Carnival Breeze Receives Failing USPH Sanitation Score

Carnival BreezeAccording to crew members on the Carnival Breeze, the Carnival cruise ship was in Galveston Sunday  when the United States Public Health (USPH) came aboard the ship for a semi-annual sanitation inspection. According to these crew members, the USPH gave a failing score of only 77, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  has not published its official report yet. 

A score of 85 or lower is a failing grade, according to the CDC.

The low score is highly unusual for this ship, which received scores of 97, 100, 98, 100 and 97 on the last five USPH inspections over the last several years. The Breeze has not received a score less than 90 since it came in service in 2012. 

But the low score of a Carnival ship is not unprecedented. A month ago, the popular Crew Center reported that the "Carnival Triumph failed to pass the recent USPH Inspection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Inspectors boarded the vessel on November 11, at the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, and found multiple violations. CDC has not yet released an official report on their website, however, several crew members have reported that the final USPH score was 78." The CDC has still not published its report on the alleged failed USPH inspection.

This is not the first time that we have received a tip from a crew member of a cruise ship with a failed USPH score. In 2013, crew members on the Silver Shadow hid food, dirty pots & pans and cooking equipment from U.S. health inspectors. The Silversea cruise ship eventually received a failing score of 82. CNN aired a special on the story.

Stay tuned for the official reports.

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Photo Credit: Whiskey5jda - BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Crew Member Missing From Vision of the Seas

Vision of the SeasToday, several passengers contacted me to ask for information regarding a Royal Caribbean crew member who apparently disappeared from the Vision of the Seas last week.

On Friday, December 9, 2017, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, which had left from Galveston, Texas earlier in the week, made announcements that a crew member could not be accounted for on the ship as of the early evening. The crew member has apparently checked into his job in the early morning hours but had disappeared sometime thereafter. A ship-wide search was conducted without success. 

There was speculation that high winds and rough seas may have played a part in the crew member going overboard. 

There is no indication that the ship stopped or turned around to conduct a search in the water. Unfortunately, the scenario fits a typical pattern when a crew member goes over the rails unwitnessed late at night or in the early hours of the morning on a Royal Caribbean ship.  Royal Caribbean has not invested in the available automatic man-overboard technology (using heat sensors or infrared or motion detection and radar technology) which can send a signal to the bridge, capture the image of the person going overboard, and track the person by radar in the water.  Instead, the ship will conduct a cabin search for the missing person, review closed-circuit television images and often do not perform a search at sea. 

As I recently explained in an article about MSC Cruises recently implementing this technology, MSC Cruises Implements New Man Overboard System Amidst Industry Delays, over 22 people on average disappear each year from cruise ships, and only 13.8% are saved. Unfortunately, the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA), has chosen to minimize cruise disappearances by misleading PR releases rather than devoting financial resources toward improving safety. Most cruise lines do not invest in MOB systems which do not return a direct financial profit to the penny-pinching cruise industry.

Ironically, the Miami Herald today wrote an article styled Technology is About to Change the Future of Cruising which omitted any discussion about using existing technology to comply with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which required the implementation of such life-saving technology.

Royal Caribbean is one of the cruise lines which will never respond to requests for information from us about disappearances of crew or passengers or other mishaps at sea.

Should you have any information about this disappearance, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Former NCL Cruise Executives Square Off in Trial in Miami-Dade Courthouse: But What About the Dead Filipino Crew Members?

Former Norwegian Cruise Line ("NCL") CEO Colin Veitch's trial against his successor, Kevin  Sheehan, and their old cruise line, NCL, for defamation and breach of contract has been underway in the Miami-Dade County courthouse, here in Miami, Florida this past week.

Veitch worked at the helm of NCL from 2000 to 2008. According to Travel Weekly, Veitch was the architect of "Freestyle Cruising" and undertook an ambitious fleet renewal program, purchasing nine new cruise ships. By some accounts, but  not all, Veitch was an innovative cruise executive who was successful in beginning the transformation of under-performing old cruise ships into a larger and far more profitable fleet. 

Veitch turned the revitalized cruise line over to Sheehan in 2008. Things turned sour between the two NCL Colin Veitchrich cruise executives after a travel periodical, Travel Weekly, wrote a glowing article in December of 2014 about Veitch and his success at NCL. Sheehan then sent an email to Travel Weekly mocking the article and criticizing Veitch. The Miami Herald reported at the time, quoting the lawsuit allegations, that Sheehan sent a “vindictive, false and defamatory” email to Travel Weekly which eventually published. A few days later, Travel Weekly retracted the complimentary article about Veitch.

Veitch then sued Sheehan and NCL alleging defamation, as well as breach of contract, claiming that his former cruise line and its new CEO allegedly cheated him out of revenue sharing. 

The overblown 187-page lawsuit which you can review here is, in my opinion, a rather fascinating insight into the hurt-feelings and out-of-control personalities of two multi-millionaire former NCL cruise executives.

The lawsuit which Veitch filed against Sheehan included allegations which have been characterized by the Skift travel publication as "incendiary" accusations that Mr. Sheehan engaged in “a long pattern of personal and professional misconduct and recklessness, stunning in its scope and hubris, corrosive and detrimental in its impact on the company, and deeply undermining of the workplace culture . . . ” 

In response, Mr. Sheehan and NCL asked the court to strike what they characterized as "immaterial, impertinent and scandalous" allegations. 

The bitter personal allegations between these two former cruise executives arise from a nasty dispute between two very wealthy former cruise executives.  When Mr. Veitch resigned from NCL's parent company, Star Cruises, he reportedly received $10,000,000 as part of a severance package. He also settled a $300,000,000 lawsuit which he filed against Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin Group after he alleged that the British billionaire and his company stole his ideas for a new cruise project. The precise amount of money that Veitch pocketed is confidential. 

Kevin SheehanSheehan also received a severance package from NCL in 2015 after it terminated his employment, totaling $13,400,000.

The many articles written by trade publications and major newspapers in Miami. like the Miami Herald and the Miami New Times, have covered the Veitch-Sheehan squabbles at length, but they are ignoring the biter irony of the litigation. Veitch was the NCL CEO in 2003 when a decrepit, poorly maintained steam boiler on NCL's 40+ year-old SS Norway exploded at the port of Miami. The explosion killed eight crew members and seriously burned another nineteen NCL crew members.

The National Transportation Safety Board ("NTBS") concluded that the deadly boiler explosion was caused by NCL's "improper operation, maintenance and inspection" of the old cruise ship's steam chamber. The old boiler had "extensive fatigue cracking" and deteriorated materials that weakened the metal and caused it to rupture under pressure. The NTSB reported that NCL was aware of the dangerous condition but failed to take action to fix the problem. 

CEO Veitch tried to deflect blame but NCL was forced to plead guilty to a criminal charge of gross negligence regarding the explosion. The Norway was subsequently sold for scrap.

When the families of the eight dead crew members who were scalded to death filed suit in Miami to obtain compensation for the loss of their fathers and husbands, Veitch's lawyers argued that the crew members were not entitled to file suit before a judge and jury in Miami. Instead, NCL argued, because the crew members were Filipinos, their loved ones had to pursue the extremely limited death benefits pursuant to the arbitration process in the Philippines. 

Kicking "foreign" (i.e., non-U.S.) crew members out of the American legal system was unprecedented.  Foreign crew members injured or killed due to the negligence of U.S. based shipping companies have long been permitted to have their cases resolved through jury trials under the Jones Act here in the U.S. In addition to the Jones Act, crew members have also been entitled to obtain medical treatment and daily living expenses when they are injured aboard U.S. based cruise ships Norway Boiler Explosionunder the "maintenance and cure" doctrine, one of the oldest legal American legal doctrines dating back to the early 1800's. 

But NCL, which faced substantial liability and damages for the deaths of eight crew members and nearly twenty other ship employees burned in the explosion, sought to dismiss the cases, arguing that their only remedy was the limited benefits under the Filipino law. NCL argued that Miami was not the proper location to resolve the dispute even though it is based in Miami and the deaths occurred at the port of Miami.  In Batista v. Star Cruises, our federal court agreed with NCL and sent the cases to Manila, where Filipino law limited the widows to just $50,000 and the children to just $7,500 for the loss of their dead husbands/fathers.

Like "freestlye cruising," NCL's unprecedented legal posturing has also been copied by NCL's competitors Carnival, Royal Caribbean and all other cruise lines, which quickly inserted one-sided arbitration clauses into their crew member employment agreements to escape or limit their liability when things go wrong on the high seas. 

Except for Disney Cruises, all other cruise lines prohibit injured crew members from having their cases heard by juries in the U.S. legal system. Filipino seafarers are especially susceptible to being screwed by the Miami-based cruise lines, thanks to NCL's efforts which started under Veitch's tenure. 

During the trial last week at the Miami-Dade courthouse, where NCL crew members are barred from filing suit, Veitch's lawyer reportedly asked the jury to consider awarding $95,000,000 in damages, according to Court View Network (CVN). That may be a proper amount to finally compensate the families of the eight Filipino crew members who were burned to death on the SS Norway back in 2003, but it seems to be an awful lot for a healthy, millionaire former cruise executive with hurt feelings. 

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December 11, 2017 UpdateAs reported by the Miami Business Review today, Norwegian Cruise Line Defeats $90M Lawsuit From Former CEO.

Photo credits:

Colin Veitch: Associated Press via the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Kevin Sheehan: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.

SS Norway: News7 Miami via CBS News video.

Carnival Triumph Cancels Cruise Due to "Technical" Problems

The Carnival Triumph joined the club of cruise ships which have suffered propulsion problems this year. There have been fourteen such problems this year alone.

The Triumph arrived late back at the port of New Orleans on Thursday due to what Carnival is calling "technical issues." Propulsion problems are reportedly affecting the maximum cruising speed of the Carnival cruise ship. Carnival notified its passengers (bottom) that the November 30th cruise was canceled because the cruise ship needed repairs.

“We want to provide you with an update on your Carnival Triumph cruise for tomorrow. The ship is currently experiencing a technical issue, which is affecting the maximum cruising speed. Our team is in the process of completed the necessary work, however, it will not be completed in time to operate your cruise. Regrettably, it will be necessary to cancel tomorrow’s sailing.“ 

AIS sites show the Triumph in Mobile, Alabama, where the ship is apparently undergoing repairs.

This year has seen a number of Carnival cruise ships experience engine problems, such as the Carnival Dream, which was forced to miss a port in Mexico in August and then limped back to New Orleans, as well as propulsion issues plaguing the Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Paradise, and Carnival Splendor.

Power losses of cruise ships is a relatively common occurrence. In 2016, there were at least 18 power losses of cruise ships operated by the major U.S.-based lines, including problems with the Carnival Elation, Carnival Legend, Carnival Liberty and Carnival Vista as well as the Carnival owned Adonia, Caribbean Princess, Emerald Princess, and Costa neoRiviera.

Of course, cruise ships other than those operated or owned by Carnival have recently experienced a wide variety of engine problems. NCL's Norwegian Star and Norwegian Gem have experienced propulsion issues this year, together with Oceania Cruises' Regatta, Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas, Celebrity's Summit and Constellation, Silversea Cruises's Silver Cloud, and P&O's Oriana.    

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Image credits:

Carnival letter - Crew Center.

Carnival Triumph - WDSU (New Orleans) Families look for new plans after abrupt cruise cancellation in New Orleans.

Carnival Triumph

Carnival Triumph

P&O Cancels Oriana Cruise in January 2018

Oriana P&O Cruises Senior Vice President Paul Ludlowon posted a comment on the P&O Facebook page announcing the cancellation of a cruise aboard the Oriana (voyage X801). P&O says that the Oriana will "undergo three week technical maintenance from January 6 2018."

Mr. Ludlowon writes that "as a result we will be canceling this cruise . . .  and we are extremely sorry for the late notice and disruption."

215 comments about the cancellation of the 50-night itinerary were posted on the P&O website as of this morning. P&O intended to visit 13 different countries during the "Caribbean & Amazon Adventure" cruise.

P&O offered just a 5% future cruise credit. Many disappointed customers complained about P&O's meager compensation offer. One person wrote that the offer "is hardly generous given the inconvenience this is causing passengers like us." P&O response to this comment was typical to P&O's non-negotiable response to the problem - "We are sorry you are disappointed by this however this will be our only offer in terms of compensation."

P&O did not offer any explanation of the details of the so-called "technical maintenance." Many cruise lines use this euphemism to refer to engine, propeller or other propulsion-related problems. P&O referred to a "technical issue" in a statement when the Oriana's arrival in Southampton was delayed seven weeks ago due to a boiler problem. 

The Oriana underwent a cosmetic refit one year ago. 

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Photo credit: Antonio from Trieste, Italy, CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

Engine Failure Ends Silver Cloud's Cruise to Antarctica

Silver CloudThe failure of a fuel pump and engine left the Silver Cloud adrift as it headed toward Antarctica on November 20, 2017, according to the Telegraph newspaper in London.

Power was reportedly restored to the ship in about an hour, permitting the Silver Cloud to return to Puerto Madryn in southeast Argentina for repairs. However, the following day, Silversea concluded that the replacement fuel pump part would not be delivered in time for the ship to cruise to Antarctica.

The recently-refurbished ship was scheduled to call on the Falkland Islands, the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula on a 16 day expedition between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia. Rough weather had delayed the cruise, with the capital of the Falklands, Stanley, being omitted from the itinerary.

The article explains that that the 23 year-old Silver Cloud underwent extensive refitting, including a three month refit at a shipyard in Malta, to convert it for polar expedition voyages. The refurbishment of the ship into a ice-class luxury expedition vessel is discussed in Silversea Cruises ‘Silver Cloud’ Undergoing Massive Refurbishment by Brad Anderson.

The ill-fated maiden cruise to Antarctica cost the passengers around £12,000 (nearly $16,000) each. The newspaper reports that "Silversea will provide full refunds to all passengers, as well as organising and paying for flights back to Buenos Aires and on to guests’ airports of origin. It also offered overnight accommodation and expenses in Buenos Aires, a refund of outward air fares, and a discount on future bookings."

Luckily, the engine failure occurred in "relatively light seas. If the power failure occurred in the "infamously rough" Drake Passage to Antarctica, the outcome "might have been much more serious."

Clelia II We have written about near-disasters while cruising to Antarctica:

The Clelia II Skirts Disaster Again in Antarctica

Who's Responsible When a Cruise Ship Sinks in Antarctica?

Power failures to small "adventure" cruise ships present particular dangers to the cruise passengers and crew. The waters in the South Atlantic are treacherous. The Clelia II (photo right) caught the world's attention in December 2010 when it lost most of its power after a wave smashed windows and disabled its communications system and impaired its propulsion system while it was trying to return to Argentina from Antarctica. The video of the little expedition ship bouncing helplessly on high waves into howling winds is a must see. It made my list of the Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos.

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Ironically, CNN just published an article touting the bow-to-stern ice-class renovation of the Silver Cloud, costing $46.5 million, in How to turn a cruise ship into an Arctic luxury liner.

Photo credit: Top - Richard Sidey via gtspirit.com; bottom - Jonbowermaster.com.

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From the Norwegian Dawn

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an ill passenger a NCL cruise ship about 55 miles off the North Carolina coast today.

The Norwegian Dawn contacted the Coast Guard around 6:15 a.m., requesting a medevac for a 56-year-old male passenger who was experiencing stroke-like symptoms, according to the Carteret County News-Times

"This was our second medevac from this cruise ship in the past two weeks," Chief Petty Officer Shannon Brugh said to the newspaper.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, which was launched from Air Station Elizabeth City, hoisted the man and flew him to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.

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Video credit: U.S. Coast Guard video by Air Station Elizabeth City.

Norwegian Star Returns to Miami After Medical Emergency

Norwegian StarSeveral passengers onboard the Norwegian Star state that the NCL cruise ship is returning to Miami a day early due to a medical emergency.

One passenger on the ship writes:

"The Norwegian Star is speeding to Miami, to arrive 10 hours early due to a passenger medical emergency onboard. The Star will now arrive at 6 PM on Sunday instead of 4 AM Monday. Passengers other than the medical evacuee must remain on board until the regular disembarkation date . . . "

If this information is in fact accurate, it seems odd that the Star has not contacted the U.S. Coast Guard to request a helicopter medevac.

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Photo credit: Pjotr Mahhonin - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Noro on the Veendam?

HAL VeendamA passenger sailing on a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship near Greece contacted me today, stating that a number of guests are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms:

"I'm currently on MS Veendam. Left Fort Lauderdale on October 20th and due to return to Fort Lauderdale on December 8th. Currently docked in Souda, Greece. Leaving at 5:00 pm less than an hour from now. Souda port terminal has WiFi.

Noro started about four days ago. We did pick up passengers in Barcelona and some of them are sick now and seem to have gotten sick shortly after boarding from what I understand. One day there were 29 passengers and two crew sick . . .  Yesterday ...  only four new cases and no crew sick anymore. 

Ship is cleaning, isolating and taking precautions including not allowing passengers to handle food which is good."

It is currently unknown whether the gastrointestinal outbreak is in fact due to norovirus (or-coli or some other more exotic virus) because there will be no testing of the affected passenger's stools. 

In the last week, we have written about GI outbreaks which included the Crown Princess, which called on a U.S. port and had to report the outbreak to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Anthem of the Seas was experienced a similar outbreak affected many dozens of guests (around 100 people). The Anthem did not meet the percentage of guests who reported their symptoms to the ship infirmary, and therefore there is no official CDC report.  The Celebrity Solstice was also reportedly hit with an aggressive GI outbreak while sailing around Australia, according to news accounts. 

Holland America Line experienced 18 cases of GI sicknesses reported to the CDC since 2010. Only Princess Cruises suffered more norovirus/GI cases which were reported to the CDC during this time period. HAL suffered norovirus outbreaks on the Nieuw Amsterdam, and two outbreaks each on the Volendam and the Noordam this year.

Cruise ships on non-U.S. itineraries do not have to report GI outbreaks. 

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Photo credit: Fletcher6 - CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Passenger Overboard from the Silja Serenade

I received information from multiple sources that a male passenger reportedly went overboard from the Silja Serenade late at night (around 2:00 A.M.) this past Monday, allegedly after a disagreement with other guests on the ship. 

Newspapers in Finland have reported on the incident. One newspaper indicates that a Coast Guard rescue center in Turku received an emergency call from the ship that a person went overboard. Three other passenger ships were reportedly alerted to search for the missing passenger.  A helicopter from Sweden and Navy patrol boats from Kökar and Mariehamn were also called to participate. The search was canceled at around 5:45 A.M. without success. 

Another newspaper reported that the incident occurred in the northern Baltic Sea. The passenger went overboard from the ship's twelfth deck, and fell approximately 30 meters. The water temperature was reportedly around 10 degrees. The man had just left one of the ship's discos just before the incident.  

A passenger last went overboard from a cruise / ferry operated by the Tallink Silja group two years ago. 

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November 22, 2017 Update: Seems that the disappearance from the Silja Serenade last week involved a 21 year old Portuguese student?

Photo credit: Wladyslaw Sojka commons / wikimedia.

Silja Serenade
 

 

RCCL Chairman Richard Fain Cashed Stock Worth Around $2,500,000

Richard Fain Royal Caribbean Royal Caribbean top executive Richard Fain reportedly sold 20,000 shares of Royal Caribbean (RCL) stock this week for a total amount of approximately $2,500,000.

In a transaction this past Monday, November 13th, he sold his shares at an an average price of $123.76, for a total value of $2,475,200.00. CEO Fain officer reportedly now owns 895,416 shares of his cruise company’s stock, valued at around $110,816,684.16. 

In August 2017, Mr. Fain sold over $24,000,000 of Royal Caribbean stock. 

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Interested in this issue? Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Press Center

Crew Member from India Missing from Carnival Inspiration

The Times of India reports that an Indian crew member has mysteriously gone missing from a Carnival cruise ship while in transit from Mexico to Los Angeles since November 9th. 

Symron Santana Almeida, age 33, a resident of Cuncolim, India reportedly was employed as a wiper in the engine room of the Carnival Inspiration

The Times states that a Carnival spokesperson has been updating the family since November 12th. Mr. Almeida's brother, Siffo, has pressed Carnival for details and has demanded that it conduct a Symron  Almeida Carnival Inspirationproper investigation into the disappearance.

I first learned of the disappearance on Twitter when Mr. Almeida's neighbor, Mr. Vijay Prabhu, tweeted that "My neighbor Mr. Symron Almeida, from Cuncolim-Goa reported MISSING while sailing on board as employee of Carnival Cruise ship INSPIRATION. Ship Location Los Angeles USA. Family in distress. Please help.. My contact 9823034599."

Mr. Prabhu posted a letter dated November 10th from the Master of the cruise ship about the efforts to locate Mr. Almeida. The letter states in part: "The man overboard cameras were also reviewed and none of the footage captures a person falling in the water." 

I believe that the captain is referring to whether any of the ship's closed circuit televisions (CCTV) cameras may or may not have shown Mr. Almeida going overboard.  To my knowledge, the Carnival Inspiration is not equipped with automatic man-overboard cameras which would send a signal to the bridge whenever someone goes overboard. Modern systems today can record the person going over the rails and track them in the water via motion detection, infrared and radar technology. (MSC recently announced that it has begun implementing this technology on its fleet of ships; read MSC Cruises Implements New Man Overboard System Amidst Industry Delays).   

It appears that Carnival is one of many cruise lines which has not invested in this technology. 

Carnival is therefore left with having to review its shipboard surveillance / CCTV data to see if Mr. Almeida's movements on, around and from the Inspiration are shown by the cameras. This time-consuming, "old school" method is random and haphazard and may or may not have shown anything even if Mr. Almeida went overboard. 

The popular Crew Center website covered this incident and has a description of the contents of the Carnival Inspiration Captain's Letter  captain's letter:

I would like to share with you an update regarding one of our valued team members, Symron Santana Almeida, Wiper from our Engine team who was reported missing yesterday evening.

We started an immediate vessel wide search on board for Symron, and as you know, this search continued today into the early hours of the afternoon. The man overboard cameras were also reviewed and none of the footage captures a person falling in the water.

As per our protocols, our onboard investigation continues, and as of this time, unfortunately, Symron has still not been found. All appropriate authorities and our Corporate Office have been notified.

Our CareTeam has been in contact with Symron's mother and brother and we continue to provide every possible support to his family back in India.

We are saddened by this unfortunate turn of events and ask that you kindly join me in keeping Symron and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to any member of the management team. We will keep you informed of any further developments.

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Photo credits: Top - Symron Almeida Facebook page, with photo description "last day in engine room on Carnival Triumph." Bottom -  Vijay Prabhu Twitter page.

Is Cruising to the Middle East Safe?

Bloomberg published an article today titled Why the Cruise Industry Is Booming in the Middle East.

The lighthearted article casually mentions that passengers on the "fancy, all-inclusive Seabourn Encore were enjoying martinis and opera around the pool" off the coast of Somalia "where pirates occasionally hijack cargo ships" when an alarm sounded indicating that a small motorboat approached their cruise ship. "Onto the cruise ship climbed several burly security guards with cases of 'conventional weapons,' which would provide, as the captain explained, an added layer of protection for a potentially tricky passage."

The article states  that a week later, near Abu Dhabi, another alarm sounded, signaling the arrival ofMiddle East Cruise another boat. The small boat was stocked with tins of caviar and champagne for the cruise ship guests to enjoy "in the warm surf of a private beach."

The rest of the article didn't mention the risk of encountering pirates, and there was no mention of the danger of terrorism. Instead, the article was filled with stories of wonderful exotic getaways into Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Muscat where, the articles says, luxury travelers from an Azamara cruise ship on an excursion ashore spent "a night in Louis Vuitton tents set up in a Bedouin community in the desert."  The publication also talks about visiting "opulent mosques and labyrinthine souks" and enjoying camel rides in the desert as part of the cultural immersion and authentic experiences of the Middle East.   

The article characterized the Middle East as a "goldmine" in the eyes of the cruise lines, given the lucrative excursions and the cruise lines' ability to move their European fleets to the Middle East in winter.  

But the article misses the mark by ignoring the risk of cruise ship passengers being victims of terrorism.   

Several dozens of cruise passengers from cruise ships operated by MSC and Costa were slaughtered by terrorists visiting a museum in Tunis two years ago.   

In the last year, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen rebels attacked a naval ship from the United Arab Emirates and a frigate from U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia off the western coast of Yemen. Videos of the attacks show large explosions which were believed to be the result of a missile strike Cruise Red Sea Missle Attack Houhti Yemenand/or a suicide mission by another vessel.

The attacks occurred in the southern part of the Red Sea, north of the Bah Al-Mandab straits which is a pinch-point between the Red Sea, flanked by Saudi Arabia on the east and Egypt to the west, and the Gulf of Aden to the south. Cruise ships sailing to and from the Mediterranean and to or from the Indian Sea pass through these straits.

In the last few days, Shia rebels in Yemen have launched long range missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, illustrating the continuing dangers in that area of the world.  

Security guards with a few conventional weapons may be able to fend off pirates attempting to board a cruise ship trying to run the Bah Al-Mandab straits, but they will be useless if the Houthi rebels intentionally target a cruise ship sailing in the Red Sea, or mistakenly believe that a cruise ship is a U.S.-backed Saudi or UAE naval ship.

Considering the dangers, the intrigue of visiting the Middle East does not seem to be worth the risk.  

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Photo credits: Top - Bloomberg via Seaborn; bottom - Yemen's pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station shows launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia's King Khaled Airport. - Houthi Military Media Unit via Reuters and CBC.

Noro on the Anthem?

A local news station in Philadelphia reports on a recent gastrointestinal outbreak on the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas.

ABC-6 reports that a family from Philadelphia returned from a 7-night cruise aboar the Anthem which departed Cape Liberty, New Jersey on Saturday, November 4th. The news stations reports that on the second day of the seven day cruise, "rumors of the virus started circulating . . . and started to spread fast. Workers could be seen spraying the narrow hallways, but it was apparently spreading like wildfire." 

A newlywed woman and her husband and several of her family members became ill with symptoms of a gastrointestinal virus. 

The family complained to the news stations that "some hand sanitizing stations ... didn't have any Royal Caribbean Norovirussanitizer available to us, there were out of soap at certain sinks, there were no sanitizing stations at the elevators . . the ship's managers (didn't take) enough measures to stop the spread of the virus, which is not airborne but rather comes from personal touch with others or germs left on surfaces."

Royal Caribbeaan confirmed that "were a total of 98 reported cases of gastro-intestinal illness symptoms, which represents 1.9 percent of the 4,905 guests and crew onboard." 

The CDC's Vessel Sanitation Plan requires cruise ships to send a separate notification when the GI illness count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers or crew onboard. Cruise ship outbreak updates are posted on the CDC website only when 3% or more of the passengers and crew report symptoms to the ship informary during the cruise.

Because there were less than than 2% of the passengers and crew members reported ill during the cruise, the CDC will not list the outbreak on its official cruise ship Outbreak Updates page.

A couple of take-aways from this article. First, how many passengers did not dislose their symptoms to the ship doctor?

Secondly, there is no indication that the outbreak is related to norovirus, which cannot be confirmed until there is scientific analysis of the infected passengers' stool samples, which will not be done because the CDC is not involved.

Thirdly, the local news station is wrong that GI virus outbreaks can't occur through airborne transmission. Two years ago, in an article titled Norovirus Spreads by Air on Cruise Ships, I discussed that researchers have concluded that norovirus can spread by air, according to a publication in the highly respected Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Finally, don't call us if you get sick on a cruise. Establising where the virus came from, or that the cruise line was negligent, is virtually impossible to prove, especially since the CDC conducts no epidemiological analysis and sometimes can't even figure out the source of the outbreak

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Read: Gastrointestinal Outbreak on the Crown Princess, Again.

Norwegian Gem Suffers Power Problems in the Caribbean

Less than a week after NCL-owned Oceania Cruises' M/S Regatta experienced a power loss while cruising near Hawaii, the Norwegian Gem's propulsion system partially failed according to a New York news station ABC-7NY.

The NCL cruise ship was rerouted to Barbados where passengers were reportedly "erratically divided into groups" and flown back to Newark Airport Friday to essentially "fend for themselves."

"There was no communication, we knew nothing about what was going to happen, if we were going to have a hotel to stay at," one passenger told the New York news station. 

One passenger who contacted me said that "she was a "little disappointed because of the need to Norwegian Gemscramble and lose a day," but felt that NCL "did the best they could under the circumstances." She added "we were all notified Tuesday that we would by pass St. Thomas and were diverted to Grenada and disembarked in Barbados where NCL flew us to Newark and gave us hotel for the night and food vouchers."

In 2016, there were at least 18 partial or complete power losses of cruise ships operated by the major U.S.-based lines, including NCL's Norwegian Star which experienced repeated power failures last year. 

There seems to be some dissatisfaction amongst NCL guests who sailed aboard the Gem, with only a 25% discount on a future cruise. NCL issued the following statement about the shortened cruise:

"Due to a technical malfunction with the ship's Azipod propulsion system that has resulted in the ship's speed being restricted from full capacity, Norwegian Gem's current 11-day Eastern Caribbean cruise that departed New York on October 31 will now conclude in Barbados on Saturday, November 11. Norwegian has arranged for flights to return all guests to New York and hotel arrangements for guests who returned home today.

Norwegian Cruise Line sincerely apologizes for this unexpected change to the ship's scheduled itinerary. As a gesture of our appreciation for their patience, all guests will receive a future cruise credit of 25% of their cruise fare paid."

NCL also canceled the Norwegian Gem's next cruise.

NCL just announced that it collected record third quarter profits of $400,000,000 despite the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean. 

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Photo credit: Corgi5623, CC BY-SA 3.0, wikimedia. 

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