Canada Issues Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas

On Wednesday, Canada began advising its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution, especially in Nassau, due to high rates of crime.”

On its government website Canada urged Canadian travelers to be vigilant and raised the alert status from normal. The warning effective September 17 2014 states:

"There is no nationwide advisory in effect for the Bahamas. However, you should exercise a Canada Crime Warning Nassau Bahamashigh degree of caution, especially in Nassau, due to high rates of crime." 

The headline of the Tribune newspaper in Nassau is Crime alert for Nassau Tourists - Canada Urges Visitors to be Vigilant.

We have written frequently about the high incidents of murder and armed robbery in Nassau (New Providence). About half of the Bahamians who read our articles acknowledge the issue of crime and are frustrated that the government can't do more to address the problem of armed robberies and murder. The other half of our readers are in denial and have a false sense of patriotism. This leads to to threats and accusations that crime is higher in the U.S. with references to the high crime rate in Detroit, for example.

My response is to simply state that everyone knows that its dangerous in Detroit. But most visitors to Nassau naively think that Nassau is some type of idyllic paradise. They need to be warned.

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas.  You can read a few of our articles here and here.

According to the Tribune, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said he was worried about the effect of the warning on tourism because there are lots of tourists from Canada who visit the Bahamian islands.

 

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Mystery Shrouds Disappearance of 23 Year-Old Macedonian Crew Member from M/S Serenissima

A newspaper in Macedonia, Press 24, published an article "Семејството ја бара веќе 4 дена: 23 годишна Македонка отишла да работи на брод и исчезнала" ("A family looks for 4 days for a 23 year-old Macedonian went to work on the boat and disappeared.")

It's about the disappearance of a young crew member from the M/S Serenissima five days ago, as the cruise ship sailed between Rhodes to Crete. We mentioned the young woman's disappearance in an earlier blog.

The article in the Macedonian press identifies the crew member as Denisa Markoska. The article Denisa Markoska Cruise Ship describes Ms. Markoska as a happy person who shared the joy of her job with relatives and friends. Other news accounts (link here) indicate that she signed a new contract and looked forward to working on the ship when it re-positioned to the Caribbean. But then she just "disappeared," or so the story goes.

The article states (translated): 

"Denisa mysteriously disappeared from a ship that sails the seas, in the early hours of September 13. Serenissima ship sailing under the Russian flag in the territorial waters of Greece. And no one saw what happened ... investigation is conducted with many gaps and inconsistencies by Greek police in Crete.

Parents still have not received any official report from the captain of the ship, or from the Greek police, nor by any competent Macedonian institutions. Parents are desperate. Crying for help as well as pressure on the authorities of all the countries involved to find out what happened to Denisa and where she is. Perhaps the girl is kidnapped or killed ... God forbid."

We have spoken to people in Macedonia who know Denisa and her family.  The captain of the cruise ship, a Russian citizen, kept sailing the ship for two or three hours after Denisa was reported missing. He permitted all of the passengers to disembark the ship when it reached the next port, "not to disturb the guests," before notifying the police. Denisa was last seen smoking a cigarette on the open deck with several other Macedonian crew members around 2:30 A.M. There was a video camera on the ship; however, there was no recording device connected to the video camera.

No serious investigation of any type took place, is what I am being told. The captain sent a short note to the family expressing his condolences without an explanation regarding how Denisa disappeared.

Complicating matters is that the ship was registered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to avoid taxes. St. Vincent obviously has no interest in Macedonians citizens or ability to investigate disappearances from vessels bearing its flag. There is information that the ship is owned and/or operated by Premier Cruises based in Finland. Premier is owned by Russian Vladimir Esakov, who owns the Russian Volga Dream company.  

There is a suggestion from the captain that the young woman must have committed "suicide."  But there is no evidence of that. The available information is to the contrary - that she was happy, popular, and a good employee, according to her friends and family. Denisa looked forward to continue her job, sailing in the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, "suicide" is the favorite excuse of cruise lines whenever a young woman disappears at sea. It's a cruel ploy. It is heartless to suggest such a thing when there is no evidence to make such an accusation.   

Are there crew members or passengers on the ship who have accurate information to share?

Please contact us confidentially if you want to pass on information directly to the family. Please email me at jim@cruiselaw.com 

If you wish to offer words of support for Denisa's family, join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Denisa Makoska

 

California Court Dismisses Costa Concordia Lawsuit

Earlier this week, a federal district judge in California dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of two cruise passengers against Carnival arising out of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster, ruling that the case must be pursued in Italy where Costa Crociere is located.

The name of the lawsuit is Patricia Sandoval et al. v. Carnival Corporation et al., Case No. 2:12 CV 05517, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Judge Fernando M. Olguin applied the doctrine of forum non conveniens, where the courts determine Costa Concordia the appropriate location of lawsuits.

The Court concluded that the majority of the physical evidence and witnesses are located in Italy and the passengers can obtain an appropriate remedy in Italy. The decision is not surprising at all.  

The Costa cruise line is based in Italy where the company is incorporated.  Its principal place of business is in Genoa, Italy. It registers its ships like the Concordia in Italy. Much of the crew is Italian, including the captain, and cruise the ship departed from an Italian port and sank in Italian waters.  The Italian Coast Guard responded to the disaster and of course there is an Italian criminal trial which has been ongoing for year. The passenger ticket specifies Italy as the location where litigation must be pursued. 

Our firm advised Concordia passengers long ago not to waste time and money filing suit in the U.S. because their cases would likely be dismissed.  

We advised our clients to proceed directly to Italy and retain Italian lawyers to pursue compensation. Here is one of such articles, published back in January 2010: Are Lawyers Taking Costa Cruise Survivors Into Dangerous Legal Waters?

 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jean-Philippe Boulet Creative Commons 3.0

It's Always Bigger in Texas: Cruise Passengers Taxed on Cruise Booze

KHOU 11 reports that alcohol and cigarettes purchased by cruise passengers, represented by cruise lines as "duty-free products," are being taxed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) once the ships return to Galveston.

The state of Texas will start collecting similar taxes from cruise passengers at the Port of Houston by in October.

The television station says that the state of Texas has collected over $280,000 from cruise passengers since January. 

The cruise lines misrepresent that the liquor and cigarettes are tax free, and then the TABC officials confront the returning cruise passengers as they come through customs.

The station quotes a passenger saying "They advertise it as duty free on the ship and when we get off the ship, to our surprise, it's not duty free. I think it's wrong." 

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Florida Remains Cruise Ship Lawsuit Capital of the World

According to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), more cruise passengers have sailed in Florida and around the world than ever before.

Last year, the number of passengers taking cruises on North American cruise lines increased approximately nearly 4 percent to 17,600,000.

6,150,000 passengers sailed from Florida, an increase of 1.3 percent to 6.15 million from the prior year. Miami saw more than 2 million cruise passengers boarding ships, and Fort Lauderdale saw Crew Ship Capital of the World more than 1,800,000 passengers.

Florida also remains the lawsuit capital of the world against cruise lines. 

Most cruise lines insist that lawsuits involving injuries to cruise passengers must be filed in Florida. Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Silversea Cruises require in their "forum selection clauses" that passengers file suit in this state of they are injured or a victim of a crime during the cruise.

It doesn't matter where the cruise departed from (a different state or even country), the passenger tickets of these cruise lines state that their guests must pursue their cases here in Florida.

Several years ago, the Miami Herald published an article "Lawyers Turn Cruise Lawsuits Into Industry." The article stated that between 2001 and 2006, over 2,100 lawsuits were filed against the Miami based cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

The article begins: 

"How many lawyers does it take to sue a cruise line?

Only one, or one too many if you're the cruise line.

The $25 billion-a-year cruising industry has faced more lawsuits than it cares to count over the past few decades -- some 2,100 in South Florida alone since 2001.

Many are filed by a small group of lawyers -- about 15 locally -- who specialize in representing injured cruise passengers and crew members and make up a thriving cottage industry in South Florida."

The article mentioned that I was one of the "big three" leading adversaries of cruise lines.

Cruise Ship Capital of the WorldI have not seen an analysis of lawsuits recently, but we know that the number of people cruising since 2006 has increased substantially.

The cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger and the fleets have grown substantially.

There has also been an unprecedented number of cruise ship disasters which have plagued the cruise industry as of late. 

Every single day we receive a telephone call, or an email, or a Facebook inquiry, or a comment to this blog about a serious cruise ship injury.

In the last few days, we filed:

  • a lawsuit when a child from Mexico was seriously injured on the Flow Rider;
  • an arbitration claim on behalf of an Indian crew member (waiter) with a serious back injury who was denied appropriate medical care;
  • a lawsuit by a Canadian passenger whose finger was amputated by a cabin door which slammed shut due to a wind current from an open balcony door; and
  • an arbitration claim filed on behalf of a crew member who was denied medical treatment from the cruise line for advanced Hodgkin's Disease.      

Yes, most people have a fun time on a cruise vacation. But many passenger and crew members become seriously injured or denied appropriate medical treatment during cruises, particularly crew members from around the world.   

 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Read: Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses

Photo Credits:  Jim Walker

Measles On Alaska-Bound Cruise Ship

According to Alaska Business Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Anchorage Quarantine Station notified the Alaska Section of Epidemiology on September 11, 2014 of a "suspected measles (rubeola) case associated with the cruise industry."

The press release stated that "an adult crew member had recent contact with a confirmed measles case abroad, and subsequently developed classic clinical symptoms of measles on September 9 while onboard a ship in Alaska waters."

The patient apparently flew on international and domestic flights as well as cruise travel while infectious. The release says that "all cruise passengers will be informed of possible exposure directly Cruise Ship Measleswhile on board the ship."

The release downplays the chances of the crew member infecting someone who might have disembarked in Alaska. But there remains the possibility that the infected crew member may have infected passengers or other crew members (to the extent that they were not vaccinated) who could get off the ship either in Vancouver or Seattle, assuming this was a cruise which originated in these cities.   

The governmental agencies did not mention the name of the cruise ship, but claims that all cruise passenger who possibly could have been infected "will be" notified.

The report raises troubling issues.

Why would the governmental agencies keep the name of the cruise ship secret, except to avoid embarrassment to the cruise line? 

Have the cruise passengers (and crew) in fact been informed? 

If not, when will the passengers (and crew) be notified?

I'm asking the readers of Cruise Law News the following questions:

Has anyone been notified of the risk of being infected during a cruise to Alaska?

Does anyone know what cruise ships were in Alaskan waters on September 9th?

Measles outbreaks on a cruise are very serious. We reported on such an outbreak earlier this year - Measles Outbreak On Costa Pacifica Cruise Ship.

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

September 16 2014 Update:  We received the following comments on our Facebook page:

"I just returned from a cruise to Alaska I was on the cruise ship the Pearl we were notified on Saturday that we may have been exposed to the measles.

"We were notified - the crew member was removed from the ship while we were at sea." 

NCL Cruise Measles

Graphic (top): www.gmanetwork.com

Cruise Safety: Be Prepared Before Things Go Wrong (Via Travel Channel)

The Travel Channel just posted a cruise safety video as part of it's Travel 911 series (be prepared before things go wrong on a cruise ship).

Its a very friendly sounding video that says that there's nothing better than a cruise, but bad things can happen on cruise ships.  

Here are some tips:

  • Bring anti-bacterial wipes and avoid public bathrooms. And check out which ships have high scores on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
  • Attend muster station drills. They are mandatory before the ship sails and can be a life-saver.
  • Limit your drinks. The number one reported crime during cruises is sexual assault. The victims are usually intoxicated.
  • Don't flaunt your jewelry, handbags, or money. Yes, there are thefts during cruises.
  • Be extra-safe during shore excursions. Keep your cash and jewelry in the cabin safe and wear a traveler's pouch.   

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Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Carnival Inspiration

The United States Coast Guard News reports that a Coast Guard  helicopter from San Diego performed a medical evacuation of 34 year old a passenger who was suffering from appendicitis aboard a cruise ship 35 miles southwest of San Diego on Sunday. 

The Carnival Inspiration contacted the Coast Guard early Sunday morning and requested a medevac for the passenger. 

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter flew to the cruise ship, hoisted the passenger aboard, and transported him to San Diego for  emergency medical treatment. 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Carnival Inspiration

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Matthew Baker Creative Commons 3.0

False Man Overboard Report on the Pacific Pearl

Pacific PearlThis morning I received a message from a Facebook friend that there was a search underway for a man overboard from the Pacific Pearl. The cruise ship was sailing off Newcastle, New South Wales.

But the only information I could find were a couple of posting on the Cruise Critic board. 

One person said that " . . . all passengers had to go back to cabins for over an hour and do a rollcall. The ship was stopped and they found 2 lights in the water, apparently lifejackets. It is believed someone threw them in the water."

It was interesting to see the path of the cruise ship on a AIS tracking system. You can clearly see the ship make a Williamson maneuver to return to the spot where the ship thought the person went overboard.

It was nice to see that it turned out to be a false alarm.

Freemantle - Brisbane Cruise Canceled: Princess Cruises To Finally Fix Sea Princess Engines

The Sea Princess is back in the news.  Following widespread coverage of "cruise from hell" articles about a noro-infected  cruise from Freemantle where the ship was nicknamed "Pandemic Princess," Princess Cruises announced that the sailing to Brisbane was canceled in order to address "technical problems" causing the ship to lose speed. 

Perth Now reports that Carnival Australia spokesman, which is responsible for the Sea Princess, stated that “all guests will receive a full refund of their cruise fare plus a 100 per cent future cruise credit.”

Passengers had complained during earlier cruises that the Sea Princess had been suffering from Adonis Sea Princessreduced speeds which shortened times in certain ports of call and required changes in the ship's itineraries including dropping Bali and Broome.

A poster commented on the Cruise Critic boards: "this ship has been limping along slowly and arriving late to ports/missing ports for months. Princess handled this situation badly."

Another person commented: "Really disappointing. All summer long people have been saying that Princess should just bite the bullet and cancel a couple of cruises down the line and fix this ship. People would have had at least a couple months' notice. Instead, they now have 1900 passengers kicked off on the second day of a cruise that never left port. What a mess."

It's currently unknown how many cruises will be affected.

The Sea Princess is an old ship. It was built by Fincantieri, Italy and began sailing in 1998. It was transferred to P&O Cruises in 2003 and renamed the Adonia (photo above right). It was transferred back to Princess in 2005.  

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Cruiser1210 Creative Commons

Carnival Reimburses Couple for Cruise After Kicking Them Off For Husband's "Minor Alzheimer Moment"

WTSP 10 in Tampa reports on a cruise where Carnival disembarked a couple in Cozumel from the Legend after the husband had a "minor Alzheimer's episode, leaving his stateroom alone at 4 a.m. for a cup of coffee."

Carnival personnel claim that they found the husband disoriented and the ship doctor declared him to be a danger to himself, so the ship disembarked the couple off the ship at the next port.   

But when the news station contacted Carnival, the cruise line "quickly admitted the situation was Carnival Legendmishandled" and reimbursed the cost of the cruise and the airfare home. 

Carnival claims that it initially provided a future credit for the unused days of the couple's cruise. However, given the "specialized circumstances" in this case, Carnival said that it was proceeding with a full refund for the unused days of the cruise as well as reimbursement for their flights home. 

The strange thing about the story is that neither the cruise line nor the passengers explained what the "specialized circumstances" were.

Cruise lines are legally entitled to remove a passenger from a cruise ship if the captain or ship physician determine that they present a risk to their own well-being or that of any other passenger or crew member. 

We have reported on cases similar to this before. It sounds like Carnival handled the situation better than Celebrity Cruises did when it kicked an elderly couple off the Millennium and abandoned them after the wife exhibited signs of dementia. 

Watch the video here.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Robertsrules Creative commons 3.0

23 Year Old Crew Member Overboard From M/S Serenissima

Serenissima Cruises A reader of Cruise Law News has informed us that a 23 year old female crew member disappeared from the M/S Serenissima cruise ship.

A Greek newspaper has a short article about the disappearance.

The crew member is reported missing north of the island of Crete, Greece.

The cruise ship is a small vessel carrying only 110 passengers with 48 crew members.  You can read about Serenissima Cruises here.

Before this incident, cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has recorded 238 people going overboard from cruise ships since 2000.

If you have additional information about this overboard case, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Serenissima Cruises.

High Times in Nassau Will Cost You $500 or 2 Months in Her Majesty's Prison

This spring I wrote a couple of articles about cruise passengers getting busted in Nassau for small amounts of pot.  

In April, I wrote about seven passengers from various cruise ships who were arrested for possessing one or a few marijuana cigarettes. In several cases of those arrested, the Bahamian customs officer boarded the Miami-based ships without an arrest warrant or probable cause and confiscated the pot in the cabin safes and arrested the passengers when they returned to the ships.

I commented on the double standard where cruise lines like Royal Caribbean or NCL make hundreds of millions of dollars pushing booze on their ships to the point that the passenger are knee-walking-Nassau Bahamas Potdrunk, but the cruise ship security officers will nab a guest for a single joint and turn them over to the police.    

A common complaint we hear from those who get off the ships in Nassau is that pot dealers canvas the port and sell pot up and down Bay Street and in and around every bar in town. And of course Nassau has a major crime problem which the local police can't control.

Nonetheless, the Bahamas devotes considerable resources into making tourist-related pot arrests, even though the majority of those arrested don't even try and leave the ship with the pot.   

You can read my articles here: 

Reefer Madness: Bahamas Magistrate Taunts & Shakes Down Royal Caribbean Potheads

"Dangerous Drugs?" Nassau Nabs Two More U.S. Cruise Passengers for Pot

Well yesterday the issue resurfaced.  The Tribune newspaper reports that the Bahamian police arrested four young men in their early 20's from several cruise ship for small amounts pot.

The first two men arrested were from Georgia and disembarked an unidentified cruise ship. They had possession of one gram between them when the police arrested them on the cruise wharf.  The magistrate told them that they "could have faced up to seven years in Her Majesty’s Prison." He questioned whether they knew that marijuana was illegal in the Bahamas. One of the men told the magistrate “it’s everywhere.” He fined each passenger $300 to be paid by 5:00 P.M. or they could spend a month in prison.

The second arrest involved a passenger from Miami. The customs officers came on board the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas and arrested the passenger for possessing three grams. He told the magistrate that he "wasn’t planning on bringing it off the ship.”  The magistrate threatened the passenger with "sitting in a prison cell for seven years," and fined him $400 or two months in jail. 

The third and last arrest involved another young man from Miami who was aboard the Norwegian Sky. The NCL security chief invited the Bahamian police onto the ship and led them to the passenger's cabin. The police discovered 12 joints and arrested the passenger.  The magistrate fined him $500 or 2 months in prison.

The comments to the article mocked the magistrate. My favorite was "7 years for a dime bag? GTFOH." The last comment said: " . . . stop wasting the tax payers money with this crap, I hope the fine is more than your $800 per hour charge Magistrate Forbes." 

Nassau has a major problem with gangs, drugs and armed robbery involving young violent men. But the local magistrates and police officers would rather round up stoned American cruisers with a joint or two back in the cruise ship safe. It's easy pickings for the local law enforcement and judicial departments who have otherwise lost control of Nassau. 

 

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Photo Credit:  feathersboutiquevintage.com

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From HAL Oosterdam

OosterdamThe Coast Guard News reports that a Coast Guard MH-60 helicopter medevaced a 84 year old passenger from the Holland America Line cruise ship Oosterdam near Glacier Bay last week. 

The helicopter flew from Sitka and hoisted the elderly passenger from the cruise ship and transferred her to Juneau.

The Oosterdam reported that the woman was possibly suffering from a stroke. The Coast Guard flight surgeon recommended that the woman be medevaced from he cruise ship. 

We first heard of the incident from another passenger who emailed us today, saying:

"While sailing on the Oosterdam on 9/5/14 in Glacial Bay Alaska, we had a helicopter medical evacuation. The conditions were very poor, heavy fog. The Coast Guard out of Sitka, Alaska did a great job. The Coast Guard in Alaska, work in hazardous conditions, and deserve many thanks."

If you have a thought about this case, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Sergey Yarmolyuk Creative Commons

"Virus From Hell" - Gastroenteritis Strikes Passengers on Sea Princess

MSN / Ninesman reports on a viral outbreak aboard a Princess cruise ship cruising from Australia which sickened "hundreds" of passengers this week.

A passenger who was interviewed by MSN refers dramatically to being inflicted by a "virus from hell" with sounds of "vomiting echoing down the hallways."  The Sea Princess left Fremantle on August 18th and was heading, eventually, to Singapore. This was reportedly not the first outbreak.  New passengers who boarded in Singapore were not warned of the outbreak and were described by one passenger as "lambs being Sea Princess led to the slaughter . . . they just didn't know what they were in for."

The virus was allegedly on the cruise ship "for months." One passenger says that some of the bar and wait staff were already sick, when some passengers boarded, with gastroenteritis and influenza.  The passenger said that the sick crew members were afraid to report to the infirmary out of fear of losing their jobs. In our experience, some crew members who rely on tips keep working after they are ill.

MSN says that around 500 people were affected; however, Princess claims that this was not a major outbreak with only around 100 passengers becoming ill.  Princess confirmed to a newspaper in Australia that 100 passengers were sickened by what it innocuously referred to as a "tummy bug."

Princess is declining to compensate passengers for the outbreak and will not be reimbursing them for the shipboard medical treatment needed on the ship. 

We asked Princess for a comment but have not heard back from the cruise line.  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Bahnfrend Creative Commons

Have a comment? Please leave your thoughts below or join the discussion us on our Facebook page.

Read about cruise norovirus cases from Barfblog.

September 11 2014 Update: We just received a couple of comments from passengers on the ship (below), stating that the story is over-dramatic and the criticism of Princess is overblown.

September 12 2014 Update: Passengers who were struck down by the gastro-intestinal virus have disembarked at Fremantle this morning, according to abcnet.au. One passenger said he "was compensated for his bad experience. We got a special on our next cruise deal and the compensation was a couple of dollars as well, so they looked after us." Another passenger said "they were not told about what had happened but believe they should have been."

September 13 2014 Update: PerthNow reports that passengers said up to 400 people were ill on the ship which many are nicknaming “Pandemic Princess” and “Purgatory Princess.” Princess is sticking with its story that only a “small percentage” of passenger were affected. Passengers were offered a 50 per cent refund to be discounted from their next cruise. One retiree said that a "nice glass of brandy every night” kept him from becoming sick. 

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