size, is well suited to be the first ship for Royal Caribbean to enter the Cuban cruise market.  It will be the smallest cruise ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet behind the Majesty of the Seas. Many travel agents have noted that the cruise line has not booked any cruises on this ship after July as a sign that Royal Caribbean has planned all along try to get the Empress into Cuba before the end of the summer.

Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain commented that "Cuba is a great opportunity for us in the cruise business because we bring our own hotels and our own infrastructure . . . "

Earlier this month, Carnival announced that it had obtained approval from Cuba to sail from the U.S. into Cuban ports. On May 1st, Carnival's new "social impact" brand, Fathom, will be sailing passengers from Miami to several ports in Cuba, on the Adonia, a cruise ship with around 700 passengers. This will be the first time in 50 years that a cruise ship from Miami will call on a port in Cuba.  

Motivated by profits (fares on the Adonia are 2 to 3 times the average cost of a Caribbean cruise) and its competition with cross-town rival Carnival, Royal Caribbean pulled off a coup by one-upping Carnival by becoming the first U.S. cruise line which will base a cruise ship in Cuba. Royal Caribbean's Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein, who reportedly has spent several weeks in Havana meeting with Cuban officials, is expected to speak at a press conference later today. 

Royal Caribbean will utilize Havana's relatively modern cruise facility where two European lines, Costa Cruises and Pullmantur, used to operate. But both pulled out after Costa was acquired by Carnival Corporation in 2000 and Pullmantur by Royal Caribbean in 2006  due to the U.S. ban on travel to the communist nation. 

Royal Caribbean has made several Cuban-themed renovations to the cruise ship which executive Goldstein will be announcing shortly. The Cuban Empress will feature the "Che Guevara cigar room" Cuban Prisonwhich will feature hand-rolled Cohibas cigars. The cruise ship will also unveil the "Royal Castro Grill" where cruise passengers can enjoy fine Cuban cuisine. Late night entertainment will take place in the "Fidel & Raul's" nightclub where guests can dance the Mambo and sip Cuban "Havana Club" rum.

The cruise line will be offering excursions to Cuba's famous Combinado del Esto prison which houses thousands of dissidents and political prisoners. Also imprisoned are hundreds of Cuban families who tried to flee Cuba to the U.S. on make-shift rafts but were intercepted by U.S. based cruise ships and then forced to return to Cuba (no photos allowed).

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Photo Credits: 

Top - Mark Scott Johnson CC BY 2.0 commons / wikimedia.

Bottom - Franklin Reyes / AP Photo via Avax News

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