The New Wave of Attacks on the Critics of the Cruise Industry

Truth - Melissa PhillippeYesterday Travel Weekly ("travel industry's trusted voice") published an article entitled The New Wave of Attacks on the Cruise Industry

A vacation consultant/travel agent type and contributor to the travel magazine, Richard Turen, identified me and Dr. Ross Klein (a sociologist in Canada who has written and testified before Congress extensively about cruising) as cruise critics engaged in a "new wave" of "attacks" against the cruise lines. Mr. Turen didn't provide any examples, but he voiced his concern about what he characterizes as "unsubstantiated half-truths."

Mr. Turen has a travel site where he endlessly promotes his view of the top ten cruise lines, top 10 tour operators, top 10 secrets to traveling healthy, and so forth. His site is called, ready for this, "Travel Truth."

On Travel Truth, you can read all type of hype designed to sell cruises but not a word about crime against women and children traveling on cruise ships. 

Travel Truth is also a zealous defender of the cruise industry when things go wrong. Mr. Turen defended Carnival following the poorly maintained Triumph poop cruise fiasco, and concluded in a Travel Weekly article that there "simply is no other vacation option that can match the satisfaction level and the pure value of a cruise."  Mr. Turen even defended Costa Captain Schettino who smashed the Concordia into the rocks and killed 32 souls in an article "A SECOND LOOK AT THE CONCORDIA TRAGEDY." He bashes a maritime lawyer who criticized Costa for hiring captains who are risk takers like the disgraced captain. 

Yesterday I promised to publish a reply to Mr. Turen's article which would include some context and perspective to his comments.

Here it is:

First, there is nothing remotely "new" about my views of cruising or about what Mr. Turen characterizes, dramatically, as new "attacks" on the cruise lines. 

I switched from being a cruise ship defense lawyer to becoming an advocate for passengers and crew Cruise Ship Crimesmembers in the mid to late 1990's.  I've spent a lot of time disclosing incidents of crime which the cruise lines try to sweep under the rug.  Dr. Klein started compiling cruise information in the late 1990's dating back to the 1960's. He has been operating his informative web site since as early as January 2002. I started my blog in 2009 with the motto "everything cruise lines don't want you to know."

There are no "new attacks" on the cruise lines at all, as far as I am concerned. It's the same type of observations from Dr. Klein and the same old criticisms from me for the past decade, at least. The only thing relatively new is the proliferation of the methods of delivering information to the public. Twitter (we have over 11,500 followers) and Facebook (we have over 92,000 fans) deliver my opinions far faster and further than ever before.  

So let's turn to Mr. Turen's comments.

Mr. Turen says that I have "appeared on every major news outlet and frequently testifies before Congress." Well, the first part of the sentence is 100% accurate; I have appeared on pretty much every network and cable news outlet possible. Lord knows I have tried.

But the second part of his sentence is 100% wrong. I have never testified before Congress. There have been several Congressional hearings which have featured our clients. Five of our clients, primarily sexual assault victims, have made submissions and testified before both the House and the Senate, but not me.

Now, that's petty criticism on my part, I suppose. But if you are going to criticize someone for "unsubstantiated half-truths," you better do your homework and make certain that your representations are 100% substantiated and truthful. 

Cruise Ship NorovirusMr. Turen raises 5 major issues I have discussed in some of my prior 1,800 articles. I'll briefly address each issue, so you can read the substance of my comments and understand why they may be relevant to your family's decision whether to cruise. 

Cruise ships are "floating vomitoriums."  Norovirus, e-coli and other gastrointestinal outbreaks are regularly covered on this blog. We do not handle noro cases and will not represent passengers sickened with GI illnesses. Why? Because it is darn near impossible to prove where the virus originated. The ships sail in and out of port so quickly and never interrupt their itinerary to permit the CDC to conduct meaningful epidemiology testing. So why do I write about it? I find the issue to represent a microcosm of the larger cruise dynamic. The primary cause of norovirus is contaminated food or water according to the FDA and the CDC, but cruise lines insist that it's the unsanitary passengers who bring the nasty virus aboard and don't wash their hands. Meanwhile the CDC has documented many instances where ill crew members who handle food continue to work in the galley and dining rooms after they are ill because they rely on tips. I also must admit that it's fun to watch the Cruise Critic fans and travel agents turn red in the face trying to convince me that it's just the dirty fingers of the passengers causing all of the fuss. Is a "floating vomitorium" an unsubstantiated half-truth? Just ask the thousands of cruise passengers aboard the Celebrity Mercury who were sickened with norovirus during numerous consecutive sailings over the course of a month. The CDC finally shut the ship down because the cruise line wouldn't stop sailing and infecting a new round of guests. Celebrity later sold the sick, old ship. 

Disney is the world's "worst cruise line." After a 34 year old Disney waiter molested an 11 year old girl while the cruise ship was still in a U.S. port, and was caught red-handed on CCTV, did Disney promptly report the crime to the port police or the sheriff's office or the FBI? No, the Magical Kingdom sailed the ship (together with the crime scene, the assailant crew member and the victim) out Disney Cruise Line Pervertof the jurisdiction to Nassau where the local police could have cared less and Disney knew it. Case closed. Disney then flew the pervert back to India. The "worst cruise line?" You bet. This story was my number 1 most outrageous cruise story of 2013

Did Mr. Turen or Travel Weekly write about this crime and Disney's outrageous conduct? Of course not. The only time Travel Weekly writes about cruise crime is puff pieces like this one, where pro-cruise writers interview only cruise lines and cruise trade organizations and end up with what read likes a cruise line press release saying crime is rare.

Here's what Mr. Turen has to say about Disney: Disney at sea "is just as professional, elegant, and genuinely family friendly as Disney on land. For the majority of guests, as always, Disney will exceed expectations. It clearly exceeded ours."

"Cruise lines are a perfect place to sexually abuse children." This was one of the ten reasons I cited back in 2009 to perhaps consider taking a vacation other than a cruise. Congressional staffers have told me over the last five years that the cruise lines are obsessed with making certain that there is never a law requiring the cruise industry to disclose sexual crimes against children (no names or details of course, simply that the victim was a child). No cruise line has ever disclosed that a single child was molested. The cruise lines know that children have been raped and molested in cabins, hallways, crew quarters and in child care facilities. It's the cruise industry's nastiest secret. The Disney cover-up regarding the 11 year old girl is just one example. Dr. Klein has written and testified about this disturbing subject, but I have never read an article published by Travel Weekly or Mr. Turen which has touched upon crimes against children on cruises. That would be bad for the travel industry, wouldn't it? And it would be hard for a travel publication to sell advertisements for the cruise lines too.    

"Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL are corporate felons." Evidence that a party to litigation has been convicted of or pled guilty to a felony, or a crime involving dishonesty, can be disclosed to a jury who can take that into consideration in determining whether that party has a propensity toward dishonesty. This is one of the few things I remember from law school over three decades ago.  All of the major cruise lines based in Miami, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL, have pled guilty to lying to the U.S. Government, federal prosecutors, the Coast Guard and even the U.S. Attorney General. Think that these cruise lines, who are all corporate felons because of their lying ways, will be transparent to you when your children are molested? Jurors are entitled to be informed about felony convictions of corporations. Shouldn't you be too? 

"If you are retired or a child, the cruise line considers your life worthless." There is an old, archaic law called the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA)(1920) which prohibits the recovery of emotional damages (grief, sadness, bereavement, pain, suffering, mental anguish, etc.) when a loved one dies at sea. All that is potentially recoverable is financial losses (lost wages for example).  But if the cruise line or their doctors kill a child or a retiree, there are no lost wages. What can you recover? Zilch. Cruise lines are motivated by financial consequences. But dead children have no consequences (no wonder Mr. Turen states in his article that a child who drown in a Carnival pool without a lifeguard was of no significance to the cruise line). Legislation has been introduced to amend this unjust law, but the cruise lines have lobbied hard to keep it on the books. The cruise lines love DOHSA, because if you are retired or a child your life is worthless in the eyes of the cruise industry and their insurance companies. The cruise lines have spent millions making certain your family doesn't get a dime in death cases. This was the first issue I ever wrote about on this blog.  

Is this another "unsubstantiated half-truth?" Nope. Just another part of cruising that travel writers like Mr. Turen never write about and travel publications like Travel Weekly never publish. They prefer you not know.

Travel WeeklyA year and one-half ago, Mr. Turen wrote an article for Travel Weekly about crime in ports of call, stating that he would never warn a client if that meant "destroying the dreams of others as they try to complete whatever worldwide destination their bucket list might contain."  

I'm all for bucket lists, but not at the expense of a child killed or molested and the cruise line assisting the pervert escape justice or hiding the truth.  Mr. Turen's fanciful top-10-best-cruise-ships view of cruising, and his success making money selling such illusions, seem to me to be based on keeping the real truth away from the traveling public. 

This myth is perpetuated by pretending to be the only source of "travel truth" and attacking those who offer real-life stories about norovirus, molested children, outlaw cruise ships, and "family" cruise lines that really don't care about your children.   

 

Credits:

The Truth - Melissa Phillippe

Travel Weekly - Travel Weekly

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Comments (7) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Andy Smithers - January 24, 2014 1:03 PM

Well DONE!!!!

Susan Hayes - January 24, 2014 2:31 PM

There need to be several more like you writing articles like this, it is the absolute best I have ever read, thank you.

Jeff Dunsavage - January 24, 2014 5:43 PM

Nice work! Sunlight is the most effective disinfectant.

Enlightened Cruiser - January 24, 2014 6:30 PM

Two thumbs up for your well written and well documented response. Many travel sites claim "Truth" in travel, but you deliver.

Agents and cruise lines may take exception, but they can't make truth go away by sneering at it.

Perhaps foolishly, we've cruised dozens of times, even after carefully reading (and dubiously accepting) the Draconian Ts and Cs of cruise contracts.

Even on lines which regularly appear on lists of "The World's Best", we've witnessed food safety practices in international waters that fall miserably short of U.S. CDC standards, only to see compliance palpably improve when entering a jurisdiction where rigorous inspections are imminent.

Also on "the best" lines, we've been on three cruises in which we experienced unexplained propulsion failures of varying duration, all thankfully in calm waters and distant from shallow water hazards.

The cruising public should be delighted that mass media coverage of cruise line abuses is gaining traction. These stories will be countered by CLIA P.R. blitzes, but after every well-publicized incident, the cruise lines' plausible deniability becomes less credible.

Keep it up Jim. IMO any serious cruiser who fails to respect -- dare I say *appreciate* -- your blog, has imbibed one too many cups of Cruise Line Kool-Aid.

tinikini - January 24, 2014 6:58 PM

TOUCHE!!!

Don - January 25, 2014 4:21 AM

Excellent piece. One should never judge a book by its cover and the same goes for the shipping industry - in this case the cruise sector. Big smart colourful ships hide a multitude of secrets. Its a realistic inevitability which the industry would do better to own up to and address rather than continually deny.

Mark Brimble - January 25, 2014 7:14 AM

The pen is mightier than the sword "touche"

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