Korean Ferry Disaster Sucks Cruise Industry Back Into Controversy

For the past week I have watched specials on television and read articles about the Korean ferry disaster when the Sewol capsized with several hundreds school children aboard.

I have been asked to provide interviews on CNN and radio talk shows.

All of the television and radio interviewers invariably asked about the similarities between the sinking of the Costa Concordia and the current disaster. I have been asked about the cowardly conduct and arrest of both captains, the erroneous information provided to the passengers on both vessels, the failure to deploy and utilize the lifeboats and life-rafts in a timely manner, and the unnecessary loss of life on both ships.       

This afternoon CNN aired coverage about both the Sewol and Concordia disasters. 

Today CNN aired Abandon ship? In Recent Maritime Disasters, Captains Don't Hang Around.

Today the New York Times published Duty and Shame as the Ship Sank.

In both the NYT article and the CNN video today, more time was spent talking about the Costa cruise disaster than the recent ferry mishap.

A survivor of the Concordia appeared on CNN this afternoon (photo below) and talked about her family's harrowing ordeal of escaping the sinking ship after Captain Schettino abandoned ship. She lamented that there is no international maritime organization with any real authority to require greater responsibility of the maritime companies which transport passengers.

The images of helicopters hovering over the stricken Korean ship and grieving families ashore appear indistinguishable from the Concordia disaster over two years ago.  

The cruise industry has taken a beating in the last few years. More Concordia-like cowardly captains, dead passengers and dramatic news anchors on TV are not the type of images that sell cruise vacations.

Sewol ferry costa concordia disaster

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World

Caribbean Crime Cruise ShipThe last thing that a family going on vacation wants to think of is being victims of crime. Cruise lines spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year creating idyllic illusions of tropical vacations on beautiful Caribbean beaches.  But behind that slick marketing facade lies danger.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently released a Global Study on Homicide 2013. The Huffington Post posted an article based on the study entitled the 10 Countries With The World's Highest Murder Rates

The most dangerous countries mentioned in the study read like a cruise line itinerary: Honduras (No. 1), Venezuela (No. 2), Belize (No. 3),  El Salvador (No. 4), Guatemala (No. 5),  Jamaica (no. 6),  St. Kitts - Nevis (no. 8), and Columbia (no. 10).  The UN executive summary says that Caribbean countries are home to to 8.5% of the world's population, but they account for about 27% of world crime. 

I made my own list of the most dangerous countries you can cruise to.  No, its not scientific in nature based on empirical evidence. It's anecdotal in nature based on information we receive from cruise passengers who contact us and complain about being a victim of crime in a port of call. 

99% of the people who contact us, both passengers and crew, are victims of crime in the Caribbean countries. A few people complained of being pick-pocketed in Italy. But we have received no reports of guns or knives from people visiting European or African ports ever. Of course, ports in Australia and New Zealand are fabulously safe. We have also never received a complaint about crime in the Asian ports.

We know what people will think when they read the list. "Crime occurs everywhere. Just use common sense. Stay with the cruise line excursions ashore." I say nonsense to that. The fact is that crime occurs in certain places far more than others. No one has ever contacted us about crime during a Seattle / Vancouver / Alaska cruise.

"Common sense" is no help when a port advertised as a peaceful getaway has a murder rate 25 times more dangerous than where you live and no one has bothered to tell you that. Some of the Caribbean countries have homicide rates around 90 murders per 100,000 people, whereas the average city in the U.S. is a little over 4 homicides per 100,000. 

The tourism officials in the islands? Worthless. They'd just as soon sell you a straw hat as a wooden box to transport your body back home.  And don't think that being on an official cruise tour is safer than exploring on your own. A busload of U.S. tourists may look like Fort Knox to a gang of armed banditos in an impoverished country, as you can read below.

Many people living in these Caribbean countries will be insulted and say how can you point the finger at us when you have cities like Detroit or Newark? But who on earth would ever vacation in one of these U.S. cities? Everyone knows Newark  is dangerous. But few people who just bought a St.Lucia Cruise Ship Crimecruise realize that Nassau is even more dangerous. 

The other problem facing cruise tourists in the Caribbean is that once you are victimized, the crooks are rarely apprehended. There is little justice. Of the last 50 U.S. citizens killed in Honduras, for example, the local police have solved just 2 cases.

Here's my list:

10. St. Lucia; This island is a good case study on what can go wrong during a cruise excursion. 69 cruise passengers were robbed at gun point on just two excursions. There were no warnings by the cruise lines or the local tourism officials, even though there had been prior crimes against tourists. The St. Lucia tourism officials lied to the victimized passengers, telling them that nothing like this had ever happened before.

55 Celebrity Cruise Passengers & 2 Crew Members Robbed at Gun Point in St. Lucia

14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia

Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia

U.K. Couple Attacked on Yacht in St. Lucia, Husband Killed

Liar, Liar Pants On Fire? St. Lucia Tourism Board Denies Prior Armed Robbery of Cruise Passengers

9. El Salvador: El Salvador is one of a few countries which is subject to a "critical" crime warning from the U.S. State De[partment. It has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. In Carnival Cruise Passenger Robbed2012, it suffered from a murder rate of 69 per 100,000 people. By comparison, the murder rate in Massachusetts, with a similar geographical area and population, was 2.6 per 100,000. Murders and crimes against U.S. citizens are rarely solved. 

8.  United States Virgin Islands (USVI):  The cruise industry already abandoned one of the major islands in USVI, St. Croix, after tourists were murdered over a decade ago. Cruise ships are still sailing to the other major island, St. Thomas, after a 14 year old girl from a cruise ship visiting St. Thomas was murdered.

There are way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI are a place for a family to vacation. The leading maritime case involving a cruise line's duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore involves St. Thomas.

Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call

Antigua Crime Cruise Ship7. Antigua; Like other beautiful but impoverished islands in the Caribbean, Antigua seems like paradise but it has seen more than its share of tragedies. The murder of a young woman during a cruise for her sister's wedding led to the cruise company dropping the island as a port of call, but it quickly returned. Travel writers and cruise bloggers tend to hide the ugly side of ports of call in exchange for free perks.

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Cruise Passengers Attacked & Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Murder in Antigua: Store Employee Shot in Cruise Tourism Zone Heritage Quay

6. St. Kitts - Nevis;  Another pretty but poor island where cruise passengers have been robbed "in bulk." The disparity in wealth between the locals and the affluent cruise passengers often leads to armed robberies.

17 Cruise Passengers Robbed in St. Kitts

Visitors Warned About Safety in St. Kitts After Tourist Robbery

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Sexual Assault During Sailing Excursion in St. Kitts & Nevis

Mexico Cruise Ship Murder5. Mexico; This country has suffered some of the worst crime stories over the years. Drugs and be-headings are usually not in the tourists areas, but the tourist spots suffer from the nation's poor image. Places like Acapulco are literally defended by army soldiers.   

Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico

Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas - Is It Safe to Cruise to Mexico?

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Gang Rape in Cozumel

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

Mexico Vacation Awareness

4. Guatemala;  Guatemala is not a place where you should think of renting a car and driving in remote areas, as ambushes of tourists and armed robberies are not uncommon. Many people consider El Salvador equally dangerous to cruise tourists.

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

3. Venezuela:  Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates. Crime has increased substantially over the last few years.

Cruise Passenger Murdered in Venezuela's Margarita Island

Roatan Crime 2. Honduras:

Roatan Honduras has been in the news lately following the murder of a NCL crew member who was gunned down in a gruesome crime for his cell phone. The expatriate land and business owners are campaigning that crime is rare, but they are suffering violence and many break-ins and burglaries of their homes and businesses.

We have chronicled several armed robberies of cruise passengers and a sexual assault of a U.S. tourist this year. Like many other Caribbean islands, the police are either indifferent or corrupt. The legal system is somewhere between barbaric and non-existent. 

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers

U.S. Department of State Critical Crime warning

Cruise Ship Armed Robbery1. Bahamas: We have been warning about crime in Nassau ever since we started this blog in September 2009. In October 2009, two "vicious robbers" robbed a group of 11 terrified cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean ship by gunpoint in Nassau. In November 2099, 18 cruise passengers were robbed during excursions from Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships.

Crime has gotten worse in Nassau, We receive more complaints about crime in Nassau than all of the other ports in the Caribbean combined. Armed robberies, sexual assault of teenagers and young women, and the murder of tourists makes this port a dangerous place to take your family. The second you step off the cruise ship you're likely to be offered drugs.

The U.S. State Department has issued multiple critical crime warning for the Bahamas.

The Bahamian archaic legal system is indifferent to the plight of U.S. crime victims and the country is inept at solving crimes in port or on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships.  

Warning: U.S. Citizen Murdered in Nassau - Cruise Passengers Urged to Avoid Travel to the Bahamas!

Cruise Passenger Beaten and Raped in Nassau

U.S. Attorney Raises Alarm Over Crime - Bahamas "One Shot Away" From Cruise Line Exit 

U.S. Embassy in Nassau Issues Critical Crime Warning

 

Additional Reading: The New York Times publishes an story called "When Crime Comes to Barbados Cruise CrimeParadise." Written by Michelle Higgins in the Times' "Practical Traveler" section, the article suggests that crime is rising in the Caribbean islands such as Belize, Dominican Republic, and St. Lucia.

Dis-Honorable Mentions:

Barbados: Two British Cruise Passengers Shot in Barbados During P&O World Cruise

Caymans: Police in Cayman Islands Investigating Sexual Assault of Cruise Ship Passenger 

St. Marteen: Crew Member Shot in St. Marteen

 

Update:  St Lucia OnLine: St. Lucia ranked in top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world (read comments to article)

The website Cruise Line Fans released its Top 5 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations a couple of years ago, as follows: 1. Antigua,  2. Jamaica,  3. Brazil,  4. Nassau Bahamas,  and 5. cruise ships.

The website Crew Center lists: Mexico, Brazil, Nassau Bahamas, Barcelona Spain and Naples Italy

 

Photo Credit: 

Crime tape - Crime Will Destroy Us! bahamas B2B

St. Lucia armed robbery - DBS TV St. Lucia via the Times

Acapulco killings - "Drug Related Killings on the Rise in Acapulco"

Nassau armed robbery - Caribbean 360

Barbados Shooting: Splash News/Alamy

How Do You Say Schettino in Korean? Captain of Sinking Ferry Among the First to Abandon Ship

The captain of the sunken ferry Korean ferry Sewol reportedly was one of the first to abandon ship and make it safely to shore.

Only one of the 47 lifeboats were deployed. The abandon ship order was not made until 30 minutes after the ferry began to sink.

There are around 275 people, mostly teenagers, missing at sea.

Does anyone know how to say Schettino in Korean?

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers

The last two weeks has been an eye opener for knowledgeable tourists thinking of traveling to Roatan. A cruise line employee was gunned down near the port. The bloody death was widely reported in the local newspapers which published gruesome photographs of the dead crew member.

As a result, a major cruise line temporarily pulled out of Roatan. A major excursion company also canceled all tours of the island expressing concerns for the safety of cruise passengers.

The story revealed some disturbing information about the island.  A number of tourists, some arriving by cruise ship and some by air going to dive, have been robbed at gun point and machete point this year. 

Hundreds of people have left comments on our website and Facebook pages about what they think of Roatan Honduras Murder CruiseRoatan. Many islanders and expatriates who bought homes and invested in businesses in Roatan swear that the beautiful island is perfectly safe. Others have stated that it is a dangerous place, with corrupt and/or incompetent/indifferent policemen, where crimes are covered up.

I have received a wide range of responses to my articles, including curses and threats from those who feel an obligation to protect the island's reputation, whether it be for sincere, patriotic reasons or in the calculated defense of their financial investments. I have also received comments from expatriates who have fled the island in fear, or who are stuck with their debt on the island, saying you-have-no-idea-how-bad-it-is-here. 

The most expressive of expatriates in Roatan have informed me of the dangers they perceive presented by what they describe as the thugs in gangs or crack-heads desperate to feed their drug habits. These types intimidate the good people in the community who are afraid to swear out complaints to the police out of fear of retribution. There is animosity between the islanders and the people from the mainland where murders are so frequent as to earn Honduras the infamous designation of having the highest murder rate in the world since 2010. Honduras and the Bahamas are the only cruise destinations in the Caribbean with critical crime warnings from the U.S. State Department.     

Some defenders of Roatan argue that things will get better and justice is possible in Roatan, pointing out that the police quickly apprehended the man who shot and killed the cruise line employee. (Photo above) But others point out that police work really didn't solve the murder. Rather, the mayor's $5,000 reward led to the alleged murderer's friends shooting him in the leg and then calling the cops for the reward money. Some people has posed the question to me - do you want to live in a place where a ship employee will be gunned down for a $250 cell phone and the crime will be solved only when the murderer's friends commit another crime by shooting him for a $5,000 reward?

It is with this backdrop that I read an article today in the Huffington Post entitled "Your Next Trip Should Be to Roatan, Honduras. Here's Why."

It's what I call a "puff-piece" by a travel writer, extolling the quiet "authentic island charm" and the "warm and friendly" people. There is no mention of murder or robbery or crime in the article - only images of the beautiful blue waters, the white sandy beaches, and the thick green forests of the "paradise island of Roatan." 

The article has seemingly been liked and re-tweeted by virtually every resort, dive shop, and bar on Roatan Honduras CrimeRoatan.

Is Roatan the "paradise" portrayed by the article? The article mentioned several resorts and tourist attractions. Did the travel writer pay for her stay on the island or was this a quid-pro-quo great review for a free vacation?      

Some people have warned me that if I travel to Roatan to check things out for myself, not to take a taxi or rent a car.  Some of the tourists and locals have been held up by the taxi drivers. Tourists renting cars have been ambushed when they leave the main roads (photo right). If you complain to the police, I am told, there is an even chance the police will do nothing or, worse, they will be in cahoots with the crooks.

I have written before about travel writers ignoring crime and violence and painting a false and misleading image of travel destinations: Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

As I said before, travel writers who ignore the murders and violence in the Caribbean ports are not doing anyone a favor. And they are providing a grave disservice to the next unsuspecting family who travels to Roatan blindly looking for paradise.  

April 21 2014 Update: Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World 

 

Read: Crime, What Crime? - Bay Village Voice January 2006  

Photo Credit: Cruise Critic (bottom) 

South Korea Ferry Disaster - Nearly 300 Missing

Earlier this morning we posted an article on Facebook about a terrible maritime disaster involving a South Korean ferry carrying 462 passengers and crew members.

The ferry is the Sewol and was carrying hundreds of school children. The official count was 325 students and 14 teachers

The ferry was sailing south to the resort island of Jeju. it apparently hit something, listed and quickly sank.

There is no indication yet what caused the disaster.  

Many students on the sinking ferry sent heartbreaking text messages to their parents.

A CNN video is below:

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

The Nassau Tribune reports on a criminal hearing last weekend in the Bahamas after five cruise ship passengers from two different ship were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana.  The five passengers each had between one and five grams of pot. I'm told that's enough pot for a couple of joints.

A 28 year old from Leesburg, Florida was apprehended by the Chief of Security on the Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas with 1 gram of pot. The ship's security invited the Bahamian police onto the Enchantment and handed the joint and the passenger over. The Magistrate filed him Pot Bahamas$500 and threatened that if he didn't pay the fine immediately he would throw him in jail, adding “and unlike US prisons, our prisons are not as hospitable.” 

A 27 year old man from Sarasota, Florida was arrested after he bought 2 grams of pot ashore in downtown Nassau. He arrived in Nassau on the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas. The Magistrate fined him $500 as well, telling him "some countries in Asia can carry a punishment as severe as death."

A 60 year old woman on the Enchantment of the Seas was arrested with 5 grams of pot. The magistrate filed her $800, stating (and I quote): "It is a shock that individuals at this age would be engaging in such illegal activities.” 

A 61 year old man from Fort Meyers on an unspecified cruise ships was arrested after the cruise ship turned him over to the Bahamian police with 5 grams of pot. He received a $800 fine.

The last pothead was a 37 year old who bought 2 grams for $50 at the straw market. The stoner told the judge “I was walking around the straw market. I was drinking. I had like two rums that morning . . " The judge was unimpressed and threatened him with a three month jail sentence if he didn't pay $500 right away.  

It never ceases to amaze me that cruise lines like Royal Caribbean make hundreds of millions of dollars pushing booze on their ships to the point that the passenger are knee-walking-and-puking drunk, but a cruise ship security officer will collar a guest for a single joint and turn them over to the police. 

The double standard also applies to the Bahamas where pot dealers canvas the port and sell pot up and down Bay Street and in and around every bar in town. One of the chief complaints we hear from Crime Nassau Bahamascruise passengers sailing to Nassau is that they are constantly harassed by the local citizens to buy pot the second they step off the cruise ship and walk into town.  

The Bahamas has one of the highest crime rates in the world. It lets child predators go free, it has a deplorable record solving crimes on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships, and it is clueless when it comes to solving murders and violent crimes against tourists

Nabbing cruise tourists with a joint or two, and teaming up with the cruise lines to pull passengers off the ship with small amounts of pot while Bahamians are openly selling the stuff at the straw market, are duplicitous revenue collecting exercises.

The Bahamas is one gunshot away from losing the cruise lines. It needs to concentrate its limited resources on protecting its citizens and visitors from armed bad guys and not hassle the tourists who bring money into its impoverished country. 

 

Photo Credit: Vibe (top); Nassau Tribune April 9 2014 newspaper - Tribune.

Arrest Made in Roatan for Robberies of Cruise Passengers & Tourists

A number of people have sent me links to news sources in Roatan indicating that the local police arrested a 20 year old islander, identified as Cory Lee Beckner, as a suspect in the robbery of several cruise passengers and tourists.

Teledifusora Insular indicates that the young man is the son of the owner of Palm Beach in Roatan. He allegedly is the "ringleader of a gang" which preyed on tourists to Roatan.

He reportedly was born in the U.S. although he was raised as an "islander" in Roatan. This comes to the surprise of many who blamed the Hondurans from the mainland for causing all of the trouble on their island.

The Trip Advisor site contains a comment by a cruise passenger (from Royal Caribbean) to Roatan which said this about Palm Cory Lee Beckner Roatan Honduras CrimeBeach after a cruise to Roatan last month:

"We booked an excursion from cruiseexcursions.com to go zip lining in South Side, and Eco-tour there and a beach trip to West Bay Tabyana. The local company who facilitated the tours was Christopher tours. For some non-understandable reason, we were taken instead to Palm Beach. There was only one other family there and we got eated up with sand flea bites within minutes of getting there. On the way out from the beach to the main road, we were shot at by robbers. They shot the tire out on our cab, held a gun to my 15 year old sons head and a knife to my 16 year old sons throat and robbed us of money, cameras, phones, shoes and clothes. Apparently this is common on Roatan."

Was 20 year-old Mr. Beckner really involved in this crime or any of the other crimes alleged by tourists who visited Roatan this year? 

Anyone with information regarding the suspect or crime in Roatan, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

More Trouble for Cruise Tourism in Roatan

The Telegraph reports that Cruising Excursions, a company which operates tours exploring Roatan's "fishing villages, mangroves, iguana farms and beaches," announced that it is canceling its tours on the island.

An excursion company representative said that “a string of reports of robberies, violence against visitors and now this horrific murder have forced us to suspend our cruise excursion programme on this beautiful island. "

The newspaper further quoting the spokesperson saying that it is “very sad for the majority of law Roatan Hondurad Cruise Crimeabiding island residents, especially those who make a living from tourism but we cannot recommend cruisers go ashore until we are reassured that measures are in place to protect visitors."

The excursion company also said that all bookings have been canceled with full refunds.

Roatan is in crisis mode trying to respond to the murder of a Filipino crew member from the Norwegian Pearl a week ago. We previously reported on the horrific crime

The excursion company's withdrawal from Roatan is significant because it was based not only on the recent homicide but on what it describes as a string of violent robberies this year. 

We reported on prior armed robberies in January and March

Roatan attended the Cruise Shipping Miami convention in Miami Beach last month to promote its port. I stopped and took a photo of the booth. I thought that it was just a matter of time before something like this happened.

 

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

Honduran Crew Members Busted for Smuggling 100 Pounds of Cocaine on Royal Caribbean Owned Cruise Ship

Pullmantur EmpressA newspaper in Brazil reports that the police arrested crew members on a cruise ship who were smuggling 100 pounds of cocaine.

The Globo newspaper identified the cruise ship as the M/S Empress, owned by Royal Caribbean and operated by the Royal Caribbean brand Pullmantur.  

The police officers arrested Honduran crew members after finding 333 bags of cocaine weighing 100 pounds. The drugs were found in the crew members' cabin in several bags hidden in coffee pouches. 

The drugs were intended to be delivered to Europe. 

Royal Caribbean said that it has a "zero tolerance" policy regarding illegal drugs on its ships.

The cruise ship was previously operated by Royal Caribbean International as the Nordic Empress and Empress of the Seas.

Photo Credit: Top - Reuters / Bottom - Wikipedia (Borodun)

Pullmantur Empress Cruise Ship

A Week the Cruise Industry Would Like to Forget

This week has been a public relations disaster for the cruise lines and the travel industry.

A Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member from the Norwegian Pearl was gunned down in Roatan after he walked off the ship to call his wife and check on his child back in the Philippines (suspect photo below right). A Disney crew member sexually molested a 13 year old girl on the Disney Dream.  A visitor from Canada was murdered and his family terrorized in the Bahamas. A MSC cruise ship, the Magnifica, was raided by the police and labor officials in Brazil for human rights violations. Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ships infected hundreds and hundreds of guests with norovirus aboard the Grandeur of the Seas and the Crown Princess

You can read about the stories here.

A month ago I attended the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM) and listened to NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan Roatan Murder Suspect Cruisesay: "we are ruled by public opinion; unless we can keep our business running right we will always be on defensive." The NCL boss added: "a period of operational excellence and no media incidents are needed."

A month ago I wrote that the continuous stories about mistreatment of crew members, sexual assaults, and children victimization will continue to damage the cruise industry's image. Its like reputation death by a thousand cuts. I heard no PR plan by the cruise lines at CSM to turn things around.  I said at the time that the cruise lines were just "hanging in the balance hoping for the best."

Well the best didn't come and cruise executive Sheehan didn't get his prayer answered for "no media incidents."

This week Sheehan pulled his cruise ships out of Roatan after one of his crew members was murdered last Sunday, but the move is just temporary. His ships will again start calling on Roatan at some point. But the danger is still there. Many cruise passengers, from Carnival and Royal Caribbean, as well as other tourists, have been robbed at gunpoint or machete point in Roatan earlier this year.

Crime in Roatan will not magically stop.  Other cruise tourists will undoubtedly be robbed. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world not to mention dysfunctional police and legal systems. Where do the cruise line go instead? Belize? The Bahamas? Their crime and murder rates are also some of the worst in the world.

Roatan, Belize, and the Bahamas are all beautiful but they are all dangerous places to visit. What families want to save up all year and go on a Caribbean vacation to get away from the stresses of their lives just to end up in some of the most dangerous countries in the world?

A new Harris Poll revealed that the cruise industry's image is sinking. The poll says that the U.S. public questions the safety and reliability of cruising. The poll cited the numerous norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships as one reason for the lack of confidence in the cruise industry. The poll was taken before the Roatan shooting or the Disney child molestation case this week.

Grandeur of the Seas is Still Sick: Cruise Industry Heading Toward Record Breaking Year for Virus of the Seas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has documented passengers sailing on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas out of Baltimore have been sickened on two consecutive cruises. 

The CDC website reflects that 97 passengers and 8 crew members on the Grandeur of the Seas became ill with vomiting and diarrhea. It left April 5 for a seven-day cruise and returns to Baltimore today.

Royal Caribbean Cruises notified passengers who will be boarding today to arrive late at the port Grandeur of the Seas - Baltimore - Noro Virusbecause the cruise ship will undergo another round of the so-called "enhanced cleaning."

The Associated Press indicates that Royal Caribbean believes norovirus to be the cause.

As is the situation with virtually all gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships, the CDC has not announced an explanation how the outbreak took place. Contaminated food? Contaminated water? Sick crew members working while ill in the galley or dining rooms? Cruise passengers not washing their hands? (the cruise lines' usual excuse). Your guess is as good as mine.  

This is the second consecutive cruise on the Grandeur with a illness outbreak, The CDC reported that 111  passengers and 6 crew members became ill with norovirus on the Grandeur during its cruise from March 28 to April 5. You can read our report here.

The CDC has documented a total of 8 gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on cruises returning to a U.S. ports so far this year. (There was also a norovirus outbreak aboard the P&O Oriana recently). There were just 9 outbreaks in all of last year. Norovirus is cited as one of the reasons the public has less confidence in the safety and reliability of cruising, especially from people who have never cruised before.

This week we were contacted by many cruise passengers asking whether they could cancel the cruise which leaves today because of the ongoing outbreak. Unfortunately the cruise lines hold all of the cards in cases like this.  Fear of becoming sick is not a legally recognized reason to cancel a cruise and expect a refund. However, it all depends on the goodwill of the cruise line. A FOX News report indicates that the spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, Cynthia Martinez, said "if passengers don't want to take Saturday's cruise, Royal Caribbean staff will help them reschedule." 

You can contact Ms. Martinez on Twitter - @CrisisCommChick / telephone (305) 982-2458 / email cynthiamartinez@rccl.com

Suing a cruise line for compensation when exposed to a gastrointestinal virus is a losing proposition because the CDC does such a poor job trying to determine the cause of the outbreak. In this most recent case the CDC has not determined the type of virus much less how the virus came on the cruise ship.

The last message we received was last night: "I will be traveling on the Grandeur this Saturday as well and our check in time was delayed 4 hours! I will be bringing my own bleach wipes on board. Wish us luck!"

Good luck!

Photo Credit: WBAL Baltimore

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

Crime, Crew Member Treatment & Environmental Practices - Not "Wow" Gadgets - Will Shape the Millennials' View of Cruising in the Future

This week I have read a couple of articles about the Cruise Lines International Association's (CLIA) "Cruise 3 Sixty" conference in Fort Lauderdale. I read an article in the Sun Sentinel (Cruise Execs Talk About Industry's Future) and an article in Travel Weekly (CEOs Say Cruise Lines Must Wow Travelers).

CLIA's Christine Duffy moderated the conference attended by the travel agent loyals. She discussed the future of cruising with the executives of the major cruise lines like Richard Fain (Royal Caribbean), Arnold Donald (Carnival), Kevin Sheehan (NCL) and Pierfrancesco Vaga (MSC Cruises).

"The Millennials"

To attract more first-time cruisers, CLIA is targeting the "Millennials" (consumers born between 1980 & Millennials2000).  

The Sun Sentinel quotes Ms. Duffy saying: "This demographic group offers a window into the next generation of travelers and provides opportunity for serious growth. They have a strong desire to travel and to share experiences."

In simple terms Ms. Duffy is talking about the next generation of young people from age 14 to 34 (like my children and nieces) who CLIA is targeting as the next wave of 25 to 55 year-old cruisers. 

Who are these "Millennials?" What will they be interested in for their vacations?

Selling cruises to the the "Millennials" will not be an easy task. 

First, they are poorer than prior generations. They have more debt and student loans. And it won't be difficult to sell them cruises just because they will have lower incomes and less wealth. It's because there will be a disconnect between what the Millennials are interested in and what the cruise lines are offering, and because the Millennials will have a greater social consciousness than the current cruisers.  

Wow Gadgets Won't Wow the Millennials

The articles report that the cruise industry is trying to attract more first time cruisers by offering the public "more innovative ships with 'wow' features."

A recent publication correctly called the Millennials "digital wizards." Like my kids, they have grown up with high tech gaming toys seemingly before they could walk or talk. I don't see the Millennials being impressed by the "gee-whizz" and so-called "wow" gadgets being touted by Royal Caribbean (virtual balconies & the "North Star" device) or Princess (the "SeaWalk"). The Millennials are smart and their taste for technology is sophisticated. My kids have been mastering Apple products for 15 years. They Royal Caribbean Bumper Carsare not easily impressed with what I or the 60 and 70 year old cruise executives think are "cool." 

Some of the new attractions touted by the cruise lines are hardly wow gadgets in the first place. The bumper cars projected to appear on Royal Caribbean's next ship are a silly, old-school idea.  The Travel Weekly article even talks about "bowling alleys and self-leveling pool tables" and quotes Royal Caribbean's Chairman Richard Fain saying: "All of that conveys what cruising has to offer. It says something about what the industry stands for.”  Circa 1950 bumper cars, bowling alleys, pool tables for the Millennials? You have to be kidding me.   

The Millennials are less privileged, more diverse, and more liberal than today's cruisers. 4 out of 10 will not be white. They will be more sensitive to the plight of workers in the international community being over-worked and underpaid. They will be more attuned to environmental issues. They will have a greater understanding of the fragility of the air and water ecosystems that the cruise lines routinely abuse.

Human Rights, Not Bumper Cars

In the last three months, one cruise line in particular, MSC Cruises, has repeatedly made the news in the worst sort of way. Just this year, passengers and crew members have accused it of dumping garbage bags at seas in marine sanctuaries. The police and labor authorities raided one of MSC's ship to investigate allegations of the cruise line abusing crew members. MSC has drawn the ire of environmentalists by sailing through the San Marco basin and damaging the port in Venice.  

The traditional newspapers, like the Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald, and travel publications like Celebrity Crew MemberTravel Weekly, have given little attention to these type of horror stories.

The image of the cruise industry will be shaped by issues like crime on cruise ships (a Disney crew member allegedly molested a 13 year old girl yesterday), crime in ports of call (a NCL crew member was shot and killed this week in Roatan), treatment of crew members from around the world (Carnival & Royal Caribbean seem to be competing to see who can best screw the crew members), and the cruise industry's pollution of the air and sea (have you seen the videos of MSC dumping trash?)

These are important issues that the Millennials will focus on. In the next 10 to 20 years, we will see the continued rise of social media and the presence of more contemporary publications focusing on issues of relevance to the Millennials.

Old school newspapers, which often blindly cater to the cruise industry, will continue to decline in readership and relevance.  

The bumper-car-and-pool-table and gadget-promoting cruise lines will lose the Millennials as customers unless they understand what the future really holds and begin to address issues of crime, crew member rights and environmental problems.  

Cruise Nightmare: Disney Crew Member Arrested on Charges of Molesting Child on Disney Dream

Ahmed Sofyan - Disney Cruise MolestationNews sources in Florida are reporting that the Port Canaveral Police Department arrested a 36 year old Disney crew member today on charges of molesting a 13 year old girl on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

Florida Today states that "the Port Canaveral Police Department has arrested a Disney Cruise Line crew member today for alleged lewd or lascivious molestation of a minor."

WKMG Orlando, which has been a leader in covering cruise ship crimes, identifies the Disney crew member accused of molesting the 13-year-old girl as Ahmed Sofyan, age 36, of Jakarta, Indonesia.

He was charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation and one count of false imprisonment.

The alleged incident occurred aboard the Disney Dream ship while it was docked in Port Canaveral this morning. 

The Port Canaveral Police Department says that at approximately 8:12 AM, Canaveral Port Authority Police responded to the request of Disney Cruise Lines regarding a lewd or lascivious molestation that occurred aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship while docked at terminal 8 in Port Canaveral. Upon conclusion of the investigation, crew member Ahmed Sofyan (DOB: 07/22/77) of Jakarta, Indonesia, was charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation and one count of false imprisonment. The victim was a 13-year-old female not known to the suspect.

Last year Disney refused to timely report a similar incident when a 33 year old Disney waiter molested an 11 year old girl on the Disney Dream. Although the incident occurred while the cruise ship was in port in Port Canaveral, Disney sailed the cruise ship to the Bahamas in what appeared to be an attempt to aid the crew member in escaping justice.  The Bahamas, as expected, refused to arrest the molester and Disney then flew the crew member back to his home country, India. WKMG covered the disturbing story. You can see photos of the incident here and read our account of the crime here.

Indonesian crew members have received bad press lately.  In February an Indonesian crew member on a HAL cruise ship was arrested in a horrific case where he tried to kill and throw a passenger overboard from the Nieuw Amsterdam.

Sexual assaults against children is an issue we have discussed many times on this blog.  In 2010, we reported on a situation - Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship 

A news report from WKMG on the latest Disney Cruises child molestation case is below: 

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

 

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Bahamas Crime Watch: British Tourist Shot Dead in the Bahamas

The BBC reports that a British citizen from Winnipeg, Canada was shot and killed while visiting the Bahamas earlier this week.

56 year old Edgar Dart was visiting his mother in Emerald Bay, Grand Bahama after his father died. The BBC says that around 7:00 AM on Tuesday, a masked gang of three robbers broke into his mother's home armed with a gun and a machete. The family were tied up with duct tape during the raid and jewelry and personal items were stolen.  Mr. Dart was killed in front of his son, as well as in front of his brother, sister-in-law Edgar Dart - Murder Bahamasand young nephew. 

The Daily Mail reported that “they were forced to look on helplessly as Edgar lay on the floor bleeding to death in front of them. It took him around an hour to die . . . and there was just nothing they could do for him.” 

A family member said: "His young son was there as well - it is barbaric, horrific and just really shocking."

No arrests have been made.

The death was reportedly the 30th murder for the Bahamas this year. The local newspapers, the Nassau Guardian and the Tribune, mentioned the story but do not mention the gruesome details.

The Daily Mail quoted Mr. Dart's brother saying "The police report on the killing is very scant. Crime is on the increase on the island and they do not want such matters reported because they fear it will damage the tourist industry."

We have reported on the high crime rate in the Bahamas on many occasions. Read:

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

U.S. State Department Issues Another Crime Warning About The Bahamas

Bahamas "One Gunshot Away" From Cruise Line Exit
 

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

Norovirus Aboard Crown Princess Sickens 66 Passengers & 17 Crew Members

Multiple news sources are reporting that an outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness has stricken "at least 66 passengers and 17 crew members" aboard Princess Cruises' Crown Princess.

A spokesperson for Princess Cruises says that the nasty digestive bug is likely norovirus. 

There have been 6 prior gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports this year. There were just 9 in all of last year.

We have been contacted by passengers complaining that passengers were sick and there was a strong smell of vomit in the hallways.

Norovirus has plagued the image of the cruise line. There was a massive outbreak aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas in January. A recent Harris Poll revealed that norovirus was one reason why the public does not perceive cruising as safe or reliable.  

We previously reported on a norovirus case involving the Crown PrincessHere We Go Again: Norovirus Sickens 100 Passengers on Crown Princess Sailing to Galveston

April 10 2014 Update:  The infected count is now at 104 passengers and 25 crew members on the Crown Princess. 

 

 

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