U.S. Issues Another Critical Crime Warning for Honduras, Including Roatan

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe United States Department of State just issued a warning to U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains "critically high."  

The warning is similar to the critical crime warning issued by the U.S. State Department last year

The warning states that ". . . crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and police often lack vehicles or fuel to respond to calls for assistance. The police may take hours to arrive at the scene of a violent crime or may not respond at all. Members of the Honduran National Police have been arrested, tried, and convicted for criminal activities. Many more are under investigation. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

"Honduras has had one of the highest murder rates in the world for the last five years. The U.S. Embassy has recorded more than 100 murders of U.S. citizens since 2002."

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe warning specifically mentions Roatan:

"Roatan and the Bay Islands are geographically separated from Honduras and experience lower crime rates than the Honduras mainland. The national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security. However, as on the mainland, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur, and you should exercise caution, especially at night." 

The warning also includes cruise passengers. The warning says that although the vast majority of cruise line passengers to Roatan experience no problems, there have been reports of cruise passengers who have been victims of armed robbery and carjacking. We wrote about such incidents here and here. The warning fails to mention that a cruise ship employee was gunned down last year in broad daylight near the port, which we wrote about here

The U.S. warning says although crime remains "critically high," violence allegedly has declined in the past two years according to the State Department. Despite such assurances (no statistics provided), children in Honduras fleeing violence and drug gangs and trying to enter the U.S. remain a critical problem for U.S. - Roatan Honduras CruiseHonduran relations. President Juan Hernandez is committed to the militarization of Honduras (with the support of the U.S.) to try and stem the flow of drugs from Colombia to the U.S. But there recently have been armed confrontations between National Police and the Military Police, both of which have been accused of corruption, which many see as a new level of chaos and corruption. 

A problem plaguing both mainland Honduras and Roatan is that the vast majority of murders are carried out with total impunity. This is exactly the case with a number of killings which I wrote about on Roatan last year, like this and this and these killings involving four boys and young men whose bodies were retrieved and placed in a pickup truck while a NCL cruise ship was moored nearby. 

Meanwhile expatriate resort owners, tour operators, land owners and travel writers are assuring tourists and retirees that Roatan remains paradise.

 

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Photo Credit: LaPrensa - top; Teledifusora Insular - bottom. 

Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again

According to the SEC, Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain (below right) sold 87,488 shares of his RCL stock at an average price of $76.41, for a total value of $6,684,958.08.

After the transaction, cruise executive Fain still owns 1,139,613 shares his cruise line valued at approximately $87,077,829.33.

I wrote a similar article last December entitled Royal Caribbean Executive Cashes In Again about Royal Caribbean's Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein unloading 90,000 shares of Richard Fain Royal Caribbean cruise executive RCL stock. COO Goldstein sold a small portion of his RCL stock at an average price of $77.31 for $6,957,900.00. Following the the sale, he still owns 310,724 shares of his cruise stock, valued at approximately $24,022,072.

All of this is peanuts compared to the vast wealth of Carnival's Micky Arison who recently sold $433,700,000 worth of Carnival stock.

The cruise business is like running a crooked bootlegging business in the 1930's. There's no taxes to pay, the feds leave you alone, and the money rolls in by the boatloads. The profits are enormous. For the cruise executives, it must be liking hitting the jackpot every single night.

I curious to hear from the crew members of these two cruise lines regarding what they think these cruise executives have done to benefit the hard-working crew?

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Photo Credit: Flickr - United Way of Miami-Dade

Disney Passenger Drowns at Castaway Cay

A newspaper in the Bahamas is reporting that a passenger from a Disney cruise ship drowned while visiting Disney's private island Castaway Cay.

According to reports by the Tribune, on Thursday afternoon, a 38–year-old man from New York man who was a passenger onboard the Disney Wonder moored at Castaway Cay drowned while swimming. 

Castaway CayThe details of the incident are unknown.

Disney is known for having trained lifeguards at its private islands, at least for areas where children swim. In a 2008 publication entitled Walt Disney Report on Safety, Disney states that it trains over 1,200 lifeguards a year, including on its cruise ships. Here's what Disney states:

"Lifeguard Training"

"Together, the Disneyland® Resort, Walt Disney World® Resort and Disney Cruise Line® train more than 1,200 lifeguards a year to monitor activities at these venues."

"Our lifeguards must complete a thorough training program that exceeds most U.S. standards and includes both a water-skills test and up to 24 hours of basic training in water rescue techniques, CPR, basic first aid, oxygen administration and the use of AEDs. After completion of basic training, lifeguards must also perform four hours of in-service training each month, undergo eight hours of recertification training every year and participate in frequent unannounced audits by one of the world's premier aquatic safety service providers."

Disney used to not have lifeguards on its cruise ships but recently paid a large multi-million dollar settlement after it was sued when a young child nearly drown on the Disney Fantasy which had no lifeguards.

The last drowning I recall on a cruise line's private island involved a very tragic death of a 3 year old  girl who died at Holland America Line's private destination Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.  You can read our article about that event here - Tragedy on HAL's Half Moon Cay: A Mother's Perspective.

March 1 2015 Update: There was a second incident the following day when the Disney Fantasy was visiting Castaway Cay.  Passengers have contacted me and said that they observed the Coast Guard take someone away whoa needed medical attention while snorkeling. Some passengers said they saw a man with an IV medevaced in a helicopter. 

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Photo Credit: "Castaway Cay beach" by Soprano For Now - Disney Magic at Castaway Cay 1. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Costa Fortuna Broke Down in Tortola

A newspaper in the Caribbean reports that  Carnival's Costa Fortuna cruise ship with over four thousand passengers and crew members was stuck the Road Harbour on the main Island of Tortola in the Virgin Islands after it arrived on the early morning of Sunday 22, 2015. 

The ship was scheduled to last Sunday at around 6:00 PM. However, the port authority says that it developed an unspecified "technical problem" while anchored in the harbor.

Costa FortunaA "technical problem" seems to be code for a mechanical issue with the ship's engines and propulsion systems. Engineers flew to the port to assess the ship for repairs. 

Passengers have to be ferried into port. 

Carnival has not issued an official statement. 

AIS systems seem to show the cruise ship has sailed and is in St. John's Antigua today. It looks like the ship sailed earlier this week to Philipsburg and St. Kitts.    

Anyone have information to explain what happened with this ship in Tortola?

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Ed g2s

2015 Bahamas Crime Report: Armed Robbery and Sexual Assaults Increasing

The U.S Department of State just released the The Bahamas 2015 Crime and Safety Report. Armed robberies, property theft, and purse snatchings remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists.  

The report noted that the Bahamian government has not made public comprehensive, updated national crime statistics since July 2013. However, the U.S. report indicates that the murder rate increased in 2014. Crimes, including armed robberies of tourists by perpetrators with knifes or guns, Crime Nassau Bahamasoccurred in areas frequented by tourists including areas close to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas.  The report stated:

"The U.S. Embassy has received an increase of reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, at residences, hotel rooms, casinos, outside hotels, and on cruise ships. In some sexual assault incidents, the victim had reportedly been drugged. As a result, the Embassy has issued five security messages for 2014 (Spike in Crime, Recent Armed Robberies, Credit Card/ATM Fraud, Jet ski sexual assaults, and Crime during Holiday Season). Police warned women to be extra vigilant after a recent spike in the number of reported sexual assaults in Nassau. In October, a U.S. citizen resident was kidnapped and raped. The water sports rental industry is loosely regulated; in 2014, there were four reported sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet-ski operators: three incidents on Paradise Island and one on Cable Beach." 

You can read the local article in the Bahamas entitled US: Crime Is Now At Critical Level by the Tribune newspaper in Nassau. The Tribune points out that the police commissioner said that (unspecified) serious crimes in the Bahamas decreased in 2014 compared to 2013; however, the US. report says that violent crime increased over the same period.

The Nassau Guardian has an interesting debate in its newspaper issue today regarding this issue. Minister of State for National Defense Keith Bell said that the government of the Bahamas is taking the crime situation very seriously. But FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest said that the Bahamas is not taking the U.S. warnings seriously enough. "The point is that we as a country, that sells itself as a safe, friendly destination for work and for play, this cuts to our economic survival," the Guardian quotes Mr. Turnquest.   

Last year, we picked Nassau as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world.

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Photo Credit: Nassau Guardian

Over 100 Sick With GI Bug On Celebrity Equinox

Over 100 people are ill with vomiting and diarrhea aboard the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship which is returning to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a ten day cruise, according to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 95 out of 2896 passengers (3.28%) and 7 out of 1209 crew members (0.58%) became ill during the cruise with noro-like symptoms.

The CDC has not yet figured out whether the sicknesses were caused by norovirus.

Norovirus can be caused by contaminated food or water, contaminated surfaces or by hand-to-hand contact between infected crew members or passengers.   

The cruise line always blames the passengers for not washing their hands. I suppose that happens, but it's far from the only explanation. 

The CDC never discloses why the virus spreads. I wonder why?

Celebrity Equinox

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Hevesli Creative Commons 3.0

Experts: ISIS Poses Terrorist Threat to Cruise Ships in Mediterranean

One question I am asked frequently is whether Islamic terrorists pose a threat to cruise ships. I received a couple of such inquiries in the last week. One from a mother in the U.K. whose son works on a cruise ship sailing the Mediterranean, and another from the father of a family in the U.S. thinking about taking a cruise from Spain to France, Italy, Greece and Turkey and back.  

Yesterday several newspapers in Europe and the Middle East (Mail OnlineAl Arabiya News) interviewed experts who have painted the scenario of speed boats operated by Islamic State terrorists attacking "fishing boats, cruise ships [and] small merchant ships" to capture people and Cruise Ship Terrorismparade them in orange jumpsuits before a video with a knife to their neck.  

We have all seen the stories on CNN about the gruesome killing and beheading of innocent aid workers and journalists by ISIS in an effort to terrorize the televised world. In the last two weeks, we have also read stories about the barbaric burning-alive-in-a-cage of the Jordanian pilot and the beheading of twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. We are, of course, all afraid to actually see the videos of the terrifying violence.

As we sit in front of the television in our homes here in the U.S., we all feel safe from the terrorists, don't we? The beheadings are, after all, over there, in foreign places like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and other unstable Arab countries.

But when U.S. citizens decide to fly to Europe and go on a cruise vacation with their family in the Mediterranean, are they placing themselves in harm's way?

In a word, yes.  

The thought of Muslim terrorists hijacking a cruise ship is hardly new. Achille Laura instantly comes to mind. Forcing terrified cruise ship hostages into orange suits and executing them? al Queda has already planned that just a couple of years ago. CNN would cover the terror non-stop. 

There are numerous studies by security companies and U.S. governmental organizations which have studied terrorist organizations and concluded that terrorism against cruise ships is likely.

Take a look at this chilling report by the RAND organization.

The World Cruise Industry Review publication concluded several years ago that a likely terrorist scenario is the hijacking of a cruise ship and its passengers while terrorists kill passengers if demands are not met.

The issue has been discussed by a number of experts, including Commander Mark Gaouette who is the former director of security for Princess. He wrote a book "Cruising for Cruise Ship Terrorist AttackTrouble" which specifically addresses the potential of a cruise ship as a target for terrorists.

15 years ago, 17 U.S. service men and women were brutally murdered when Islamic suicide bombers rammed their speed boat loaded with explosives into the U.S. navy ship, the U.S. Cole.

If the U.S. Navy can't protect its military fleet, what chances do thousands of U.S. tourists think they have of staying safe on a gigantic U.S. based cruise ship floating like a sitting duck in the harbor of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt?

ISIS has already taken over port cities in Libya, which is strategically located in the middle of North Africa. It would be easy for ISIS to launch a suicide jihad-by-sea against cruise ships sailing to or from North Africa and the Middle East.

Jihadists are already "using cruise ships to sneak into war zones" says the Maritime Executive. The fear is that the radicals will shift their focus to making the ship itself the war zone.

Families thinking of cruising in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, Vancouver, Alaska) may be reasonably safe from an ISIS attack. A terrorist attack seems extremely unlikely to happen in the Caribbean. But sailing into a port in Morocco or Egypt on a cruise ship? It's not a matter of if. It's just a matter of when. 

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Photo Credit: Reuters via Mail Online 

Bad Cruise News Sells

People complain that I write only negative stories about the cruise lines. Crime, fires, overboard passengers, greedy cruise executives, mistreatment of crew members, blah, blah, blah, does it ever end they ask?

It’s a good question, I suppose. Lots of things go wrong during cruises. I have an endless source of materials for stories to fill this blog. But maybe that's no reason to fixate on the bad part of cruising it, is it? Maybe I should stop writing so many mean stories about unpleasant subjects. Perhaps I should write nice things about the cruise lines Jim walker Cruise Law Newsand its executives to make people happy.

But I have a question to ask you: why are you reading Cruise Law News right now?

Are you looking for an article comparing the food and service on the Oasis of the Seas to the Norwegian Epic? Or are you trying to find out whether Nassau or Roatan is a more enjoyable port to visit and take your kids? Of course not. Cruise Critic or Travel Weekly or most any other cruise or travel publication have that covered.

I suspect that you are visiting this blog because you’d like to find out the news that the cruise lines don’t want you to know. Yes, the bad news.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a short article about a passenger who fell to his death on the Carnival Magic. There was no mention of the incident anywhere. Not on television, not in newspapers, not anywhere throughout the internet. I wrote the article because a half-dozen cruise passenger contacted me asking if I knew what happened on the ship.

Over 50,000 people read the article on this blog and our Facebook page over the first couple of days it was published. Over 1,500 readers liked, shared, tweeted or re-tweeted the story. Another 500 people liked, shared or commented on the article on Facebook. That’s a lot of people interacting with the story (a popular Yahoo article may have only a dozen or two likes and a handful of comments). The victim’s family and friends read the article and left comments trying to find information about what happened to their loved one.

Cruise lines and FBI often erect walls of silence and lack of cooperation when someone dies or disappears from a cruise ship. The public is hungry to find the truth of what happens at sea. Regular cruisers or travel agents want to inform their family or clients of what they learn on this blog. Families of those lost at sea want to know everything that they can why their loved one perished. The cruise line won't tell them. There's really no other reason people read our articles. 

Compare the public reaction to that tragic story to the reaction to another article I wrote about Carnival yesterday. The story was entirely complementary about its new CEO, Arnold Donald, whose rose from a modest beginning in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans to a highly successful businessman.

I admire the way that Mr. Donald earned great financial success through the hard work instilled in him by his family and educators. He never forgot his family or his humble beginnings. Every year, he and his wife award scholarships to students from his high school in New Orleans to his college and business school alma maters. He named the new wing of the high school building, which he funded, after his late mom and dad.

But no one cared about the story. It received zero likes, zero tweets and zero shares. I doubt 500 people read it.

People read Cruise Law News because they are looking for answers to the questions that the cruise industry won't answer. Even cruise fans know that the cruise lines are less than transparent and will try and hide the bad news. So if you want a happy-go-lucky story about dream cruises and fun family vacations, you won't find it here.   

Why do you read Cruise Law News? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Cruise Passenger Killed During Excursion in Belize

Belize Cruise Excursion AccidentNews 5 in Belize is reporting that a U.S. cruise passenger on an excursion in Belize was killed when the SUV in which she was riding was struck from behind by a 18-wheel truck.

The on-line newspaper states that the 18-wheeler was loaded with oranges and was traveling from the Hummingbird Citrus Limited Two farm on the George Price Highway. The woman cruise tourist along with another cruise passenger were on an excursion in a sports utility vehicle, driven by the excursion driver, heading to "Jaguar Paw" for a day trip.

The truck driver was interviewed by the newspaper. He says that he the SUV allegedly overtook his truck and then allegedly stopped on the highway. The driver claims that the SUV allegedly "parked" on the highway. He honked the truck's horn for the SUV to move. He then tried to stop but the truck smashed into the SUV.    

A witness says it took the ambulance an hour to get to the accident scene, leaving the cruise tourists remained trapped inside the small car. The cargo truck "ended belly up on the highway which was littered with the thousands of oranges it was transporting."  

The tour guide was identified as Big John Taxi and Tour Company. A representative of the tour operator was quoted saying that the SUV was "heading towards Cave Tubing at Jaguar Paw at mile 37 and upon reaching at the junction, just before the junction, he was tail ended by an eighteen wheeler truck filled with oranges.”

Another account on 7 News Belize explains that the SUV was waiting to turn off the highway to Jaguar Pawn with his blinker on, when the tractor-trailer rig smashed into the SUV and dragged it down it the highway.  

A television station in Belize also has an account of the accident. The news stations have released conflicting names of the deceased passenger. 

Last year, cruise passengers in a tour van survived a head-on collision in Belize. 

The highway in question is a major route taken by cruise passengers for cave diving excursions.

Photo Credit: Channel 5 Belize

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Belize Cruise Excursion Accident

Arnold Donald's Amazing Rise from the Ninth Ward to Carnival CEO

Carnival's Arnold Donald is not a typical cruise line executive.  He's not white; he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth; and he's not arrogant.   

He was born in New Orleans. His parents didn't finish high school. They raised him and his three siblings in the Ninth Ward (which is now largely destroyed due to Hurricane Katrina).  He achieved great success in the segregated south due to his commitment to education, hard work and the confidence instilled in him by his parents and teachers at St. Augustine High School.    

Mr. Donald has given back to New Orleans and has awarded over two dozen scholarships to his college and business school alma maters. He also donated funding to build a new wing at St. Augustine, named after his mother and father Warren and Hilda Donald.

He's now the top executive of the largest cruise line in the world.  Read the article and watch the video by WVUE FOX 8 New Orleans:    

FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Coast Guard Medevacs Boy from Norwegian Getaway

NCL MedevacThe U.S. Coast Guard reports that it medevaced a 13 year old boy from the Norwegian Getaway cruise ship yesterday afternoon, northwest of Puerto Rico.

The NCL cruise ship notified the Coast Guard in San Juan that the boy required medical attention ashore when the ship was sailing from Miami to St. Marteen.

A MH-65 Dolphin helicopter flew to the NCL ship and hoisted the boy, his mother and a cruise ship doctor. 

The boy, who's from New York, was transported by to the “Centro Medico" Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

You can read more about the medevac in the U.S. Coast Guard Newsroom.

 

Photo Credit: US Coast Guard Newsroom

Micky Arison Sells $433,700,000 Worth of Carnival Stock

Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison reportedly just sold 10,000,000 (million) shares of Carnival stock for approximately $433,700,000 (million).

The stock transaction was a "block sale" performed by a trust to benefit Arison. All of Arison's shares reportedly are held either directly or indirectly in various trusts.

By June of last year, Arison had unloaded over $490,000,000 of his cruise stock in 2014

Micky ArisonBy my calculations he has sold well over $900,000,000 of his cruise line's stock in the last 12 months. 

After this latest sale, the Arison family reportedly still has about 159,200,000 shares of Carnival stock. 

This vast wealth was generated by incorporating the cruise line in Panama and registering Carnival-owned cruise ships in places like Panama and the Bahamas in order to avoid all U.S. taxes, safety regulations, and wage & labor laws so Carnival can pay the bulk of its crew members peanuts.

Carnival-owned Costa paid just a little over $1,000,000 in fines after the Costa Concordia disaster, which killed 32 people, in order to escape accountability in the criminal trial of Captain Schettino. 

Who says that money can't justice?

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Photo Credit: New York Post

Crying Captain Schettino Shows No Remorse: Sentenced to Sixteen Years

After a nineteen month long trial, the three judges presiding over the Costa Concordia trial sentenced Captain Francisco Schettino to sixteen (16) years in jail for manslaughter, causing the disaster and abandoning ship. The sentence was broken down as follows; ten (10) years for multiple counts of manslaughter, five (5) years for causing the shipwreck, and one (1) year for abandoning ship. Schettino was also sentenced to one month for making false communications to maritime authorities after the shipwreck.

During closing arguments, breaking down in tears, Schettino demonstrated little concern for the consequences of his recklessness other than feeling sorry for himself, saying that three years ago "I died along with the 32 others." Schettino's defense lawyer said: "In these three years, Schettino has suffered the same as a 30-year sentence." His legal counsel argued that he was made a scapegoat by Francesco Schettinothe cruise line Carnival-Corporation-owned Costa Cruises.

The prosecutor described Schettino as an "idiot" and a "coward."

Costa paid a relatively small fine of 1.1 million dollars to avoid a criminal trial.

The prosecution sought 26 years in jail for Schettino. The defense requested a maximum of 5 years. The judges essentially split the difference with 16 years. Schettino is entitled to an automatic appeal of the sentence and is likely not to serve time in jail during the appeal.

The stock of Costa's parent company, Carnival Corporation, is up today.

You can read our first article about the disaster here: Passengers Panic As Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Begins to Sink.

The question which I keep asking myself is what does the brother and parents of Costa crew member Russel Rebello think of the verdict

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Photo Credit: Reuters

Regal Princess Diverted to Miami for Medical Emergencies

This afternoon an online webcam and marine tracking websites showed the Regal Princess cruise ship entering the Port of Miami for what people on social media were describing as unspecified medical emergencies involving two passengers. Local TV stations covered the story with helicopters. I covered the incident on my Facebook page involving the gay "30th Anniversary Caribbean Cruise."

This is the first time that the Regal Princess, which calls on Fort Lauderdale, has come to Miami. 

There is a great deal of chatter on Facebook and Twitter that the medical emergencies involved drug overdoses. The South Florida Gay News says that "speculation swirls around drug activity." It quotes a Regal Princess passenger saying that “It’s an all gay cruise and they’re all drunk. There’s three thousand gay men on this boat. You know what that means. There’s a lot of high risk activity associated with that.”

Perhaps an over-generalization.  But there's reason why the image may be appropriate. 

Six years ago we wrote: GLAAD Board Member Dies Aboard Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas due to a drug over-dose. 

Five years ago, we wrote: Another Death on a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis Cruise again due to drugs.

Four years ago: Passenger Busted for Selling Drugs on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas which had a half-dozen drug overdoses aboard the ship.

Does the organizer (RSVP Vacations) discuss the use of drugs and the foreseeable risk of a drug overdose with the cruise line to make certain that there are properly trained medical personnel to respond to emergencies?

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Photo Credit: PTZtv

Fire on the Jewel of the Seas

A reader of Cruise Law News said that there was a small fire reportedly on Jewel of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean did not make an announcement about the fire. There was no air conditioning for five hours. 

One person left a comment on my Facebook page:

". . . .The fire was dealt with quickly, took about 9 hours to get all the resulting issues fixed and they arrived Jewel of the Seasin San Juan on time. There was a power outage on the day they left San Juan that lasted about 10 minutes. Said the fire was a result of a blown breaker. Another post from someone on the ship said 30 minutes after leaving Barbados a major breaker blew causing a fire in one of the stacks. The fire was quickly put out, but they had no air conditioning for 5 hours and no toilets for at least two. It was 3am before they started moving again. None of the announcements on board mentioned the fire, that there were enough passengers that witnessed it, and knew about it. They missed both the Thursday and Friday shows because of (the) issue."

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Photo Credit: Dave Souza Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

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