A Shot Across The Bow - Lawyers for German Tourist, Killed in Costa Concordia Disaster, Seize the Carnival Triumph

There is a lot of controversy today about the seizure of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship in Galveston. Lawyers in Mississippi and Texas who are representing the family of a German woman killed on the Costa Concordia filed a lawsuit against Carnival in Galveston.  In addition to the lawsuit, they filed a motion to obtain an order of attachment of a Carnival cruise ship (the Triumph) which is ported in Galveston.  

I have received lots of inquiries about the issue this afternoon.  Can someone just fill out some paperwork and seize a cruise ship like this?  Why is the Carnival Triumph being seized in Texas for something the Costa Concordia, operated by a separate cruise line, did in Italy?  Is this legal?

All good questions.

Carnival Triumph Arrest - GalvestonMaritime attachments or writs of garnishment are not uncommon. The legal mechanism of seizing a vessel is an effective tool when the vessel owner is in default of its legal obligations, like falling behind on the payment of a ship mortgage, or refusing to pay crew member wages, or refusing to pay for provisions or services rendered on behalf of a ship.

Vessel seizures (often called "attachments" or "arrests") are necessary when the defendant is a foreign corporation, which is not subject to the jurisdiction of the local courts, and its vessel is about to leave the jurisdiction and not return.  It's a good way to obtain jurisdiction and make the company post a bond. If the seizure is proper, then the company has to post a bond to cover its outstanding financial obligations and court / U.S. Marshall costs in order for its vessel to leave port.   

I remember the first time I seized a ship.  It was in 1983 and I was fresh out of law school.  A Greek crew member was owed wages which the shipowner refused to pay.  He hired me to collect around $15,000 in unpaid wages. The lawyer for the shipowner had around 30 years of experience under his belt and was not taking me or my client seriously.  The defense lawyer kept saying that the shipping company was going to pay my client.  But he kept stalling and making excuses.

One afternoon I learned that the ship was planning on departing the port of New Orleans late that night. If I later obtained a judgment on behalf of my client, I knew that it would not be worth the paper it was written on because the shipping company was based in Greece.  I had to shut the ship down.

I quickly typed up a writ of maritime attachment, completed an affidavit and ran down to the Federal courthouse to file the writ and affidavit.  My secretary meanwhile called the U.S. Marshall's office telling them that we expected to have an order seizing the Greek ship shortly, while also asking for directions for me to find the Marshall's office.

Later that evening the Marshall's office served the vessel with the attachment order.  Shortly thereafter, I received a frantic call from the defense lawyer who was now motivated to do what he had been promising to do for six weeks. We met at a shipping warehouse off of Tchoupitoulas Street.  After we resolved the payment issues, I called the Marshall's office which released the ship to sail down the Mississippi River into the night.     

So what does this have to do with the seizure of the Triumph in Galveston?  Nothing, quite frankly. Carnival owes no unpaid debt to the German family.  As sympathetic as I am to the loss of life involved, the fact remains that the death occurred on another cruise ship operated by another cruise line in another country.   

The proper location for lawsuits arising out of the Concordia is Genoa, Italy.  The proper defendant? Costa Crociere, the operator of the cruise ship.  I am no fan of cruise lines, but the facts are the facts. This is an Italian cruise ship.  It is flagged in Italy.  Costa is incorporated in Italy.  Its principal place of business is Genoa, Italy.  The cruise tickets issued to the passengers specify that all disputes must Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship - Arrest - Galvestonbe resolved in Genoa, Italy.  The accident, after all, occurred in Italian waters and is being investigated by the Italian Coast Guard.  There are criminal proceedings in Italy against the Italian captain.

It may well be that seizing the cruise ship was a ploy to try and keep the case in Galveston, whose judges are friendlier to individuals than our Federal courts in Miami, and to take Carnival's home court advantage away.  But there is no connection between the Concordia and Texas.  These passengers are from Germany, for goodness sakes. There is no good reason to seize a Carnival cruise ship for the sins of another cruise ship operated by a different company. 

Unlike the fly-by-night Greek shipping company that tried to rip off my client 29 years ago, Carnival is not going anywhere.  It has tens of billions of dollars in assets here in Miami.  The lawyers who don't want to sue in Genoa can file suit here in Miami, like others have done, and take their chances.  There are many hundreds of lawsuits filed against Carnival here every year.  It would be bedlam if a cruise ship was seized every time a lawsuit was filed.  

So what is this all about? 

The main lawyer for the German family is John Eaves Jr., who practices in Jackson, Mississippi. He told Bloomberg Businesseek that “We’ve not been able to get Carnival’s attention, so this is our shot over the bow to let them know we’re serious about changing the law and maritime standards,” Eaves said. “We want a uniform set of safety standards, and we won’t stop until we get it.”

Seizing a cruise ship to make a point is not a good idea.  Mr. Eaves seems well intended.  Yet, an attachment is not legally required nor justified in these circumstances. The public doesn't like it.  The families on the Triumph don't deserve the hassle. 

Stricter maritime safety laws are needed no doubt.  That's what Congress is for.  I know, I have attended seven Congressional hearings. The process is slow and often discouraging.  But jacking up a cruise line like this is not the way to do it.  

 

Read the lawsuit here: Kai Stumpf v. Carnival Plc, 3:12-cv-0099, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Galveston)

Photo credit: Top: Sims Travel; bottom: Eaves Law Firm

 

April 1, 2012 Update: The Triumph sailed on time out of Galveston.  There is no indication that Carnival was required to post a bond.  Newspaper accounts indicate that the issue of the vessel arrest was resolved through a "confidential agreement" between the parties.  The Houston Chronicle quoted me in an earlier article about the issue which can be read here

Azamara Quest Cruise Ship Catches On Fire Near Borneo

An Azamara cruise ship, the Quest, reportedly caught fire in the Sulu Sea, between the Philippines and Borneo.

The story was first mentioned on Twitter by Simon Browning, a reporter for BBC Radio 4, whose twitter handle is @simbrowning.  Around 9:24 AM this morning, Mr. Browning tweeted: "hearing reports a cruise ship is on fire in Borneo - that there is chaos on board #Cruise #Borneo its full of western tourists.

The blaze reportedly occurred in the engine room on the Quest which departed on Monday for a 17-night cruise Azamara Quest Cruise Ship Firefrom Hong Kong to Singapore. Azamara is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., which is based in Miami.  

A cruise spokesperson stated: “On Friday, March 30, at approximately 8.19pm ship time, Azamara Quest experienced a fire in the engine room. The fire was contained to the engine room and was quickly extinguished."

The cruise line states that passengers mustered at their fire assembly stations.  No passengers were reportedly injured although the cruise press release is silent regarding injuries to crew.  The cruise line states that the ship is "currently running on generator power," although there is no information whether the vessel can cruise to a port under its own power.  There is also no information about the weather conditions.

We have written many article about cruise ship fires over the years.  Deadly cruise ship fires occur more frequently than the cruise industry is willing to admit. Consider reading: "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"

It will be interesting to hear first hand accounts from the passengers, whether the fire was "quickly extinguished" and how the crew handled the emergency.

Were you on the cruise?  Please leave a comment or send us photos or video.

March 30, 20121 / 11:30 PM Update:

We obtained a copy of an email (below) from the Navigation Officer aboard the Quest cruise ship to the Philippines Coast Guard indicating that one crew member, Juan Carlos Rivera Escobar, was in "unstable condition" following the cruise ship fire.

It is disappointing that the cruise line would state that all passengers are uninjured and not mention the injuries to this crew member.  

The last know coordinates of the stricken Quest ship per the email are Lat: 7' 35'N / Long: 119' 59' E.

The email indicates that the vessel is "not under command." 

This information comes not from the cruise line but from newspaper sources on twitter.

Azamara Quest Cruise Ship - Cruise Ship Fire 

Credit: Miquel Ortilla

March 31, 2012 Update / 1:00 AM Update:

The Azamara facebook page finally indicates that many crew members were seriously injured in the fire, as we suspected:

"Unfortunately, five crew members onboard the ship suffered smoke inhalation during the fire. The crew members are being treated in our medical facility. However, one crew member is more seriously injured and requires additional and urgent medical attention that can only be provided in a hospital. Once the ship arrives in Sandakan, the crew member will be immediately transported to a local area hospital."

The facebook page includes contact information for families:

1 - 888 - 829 - 4050 from the US and Canada.

1 - 408 - 916 - 9001 outside the US.

The Royal Caribbean operators will take calls only from families.

Newspaper / media inquiries must email corporatecommunications@rccl.com

April 2, 2012 Update:  The Quest limped into port in Sandakan, Malaysia and have high praise for the captain and crew.  The seriously injured crew member was finally taken to the hospital.

Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?

Ever since the Costa Concordia disaster, questions have been raised whether modern day cruise ships are being designed more dangerously by increasing their size to pile more and more passengers aboard.

There is no question that cruise ship are getting bigger and bigger.  You need look no further than Royal Caribbean's Genesis class (Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas) which each carry more than 8,000 passenger and crew members.

But it is not just that the cruise ships are getting "bigger" that may pose a danger.  Its that they are designed to be much, much taller, with the hotel structure some seventeen stories high.  The "floating Orchestra Cruise Shipcondos," as some call them, seem to be out-of-proportionally tall, perched precariously on a hull which seems incapable of safely supporting a structure towering hundreds of feet into the air. 

Yesterday, I posed the question on Twitter and facebook:  Are Cruise Ships Top Heavy?"  I received some interesting response, including this one:

Yes. Over 30 years ago the shipbuilders built a ship then put a hotel on the inside now they build a hotel/resort first and try and wrap a ship around it second.....these ships and I use this term very broadly should all be tied up at next available port and used as hotels only.

If this issue interests you, I suggest that you read an excellent article by blogger "Teddy Sheperd" entitled "Why Mega Cruise Ships Are Unsafe: Opinion."  

Mr. Sheperd explains that in the past, there was a reasonable and safe ratio between a vessel's draft (below the waterline) and air draft (above the waterline).  The cruise ships today have lost the reasonable proportions between what's below and above the waterline, making the vessels dependent on stabilizers not only to battle rough weather but to stay upright with only slight to moderate breezes. 

Take a read of Mr. Shepard's article and ask yourself whether you really want to take your family onto one of these floating sky-scrapper hotels when, God forbid, it loses power while encountering rough seas?

I do not pretend to be a naval architect.  I studied English and History at Duke.  It remains a mystery to me how jumbo jets can take off or huge ships can even float.  But you don't need to be an expert to have an opinion on this issue.  Mr. Sheperd reminds us of the old saying in boat building, "if it looks right, it is right."

Well, these cruise ships don't look right to me.  They look like condominiums ripped out of Collins Avenue on Miami Beach and placed on a barge.  They look eager to tip over.

 

Have an opinion whether cruise ships today are inherently unstable?  Please leave a comment below. 

 

Photo:  MSC's Orchestra cruise ship - draft of 7.88 metres (25.9 feet). 

Cruise Ship Door Locking Devices - What On Earth Is This?

A member of Cruise Critic posted a photograph of some kind of device designed to prevent the insertion of a key card to unlock a passenger cabin door as well as to padlock the door handle from moving.

The passenger apparently sailed aboard an unidentified Royal Caribbean cruise ship last month, and invited the fellow Cruise Critic members to speculate on why this device was used.

Cruise Passenger Door Locking DeviceWas the device used to lock a passenger in the cabin? This seems very unlikely.

Or was the device used to keep the cabin secure for an investigation by law enforcement officials to search for drugs or to investigate a crime scene?

Aren't these cruise ship doors designed such that there is a master lock or key which can prevent cleaning personnel out of the cabins following crimes?

What happened on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship at the end of last month?

Which cruise ship was this (some speculate the Liberty of the Seas or the Monarch of the Seas)?    

As a maritime lawyer who has represented many passengers whose family members have been sexually assaulted in their cabins, I have seen many incidents where the passenger cabins were meticulously cleaned when the crime scenes should have been preserved.

Is this a device designed to prevent that from occurring? 

I am curious why any cruise line would use this particular type of locking device?

Anyone have information to solve this riddle?  Please leave a comment below.

 

Photo credit:  Cruise Critic member SSPhone

Another Princess Cruise Ship Stricken With Norovirus?

Island Princess Cruise Ship - Norovirus? The Sun Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale reports that passengers aboard the Island Princess cruise ship are experiencing symptoms of gastrointestinal illness, according to a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control ("CDC"). 

The Princess cruise ship is scheduled to return to Port Everglades this morning after sailing a 10 night Panama Canal cruise.

The newspaper reports that the incident is not yet an official “outbreak" which occurs only when at least three percent of passengers experience symptoms such as of the illness, which include vomiting and diarrhea.

There are 1,970 passengers aboard the Island Princess

Several Princess cruise ships have experienced problems with norovirus this year, Including the Ruby Princess and the Crown Princess.  

If you were ill on this cruise or have observations regarding how Princess dealt with the issue, please leave a comment below. 

"Attacked at Sea" - the Dark Side of Cruising

NBC Bay Area aired a cruise crime special last night regarding the problem of sexual assaults at sea. The program is called "Crime Onboard - The Dark Side of Cruising."

NBC reports that although cruising is one of the most popular ways to travel and vacation, passengers are often left in the dark about the risks out at sea.  One problem is how many reported crimes are actually made public. The investigation concludes that shipboard crimes are often unreported, covered-up or not accessible by the public.

The program begins with cruise passenger Laurie Dishman who was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship who was sexually assaulted by a part time security guard with a history of sexually harassing women during cruises.  We represented Ms. Dishman in a lawsuit against the cruise line.  

 

 

You can watch the video interview with Ms. Dishman's Congresswoman, Doris Matsui, here

 

Video credit:  NBC Bay Area

NBC Special: Crime Onboard - the Dark Side of Cruising

As part of its special investigation into the problem of crime on cruise ships, "Crimes Onboard - The Dark Side of Cruising," NBC Bay Area interviewed Congresswomen Doris Matsui (D-CA) who was instrumental in the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act.

Congresswoman Matsui's constituent (and our client) Laurie Dishman called upon her after Ms. Dishman was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in February 2006. Congresswoman convened a hearing regarding the crime. Ms. Dishman testified before Congress in 2005 regarding her ordeal.  She traveled to Washington D.C. over 30 times to lobby for the passage of a cruise crime bill to protect women and children from sexual assaults on cruise ships.

Congresswoman Matsui discusses the new safety law which became effective this year.  She points out correctly that one of the purposes of the new law was to educate the public regarding the startling number of sexual assaults and other crimes which occur on cruise ships each year.  However, after the bill was voted into law, the final version of the law was watered down.   The FBI and Coast Guard now reveal only the number of closed criminal cases on cruise ships as opposed to the number of total crimes actually occurring each year.  

The public is warned of only a fraction of the real number of cruise crimes.  

The difference is between 16 closed cases as opposed to the actual number - "in the hundreds."

The democratic process is a slow one.  The cruise industry vigorously fought against the new cruise law for years, only to cave in at the end when passage of the law was likely.  Now it turns out that some limiting language was inserted into the bill at the end of the day which conceals the majority of the crimes which occur each year on cruise ships.  I wonder who did that? 

As Congresswoman Matsui points out, she and others in Congress are working on this issue.  The cruise crime law is just the first step to deal with the problem of crime on cruise ships.    

 

 

Watch the video interview of Congresswoman Matsui's constituent, Laurie Dishman, here

Video credit:  NBC Bay Area

Coast Guard Busy Rescuing Sick Cruise Passengers: Three Medevacs in Ten Days

The United States Coast Guard has been busy rescuing ill passengers from cruise ships over the past week. 

Today a newspaper in North Carolina reports that a Coast Guard helicopter medevaced a 49 year old woman from the Carnival Pride cruise ship.  The ship was near Virginia at the time of the emergency medical evacuation.  The medical condition of the passenger was not disclosed.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Elizabeth City, launched to assist, hoisted the woman and ship’s nurse and took them to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk.

Yesterday, the Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter from Belle Chase (near New Orleans) into the Gulf of Mexico to rescue a man aboard Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas cruise ship.  According to a newspaper in New Orleans, a MH-65C helicopter flew 132 miles into the Gulf to medevac the passenger who was experiencing stroke-like symptoms. The Coast Guard then transferred the passenger to Touro Infirmary in New Orleans.

Last week, the Coast Guard medevaced a man from the Crown Princess, operated by Princess Cruises.  I don't have any information about this medevac. Does anyone have any information about this event or the other two medevacs?

A video of the Crown Princess rescue (credit tigertran01/youtube)  is below. 

 

Cruise Ships: The Deadliest Form of Public Transportation?

NCL Norway Cruise Ship ExplosionSince the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise lines' PR departments have been working overtime trying to convince the public that cruising is safe. I have mentioned the cruise industry's talking points in a prior article "Six Lies the Cruise Lines Will Tell You after the Costa Concordia Crash."

One of the bigger cruise whoppers is the notion that the cruise industry has the best safety record compared with other forms of passenger transportation.  Just last week, the cruise lines' trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), issued a press release stating that cruise ships deaths are "extremely rare."  The press release quotes CLIA President Christine Duffy, who credibility was recently called into question at a U.S. Senate hearing on cruise ship safety.  

Ms. Duffy cites a report by a consulting firm, GP Wild International, Inc., which represents that in the 10 years before the Concordia disaster, there were 28 deaths on cruise ships out of 223 million passengers and crew who sailed in the past decade. 

GP Wild states that "average fatalities between 2006 and 2011 are 0.16 per one million passengers . . . this compares with 0.3 per one million passengers for the airline industry."  GP Wild does not cite a reference for these statistics, but let's assume that they are true.

Carnival Ecstasy Cruise Ship - Cruise FireSo is the cruise industry saying that you are twice as likely to die on an airplane than a cruise ship? 

Let's take a look at this claim.  Ms. Duffy characterizes GP Wild as "an independent source of analysis and data on the cruise industry."

That's hardly true.   GP Wild is not "independent."  It's clients are Carnival and Royal Caribbean (the cruise industry's largest cruise lines comprising 75% of the cruise market) as well as Radisson, Silversea and Star Cruises.

GP Wild's methodology intentionally excludes most cruise ship deaths.  It counted dead cruisers only if they were killed in an "operational casualty," such as collisions, fires, groundings or sinkings. But this limited definition does not include common situations like over-boards (170 in the last 10 years) like this case, or deaths due to norovirus like this case, or this case, or deaths caused by Legionnaires' Disease like this case, or due to shipboard medical malpractice like this case or this case, or fatalities due to rough weather and poor seamanship like this case, or cruise ship murders like this case, or this case, or this case, or deaths due to dangerous shipboard conditions like this case, or or deaths due to excursion mishaps like this case or this case, or fatalities due excessive alcohol like this case or this case.

It seems strange to to prepare a list of cruise deaths and exclude most of the dead people.

The problem with cruise death statistics is that there is no central cruise database which the public can access. The International Maritime Organizational (IMO) / flag state reporting systems are inconsistent and spotty.  There is no consequence when the cruise line and/or flag state don't report a death.  Even if the cruise line reports the fatality, the flag state does not have to report the incident to the IMO.  Like most UN agencies, the IMO is toothless. It  cannot compel a flag state to release casualties reports, assuming they decide to prepare one.  And flag states like Panama and the Bahamas Princess Cruises Star Princess Fireconduct amateurish reports which are designed to protect their cruise line customers.

Take, for example, an earlier deadly Costa cruise incident.  In 2010, the Costa Europa recklessly smashed into a pier in Alexandria, Egypt, killing three crew members and seriously injuring four more. The incident was published in newspapers in the Egyptian and British press. I blogged about it here, but otherwise there was no media coverage in the U.S.

After the Concordia capsized, many reporters here in the U.S. and in Europe, who were researching Costa's safety record, contacted me and asked for a copy of the maritime accident report regarding the Europa.

Of course I did not have a copy.  The point is no one had a copy of the casualty report.  The flag state, Italy, investigated the deaths but did not bother to send a copy of the report to the IMO.  Italy responded to inquiries from reporters  by stating that the report was "strictly confidential."

Even if the IMO obtained a report, it is unlikely it would share a copy with the family of the dead crew members or reporters.  The IMO does not release casualty reports to the public.  The flag states don't either.  And neither do the cruise lines which consider their reports regarding dead passengers to be the "confidential and privileged" property of the cruise line. 

The GP Wild report references the Europa incident, but there are no reports publicly available to discuss the factual findings and the probable cause of the incident. 

Contrast this with the strict and vigorous procedures of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which overseas the U.S. aviation industry.  TheAmerican Airlines Safety Record FAA data is accurate and public in nature where the cruise data is inaccurate and secret in nature.

U.S. commercial airlines have enjoyed a remarkably safer record over the past decade than the cruise industry. By all verifiable statistical data, travel by U.S. commercial airplane is much safer than traveling by cruise ship.

The U.S. air carriers transport around 750 million people a year. That's several times more than all cruise passengers and crew members over the last decade. There were no deaths on U.S. commercial carriers in 2007 and 2008 or in 2010.    

Unlike the secretive cruise industry, U.S. airplane manufacturers (like Boeing) and U.S. airline companies keep meticulous records regarding accidents and fatalities.  They release this information to the public. They are transparent.  No other form of public transportation is as carefully scrutinized, thoroughly investigated and closely monitored by outside U.S. agencies as commercial aviation. Foreign flagged cruise lines, on the other hand, incorporated in Africa and Central America, have no equivalent as the FAA.  They can bamboozle the United Nation's IMO without consequence.  Cruise lines claim that they don't keep records of fatalities and if they do, they are uniformly unwilling to share them even with the families of the dead.

Statistics don't always tell the full story of course.  Cruising is also the only place where you can be killed and your loved ones will have no legal recourse against the cruise line pursuant to the Death On The High Seas Act.

So let's get back to the cruise lines' claim that cruising is the safest means of public transportation today.  

Its not true.       

If you add the 32 dead and presumed dead from the Costa Concordia disaster to the cruise industry's reported number of dead passengers and crew - compared to flying on an U.S. air carrier - cruise ships may well be the deadliest Costa Concordia Muster - Cruise Shipform of public transportation.  

Think cruising is safe?  You may be more likely to die during a vacation cruise or working with Carnival or Royal Caribbean than flying on Delta or American Airlines.      

 

Photos, top to bottom:

NCL's Norway Explodes at Port of Miami

Carnival's Ecstasy Catches on Fire Off Miami Beach

Princess Cruises' Star Princess Ignites Off Jamaica

Costa Concordia Confusion in Giglio, Italy

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Pleads Guilty to Sexual Abuse of 14 Year Old Passenger

A Royal Caribbean crew member has pleaded guilty to the sexual abuse of a 14 year old girl during a Caribbean cruise.

25 year old Fabian Palmer admitted engaging in sexual relations with the girl during a cruise from Baltimore in December 2010.

Crew member Palmer was employed by Royal Caribbean as a pool attendant and interacted regularly with passengers during cruises.  He met the girl and her family earlier during the cruise. 

Palmer took the child into a men's locker room on the Enchantment of the Seas and engaged in sexual acts in the bathroom.  You can read more about this crime, and similar incidents, in our Fabian Palmer - Royal Caribbean - Sexual Abuse of Minorarticles BUSTED! Another Crew Member Arrested for Allegedly Raping on Cruise and Royal Caribbean Crew Member Arrested for Sexually Abusing 14 Year Old Girl.  

He faces imprisonment with a maximum sentence of 15 years.  His sentencing is June 29th in Baltimore. 

As part of the plea agreement, the crew member must register as a sexual predator where he lives and where he works.  To my knowledge, there are no sexual predators databases or programs in Jamaica where Palmer is from.   

In an unusual move, it was the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) which issued the press statement announcing the guilty plea.  The FBI has increasingly been criticized for its reluctance to involve itself in shipboard crimes.  

 

Photo Credit:  Fabian Palmer facebook

"Rouges & Vagabonds:" Gay Cruise Couple Fined, Insulted & Deported From Dominica

Dominica Senior Magistrate BaptisteIn a weird ending to a weird cruise story, two California men who were arrested on the Celebrity Summit cruise ship while it was docked in Dominica pleaded guilty to indecent exposure at a hearing yesterday and were then ridiculed by a local magistrate.

Yesterday we mentioned the bizarre circumstances surround the Atlantis Events cruise: Busted for Buggery: Controversy Surrounds Another Atlantis Gay Cruise.  

A newspaper in Dominica "DaVibes" described the incident as follows:

"Local taxi operators expressed outrage as they reportedly witnessed the defendants engaged in sexual activity on the balcony of the ship."  When the local police boarded the Celebrity cruise ship, one of the passengers responded “we were naked on our balcony but were not having sex.”

Today another newspaper in Dominica reports that the two men's lawyer in Dominica told the local magistrate at a 30 minute hearing yesterday that her clients were "remorseful" and  overcome by the beauty of the island:

"They were struck by the beautiful mountains, clear fresh air and had a few cocktails and having a few cocktails they found themselves in this indiscretion. They threw caution to the wind, they came here to have a good time and they did not mean to offend anyone” she told the court.

According to the newspaper, Chief Magistrate Baptiste (photo above left) denounced the men's  actions Dominica -Cruise Ship Passengers Arrestedas “an outrage” that was “morally wrong” in any country.  She described the men as “rogues and vagabonds.”  She fined them around $900. 

After the hearing, the local police drove the two men (photo right) to the airport to be flown out of the country.

Many Caribbean islands like Dominica, Jamaica and Barbados are openly hostile to gay travelers. Nonetheless, sex on a balcony at port seems like a good way to be arrested.  

However, the two men, Dennis Mayer and John Hart who have been partners for 17 years, deny that they were engaged in sex on the balcony.

They state that they were arrested by military police and placed in a small cell for 19 hours. They told the LA Times that "we were taunted all night long. They paraded us around like we were some oddity." They were led to a ATM at a bank to withdraw money for their fine as a crowd of residents watched. "I've never seen something like this," Mayer said. "I've never seen people chanting and protesting in the street. It was amazing."  

An AP article quotes Dominica Tourism Minister Ian Douglas as saying that tourists should abide by local laws regardless of their religious or sexual orientation, and that cruise ship officials should make passengers aware of these laws.

 

Photo credits:  

Magistrate Baptiste - Dominica News Online 

Cruise passenger - Carlisle Jno-Baptiste / AP 

A Parent's Worst Nightmare - Disappearance Of Disney Crew Member Rebecca Coriam

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the disappearance of youth counselor Rebecca Coriam from the Disney Wonder cruise ship.  

BBC News published an article which summed up the problems caused when a cruise line like Disney chooses to fly a flag of convenience in a country like the Bahamas.  You can read the article here

A press release with video is here.

Our last article about Rebecca's disappearance is here.

Watch a dateline video from Australia about Rebecca's disappearance below:   

   

 

If you have information about Rebecca's disappearance, please contact us and / or the Coriam family using the contact information below.  We are interested in hearing from former employees of Disney Cruise Lines, particularly youth counselors who used to work aboard the Disney Wonder

Jim Walker:

Telephone:  305 995 5300

Toll Free:  800 256 1518

Email:  jim@cruiselaw.com

Coriam family:

Telephone: 011 44 774 735 9968

Email:  help@rebecce-coriam.com 

Busted for Buggery: Controversy Follows Another Atlantis Gay Cruise

Another Atlantis gay cruise resulted in public controversy yesterday when police in Dominica arrested two passengers on the Celebrity Summit on suspicion of indecent exposure and “buggery” (sodomy).

Someone on the dock supposedly observed the passengers having sex on the cruise ship. The two arrested passengers were men in their 40's from California. Newspaper accounts suggest that if convicted, each one could be fined and face jail time up to 6 months.

The Celebrity cruise ship has been chartered by Atlantis Events, which specializes in gay travel.

Atlantis Events - Gay Cruise - Celebrity SilhouetteFive Atlantis cruise with Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises have been plagued by arrests or deaths.

Last month, a young man went overboard from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship off of the coast of Mexico during an Atlantis cruise.

One year ago, a passenger, Steven Barry Krumholz, was busted for selling a large amount of drugs during a gay cruise on the Allure of the Seas.  

Two years ago, a young man died during a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis cruise aboard the Liberty of the Seas while it was in the Caymans.

Three years ago, a GLAAD board member died of an apparent drug overdose on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

This latest incident takes the controversial history of the Royal Caribbean - Atlantis relationship into the realm of the absurd.  With as many sexual assaults of women which occur on Royal Caribbean / Celebrity ships with no arrests or prosecutions during straight cruises, it is bizarre to think of passengers being arrested for engaging in consensual sex like this.  

 

Photo credit:  Alamy via Mail OnLine

What Happened to Disney Youth Counselor Rebecca Coriam on the Disney Wonder Cruise Ship One Year Ago?

The following is a copy of a press release issued today regarding the disappearance of Rebecca Coriam:

What Happened to Rebecca

One year ago tomorrow, twenty-four year old Rebecca Coriam disappeared from the Disney Wonder. Rebecca worked aboard the Wonder as a youth counselor.

She was responsible for taking care of the children aboard the cruise ship. Rebecca was last seen just before dawn on March 22, 2011, and then she did not report to work at 9.00 AM.  Disney Cruise Line listed Rebecca as "missing at sea."

A police officer in the Bahamas is responsible for the investigation of Rebecca's disappearance because Disney Cruise Line registered its cruise ship in that country.

Rebecca Coriam - Missing - Disney Cruise LineRebecca's family, Mike and Ann Coriam from Chester, England, have received little information from either Disney or the Bahamas regarding what happened to Rebecca in the early morning hours of March 22, 2011.  It has been one year since Rebecca has been lost.  The family has more questions than answers at this point.

Rebecca's Parents Retain Miami Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker to Help Find Answers

To help find information about what happened to their daughter, the Coriam family retained maritime lawyer Jim Walker of the Miami-based law firm of Walker & O'Neill.  Mr. Walker is an internationally know lawyer whose practice focuses on cruise ship matters, including disappearances of passengers and crew members and crimes on the high seas.  

"In this day and age," Mr. Walker commented, "it is inconceivable that anyone would vanish from a cruise ship - particularly a ship catering to families and children -  without the circumstances being recorded by closed circuit television cameras." 

Rebecca's disappearance has received attention in the United Kingdom.  BBC covered the story and the Guardian newspaper, among many others, published an article "Rebecca Coriam - Lost at Sea." 

Rebecca's case has been discussed in the House of Commons in England. Her MP, Stephen Mosley, says Disney was “ "more interested in getting the ship back to sea than in investigating the case of the missing member of their crew."  He also stated “it’s appalling” that only one policeman from the Bahamas – “an authority internationally recognized as almost toothless” – was called to investigate. He said “flag of convenience” countries such as the Bahamas – as they’re called in the shipping world – shouldn’t be left to conduct these kinds of investigations.

Countries as far away as Australia have demonstrated interest into what happened to Rebecca. Australia's "Dateline" recently aired a special program, "Lost at Sea," which you can watch here

Coming to America 

The United States media, so far, has demonstrated little interest in the case, although Disney and its cruise line, the Magical Cruise Company, are based in the U.S.   

The Coriam family will be traveling to the U.S. seeking information about their daughter.  If you have information about Rebecca or if you are interested in interviewing them or discussing the matter with their counsel, Jim Walker, please use the contact information below.

Jim Walker: 

Telephone:  305 995 5300

Email:  jim@cruiselaw.com

Web:  Cruise Law News

Coriam family:

Telephone:  011 44 774 735 9968

Email:  help@rebecca-coriam.com

Web:  Rebecca Coriam

 

March 22, 2012 Update:  BBC News: "Rebecca Coriam: 'Bad Dream' For Missing Girl's Parent"

Silversea Silver Shadow Collides with Container Ship

CNN iReport contains a first hand account from a passenger describing a collision between Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow cruise ship and what is being described as a Vietnamese container ship near Halong bay, Vietnam. The report indicates damage to both the cruise ship and the container ship.   The passenger's account and a photograph of the damaged container ship are below:

"We're on Silversea silver shadow cruise ship and we just collided with a Vietnamese container ship near Halong bay, Vietnam. We slammed into the side of it, in thick fog

Silversea Silver Shadow Collision - VietnamThe other ship was severely damaged, and crew hurt, damage to our ship is being asessed in hong kong. Passengers were called to muster stations.

Our ship has a hole in the bow, heres a pic of the other ship, it was struck in two places - their bridge, and we ripped a large tear in the side too.

I have more pics of the damage, sending this from my cellphone.

Many Brits and U.S. on board

Cruiseline is down playing incident but its serious.

Andrew lock  Sent from my iPhone"

11:00 AM Update: Silversea Cruises issued a press statement this morning, admitting only that a “minor incident” occurred last Friday (March 16th) as the cruise ship was approaching Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

"Silver Shadow was involved in a minor incident on March 16, 2012 at around 4:20 GMT as it was approaching the pilot station in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. There was contact between Silver Shadow and a local commercial vessel. Silver Shadow incurred limited minor dents and guests' safety was never compromised. The ship was fully operational and continued on its course to Ha Long Bay where all shore tours operated normally.  Silversea will carry out a full investigation into the incident."

Silvereas is mum regarding the extent of the damage to the container vessel or whether there were casualties aboard the other vessel.  

Silverseas did not release information until after the collision was reported on CNN and mentioned repeatedly on Twitter. 

2:00 PM Update:

Cruise passenger Andrew Lock has a facebook page where he uploaded photos and a video describing the events. 

CNN has excellent coverage of the story.  CNN's video is below:  

 

 

If you were on the cruise and have additional information, photographs or video, please leave a comment below.

 

Photo credit:  Andrew Lock via CNN iReport  

Has the Cruise Industry Already Forgotten the Costa Concordia?

Cruise Marketing - Costa ConcordiaI have been out of town for the past week with my family on spring break vacation, returning last night to Miami.  But I have been my usual self reading up on the latest cruise news.

It seems that the cruise lines enjoyed a great time last week of self-generated good news. The Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM) event ran its predictable course. The cruise convention broadcast the industry's post-Concordia talking points where the cruise executives and trade organization representatives competed with one another extolling on the cruise industry's great safety record.  Few facts, lots of self-serving opinions.  No independent thinkers challenged the false feel-good cruise prophets.  

Many of the cruise articles I read online contained cruise advertisements from Silversea Cruises showing a cruise ship sailing dangerously close to the rocks somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Have the cruise marketers learned anything? 

After the CSM propaganda extravaganza ended, the cruise convention attendees piled into cabs for a night out drinking.

Lots of private parties. Lots of laughing faces posted on Twitter.  Royal Caribbean's CEO Richard Fain Barbara and Gerry Heiljoked at the RCCL dinner about the first Costa Concordia question coming just 18 minutes into dinner. He had to delay sucking down his shrimp cocktail to think of the cruise talking points - this was a freak accident, caused by a renegade captain, which unfairly tarnished a cruise industry with a fantastic safety record.   

If you interviewed everyone at the cruise shipping convention, you would get one opinion - cruising is safe.  But ask them the names of the Minnesota couple who died in the disaster?  No one would have a clue.  

Is it that easy to forget the names of the drowned just two months ago? Or did the cruise executives ever bother to learn the names of the dead in the first place?   

Cruise Shipping Miami 2012 - Cruising is Safe, It Really Is, Trust Us

I am out of town with my family on Spring Break for a couple of days.  This morning I was on my computer reading the Twitter feed for Cruise Shipping Miami 2012.

As all of you know, the Cruise Shipping Miami event (previously known a SeaTrade) is the annual event sponsored by the cruise industry where the cruise line vendors, excursion companies, port agencies, and foreign tourism boards fill the Miami Beach Convention Center advertising their services.

It sounds like a rather surreal environment this year.

The Mexican tourism people are telling everyone how extremely safe Mexico is.  Let's not talk about the 22 Carnival cruise passengers robbed at gunpoint last month.

Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy - two weeks after her disastrous performance before the U.S. Senate where she was chastised for a lack of candor - started off her moderation of the cruise line president's discussions with the usual talking points about the cruise industry's incredibly safety record.   

Carnival executive Howard Frank said cruise ships are safe and his Costa crewmembers were the "true heroes" in the Costa Concordia disaster.   A Celebrity Cruise president and a NCL captain raved about the safety of cruise ships and so on and so forth.

If you ran a computer analysis of the words spoken by the cruise line leaders at the convention, "safe," "incredibly safe" or "remarkably safe" would be at the top of the list. 

But the first two months of this year have been as disastrous a period of time for cruising as I have ever seen.  Not just the Concordia capsizing and the Allegra ship fire.  There have been nine gastrointestinal sickness outbreaks in 2012, a new record.  Plus a steady stream of child molestation cases, crewmembers and older passengers raping teenage girls, deaths and overboard crew and passengers, including another highly suspicious disappearance of yet another woman during a recent cruise.

Cruise experts like Professor Ross Klein, who maintains the most comprehensive list of cruise ship overboards, norovirus cases and cruise mishaps - are not invited, and are not welcome, at the cruise convention.

We will read newspaper accounts from the cruise friendly press and travel agent publications reciting the safety "facts" touted by the cruise industry as the Gospel Truth.

This is the cruise industry's happy fest.  Critics, complainers or independent thinkers stay away.

Cruising is safe, remarkably safe, the cruise executives say.  Repeat after us - cruising is safe.  It really is.  Trust us.

Now can I sell you a discounted cruise to Mexico?

Miami Herald Continues to Publish Puff Pieces for Its Cruise Line Friends

Let me place my biases front and center.

I am no fan of the Miami Herald.  it's beholden to the cruise industry which pays it for cruise advertising ads.  The Herald's "business" editor, Jane Wooldridge, is the former travel editor for the newspaper. Although she graduated with me from Duke in 1980, she is at the opposite of the spectrum.  She unabashedly praises the cruise lines whether they are right or wrong.  

I have written some unflattering articles about both the Miami Herald and Ms. Wooldridge which you can read here, here and here.

Micky Arison - carnival CEO - Costa Concordia and AllegraUnlike the L.A. Times, the New York Times, or other newspapers with some sense of investigative journalism and professional integrity, the Miami Herald is a journalistic mistress to the Miami-based cruise lines.

So it was no surprise to me that when Carnival CEO Micky Arison decided to give his first interview after the Costa Concordia disaster, he picked his friends at the Miami Herald.  They were happy to offer up some softball questions for Mr. Arison for him to pitch the cruise industry's talking points.

Arison and the Carnival president Howard Frank touted the wonderful safety record of its subsidiary Costa, saying such unchallenged drivel as: "we as a company do everything we can to encourage the highest safety standards."

Arison whined: “No matter what I would’ve done, I think I would’ve been criticized.” 

He touted Carnival as offering a "great vacation value, a great product, a safe product at a fantastic price.”

The assessment by Arison's next in command Howard Frank was more of the same, referring to Costa as a "great company and a great brand, with a terrific management team and with a great future."

Today, the cheer-leading by the Miami Herald continues in its article "Getting the Cruise Industry Back on Course."

The Herald touched on the recent troubles afflicting the Costa brand with the capsizing of the Costa Concordia and the fire aboard the Costa Allegra, as well as cruise over-boards and norovirus cases. However, it was careful to call upon cruise line executives and cruise lines fans to place the cruise into Carolyn Spencer Brown - Cruise Line Shill  a positive light.

The article calls upon the usual cruise line shills like Carolyn Spencer Brown, who recently wrote an article for Conde' Nast Traveler.  She falsely represented that no one died on the latest Carnival cruise ships which caught on fire - read my open letter to Ms. Spencer-Brown for the truth - and she blamed the parents of a 16 year old girl who was the fancy of a NCL pedophile child porno collector assistant cruise director in a stairwell of the cruise ship.

The Herald was careful not to include any survivors of the Concordia disaster, representatives of victim organizations or neutral experts to comment on the nasty state of affairs of the cruise industry.

Was a Passenger Sexually Assaulted on the Carnival Victory?

Carnival Victory Cruise Ship Rape  Several people have informed us that Carnival is investigating an incident where a cruise passenger awoke on the Carnival Victory cruise ship in a crewmember's cabin with bruises and little recollection of events.

The issue of cruise ship rape is one the cruise industry nastiest secrets.

Was a passenger raped on the Carnival Victory?

We have reason to believe that two crewmembers are under scrutiny.

There are online reports that a Maitre'd from Macedonia and a waiter from Croatia were arrested for the alleged rape of an underage girl.

Our Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a spotty history of investigating shipboard rapes.  Was the alleged incident timely and accurately reported by Carnival to the FBI?  Has there been an arrest?

Crewmembers were arrested recently for engaging in sexual abuse of a 16 year old girl on the NCL Norwegian Star, a child on a Cunard cruise ship by a child activities supervisor, a 14 year old girl on Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas, a 15 year old girl (by another passenger) on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, and a 14 year old girl aboard the Carnival Freedom.    All of this in just three months.

A rape is the last thing that Carnival wants to deal with after the Costa Concordia disaster and the Costa Allegra ship fire.      

The Carnival Victory is sailing a 7 Night Southern Caribbean itinerary and departed San Juan today.

You can read about cruise ships rapes here.  Rapes of children on cruises here.

We have represented over 75 women and children raped on cruise ships including Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, among others. 

The last time the Carnival Victory was in the news was following the murder of a 14 year old passenger ashore in St. Thomas last year.  We are representing the victim's family in a case we reported on here

Were you on the cruise last week?  If you have information to share, please leave a comment below.  

January 23, 2013 Update: Bad Times Aboard the Fun Ships: Passenger Alleges Rape Aboard Carnival Victory Cruise Ship 

Coast Guard Medevacs 47 Year Old Passenger From NCL Jewel

Yesterday a U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter medevaced a 47 year old woman female off a cruise ship.  The cruise ship was approximately 115 miles northeast of Cape Henry.  

The captain of the cruise ship Norwegian Jewel cruise ship contacted the Coast Guard at around 5 PM, reporting they had a passenger with severe abdominal pains who needed medical attention ashore.
 
An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and an HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C. were dispatched to the scene.  The helicopter crew hoisted the woman and her husband off the cruise ship at approximately 7 PM.
 
The couple were taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
 
 
 

 

Credit:  U.S. Coast Guard

Chemical Tanker "Gelso M" Runs Aground Off Sicily - Video

Just two months after the Italian flagged Costa Concordia cruise ship struck rocks near the Italian island of Giglio, another Italian vessel has run aground off the coast of Sicily.  

The 500 foot Gelso M ran aground in high winds and rough seas this morning, near the port town of Syracuse. The captain of the tanker called for assistance from the Italian Coast Guard which safely rescued 19 crewmembers from the stricken vessel notwithstanding high winds. 

Reports are that the vessel was taking on water, although the tanker was not carrying any cargo at the time.  

There is already criticism in the international press that the captain had sailed the vessel too close to the shore given the weather conditions.  Fortunately, due to the skill of the Italian Coast Guard, this grounding has a happier ending than the Concordia disaster. 

 

 

Video credit: SiracusaNews YouTube

Ruby Princess Latest Cruise Ship to Battle Norovirus

Ruby Princess - NorovirusPrincess Cruises' Ruby Princess cruise ship experienced a norovirus outbreak with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reporting that 129 passengers 9 crewmembers suffered gastrointestinal illness.

The Ruby Princess was on a 7 day cruise from February 26 to March 4, 2012 out of Fort Lauderdale. 

The Ruby Princess suffered another outbreak last month, although the prior sickness was not reported or investigated by the CDC.

The cruise industry has struggled with gastrointestinal outbreaks this year, some outbreaks reported by the CDC, some not, with Princess Cruises and the Royal Caribbean/Celebrity ships leading the cruise puke fest.

Here is a list of cases I have reported on just this year:

Princess' Ruby Princess Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas Celebrity' Constellation

Princess' Crown Princess (two sailings) Celebrity's Silhouette Cruise Sickness - Norovirus

Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas

Princess' Ruby Princess 

P & O Aurora.

There has been a sick cruise ship virtually every week this year. 

Only cruise ships calling on U.S. ports are required to report sickness outbreaks to the CDC.  Cruise line are required to make the report only when 3% or more of passengers or crew reported symptoms of diarrheal disease to the ships medical staff during the voyage.

Under-reporting occurs regularly because many passengers can't make it away from their toilets due to diarrhea, and some passengers don't want to be confined to their cabins. Crewmembers often work while sick.

 

Photo credit:  bottom - cheezburger.com

Norovirus Hits Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas - NorovirusA reader of Cruise Law News in the U.K. alerted me to an article in the Daily Echo that one of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships based in the U.K. has been hit with a break out of norovirus: 

"Thousands of holidaymakers due to set sail on board a Southampton-based cruise ship were hit by delays yesterday after norovirus hit 117 passengers and three crew on the liner’s previous cruise.

They were delayed boarding Royal Caribbean ship Independence of the Seas until 3pm so that her cabins and the cruise terminal could be sanitized.

She set sail just after her scheduled 7 PM departure."

Were you on this cruise?  How did the cruise line handle the outbreak?  

Please leave a comment below.

March 7, 2012 Update:

Professor Ross Klein's website has this quote from a passenger:

"We have just returned today 06.03.12 from an 11 day cruise on Independence of the Seas.  We were asked to check in late (15.30), by email.  We were left standing in corridors, the check in lounge and even outside for about three hours. They kept apologising for the delay over and over again.

While we were on the ship the staff were constantly sanatizing all handrails chairs and tables, the shops were sprayed every night.  Each time someone entered the toilet a voice would say"Stop don't forget to wash your hands."  When you sat down to dinner then someone would announce that we were on a high state of alert for Norovirus and to please wash your hands. We were handed wipes each time you entered a venue. We were not allowed to put condiments on our food the waiters etc had to do it for you. They even had to put the milk in you coffee and handed you sugar packets with tongs. We felt like lepers and it spoiled the whole holiday.

must say that the crew had to work extra hard but they always had a smile for us, but they must all be shattered."

 

Photo credit:  Daily Echo

What Happened to Fariba Amani Aboard the Bahamas Celebration Cruise Ship?

The family of a Canadian passenger who vanished during a cruise between the Bahamas and Florida last week continue to seek information about the disappearance.

Fariba Amani, age 47, from Vancouver, was cruising aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship operated by the Celebration Cruise Lines.  In a prior article, we explained that Ms. Amani was cruising with her boyfriend, now identified as Ramiz Golshani, also from Vancouver, when she disappeared.

The story mentioned in the press is that Mr. Golshani allegedly last saw Ms. Amani around 1:00 AM on February 29th in the cruise ship's gift show and then re retired to the couple's cabin to go to sleep.  He awoke the following morning and she was not in the cabin.  

After looking for her on the ship as it approached port in Palm Beach, Mr. Golshani notified the cruise ship personnel.  At this time, the cruise ship was docking and the passengers disembarked without being interviewed by either the local police or the FBI.   

Fariba Amani - Bahamas Celebration Disappearance

Canadian television has a video interview of Ms. Amani's sister who describes Ms. Amani's relationship with her boyfriend as rocky.     

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein tracks people missing from cruise ships on his website.  179 people have gone overboard since 2000.

If you have information about this latest cruise disappearance, please leave a message below.  

 

Photo credit: iranto.ca

FBI Arrests NCL Assistant Cruise Director for Engaging in Sex With 16 Year Old Passenger & Child Pornography

The Federal Bureau of Investigations ("FBI") arrested the assistant cruise director of the Norwegian Star cruise ship for engaging in sex with a 16 year old passenger and possessing child pornography.   

29 year old Senad Djedovic, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, worked for Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) for six years for a number of different NCL cruise ships 

The 16 year old girl, from Minnesota, was sailing with her family on a 7 day cruise out of Tampa at the end of January.  Djedovic met the girl shortly after she boarded the cruise.  At the end of the cruise he engaged in sex with her in a stairwell on the cruise.  After the cruise, Djedovic exchanged Senad Djedovic - NCL - Cruise Ship Sexual Abuse emails with the girl which included explicit images and a video of him masturbating in front of a photo of the child. 

One email included the message: I miss you big time . . . you little young girl."  

The child 's father allegedly told him earlier in the cruise that she was 16 years old.  He apparently admitted to other crew members that she was only 16. 

The FBI seized his computer which contained child pornography on a hard drive.  Under a sub-folder entitled "scandals" there were several videos depicting sexual acts with 12 to 15 year old girls, which were downloaded from the internet. 

The Department of Justice charged Djedovic with sexual abuse of a minor and possessing materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors.  

Sexual abuse of minors during cruise by cruise staff and older passengers is one of the real dangers on cruise ships.  Last month we reported on a Cunard children's activities supervisor being arrested for child sexual abuse

You can read about many other cases where crewmembers possessed child pornography or crewmembers and passengers sexually abused minors during cruises here, involving all of the major cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean.

Did Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy Lie to Congress?

Congressional Cruise Safety HearingThe first blog I wrote when I started Cruise Law News three years ago was about the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  It was called "Death On The High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

Under this archaic law, families who have lost a loved one on the high seas due to the negligence of the shipping company are entitled to recover only the lost wages and burial expenses of the decedent.  In cases where the dead passenger is a child or a retired grandfather or grandmother, and hence no wages to be recovered, the recovery is limited to funeral expenses.  There is no entitlement to the decedent's pre-death pain and suffering or the sadness, bereavement and mental anguish of the surviving family members.  

The current status of DOHSA provides no financial incentive for the cruise lines to improve their operations to make cruising reasonably safe for the traveling public.  I have written a number of articles about DOHSA over the years, including "If a Cruise Line Drops Your Grandmother in the Ocean, Don't Expect Any Compensation." 

Cruise lines love DOHSA.  Even when a cruise line is clearly negligent or even acts recklessly, there is no accountability when that negligent or reckless conduct kills a child or elderly passenger.

The cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), have spent millions lobbying Congress to kill efforts to amend the law to include additional remedies. Two years ago, when victim groups were getting close to amending DOSHA, CLIA and its lobbyists went into overdrive and killed the amendment.

Tandy Bondi and Christine DuffyTake a moment and read: "Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act." 

You can read about how Alcalde & Fay lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi, met with Congressmen and Congresswomen to derail efforts to amend DOHSA back in 2010.

The issue of DOHSA came back into the news last week during the Congressional cruise safety hearings.  

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono of Hawaii raised the issue why families have virtually no legal remedies when they lose a family member during a cruise, but enjoy the full range of remedies if the accident occurs in an automobile or airplane.  She asked the cruise line panel whether they thought this was fair.

Congresswoman Hirono asked CLIA's President and CEO Christine Duffy to answer first.  Ms. Duffy was unprepared for the question and initially did not respond.  Everyone in the hearing room knew that CLIA was absolutely against amending DOHSA, and that the victims groups, like the International Cruise Victims (ICV), were absolutely for the amendment.

But instead of answering honestly before the C-Span audience, Ms. Duffy hemmed and hawed and tried to deflect the question by saying "I'm not a lawyer."  But right next to her was the CLIA lawyer Michael Crye and behind her was maritime lawyer Bradley Rose who is CLIA's outside legal counsel. These lawyers were key players for CLIA in submitting a position paper to Congress against revising DOHSA.  Lawyers Crye and Rose just watched Ms. Duffy squirm.   

Sitting close to CLIA's lawyers were the CLIA's lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi (photo above left, chatting with Ms. Duffy right before the hearing).  Ms. Bondi, you will recall, was one of the main lobbyists who helped CLIA kill the DOHSA amendments just two years ago.            

Ms. Duffy knew good and well that CLIA opposed changing DOHSA.  But instead of choosing to be transparent, she chose the gobbledygook I'm-not-a-lawyer non-response.  She had just testified at length about how international laws, flag state laws and U.S. laws supposedly regulate the cruise industry, but now she was no longer competent to give an opinion about an unfair law that screws U.S. cruise passengers.

None of the other cruise line representatives at the hearing would answer the question either.

 

Photos credits:  Jim Walker

Are Cruise Ships a Perfect Place to Commit Crimes?

Rebecca Coriam - Missing - Disney Wonder Cruise ShipFollowing the airing of "Lost at Sea" program on Australia's Dateline television program, a newspaper in Australia published a short article entitled: "Cruise Ships Perfect Ground for Predators - Investigation."

The Herald Sun mentions our firm and the case of Rebecca Coriam who disappeared from the Disney cruise ship Wonder.  The article also mentions case of members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization:

"Criminals are more likely to get away with serious crimes on cruise ships than anywhere else, a maritime lawyer has warned, with 200 people vanishing at sea worldwide in the past decade.

Jim Walker said about half the disappearances have some factor of foul play.

"The place to get away with a crime is on a cruise ship,'' he told the SBS program Dateline.

"The place to be a sexual predator and prey on children is on a cruise ship."

"If you're a rapist, you're more likely to get away with committing the crime on a cruise ship on the high seas.

"All of this is happening out in international waters, typically.

"There are no policemen on the scene . . . You can't summons a police officer who will run onto the crime scene. So they're out there by themselves.'' 

In Australia, the death of Australian woman Dianne Brimble received widespread media coverage with Dianne Brimble - Cruise Ship Victimstrong criticism of the party culture that existed aboard cruise ships.

Ms Brimble died aboard a P&O Cruise ship of a drug overdose after consuming a date rape drug and is alleged to have received callous treatment from passengers she was with at the time of taking the drug.

Mr. Walker said the cruise industry knew it had a problem more than a decade ago and tried to fix it through slick advertising and marketing, rather than taking the hard steps they needed to really clean their act up.

"You have cabin attendants now who are being hired from Third World countries - no disrespect to small Caribbean islands - that have no databases.

"You can't track them even if you wanted to."

"You don't know what you're getting. But you're hiring a 28-year-old man to be responsible for 12-year-old girls' cabin.

"Mum and dad don't know what's happening. They're at the casino, they're at the show, they're up at the nightclub, and the cabin attendant gets back into the cabin - that's still happening. Those cases are still happening.''

While the cruise industry has followed some guidelines, such as installing peepholes in cabin doors, Dateline reporter Nick Lazaredes said few ships had upgraded their video systems or installed man-overboard alarm systems.

Those who have gone missing at sea include 23-year-old English woman Rebecca Coriam, who disappeared while working on the Disney Wonder cruise ship.

Her family was shocked to learn that there would be no US involvement in investigating her disappearance.

When the family of 20-year-old son Blake Kepley, who went missing on a family cruise to Alaska, Merrian Carver - Missing - Celebrity Cruisesrequested that the captain review footage from security cameras, they were told that wasn't possible.

Ken Carver's 40-year-old daughter, Merrian, also vanished off a Celebrity Cruises voyage to Alaska in 2004.

Mr Carver, who is now president of an activist group called International Cruise Victims, said he was stonewalled at every turn as he searched for answers to her disappearance.

The story eventually became the subject of five congressional hearings, which resulted in America's cruise, vessel and safety act.

The newspaper contained links to some of the more disturbing stories the cruise lines would prefer you not know about:

CBS: Woman Speaks Out About Cruise Ship Crime

BBC: Cruise Passengers 'Not Protected From Serious Crime'

Guardian: Rebecca Coriam - Lost at Sea

ABC (US): Cruise Cover-Up?

I am also posting the Dateline Special "Lost at Sea" in case you have not seen it yet:

 

Cruise Ship Accident Google Lawyers

I read an interesting article today about the high prices that some attorneys are paying to advertise on Google.  The paid ads, sometimes called "sponsored listings," appear at the top or the top right side of the Google search engine search results.

There are two types of search results on Google: (1) "organic" listings which rank sites based on the value of their content and popularity of the site, and (2) paid listings which list results based on how much the lawyers pay for certain words or phrases.

The article, "Lawyers Outspend Obama On The Web," discusses a study conducted by the Institute for Legal Reform for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  The study found that some lawyers are spending as much as $79 for a single "click-through" ad word.  When the sponsored ad is "clicked-on," the lawyer is charged the amount bid on for the word or phrase.   

Google Lawyer AdsSome 25 lawyers across the country are spending over $100,000 for Google click-through ads.  The report states that one law firm in Houston is paying $16,600,000 for Google ads.

The report also identifies one of our main competitors in Miami as most closely associated with the phrase "cruise ship assault" both via paid ads and search engine optimization.  Some other Miami attorneys are paying to advertise phrases on Google like "cruise rape," "cruise sexual assault" and so forth.

There is nothing wrong with Google ads, although we do not pay for any advertisements like this or any advertisements at all for that matter.   Our blog is strictly "organic" in nature, meaning that it is ranked solely on the relevancy and current status of the content, the number of sites which link to it and so forth.  Based on the Alexa/AVVO ranking system, Cruise Law News is a top ten most popular law blog in the U.S.  In the first two months this year, Cruise Law News had 289,530 visits and the visitors read 862,721 pages.

My only criticism about the concept of Google ads is that there are law firms which I have never heard of who probably have handled only a few cruise line cases at best.  Nonetheless, they are advertising themselves on Google as "cruise lawyers."  I call these lawyers "Google lawyers."  

I saw this happening after the Costa Concordia cruise ship crash.  All types of lawyers across the U.S. began billing themselves as "cruise ship accident lawyers" on paid Google ads.  An internet marketing company has an interesting article about what it calls ambulance chasing marketing

If you want to see where a law firm's website or blog is ranked based on objective criteria, download the Alexa toolbar here.  It's easy to install and will take less than 30 seconds.

If you are looking for a lawyer to handle a cruise ship case, don't be fooled by the top listings on the click-through Google ads.  Many of these lawyers are not even licensed to practice in Florida where most cases have to be filed. Be certain to inquire into how many cases they have actually handled and the success of those cases.  Be sure to ask to speak to former clients for their opinion on how their cruise line cases turned out.   

 

Image: Avalanche Internet Marketing

Cruise Ship Fires: An Open Letter to Cruise Critic's Editor Carolyn Spencer Brown

Richard LiffridgeCarolyn:

I read your recent article in the Conde' Nast Traveler entitled "Ironically, the Costa Allegra Fire Gives Me More Confidence in the Cruise Line." 

You write: "Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises had major fire outbreaks and not a life was lost."

Perhaps you forgot about my clients' husband and father, Mr. Richard Liffridge. Mr. Liffridge was sailing with his wife Vicki Liffridge when the fire broke out on the Princess cruise ship, the Star Princess.  The fire erupted on a balcony and burned through one hundred cabins.  As explained in the LA Times article "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters:"  

Victoria Liffridge recalled that she and her husband crawled along a passageway filled with thick, black smoke as flames shot above their heads.  It was "like being in an oven," she said.  The couple became separated.  'The last words I heard him say were, "Vicky, don't let me die, she said.  Victoria Liffridge crawled to safety, only to be told later that her husband had not survived. When she identified his body it was covered in soot from head to toe.

Mr. Liffridge left behind his wife, four children and many grandchildren.

After the fire, Princess Cruises lied to the public, saying that Mr. Liffridge died of a "cardiac arrest," as if his death and the fire were unrelated. This contrasted with his autopsy report that concluded he died in the soot-filled hallway as a direct result of the fire due to inhaling incombustible toxic particles.

Mr. Liffridge's daughter, Lynnette Hudson, was invited to Congress to testify about the ordeal and the shabby way that Princess Cruises treated her family after the fire.  

Princess Cruises Star Princess Cruise Ship Fire Carolyn, I realize that the cruise industry has launched an aggressive media campaign to try and salvage its tarnished image with a series of false "talking points" after the Costa Concordia capsizing and the Costa Allegra fire. I am well aware that the cruise lines are asking their travel agents and friends in the media to publish positive articles about the joys of cruising.  But lying to the public just perpetuates the cruise lines' reputation for dishonesty.

Educate yourself.  Take a moment and read the MAIB report on the fire that killed Mr. Liffridge.  Read our tribute to Mr. Liffridge and take a moment and look at some of the photographs of Mr. Liffridge and his family. Read our article: "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires: Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"

Remember, the motto of the Conde' Nast Traveler magazine is "truth in travel."  

Tell your readers the truth.  

Jim Walker

 

March 6, 2012 Update:  Although neither Ms. Spencer-Brown nor Conde Nast bothered to respond to us, today Conde Nast corrected the false article with the following statement: 

"*Correction: In the original publication of this article, we stated that no lives were lost in the ship fires mentioned.  That was incorrect.  One death was caused by the Star Princess fire, and per Princess Cruises, the cause of the death was smoke inhalation."

Today, Ms. Spensor-Brown was back to shilling for the cruise lines after a story was published about a NCL cruise line assistant cruise director who was arrested for child pornography and sexually abusing a 16 year old girl.  She decided to blame the parents:

"Carolyn Spencer Brown, from Cruise Critic, says typically cruises are very safe. "There's a lot of checks and balances along the way to keep people as safe as possible . . .  You're still responsible for your child."

Cruise Law & International Cruise Victims Return to Washington DC (Again)

International Cruise Victims - Cruise Ship Safety  I returned to Miami from Washington DC this afternoon after attending the cruise safety hearings convened in the House of Representatives and the Senate this week. 

These hearings were the sixth and seventh Congressional hearings regarding the issue of cruise ship dangers I have attended since 2005.   

I met my friends and former clients in DC from the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization: ICV CEO Ken Carver, ICV President Jamie Barnett, and ICV Board member Laurie Dishman who has traveled to DC over 30 times.  

Professor Ross Klein was invited to speak at the Senate hearing and he objectively laid out the cruise industry's history of cruise ship collisions, groundings, sinkings and fires. His written submission is the most impressively thorough and complete list of cruise ship related maritime disasters I have ever seen. Professor Klein's hard work and detailed analysis of cruise ship mishaps contrasted sharply with the self-serving opinions of the cruise line advocates who talked in conclusory phrases ("cruising is incredibly safe").   I will be linking to Professor Klein's research as soon as he uploads the information to his website.

During the hearings I met a half-dozen survivors of the Costa Concordia disaster, who traveled from Florida, Georgia and Massachusetts.

The hearings left me with a realization of the polarization of our Congress, and perhaps our country.

The meeting in the Republican controlled House on Wednesday was not unlike a big cocktail party. The cruise line representatives & cruise industry lobbyists back-slapped and joked around with Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen like it was their five year college reunion.  The Republicans extolled the cruise industry's great "entrepreneurs" without even a fleeting thought or concern of the cruise industry's disastrous effect on the environment, or the cruise industry's exploitation of foreign crewmembers, or the fact that the cruise industry pays virtually no U.S  taxes although it relies heavily on U.S. agencies to conduct its business.    

Contrast this freak show with the serious attitude of the Senate hearing on Thursday, which was presided over by a well respected Democratic Senator like Jay Rockefeller who has dedicated his life protecting the coal mine workers from his state of West Virginia and consumers across the U.S.

As long as there are responsible consumer-oriented leaders like Senator Rockefeller in Congress, the victims of cruise ship malfeasance have a fighting chance to force the cruise industry to be accountable when they injure and kill passengers and crew and destroy our environment.   

Congressional Hearing Cruise Safety - Costa Concordia

Photograph above:  ICV President Jamie Barnett, ICV Director Laurie Dishman, Cruise Expert Professor Ross Klein, Costa Concordia survivor, Jim Walker, ICV member Shari Cecil, and ICV CEO Ken Carver.  

Senator Rockefeller Blasts Cruise Industry: "You Are A World Unto Yourselves"

Unlike the love fest between the Republican members of Congress and the cruise line representatives at the hearing before the House on Wednesday, the hearing before the U.S. Senate was certainly not warm and fuzzy.

U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, started the hearing off questioning why the highly profitable cruise lines pay virtually no U.S. income taxes although they extensively use the resources of some 40 Federal agencies. Senator Rockefeller continued saying that he was suspicious of the cruise industry which uses antiquated laws and onerous contractual terms to deny fair compensation to families who die or are injured during cruises.

Senator Rockefeller also questioned the ethics of an industry which dumps human sewage just three miles off the coast of the U.S., creating floating islands of untreated sewage.

Senate Cruise Safety HearingThe exchange between Senator Rockefeller and Christine Duffy, the CEO of the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") was remarkable.  Ms. Duffy read from a prepared script which touched upon all of  CLIA's "talking points," but she would not respond directly to Senator Rockefeller's tough questions.  

Senator Rockefeller asked Ms. Duffy to admit that Carnival Corporation pays only 1.1% in taxes in the 11 billion dollars in profits made over the course of the last three years.  She would not directly respond and she also skirted the question whether she considered that to be fair.  Ms. Duffy would also not immediately agree to provide income tax returns to the committee, until he threatened to use the subpoena power of the Senate.

Senator Rockefeller drew an analogy between what happens deep in the coal mines of his state of West Virginia with what happens on the high sea beyond three miles.  He questioned Ms. Duffy's credibility and admonished her to "speak more truth."  Referring to the cruise industry, he stated "You are A World Unto Yourselves."

What a difference a day makes, between the Republican party heaping praise on Ms. Duffy the day before at the House hearing, and the tough questions posed by a Democratic Senator the following day. 

 

Don't forget to read:

Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash

House of Representatives Convenes Hearing on Costa Concordia to Avoid "Collateral Damage" to Cruise Industry

Yesterday the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure convened a hearing on the Costa Concordia disaster.

As I mentioned in prior articles, I was concerned that the Chairman of the committee, John Mica, a Republican from Florida who is an unabashed supporter of the Florida-based cruise industry, would use the hearing as a platform to praise the cruise lines and help them try and rehabilitate their tarnished reputation. 

I was right.  The hearing yesterday began with the committee members praising the cruise industry and "applauding" the cruise lines for what they described as an "excellent" safety record.  Chairman Mica described cruising as a "joyful," "pleasurable" and "incredible" experience.  Congressman Young from Alaska trumped the Italian investigators and announced that "there was nothing wrong with that ship."  He applauded the industry's "great safety record," and warned against against "casting aspersions" on the cruise lines.  Congresswoman Maxine Brown, also a cruise lines supporter from Florida and a former travel agent, praised the cruise industry as providing the "safest" form of transportation in the world.

The cruise line and CLIA representatives touched on all of their "talking points," and then scurried out a back door behind the hearing room to avoid the press.

Although Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA) and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) asked Elijah Cummings - Cruise Safetysome tough questions, the hearing was mostly a pep rally for the cruise industry.

Most disappointing was the involvement of Congressman Elijah Cummings (photo left) who, like all of the other committee members never mentioned the dead U.S. passengers (Gerald Heil, age 69, and Barbara Heil, age 70, of Minnesota) by name. 

How can the U.S. House of Representative conduct an inquiry into a cruise disaster which kills two Americans where no one even mentions the names of the dead couple?

Congressman Cummings, usually an even keeled legislator who has treated cruise victims with respect, made clear that his primary concern was for the reputation and economic interests of the cruise lines.  He brought up the issue of what he described as avoiding "collateral damage."  He said to the C-SPAN audience that he wanted to make certain that no one came away from the hearing with an impression that cruise lines were not safe. 

Collateral damage?   Thirty two people dead or missing and Mr. and Ms. Heil's bodies remain trapped in the bowels of the Costa Concordia.  And Congressman Cummings is concerned that the cruise industry's reputation may be collaterally damaged by the investigation? 

Later this morning, the Senate will be convening its own hearing on the Concordia debacle.  Let's hope that the Senate takes the tragedy more seriously and asks some tough questions.Maech

March 1, 2012 Update:

The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel news paper echoed the sentiments in our article with "Congressional Hearing On Cruise-Ship Safety Turns Into Love-Fest for Industry."

 

Don't forget to read: Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash