Shortly after the Holland America Line (HAL)'s Westerdam caught on fire this weekend, HAL issued a press release characterizing the fire as "small" and "quickly" extinguished. It also said that it returned to port in Seattle "out of an abundance of caution."
Cruise line press statements like this rarely tell the whole story. We know that this fire was not immediately extinguished by the automatic suppression system on the ship and had to be fought by crew members with fire hoses, but the fire still re-ignited. The cruise line did not bother to explain why the fire ignited in the first place. Was it a ruptured fuel or oil line? If so, did the cruise ship have splash guards? Was it a mechanical failure of some type? Why wasn't the fire suppressed by the automatic systems? Why did it re-ignite?
Carnival Corporation, HAL's parent company and the owner of the cruise ship, stated last year that it invested hundreds of millions of dollars in safety improvements throughout its fleet of ship, primarily in the engine rooms. The announcement was a major public relations strategy after the bad press following the fires aboard the Triumph and other Carnival cruise ships. Did the Westerdam receive any of the much touted safety improvements?
There are many hundreds of newspaper articles mentioning the fire. But no one is asking these basic questions. Returning to port after a fire "out of an abundance of caution," seems like a gross understatement to me. Can you imagine a major airline battling a fire and then saying that it returned to the airport voluntarily, just to be on the safe side?
A fire at sea is one of the most dangerous experiences imaginable. But most cruise fans don't seem to be particularly bothered by these issues. HAL quickly announced a $250 per cabin credit to be used during the remainder of the cruise which is now continuing. The incident will soon find itself out of the news and forgotten.
King 5 News in Seattle reports that the Holland America Line (HAL) Westerdam caught fire this evening as it was sailing to Alaska and was forced to turn around and return to Seattle. The news station is saying that the fire broke out in the engine room.
"There has been a small fire in one of the boiler rooms onboard MS Westerdam as she sailed from Seattle earlier this evening which was quickly extinguished. All guests and crew are safe. Out of an abundance of caution and in coordination with the United States Coast Guard the ship has returned to Seattle. The ship is fully operational and there has been no impact on guest services. It is anticipated that the ship will depart again once the assessments are completed and continue her voyage to Alaska."
HAL's statement does not explain exactly what caused the fire and omits the fact that after the fire was put out, it flared up again. Descriptive phrases like a "small" fire which was "quickly" extinguished can be misleading many times.
The Westerdam is a 10 year old cruise ship and is owned by Carnival Corporation.
June 29th Update: The Seattle Times reports that the cruise ship has left Seattle to continue its cruise. It also provided a little bit more detail regarding the fire. Interesting, the automatic fire suppression did not extinguish the fire and the crew had to use hoses:
"The Westerdam left Seattle again around 10:15 a.m. Sunday, said Public Relations Vice President Sally Andrews.
Because of the delay, Holland America has revised the 7-day sailing schedule. Passengers will miss their visit to Sitka, but will be given a credit of $250 per room to use during the cruise.
Coast Guard petty officer George Degener told The Seattle Times the ship's crew knocked the fire down, but a while later it restarted.
A combination of high-pressure mist and crew members with hoses extinguished the fire, Kyle Moore, spokesman for the Seattle Fire Department, told the paper. The city dispatched a fireboat, and a few units to the Pier 91 cruise terminal, as a precaution."
Neither the cruise line nor the Coast Guard have explained why the fire broke out.
"There was a small electrical fire in the engine room on the Saga Sapphire at 10am on 16th May. This was quickly and professionally dealt with by the crew. The ship is currently anchored, in fine weather, off the Isle of Mull whilst the damaged electrical panel is repaired and tested. Our priority is always to make sure our passengers and crew are safe and well."
The cruise ship knocked out the ship's power supply.
@eliseislost posted on Twitter: "my grandparents are stuck on a cruise ship because of an electrical fire off the coast of scotland amazing."
We have been notified that there was a fire which affected a "few cabins" this afternoon on the Carnival Valor, which is currently docked at port in St. Thomas U.S.V.I.
A person on the cruise ship informed us that the cruise ship was supposed to depart St. Thomas at 5:00 P.M. but the captain of the ship announced that the departure was delayed due to the fire which apparently (reportedly) went from one cabin to another. The cause and type of fire has not been explained to us.
The ship reportedly will sail later tonight.
We are awaiting confirmation and an explanation from Carnival which we contacted upon receipt of the information.
Update: Here's the statement which we received today from Carnival at 6:21 P.M.:
CARNIVAL VALOR STATEMENT
February 10, 2014 - 5:15 pm EDT
Earlier today while the Carnival Valor was docked in St. Thomas, a small fire was detected in one stateroom located on deck 8. The ship’s automatic sprinkler system activated and quickly extinguished the fire. All of the ship’s hotel and safety systems continued to function as normal.
Although there was smoke in the area, there were no injuries to guests or crew. Other than the one affected cabin, all other cabins in the area are undamaged.
The ship, which departed on a seven-day cruise from San Juan yesterday, is scheduled to sail from St. Thomas later this evening and arrive in Barbados on Wednesday.
Carnival Valor operates year-round seven-day southern Caribbean cruises from San Juan.
Carnival told a television station last evening that after an "electrical breaker failed," the Triumph cruise ship lost power. This "affected ventilation in the ship's incinerator, sending smoke into limited areas of three decks."
Well, that's not what the Cruise Director told the passengers last evening on the ship.
According to a passenger, the Cruise Director said that "frazzled wires" caused the smoke. This was broadcast over the intercom throughout the ship. The smoke from the electrical fire entered the ventilation system.
Here's what the Cruise Director said in the video below:
"I'm telling you the truth right here. So folks, if there is a bit of smoke anywhere near you, head on up to the open decks. Just a couple of wires have been kind of frazzled. So big apologies about that. Once again, absolutely folks nothing to worry about at all. We're getting the power restarted as soon as possible and we will be off and on our way. Thank you very much everybody."
KATC reports that the infamous "poop" cruise ship, the Triumph, lost power today as the Carnival cruise ship was sailing from Cozumel, Mexico back to Galveston, Texas.
According to KATC, Carnival says that the Triumph lost power "for eight minutes" after an electrical breaker failed. Carnival says the loss of power "affected ventilation in the ship's incinerator, sending smoke into limited areas of three decks."
Everyone will remember the Triumph which floated around in the Gulf of Mexico last year after an engine room fire knocked out power to the ship. Whatever happens with this infamous cruise ship will forever be closely monitored. Carnival denies that a fire broke out on the ship and denies that a fire caused the electrical outage. We have heard these denials before, like this case and this one too.
Carnival notified the U.S. Coast Guard of the incident.
KATV reports that passengers are still on the deck waiting for the smoke to clear.
Whether a fire broke out or not, what caused the breaker to fail?
If you are on the cruise, we'd like to hear the passenger's view of what happened. Was the power out for just "8 minutes?"
This morning at 7:39 AM, I received the following information from a passenger on the Carnival Magic returning to port in Galveston:
"We sit outside the harbor in the fog this morning. Last night the coast guard had to airlift a passenger for medical reasons and yesterday morning we had a fire. Deck 11 forward. The crew says it was not a fire but hot electrical. Smoke was coming down to other decks, there is water and wet floors up there so they can call it what they want . . . Pic of the chopper attached."
We are also told Carnival had fans and machines out on deck 11 and there was standing water in the halls. One passenger said "it might have just been a hot circuit but they sure used a lot of water, which made no sense on electrical."
Passengers are now disembarking from the cruise ship.
Does anyone on this cruise have information, photos or video to share?
"On Saturday morning aboard the Carnival Magic, there was a smell of smoke reported along a guest corridor. The issue was identified as an overheated electrical component within an air conditioning vent located within a guest stateroom. There was no fire. The issue has since been fixed. Guests were kept apprised of the situation with announcements over the ship’s public address system and shipboard staff were positioned in the area where the smoke was reported to advise guests and answer any questions.
Additionally, on Saturday afternoon, the ship rendezvoused with a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to airlift a guest in need of immediate medical attention. The guest was taken to a shoreside medical facility for further treatment.
Carnival Magic was on a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean that returned to its home port of Galveston earlier this morning."
It states that an accident occurred on the MSC Orchestra involving three crew members who were working without proper equipment. The cruise line is alleged to have provided the correct equipment. They were cleaning a tank when gas escaped and an explosion occurred.
One crew member was hospitalized and the two other men remain in serious condition in the cruise ship's infirmary.
The Daily Mail reports this evening that a fire broke out aboard a ferry operated by DFDS Seaways in the North Sea.
The ferry is the King Seaways, carrying 1,000 passengers, which was sailing from North Shields (in the U.K.) and heading to Amsterdam. DFDS is a Danish owned ferry operation.
The fire reportedly started in a passenger cabin and was apparently set by a passenger. The ferry company is not stating what caused the fire. Passengers and crew were reportedly overcome by smoke which they inhaled. RAF helicopters were involved in the medevacs.
The ferry is now in the process of returning to port, and is expected to return in a few hours.
DFDS released the following statement:
"Yesterday, Saturday 28 December, a fire broke out in a passenger cabin on the DFDS Seaways cruise ferry King Seaways, which was en route from Newcastle to Amsterdam.
We can confirm that there were 946 passengers and 127 crew members onboard. Fifteen passengers and eight crew members are reported to have suffered from smoke-related injuries. They have been checked by a doctor onboard, and two passengers and four crew members have been taken ashore by helicopter for further medical assistance at a local hospital in the UK."
The Daily Mail reports that the DFDS ferries have a reputation for stag parties and heavy drinking. Last year we reported about a 28 year old man who was reportedly sailing on a DFDS Amsterdam "booze cruise" when he awoke in the ship's bar on fire: Passenger Seriously Burned in Cruise Ship Bar.
Anderson Cooper aired a short special last night on his program AC360.
Over and over again, Carnival engineers indicated on their Triumph inspection reports and maintenance records that one of the ship's diesel generators was way past due for maintenance. The cruise ship was out of compliance with the IMO's Safety of Life at Sea requirements.
Carnival irresponsibly delayed and deferred maintenance and overhaul of the diesel engine.
The program indicates that the Triumph had a dangerous propensity for a fire problem but Carnival neglected the engines and then set sail anyway. CNN said that the fire was a disaster waiting to happen and the cruise line risked the passengers' lives and well being.
The problem could be traced back for over a year to a "dangerous pattern" of fuel line leaks on other ships, including the Carnival owned Costa Allegra which previously erupted in fire.
This fire, which disabled the Allegra, fore-shadowed the Triumph fire. There were reportedly nine instances of fuel leaks from flexible fuel hoses throughout Carnival's fleet. The cruise line was recommending the installation of spray shields on some but not all of its ships to protect the flanges and hoses from leaking fuel on hot spots which would ignite.
The hose which was not shielded on the Triumph sprayed fuel which ignited the fire. This was foreseeable and preventable.
The documents were produced by Carnival in a lawsuit filed by a lawyer in Houston.
Carnival is defending the lawsuit by saying that no one was physically injured. Plus it claims that the cruise line offers no promise of a safe trip and passengers have no right to sue for unsafe or unsanitary conditions during the cruise.
Carnival also says that it is spending 300 million dollars to make improvements and prevent fires.
"Majestic International’s MV OCEAN COUNTESS, completed in 1976 as CUNARD COUNTESS, is currently ablaze at Chalkis, where she has been laid up since her most recent charter to U.K.-based Cruise and Maritime Voyages. The ship was scheduled to return to cruise service in 2014 but this now looks unlikely as aerial video footage shows her superstructure fully engulfed in flames."
Do you have any information, photos, or video of the fire?
We were the first to report on the fire which broke out sometime after 8:00 PM Friday night as the Dawn Princess sailed between Wellington and Napier in New Zealand.
Princess Cruises was tight lipped about what happened, stating only that a fire occurred in an electrical substation on deck six of the ship.
Other than Travel Agent Central, no newspapers or news stations in the U.S. have reported on the fire, even though U.S. citizens were aboard and the Carnival owned Princess Cruises is based in California.
An Australian newspaper, the Herald Sun, published a short article. The Herald Sun reported that crew members stated that the fire suppression system, which should have suppressed the fire, failed. That appears to explain why over 30 minutes after the fire was first reported (when the passengers were initially ordered to their cabins) the captain ordered them to their muster stations where they remained for over an hour.
A fire on the high seas is serious business. A fire and a failed suppression system on the high seas is potentially deadly.
But there appears to be little appreciation of this danger expressed on the few social media sites discussing the incident. Regular cruisers on cruise fan sites like Cruise Critic appear more interested in praising the crew for battling the fire than having a meaningful discussion about why the fire broke out and why the fire suppression reportedly failed (assuming the Herald Sun account is correct).
Don't get me wrong. The crew members who battled the fire and risked their lives deserve the credit. But if you really care about the crew's safety and well-being, you would demand an explanation why the automatic fire suppression system reportedly failed necessitating the heroic action by the crew.
What is troubling from my perspective is not only are there fires, but the automatic suppression systems which are suppose to put the fire out are failing. For example, the Carnival Splendor and the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas fires both involved failed suppression systems.
Regarding the high profile Splendor fire, CNN reported that "the U.S. Coast Guard said the ship's CO2 firefighting system had failed to operate correctly due to leaks, poor maintenance and component failures."
What's the explanation for the reported failure of the suppression system on the Dawn? It is over 16 years old. Do other Princess Cruises ships have the same problem? Princess will never say, and it does not appear that the public is clamoring to find out.
For the time being, it looks like we will all remain in the dark. Perhaps when the Dawn returns to Sydney on November 15th some of the passengers and crew will have more to say.
Princess escaped scrutiny on this latest incident so far because the fire occurred on a Friday night on the other side of the world at the beginning of a three day Veteran's Day weekend when many in the U.S. newspaper and television businesses were on vacation. It also appears that the public may well be tired of non-stop cruise-ship-bad-news.
Luckily there were no injuries due to this latest fire. The only casualty appears to be the public's demand for an explanation regarding what went wrong on the Dawn last weekend.
Friday evening, a fire broke out on the Dawn Princess. 30 minutes after the first public announcement, the cruise ship's captain ordered the passengers to their muster stations where they remained for over another hour until the fire was extinguished.
We first learned of the fire when a reader of this blog contacted us on Saturday. We followed up with a request for information from the public which we made on our Facebook page. On Sunday morning, we posted a first hand account from a passenger currently aboard the cruise ship.
This particular passenger indicated that the crew handled the emergency well. The ship was back to business as usual within three hours of the first report of the fire. Even the bars were packed!
But lacking from the account was an explanation or even any curiosity regarding why the fire broke out in the first place; why the passengers were ordered to muster 30 minutes after the fire was first reported; and why it apparently took well over an hour for the fire to be extinguished.
We requested a statement from Princess Cruises on Sunday. We received a two skimpy sentence response with no explanation regarding what caused the fire and why it was not extinguished by the automatic suppression systems.
Today there have been no national or international newspapers covering the story. Travel Agent Central published a story quoting our account. Cruise Critic just wrote a three sentence story that contained even less substance than the meager cruise line statement.
No major media companies have published anything about the event. The sentiment from regular cruisers who have contacted us seems nonchalant with no inquiries regarding why & how the fire erupted.
I understand that people who are in the middle of a cruise vacation would prefer to continue their fun-filled vacation than conduct a worrisome forensic cause & origin analysis. But the public's understanding of incidents like this is important to maintaining a safe and responsible cruise industry. A vigilant press which asks tough questions is a fundamental part of that process.
Even a small fire that is quickly extinguished is potentially a big deal when you are on the high seas.
Remember that the deadly Star Princess fire started off with something as small and seemingly innocuous as a cigarette smoldering in a towel on a balcony. The result was an inferno which ravaged the ship, destroyed 100 cabins, killed one passenger and injured many others (photo right).
I'm wondering if the major newspapers are burned out on fires at sea?
This weekend, Cruise Law News received information that on the night of November 8th, the Dawn Princess cruise ship experienced a fire which occurred in an electrical sub-station on deck 6. Passengers were called to their muster stations while fire fighting teams extinguished the fire. There were no passenger or crew injuries.
Today we asked for more information from the public on our Facebook page. We received the information below, which comes from a cruise passenger currently on the Dawn.
If you have additional information or photographs regarding the incident, please let us hear from you.
"Anytime dining as we were late leaving Wellington . . . We had dinner then headed for coffee when the Captain came on. There had been an emergency announcement earlier but we thought it was medical, not so. The captain explained there was smoke deck 6 starboard, forward and would we all return to our cabins. WOW. we watched as the stores closed and the crew ran. Then the captain came on again to tell us there was a fire in an electrical locker on deck 6 forward and the fire party was dealing with it. We are still in our cabin as requested. We have opened the door to look up and down the hall. All the crew are in lifejackets standing in the hall. Some passengers have doors open and talking to the crew. It started about 8:30 it is now about 9:00
Well another update time is 9:30 and we are in our muster station after the captain told us to grab our life jackets, warm clothes and head to muster. We have our jackets, passports, money and medication. The muster must have over 500 people, some forgot life jackets, some did not get scanned so they are calling names of people who are not accounted for.
It certainly has been exciting. Nothing we have ever gone thru before. We are SO impressed with the emergency procedures. No anxiety at all.
10:10pm and we are released. A very interesting experience. The bars are jam packed, fuller than we have ever seen them. We are at the coffee bar now, starting where we left off with coffee and a Rusty nail. As of 10:40 they have released cabins on Emerald deck, deck 6, meaning the occupants can now return to them. Two cabins numbers are being called on Emerald and we think they might have some smoke damaged."
November 10 2013 Update: We asked Princess Cruises for a statement. Princess responded as follows: "Several days ago a fire occurred in an electrical locker on Dawn Princess. It was extinguished and there were no passenger or crew injuries." The cruise line declined to explain why the fire broke out or why it took an hour and one-half to extinguish it.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Well today I agree with that expression after watching a nine minute video that a former crew member sent me.
Earlier today I posted two videos showing the Carnival Pride experiencing rough weather back on November 5, 2011. High waves crash over the bow which resulted in a window being blown in and a children's play area (Circle C) being flooded. Water enters the area at high speed covering all of the walls and ceiling and dousing the televisions and electrical equipment.
The video below is a continuation of those videos. It shows the kid's area flooded. One of the televisions on the wall begins to short circuit. There are about 5 minutes of the television sparking, smoldering and emitting black smoke until a fire erupts.
A crew member eventually shows up two and one-half minutes later. He kneels down and tries to splash water onto the burning television. Bad idea. It also looks like he tries to pull the television off of the wall.
A couple of crew members then quickly enter the area and put the fire out with fire extinguishers.
I never could have imagined that just a few minutes after Circle C was flooded, a fire would break out there from a television. I would not have believed it unless I saw the video.
The Carnival Pride was heading to port in Baltimore when it encountered the rough weather.
It's unusual to see photographs or videos of floods or fires on cruise ships. Cruise lines don't release images from their surveillance cameras to the public. Thanks to the former crew who sent us these images.
A member of Cruise Critic reports that a "small fire" broke out on Holland America Lines' Noordam cruise ship on Friday, October 26th.
JavaJunkie comments on the Cruise Critic member forum that while sailing on the Noordam, passengers had a bit of excitement two mornings ago:
"Shortly after 10:30am, one of the ship's alarms sounded, and I started to comment that they had forgotten to announce it was a drill. Just then the captain came on to tell us that we had just heard the fire alarm and it was NOT a drill. The fire team should report to the aft coffee machine, and all crew should stand by."
The cruise critic member writes that "there was a very heavy smell of electrical smoke" and the entrance to the Lido was blocked, requiring passengers to eat around the pool.
The incident occurred while the cruise ship was in port.
What was interesting was the casual story-telling style of the passenger's account which contained was no real explanation regarding the cause of the fire. There was more detail regarding the types of desserts served.
Of additional interest was that two other passengers reported incidents during other HAL cruises.
One passenger stated: "We had a fire on the Noordam also; on the way to Florence. 4 a.m. I smelled smoke and saw it from a vent. We called to report, grabbed our life jacket, put on some clothes and shoes and went up to our lifeboat. We were the only ones up there!! the fire (smoke) was in an a/c motor further down our hall. Our neighbors were slower to get out of their rooms and emergency crew sent them to a dining room. It was very weird being alone up there. Luckily we had a veranda door to help the smoke leave."
Another passenger recounted an incident on the Voleedam, at 1:10 AM on October 13th, when there was an announcement about "a possible fire in the engine room" with instructions for the fire crews to turn out, and passengers to stand by. Eventually the captain announced that "smoke from the incinerator leaked out, setting off the engine room alarms."
One of the areas of cruising which we rarely touch upon is ultra-luxury cruising. But today, the press in Australia are covering a terrifying fire which quickly engulfed and sank a "superyacht" with 16 people aboard.
7 News reports that the fire occurred on the 135 foot Seafaris. The 16 people on the yacht consisted of 8 passengers and 8 crew. One crew members noticed the fire in the early morning hours yesterday and woke the other crew members and passengers.
The yacht was off of Cape Tribulation, north of Cairns, Australia.
Everyone abandoned ship quickly into a life raft. The ship then exploded and sank.
A passing container ship that responded to a distress call and rescued the passengers and crew. No one was injured.
News Channel 12 WPRI in East Providence, Rhode Island aired a broadcast today about Senator Rockefeller's newly introduced consumer legislation designed to require the cruise industry to report serious crimes which occur on the high seas.
Channel 12 says that "In the wake of recent horror stories on the high seas, lawmakers have introduced a key bill that could help the estimated 21-million Americans expected to set sail on a cruise ship this year."
Cruise executives boast that cruising is safe and that the cruise lines transparently report all crimes at sea. Unfortunately that's not true.
The news station states that "over the last five years, there have been 63 fires on board cruise ships and a total of 44 cruise related collisions." I checked the actual data at the website of cruise expert Ross Klein and noted that there were actually 61 cruise fires and 52 collisions / allisons during the time period in question.
Among other key provisions introduced by Senator Rockefeller, the proposed Cruise Passenger Protection Act would create a toll-free hotline for consumer complaints, and provide passengers a clear summary of the onerous terms and conditions of the cruise passenger contracts.
Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Coast Guard finally released its report regarding the engine room fire which disabled the Carnival Splendor cruise ship on November 8, 2010.
The Coast Guard's reported concluded, in a nutshell, that cylinders in one of the large diesel engines sustained a catastrophic failure with the rods and pistons cracking and exploding out of the engine which permitted lube oil and fuel oil to ignite. The pistons sustained long term metal fatigue which was not checked due to an absence of appropriate maintenance and record keeping by Carnival. Other parts of the engine showed severe, advanced corrosion reflective of an absence of regular inspection and maintenance.
The fire was not suppressed due to the failure of the CO2 system and mistakes and a lack of training by the ship's crew. The crew reset the automatic suppression alarm and failed to manually activate the water mist system which permitted the fire to spread. It took the crew two hours to locate the fire due to the firefighters' unfamiliarity with the engine room. The Coast Guard faulted the crew for using portable dry chemicals and carbon dioxide extinguishers rather than fire hoses. And the captain permitted the fire to continue by trying to ventilate the engine room before the fire was completely extinguished.
Although the Coast Guard was critical of Carnival's neglect in inspecting and maintaining the engine which failed, it should be pointed out that the Coast Guard conducted an annual Control Verification Exam on November 7, 2010 and passed the vessel. What an embarrassment for the Coast Guard to have inspected the cruise ship the day before the fire and permitted it to sail with passengers.
Another interesting pint is the time line of the fire. The fire was not finally and completely extinguished for over nine hours. This is a far cry from the initial reports from the cruise line which tried to reassure the passengers that the fire was not a big deal and was under control,
Its curious why it took well over two and one-half years for the Coast Guard to release its report. The reality is that the Coast Guard and the cruise line and the companies which the cruise line pay to become involved in the investigation exchange information and review a draft copy of the Coast Guard report before it is "official" and is released to the public.
Six weeks ago, the Grandeur of the Seas burst into flames on the high seas. It took two hours before the crew could finally extinguish the blaze. The cruise ship has since been in dry dock in the Bahamas under repair.
Yesterday travel agents and the cruise & travel media who Royal Caribbean invited aboard the cruise sailed on a one day cruise out of Baltimore for promotional purposes. Today passengers will sail on a one week cruise. One news station out of Baltimore broadcast that the Grandeur is "repaired and ready to sail."
The problem is that repairs to the cruise ship are still ongoing.
Over 150 passengers from 78 cabins were bumped from the cruise today because their cabins are still being reconstructed.
Travel agents aboard the ship report that repair work is still ongoing. According to Cruise Critic, in addition to the 78 cabins which are not ready for passengers, several lounges (Diamond Club & South Pacific Lounge) which burned last month will remain closed.
The concern that I have when I hear news like this is whether the cruise ship is really ready to sail and, most importantly, safe for passengers to cruise? Remember that there has been no report released of what caused the fire in the first place. We previously wrote about the tendency of the cruise lines to bring their ships back to service quickly and long before the official analysis is completed, assuming an official report is ever prepared. Read What Caused the Grandeur of the Seas Fire?
The investigation into the Grandeur fire is being overseen by the Bahamas, with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Cruise Critic says that the "Bahamas Maritime Authority is currently drafting a final report on the incident." Hogwash. The Bahamas was responsible for investigating the fire which disabled the Carnival Triumph (the infamous "poop cruise" five months ago) and the Bahamas has still not finalized a report on that cruise fire yet.
And there has been no report released on the cause of the other high profile cruise ship fire which occurred aboard Carnival's Splendor and left it disabled. That fire occurred over two and one-half years ago. Another flag of convenience country (Panama) was responsible for overseeing that investigation, but has released nothing.
Its seems irresponsible to pile many thousands of travel agents and cruise passengers (not to mention the hard working crew) aboard the ship without telling the guests why the last time the Grandeur sailed several thousands of people stood at their muster stations in the middle of the night watching the lifeboat being deployed as the fire raged for two hours.
What caused the fire? Why was the fire not extinguished by an automatic system? Is there even an automatic suppression at the mooring area at the stern of the ship? If not, shouldn't one be installed?
Were any of the travel agents and travel media asking these questions? Do any of the passengers boarding the cruise ship this morning care about these basic issues?
Early this morning a fire broke out in the engine room of the Zenith cruise ship, formerly operated by Celebrity Cruises and now operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises owned Pullmantur Cruises,
The fire started at approximately 03:48 AM today while the cruise ship sailed from Ravenna to Venice with 1672 passengers on board.
The engine room was damaged to the point that the ship was disabled and had to anchor 17 miles off Venice. The ship had to be towed by 4 tugs to Venice this afternoon.
The Zenith was built 1992 and flies the flag of convenience of Malta.
The incident will add to the controversy of the increasing presence of cruise ships in the lagoon of Venice which has been the site of protests from local Italian community groups and environmental activists.
It is also the latest cruise ship fire in a string of fires which have disabled ships lately including the recent fire aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas and the Carnival Triumph among others.
I last saw the Zenith two years ago when it was docked in Royal Caribbean's new port in Falmouth Jamaica (photo below next to Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas; smokestack later painted blue).
There is remarkably little news in the U.S. press regarding yet another disabling cruise ship fire even though the ship is operated by Pullmantur Cruises which is owned by Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises.
Its been a week since a fire erupted on the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas.
There has been widespread praise for the actions of the crew in extinguishing the fire, and for the manner in which the cruise line's public relations representatives kept the public informed via Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media.
But there has been little focus on the facts and circumstances surrounding the fire. What caused it? Why did it take two hours before the fire was extinguished? And what can be done to prevent a cruise ship fire like this in the future?
Few people are expressing interest in these basic questions. Most discussions at cruise and travel sites address the cruise line's compensation of reimbursing the cruise fare, chartering flights back to Baltimore, and providing a discount on a future cruise.
The cruising public seems focused primarily on obtaining a fun and affordable vacation. When things go wrong during cruises, the focus turns primarily on whether passengers are going to get their money back and obtain other reimbursements for the lost vacation.
The few websites which have addressed the issue of why the fire occurred almost uniformly seem to conclude that the public should not speculate, and everyone should wait until the "official report" is released.
What a naive thought. There still is no official report released into the cause of the fire which disabled the Carnival Splendor off the coast of Mexico in November 2010. That was two and one-half years ago. The investigation is the responsibility of the flag-of-convenience country, Panama. Although Panama permitted investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard to be involved, it is Panama which is running the investigation.
The Bahamas is the flag-of-convenience country for the Grandeur of the Seas and is responsible for the investigation into the cause of the fire. Although the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were invited to be involved, the Bahamas will be calling the shots. The Bahamas is also the flag state for the fire-disabled Carnival Triumph and there is no "official report" yet about that fire four months ago,
Will the Bahamas prepare an objective, thorough, honest and timely report into the cause of the Grandeur fire? Don't expect one anytime soon.
Many people who have contacted us point out that the aft of the cruise ship where the fire started is a location where crew members catch a quick smoke. There is also a crew bar on the stern of the ship. Did a crew member flick a cigarette which ignited the mooring lines? If true, that would be an unpopular theory considering the great amount of praise that the crew members are receiving for extinguishing the fire.
If a cigarette was involved, was it flicked from an upper passenger balcony? We will probably never know the culprit. A cigarette can cause a fire which smolders and then suddenly bursts into flames, like the deadly Star Princess fire in 2006.
Was it a fire of an electrical origin? Some have suggested that. Was it arson and intentionally set? I have heard that too.
Why was the fire not automatically extinguished?
Should the public be asking these questions? Is it appropriate to demand honest answers sooner than later?
Or should we avoid speculation and wait several years to see if an "official report" is finally issued by the Bahamas several years from now?
June 3 2013 Update: We received this interesting information from a experienced crew member who wishes to remain anonymous:
"If the fire initiated on deck 3 aft, this is the place where are located all the mooring ropes, and it is also the mooring deck. Now you know from the fire on the Ecstacy, how much are dangerous the polypropylene mooring ropes, once they are ignited. The mooring deck 4, is also officially a smoking area for crew, it seems strange, but it is what it is. All crew, specially from galleys goes in the aft mooring deck for smoking and mingling together, although this is nonsense, still Royal allows to do so. I personally think that a cigarette butts once again, started it all. I cannot conceive anything else. To be noted that in the aft mooring deck, there is also the CO2 station, with all the batteries of big CO2 cylinders that are deputed to extinguish fires in the engine rooms, if this area is compromised, CO2 will be affected as well. Also, I am sure Royal made all the possible moves to make disappear the 2 barbecue grills that are located there, mooring deck aft is also the place where once a month all crew gather together for a nice party, usually hosted by the deck department.......
Since the fire on the Ecstasy, SOLASs wanted to install a sprinkler system also in the mooring deck, but this system is manually activated then is not activated automatically. If the sprinkler were automatic, fire would be extinguished more quickly. In the aft mooring deck, is located also the paint locker, a source also of a lot of things that can get easily fire.
One deck above the mooring deck, there is the crew bar area, where it is possible to smoke as well. It is also the place where a lot of crew get trashed with alcohol. I don't exclude also, that someone might throw a cigarette overboard, and this returning back on board, ignited the mooring ropes,,,,very easy, again happened in the past, with Princess and the fire in the balconies. The crew bar is open deck, one deck above the mooring deck, on this level there is also the emergency diesel generator. One deck above, on level 5, there are the spare life rafts and the crew muster stations.
This time they were lucky, because a massive fire, could have the ship totally impaired, CO2 stations, emergency generator, crew muster stations, spare life rafts might all getting burned......."
Cruise ships like Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas have different emergency evacuation systems for the passengers and the crew. Passengers are loaded onto lifeboats at their muster stations on the port and starboard sides of the ship and then lowered into the water. The lifeboat is motored away from the burning or sinking ship by a crew member.
Crew members, on the other hand, are required to use life-rafts which are jettisoned into the sea from large canisters primarily located at the stern of the ship.
You can see right canisters in the image above and sixteen canisters located at the stern of the Grandeur in the video below (credit: solandtravel / YouTube) which was sent to my attention this morning by cruise expert Professor Ross Klein.
These canisters, and the evacuation chutes and life-rafts therein, appear to have been destroyed or partially burned during in the two hour fire early Monday morning (see photo below right, via WTSP.com). It is my understanding that the life-rafts have a capacity of around 25 persons each. So assuming these 16 canisters were all that were destroyed in the fire, life-rafts for around 400 crew members - about 50% of the crew - may have been burned up.
There are some "extra" canisters on the cruise ship, but not nearly enough to accommodate all of the crew.
If the fire on the Grandeur had not been extinguished, the passengers would have been safely evacuated in the lifeboats which had already been lowered to deck level and were awaiting loading upon order of the ship's Master. But a few hundred crew members may have found themselves faced with jumping into the water.
Considering that a nearby Carnival cruise ship was on standby, and Coast Guard vessels were enroute, the crew members without a life-raft may have been transferred to other vessels in this particular case. But a fire like this which is not contained, and which occurs further at sea and in rougher weather, may pose serious consequences to the crew's safety.
Cruise fans have largely praised Royal Caribbean's public relations efforts in responding to the fire which erupted aboard the Grandeur of the Seas early Monday morning.
Royal Caribbean tweeted updates from its new Twitter PR feed @RoyalCaribPR and updated its Facebook page. It uploaded one photo showing a portion of the damage to to fire stricken cruise ship (a good PR move) and one image of cruise president Goldstein inspecting the damage once the ship arrived in Freeport. But most of the of the photos Royal Caribbean released were of the cruise president and executives meeting with cruise passengers at the port and on the cruise ship.
The question I wondered was where are the photos and video of the fire? We have handled other cruise ship fires. There are usually videos taken by passengers which quickly find their way to the media and/or are posted on YouTube, as in the case of the deadly Star Princess fire off the coast of Jamaica. You can't comprehend a ship fire until you have seen the flames and billowing smoke and listened to the frightening sounds surrounding such an event.
The first information released about the Grandeur fire was that the fire was limited to deck 3. But in truth, the fire damaged decks 3, 4, 5 and a portion of 6 deck and burned for 2 hours.
So where are images of this 2 hour multi-deck fire?
A video report by ABC News states that the cruise ship's crew tried to stop passengers from taking pictures of the fire and chaos.
Carrie McTigue told ABC News that "even when people put their cameras up to photograph the sunrise, they were told, 'no photos.'"
I have seen Royal Caribbean try and stop passengers from taking photos of what the passengers though was a near collision between Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships which you can see in a video here. But some crew members responded that there is a policy against the taking of photos during a muster drill and that's why the crew interfered with the photography.
I am a big fan of "citizen journalists." I believe that photos and video taken by passengers and crew are an important part in telling the whole story of what really happens during ship fires and other cruise calamities. Even with Royal Caribbean's new and improved PR efforts, the fact remains that the cruise line released more photos of the cruise CEO reassuring passengers than of the damage to the ship. Plus there are absolutely no photos or video released of the fire itself.
Better cruise PR is still cruise PR. The cruise line still wants to control the images you see and your feelings about the experience.
Two and one-half years after the Carnival Splendor fire, there have been no photos or video released of the fire or the damage to the engine room (or even a report) regarding the disabled cruise ship. Regarding the more recent Carnival Triumph fire, again there are no images released of the fire. I am aware of only one innocuous photo of the fire damage in the engine room which was released by the Coast Guard.
Secrecy like this is not a good thing. The American public should not settle for a few photos of a cruise CEO drinking ice tea with passengers in a cafe after a ship fire. The release of full and complete reports, photos and video are important to maintain a transparent and safe cruising environment.
Today CNN and other networks have repeatedly aired images of the burned Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Grandeur of the Seas.
I clicked on the flat screen TV in my office this afternoon and took the photos below, of the burned stern of the cruise ship and passengers with life-vests on, in the casino and on deck at their muster stations.
Royal Caribbean's handling of the fire was considered a lot more transparent than the way Carnival communicated with the public following the fire which disabled the Carnival Triumph. But the Grandeur never lost power, whereas the Triumph was disabled 90 miles from shore and then drifted to 150 miles offshore before a tug arrived. Yesterday Royal Caribbean's president, Adam Goldstein, took a 45 minute flight from Miami to Freeport. Photos of him speaking with passengers while drinking ice tea in a cafe on the cruise ship seemed reassuring to the U.S. public who have been inundated with images from CNN of the last cruise-from-hell stories.
But when is enough bad publicity enough? I read many comments to news stories of this latest cruise fire from readers who thought this was another Carnival cruise ship fire. And even if the general public can distinguish between Carnival and Royal Caribbean, there is clearly a consensus of people who believe that there are far too many cruise ships catching on fire these days.
According to ABC News, passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas said they heard "big explosions" after a fire broke out early Monday morning, charring the stern of the ship and forcing an early end to the cruise.
Royal Caribbean said the fire was discovered at 2:50 AM on Monday on the mooring area on deck three. The decks above were charred in the fire. Passenger remained at their muster stations until around 7:15 AM.
Passenger Luke Sluscher, 20, was awakened by the commotion. When he stepped outside his room, he "heard crew yelling mayday, mayday, as they ran to put out the fire."
Royal Caribbean is now flying passengers back to Baltimore from Freeport, Bahamas. Passengers will receive a full refund of their fare and a certificate for a future cruise.
News stations in South Florida are reporting that a fire broke out early this morning aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing off the Florida coast.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the fire broke out aboard the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas
The fire occurred on deck three on the 916-foot ship.
A NBC news station said that the fire was categorized as a “Class A” fire, meaning it broke out in solid combustible materials such as wood or plastic and did not involve fuel or other flammable liquids.
The cruise ship radioed for assistance. Another cruise ship, the Carnival Sensation, was on on standby to help the ship in case of evacuation. Passenger gathered at muster stations.
The fire was extinquished, although there are conflicting accounts of how long it took. A comment on the Cruise Critic site says that it took two hours to stop the fire.
A photo released by Royal Caribbean shows a huge fire and smoke residue on the stern of the cruise ship.
The Grandeur of the Seas was recently given a $48 million refurbishment and was based in Baltimore, according to the Royal Caribbean website.
The Grandeur was on its way to Coco Cay, Bahamas, when the fire broke out, according to a Royal Caribbean Cruises statement. The ship is now in Freeport, Bahamas, where it will be inspected.
Ten days ago we reported on a fire which occurred aboard a small cruise ship / river cruise called the King of the Nile. The reports out of Egypt were that none of the passengers or crew members were injured.
But the popular cruise blog Noticias de Cruceros reported passenger accounts suggesting that the fire was far worse than reported and may have caused injuries and fatalities.
Cruise lines, travel companies and tourism bureaus often down-play fires and casualties like this to avoid scaring off customers and disrupting tourism. Fortunately, there are websites like Noticias de Cruceros which will publish photos like this so that the cruising public can make up its own mind about the dangers of some types of travel and vacation advertisements. Do you trust cruise, travel and tourism representatives to tell you the whole story? Join the discussion of our Facebook page.
The comments indicate that there was a great deal of smoke but the fire was extinguished without injury to passengers or crew. There is conflicting information regarding exactly where the fire occurred. There is a mention of the fire being on deck 9, although the heading to the comments refers to what is described as an "engine room fire."
Princess Cruises and the Coral Princess are owned by cruise giant Carnival PLC.
Please leave a comment if you have information about the fire.
A newspaper in Egypt is reporting that a Nile river cruise ship burst into flames near the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan today. None of the 84 passengers or 79 crew member were reportedly injured.
The river cruise ship is the MS Nile Festival, which reportedly is operated by a UK based company. It A short-circuit in the ship's kitchen reportedly sparked the fire.
The tourists were visiting the temple of the ancient Egyptian site of Edfu when the fire occurred.
We have reported on other fires and catastrophes on river cruise ships in Egypt.
In January of this year, a cruise ship carrying 112 Egyptian passengers sank in the Nile River after striking large rocks. The incident took place near the Egyptian cities of Kom Ombo and Aswan. The sinking vessel was called the King of the Nile.
Lawsuits continue to be filed against Carnival arising out of the fire-disabled Triumph cruise ship.
Passengers were subjected to disgusting conditions due to overflowing toilets and a lack of air-conditioning. We made a decision not to be involved in any lawsuits against Carnival in this case. Yes, many people were inconvenienced but most sustained no physical injury and certainly nothing permanent. Read our article: Carnival Triumph Cruise From Hell: Here Come the Lawsuits!
Carnival offered a full discount, a future cruise credit, a waiver of charges for onboard purchases amd $500. Crew members received nothing.
A copy of the lawsuit is below. It should make for interesting reading to scroll through the lawsuit and see the particular complaints made by these 17 passengers who decided to file suit in federal court in Dallas Texas.
The Carnival passenger ticket requires that all disputes like this must be filed in federal court in Miami.
The media's microscope is focused on Carnival right now following the large number of recent engine and propulsion problems involving the Carnival Triumph, Dream, Elation & Legend and the Carnival-owner P&O Cruises' Ventura cruise ships.
The defenders of the cruise line are responding to the PR mess by insisting that such incidents are "rare." But you will find no historical perspective, and no reference to a data-base of any type.
Business Insider posted an article today: "A Photo History Of Carnival Cruise Ship Disasters." There were a couple of interesting photographs of the fire which erupted aboard the Carnival Ecstasy in 1998 as the cruise ship was trying to said out of Government Cut at Miami Beach. The two photos below, via Reuters, I have never seen before.
Carnival's passengers and crew members were extremely lucky in that incident. The ship's on-board system did not suppress the fire, which charred the entire stern of the ship. But the incident occurred near the port. Other vessels were able to quickly respond and eventually extinguish the fire. If the fire had occurred just an hour or two later on the high seas and away from the fire boats, the Ecstasy would have burned down to the hull.
I was disappointed that the article did not mention the deadly Star Princess cruise ship fire in 2006. This cruise ship was operated by Carnival-owned Princess Cruises. This fire is an important piece of evidence in the history of cruise ship fires. You can see some photographs in our article "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"
Cruise lines do a great job keeping photographs and video of cruise ship fires away from the public.
Has anyone seen photos of the engine room of the Triumph, which is just the latest cruise ship to become disabled? Or the engine room of the Carnival Splendor? The Costa Allegra? Royal Caribbean's Azamara Quest?
Cruise lines prefer to keep the images out of public sight and then say that the fire was "small" and "quickly extinguished."
I'd like to see exactly what happened on the Triumph.
But the chances of the Bahamas Maritime Authority releasing photos seems somewhere between slim and none. No need for the Bahamas to embarrass its customer, Carnival, I suppose.
The only photo I am aware of involving the Triumph was released by the U.S. Coast Guard but it does not show much except the back of a Coast Guard representative in the engine room. Kinda of a PR shot for the Coast Guard, we-are-on-the-job-so-don't-worry kind of thing. Great, but how about a report and some friggin' photos for a change? We know the Bahamians won't release anything.
One crew member sent me the photo below of the Triumph after it was towed into Mobile and asked me not to mention his name.
But I believe that the soot on the stern shown in the photo was probably caused by smoke from the exhaust of the diesel engines of the tugs. You can also see where the tugs rubbed against the stern. I'm not 100% about this. If you have a thought, please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
So does anyone have photos of the engine room in the Triumph or, for that matter, the Splendor, the Allegra or the Quest?
The fire on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship is being investigated by the Bahamas because Carnival elected to register the Triumph in that country to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and safety laws. As the "flag state" for the Triumph, the Bahamas is charged with the responsibility of investigating fires, casualties and crimes on that ship. The Bahamas requested the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard as well as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The questions arise will the Bahamas really conduct an objective and honest investigation? Will it ever release a copy of the final report into the investigation into the fire? And if so, when?
In considering these questions, remember that in the last disabling fire on a Carnival cruise ship several years ago, the public has still not seen the report of the flag state. In November 2010, the Carnival Splendor caught on fire and was disabled. Because Carnival flagged the Splendor in Panama, Panama was responsible for the official investigation. Panama called upon the U.S. Coast Guard to assist it. The Coast Guard finished its reports to the officials in Panama long ago.
The Coast Guard quickly sent out "marine safety alerts" about the design defects and construction and maintenance shortcomings in the Splendor engine room. Remarkably, the Coast Guard did not even identify the Splendor in its alerts.
It's now going on two and one-half years later but Panama still has not released a report.
Will Panama ever release the report? Not if Carnival doesn't want it to.
Who has authority to force Panama or the Bahamas to release a report or punish them if they refuseto do so? No one. There is no U.S. federal oversight organization. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is toothless. A former NTSB chairman called the IMO a "paper tiger." This is exactly how the cruise lines want the system to work.
Two years ago, Disney youth counselor Rebecca Coriam disappeared from the Disney Wonder cruise ship. The Bahamas was responsible for investigating the disappearance because Disney registered the Wonder in Nassau to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and safety laws.
The Bahamas sent a lone policeman to Los Angeles to meet the cruise ship when it returned to port. He conducted a short visit on the ship and concluded his report long ago. But the Bahamas refuses to send Rebecca's mother and father a copy of the report.
After the Triumph was towed to Mobile, a newspaper article appeared in a Bahamian newspaper that the Bahamas was sending detectives to the U.S. to investigate a sexual assault on the Triumph. The Bahamas denied that the ship where the rape was alleged was the Triumph. It disclosed only that a Bahamian flagged ship was involved. The Bahamas promised to provide information once its detectives returned from the U.S. Of course, it has released nothing.
If your child vanishes on the high seas, or you are raped during a cruise, or your family flounders for a week on a stinky fire-stricken ship, flag states like the Bahamas and Panama don't believe that they have any obligation to release any information to you. Their alliances are with the cruise lines which fly their flags. Companies like Carnival and Disney hide behind the foreign flags and are complicit in the conspiracy to deceive the public.
It's a dishonest, secretive, rotten system. Its a system designed to conceal the truth and to avoid the foreign flagged cruise lines from embarrassment.
On February 10th the Carnival Triumph's engine room caught fire fire and was quickly extinguished. No one was burned. No one choked and gasped for air. No one died. No family members mourned the loss of their loved ones or buried their dead.
Three weeks later there is a litigation frenzy with lawyers from New York to Miami to Mississippi suing Carnival for billions of dollars.
But suing Carnival if you are not physically injured or seriously sick is wrong, as I have said in other articles.
There are a hoard of lawyers out there soliciting your business who will sue Carnival whether you have bothered to see a doctor or not. Just Google "Triumph cruise lawyer" and see the long line of lawyers asking you to call them, such as:
What are these attorneys advocating? None of these lawyers have ever gone to Congress advocating the rights of cruise passengers or crew members injured at sea. Is this just about money?
Contrast this latest Carnival fire on the Triumph with the last fire where a passenger was killed on the Carnival-owned Star Princess cruise ship (above right). Georgia resident Richard Liffridge died when he and his wife, Vicky, tried to crawl down a burning smoke filled hallway as the fire engulfed the ship.
"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.
We represented the Liffridge family. Richard's daughter, Lynnette, joined the International Cruise Victims organization and testified before Congress regarding the cruise ship fire. She demanded changes to protect future cruisers. She later boarded the same cruise ship where her father died and made certain that the ship was retrofitted with sprinkler systems and heat detectors which were lacking from the ship's balconies where the fire started which killed her father.
Will anyone of the inconvenienced passengers on the Triumph call on their Congressional representatives and ask for a Congressional hearing about cruise ship safety like Lynnette did? Will anyone travel to Washington D.C. at their own expense to hold the cruise lines accountable? Will anyone demand changes on the cruise ships to protect the public? Will anyone work behind the scenes and board the Triumph and see with-their-own-eyes if anything has been done to ensure the safety of the next families who will cruise on the ship?
Or is this just a lawsuit money-grab for a few thousand dollars and a free Carnival cruise?
Yesterday the New York Times published an insightful article about the failure of the cruise industry to design their cruise ships with redundant engine systems such that if one set of engines is knocked out by a fire or explosion, another set of engines in a separate compartment would provide power to the cruise ship.
Entitled "Lack of Backup Power Puts Cruise Passengers at the Ocean’s Mercy," the article explains that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) proposed guidelines calling for cruise lines to to equip cruise ships with backup engines and generators. The redundant engine systems and back up systems are are needed not only to maintain electricity, refrigeration, and toilet operations, but to maintain power to prevent the ship from pitching violently in strong waves.
Just yesterday I spoke with a retired Coast Guard officer about what happens when a ship at sea loses all power. He expressed concern of how the cruise ship would be evacuated if the vessel loses power. There would be no way to lower the lifeboats!
The newspaper explains that pursuant to the IMO recommendations, any cruise ship built after July 2010 is required to have redundant engine systems. But the cruise industry largely chose not to add backup systems to new cruise ships.
The IMO, a United Nations organization, has no authority to impose sanctions when cruise lines ignore the IMO's guidelines.
A naval architect, Larrie Ferreiro, is quoted in the newspaper explaining that a cruise line can design the ships either to put more equipment or more people on it: “The more passenger cabins you can fit into that envelope the more revenue you can get." Only 10% of the cruise ships have redundant systems, according to the NY Times.
In the unregulated world of cruising, this means that 90% of the cruise ships out there may become "dead in the water" when an engine room fire breaks out. That places passengers and crew at unnecessary risk of injury or death at sea.
Photo Credit: Carnival Triumph engine room - US Coast Guard
This weekend there have been several articles discussing the two lawsuits filed last Friday against Carnival arising out of the Carnival Triumph "cruise from hell." I have thrown in my two cents in television & radio appearances and in a number of local and national newspapers. Bottom line:
Unless you have a serious physical injury or physical illness, families on the disabled cruise ship face an uphill climb proceeding with a lawsuit against Carnival for the inconvenience and unpleasant circumstances they suffered last week.
You can read my blog today about the issue of whether to sue or not.
But one law firm here in Miami is going for broke by filing a class action lawsuit today against Carnival.
The firm's press release contains links to an appearance of one lawyer on Fox and another lawyer on CNN, but contains no information about the cruise-passenger client on whose behalf the proposed class action was filed.
Lawyers working on contingency fees in Florida collect up to 40% of the gross recovery. Passengers thinking of trying to join in this attempt at a class action need to act smart. If you want to gamble with a big case, make certain that you accept for yourself the cruise fare reimbursements, waiver of expenses, free cruise voucher and $500 (which you can accept without waiving your rights).
Don't let any lawyer suck you into a class action boondoggle and take 40% of whatever has been offered to you already.
Last Friday, the day the Carnival Triumph passengers were finally going home from the "cruise from hell," the first two lawsuits were filed.
The first case mentioned in the press was filed by a Texas lawyer representing a woman from Brazoria County Texas. I printed a copy from the court's online docket to read this weekend. The lawsuit alleges that the passenger was forced to "endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled" cruise ship. Because of the "sweltering temperatures, lack of power and air conditioning, lack of running water, and lack of toilets," the woman "feared for her life" and was threatened with "contracting serious illness by the raw sewage" filling the ship.
The problem with allegations like these is that they are excluded by the terms and conditions of the ticket issued by the cruise line.
Experiencing psychological distress or being afraid of getting sick are not a basis for a lawsuit unless there is a physical injury or actual physical illness.
The lady's lawyer later told the press that his client had a fever and felt nauseous, but notably lacking from the lawsuit or the lawyer's comments were any mention of an actual illness diagnosed by a doctor. This may be explained by the fact that the woman probably had not been to a doctor yet.
The other lawsuit was filed on behalf of another Texan passenger by a lawyer here in Miami. As described by USA Today's Cruise Log, the lawsuit alleges that the 42 year old passenger suffered severe dehydration and bruising from aggressive food lines on the crippled ship. Her lawyer said she was so ill from the five-day ordeal that she had to be given intravenous fluids in an emergency room when she returned home to Houston. Severe dehydration may be sufficient to meet the physical injury requirements of the law but it is unknown whether this is just a temporary injury.
I have made my thoughts of litigation in cases like this well know.
Following the last "cruise from hell" engine room fire disaster in 2010 when the Carnival Splendor was stranded off the coast of Mexico and had to be towed back to the U.S., I wrote an article "Three Reasons Why You Will Lose If You Sue Carnival." The same conclusions I reached two years ago apply to this latest Carnival debacle.
It's not that I am unsympathetic to the people's plight. But I have represented clients who waved goodbye to family members at the dock and their loved ones either didn't return from the cruise or they returned in a body bag.
If you are on a cruise ship that catches on fire on the high seas and you return with your family physically uninjured, count your blessings.
Cruise passengers returning from the Triumph need to rest, relax and start trying to recover from the stress. They should go to a doctor and be checked out. Get your blood tested if you are afraid. Send the medical bills to Carnival to Carnival to be reimbursed. But filing a lawsuit before going to a doctor puts the cart ahead of the horse.
Let's hope that no one develops a truly serious and permanent illness from sloshing around in sewage for a week. If the feces and urine cause an innocent passenger to contract hepatitis or Legionnaires Disease or some other debilitating or deadly illness, then the afflicted passenger should sue the hell out of Carnival.
But inconvenience, aggravation, anger and being afraid of disease won't get you very far in a federal courtroom here in Miami.
The long tortuous tow back to Mobile ended last night with smiles of relief on the faces of the over-3,000-passengers as they straggled off the stinking stricken Triumph. It was a happy sight to me. Yes, there were people still upset, understandably so, but the sentiment seems to be that they had all encountered a surreal experienced and had survived.
Cruise ship fires do not always turn out this well. I have represented clients who waved goodbye to their loved one as they boarded a cruise ship only to return in a body bag.
Yesterday I was asked a dozen times during interviews about the rights of passengers when things like this happen on the high seas.
The cruise lines have drafted terms and conditions in the cruise passenger tickets (considered by the courts to be the legal, binding contract) to protect themselves in virtually every imaginable circumstance. Unless a passenger is physically injured or become physically ill (say due to the unsanitary conditions of sewage on the ship), they have virtually no rights at all.
The good news is that It appears that there were no injuries due to the fire. There very well may be no serious medical illnesses notwithstanding the seriously disgusting circumstances aboard the ship.
Today CNN asked me to write an opinion piece regarding the state of affairs of the cruise industry following the fire aboard the Carnival Triumph. CNN permits only the first 150 words of the article to be published so here you go:
Editor's note: James M. Walker is a maritime lawyer and cruise safety advocate involved in cruise ship law and maritime litigation with his law firm, Walker and O'Neill. He has represented crew members and passengers against cruise lines, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Formerly, he worked as a lawyer for the cruise industry.
(CNN) -- A Carnival cruise ship was adrift 150 miles off the coast of Mexico after an engine room fire. Cruise passengers were complaining about the lack of air conditioning, hot cabins, cold food and toilets that wouldn't flush.
As I watched the news broadcast, I thought it was a documentary about the Carnival Splendor, which suffered a disabling engine room fire in November 2010 off Mexico. But the story was about the Carnival Triumph, which caught fire early Sunday after sailing from Galveston, Texas, with more than 3,100 passengers.
The cruise industry says cruise ship fires are rare, but they are not rare. They happen with alarming frequency . . .
Yesterday all of the major news stations were airing updates on the latest Carnival cruise ship fire. "Cruise from hell, "nightmare cruise" and so forth were the headlines.
It was like deja vu hearing the stories of loss of power, no air conditioning, hot cabins, cold food and toilets on the Triumph that did not work.
ABC aired a rather sensational program yesterday, with images of the disabled ship bobbing like a big cork in the water, passengers literally crying that they want to go home, and accusations by other passengers that Carnival risked innocent lives by ignoring prior engine problems.
It may seem like the end of the world to many passengers on the entirely unpleasant cruise ship as well as to the concerned families back home. If the fire had spread, it might have been the end for the passengers. But It seems that most people have forgotten about an identical engine room fire which disabled the Carnival Splendor cruise ship back in November 2010. After everyone received a full reimbursement of the fare and flight expenses, it seemed like everyone forgot about the cruise from hell.
There was no Congressional investigation and no calls for a fleet wide inspection of the engines on Carnival's ships.
Will this latest Carnival cruise fire be as easily forgotten?
I posted images of the ABC special here. Click on each photo for a larger image and the captions.
You can read our initial article about the fire here, and our article about prior engine problems on the Triumphhere.
This morning, the Carnival Triumph lost propulsion in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine room fire disabled its main engines. The cruise ship’s fire suppression system kept the fire from spreading.
No injuries have been disclosed. Carnival says that all guests will receive a full refund and transportation expenses.
The next cruise scheduled is for tomorrow, February 11th. Passengers have been told that the cruise will not depart and they can cancel and receive a full refund or wait and see if the ship will sail later on a shortened cruise.
News sources say that the fire broke out while the cruise ship was sailing about 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, after sailing from Galveston on February 7th.
The ship's generator power is working but the cruise ship has no propulsion to return to port in Galveston. Some news sources are saying that tugs were deployed.
A retired U.S. Coast Guard official called me last week about issues of cruise ship safety. We had an interesting hour and one-half discussion about whether modern cruise ships are designed to safely evacuate passengers and crew members in times of emergencies like fires or sinkings.
Our conversation began with Royal Caribbean's biggest cruise ships in the world, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean touts these news ships as technological marvels of the world. But the evacuation procedures are strictly old-school.
Some aspects of the emergency abandon ship systems are flat-out dangerous.
The cruise line's press releases mentions that the cruise ship has 18 lifeboats each with a 370 passenger capacity. It says that "lifeboats on Oasis of the Seas have been entirely redesigned and approved as part of a holistic evacuation concept."
But the truth of the matter is that Royal Caribbean had a major problem when it designed the largest cruise ships on the planet. There is a regulation stating that the maximum number of people permitted aboard a lifeboat is 150. There is no way that the cruise line could build a ship with over 55 lifeboats carrying 150 people each. So in order to cram enough people into lifeboats, the cruise line obtained a waiver to increase the maximum lifeboat capacity up to 370 people.
Royal Caribbean not only has the largest cruise ships in the world, but it has the largest lifeboats in the world.
But does it have enough?
18 lifeboats with a capacity of 370 equals only 6,660 people. Oasis has a total maximum population of around 8,500 when you count its capacity of around 6,300 passengers and 2,200 crew members. That means that there are around 1,850 people without the lifeboats which Royal Caribbean raves about.
Royal Caribbean's press statement makes no mention of it, but those who are not assigned or cannot fit into the limited number of lifeboats must use "emergency evacuation chutes." The term used on the Royal Caribbean ships is "Viking Dual Evacuation Chute." What is this you may ask? You won't find Royal Caribbean talking much about the chute system.
If you look at photographs of the Oasis (or the Allure), along the side of the ship at deck 4 you will see three large lifeboats in-a-line leading from the stern. Then you will see a row of canisters (others may call then cylinders), looking like old depth charges, positioned one on top of the other on deck 4.
When these canisters are opened (see video bottom), a life-raft inflates in the water below. (We are talking about life-rafts - not lifeboats). These life-rafts are connected to a series of chutes running up to deck 4. The passengers and/or crew evacuate the cruise ships by jumping into the entrance to this emergency evacuation apparatus on deck 4. They then rapidly slide / fall down a steep, vertical drop into the inflated life-raft below.
These type of devices are dangerous. There have been a significant number of people killed or seriously injured while trying to evacuate 4 or 5 stories down steep chutes like this.
In November, I wrote an article about 20 crew members seriously injured in a drill using this type of system who suffered broken bones, sprained ankles, and friction burns during the steep descent. Further injuries were avoided only when other crew members refused to jump. A union representative characterized the evacuation system as "unsuitable and dangerous."
PBS aired a documentary on behalf of "Inside Nova" which looked at the Oasis of the Seas' evacuation procedures. PBS videotaped the operation of the chutes. In the video below you can see crew members tugging on the chute when suddenly a crew member comes flying out - landing violently on his buttocks. After catching his breath, he exclaims "I got stuck!"
Now the first reaction to the video may be that it seems funny. But if you think about it for a second, it is actually terrifying. The placard on the cruise ship shows families with little kids and infants who are lining up to jump. The drawing on the ship actually show a mother clinging to her infant sailing down the chute a few feet above another passenger while a large man is jumping into the chute above her. I cannot imagine a more dangerous scenario.
Can you imagine what would happen if a 235 lb man lands on a 130 lb woman holding on to her 25 lb infant at the bottom of the chute? Serious injury would occur. Serious head injuries are likely if multiple people and children are in the chute at the same time. Far fetched? Hardly. This scenario is actually depicted in the instructional drawings on the Oasis itself.
Royal Caribbean may say that only crew members are suppose to use this system. That's mentioned on the PBS video where you can see photographs of the chute system. That does not say much for the cruise line's consideration of the safety of its own crew.
But why do the drawings of the chute system depict passengers with children and mothers clinging onto their infants descending the chutes? These images are directly from Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. And if in fact only crew members are assigned to the chutes, why should they be subject to such dangers on a cruise ship which its owners tout as the safest ship in the world?
The other issue to consider, of course, is what happens if the Oasis suffers a Costa Concordia type of accident where the cruise ship lifts heavily to one side? As we know from the Concordia, the lifeboats could not be deployed once the ship listed to 22 degrees. Half of the Concordia lifeboats, on the port side of the vessel, were useless once the ship listed to the starboard side. If anything like this happens on the Oasis, there will be a riot where passengers and crew fight to get into the remaining lifeboats and the rest will be left to take their chances jumping down the chutes hoping to land in a raft many stories below.
Then there are the wind and sea conditions. All of the drills for the Oasis or Allure take place on sunny days in the calm waters of the Caribbean. Take a look here for an example. Around and around the lifeboats drive in the protected waters of a beautiful lagoon in the Caribbean. What fun.
But what happens when these ships are re-positioned to Europe, Indonesia or Australia where there are high seas and unpredictable weather? After all, Royal Caribbean is ordering more Oasis class monster ships right now. Trying to evacuate thousands of people down chutes into life-rafts in high waves and winds could be a disaster. There is also the risk of the tether ropes breaking, the chutes twisting, or the life-rafts ripping away from the chutes.
I for one would hate to think of anyone's spouse, or kids, or parents, whether they are crew or passengers, having to jump into an evacuation chute and fall 50 feet into a raft in rough seas.
A chute and a raft are hardly a "holistic" approach to survival. It's a disappointing and antiquated way of trying to save lives on the supposedly most sophisticated cruise ship in the world.
Don't forget to watch the video of the chute system below:
The U.S. Coast Guard issued a press release today stating that an eighty foot yacht caught fire off of Miami Beach this morning.
The incident occurred around 10 a.m. today. The 110-foot Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak was in the process of boarding a vessel when the 80-foot motor yacht Bliss caught on fire before the boarding commended. It is less than clear whether the Coast Guard was boarding the Bliss or some other vessel.
Three people aboard the yacht were forced to jump into the water and were picked up by the Coast Guard cutter.
The Coast Guard and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue vessels responded and extinguished the fire but not before the Bliss sank. The yacht remains partially submerged, and must now be salvaged and towed back to shore.
The fire produced a huge smoke plume which could easily be seen from shore.
A fire erupted on an Anek Lines cruise ferry (ro-ro) off the coast of Greece earlier this week.
On November 19th, a blaze started on the car deck of the Kriti II (built 1979) while the ferry approached Patras after sailing from Venice, Italy.
There were around 113 passengers on board, plus a crew of 87.
The vessel was brought into port with black smoke billowing from it, with cars and trucks aboard the vessel catching fire. No casualties or injures were reported.
VesselTracker.com states that the ferry "suffered severe damage to its interior. The fire had been slowly burning already hours before the ship reached the port of Patras and it was purely a matter of luck that the open fire did not emerge on open sea where winds had been blowing . . . "
The video shows firefighters trying to extinguish vehicles which were driven out of the ferry on fire.
A passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas cruise ship states that an engine room fire broke out ten days ago.
According to a comment on the Cruise Critic message board, the incident occurred on November 13th while the Adventure of the Seas was making the crossing across the Atlantic. A fire on board caused the cruise ship to lose power and electricity for about two minutes. Alarms sounded intermittently. Some passengers smelled or observed smoke. Later, some passengers were later told that a "power surge" caused an engine fire while others said the captain mentioned switching over to a second set of engines.
Apparently no one was injured and the ship continued on its way.
Other than this mention of the alleged incident on Cruise Critic, there are no other references to a fire on the Adventure of the Seas which I have located.
Although the incident sounds minor, there is nothing insignificant about even a small fire in an engine room of a large cruise ship with several thousands of passengers aboard in the middle of the ocean.
There have been over 80 cruise ship fires in the last two decades. Read about some recent cruise ship fires here.
An oil platform with 26 workers aboard exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion resulted in the death of at least two men with two additional men missing. Eleven workers were reportedly taken to the hospital, some of whom are in critical condition.
The explosion involved an oil platform, operated by Houston-based Black Elk Energy company, located approximately 20 miles south of Grand Isle Louisiana.
This explosion comes at a time when oil giant BP just reached a plea settlement (on Wednesday), accepting guilt in the deaths of 11 oil workers and agreeing to pay $4,500,000,000 in penalties, following a catastrophic explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010, leading to one of the U.S.'s worst environmental disasters.
Although many news account refer to the Black Elk platform as a "rig," the explosion did not involve a drilling rig like the infamous Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. This incident involves a fixed production platform.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that between 2001 and 2010, the U.S. government documented 69 offshore deaths, 1,349 injuries and 858 fires and explosions on offshore rigs situated in the Gulf of Mexico. These type of accidents often fall within maritime jurisdiction and involves issues of law pertaining to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the law of Louisiana, and the General Maritime Law.
Black Elk has not issued a statement yet, and the Coast Guard is still gathering initial data, including an exact number of those injured, killed, or missing.
This week I ran across a really interesting article by Karen Wormald who is an award-winning business writer and author, as well as a contributing editor to PC Solutions. Her work has appeared in many publications including, interesting enough, Cruise Travel.
Ms. Wormald had some very critical observations about the muster drills during a Carnival cruise she went on after the Costa Concordia disaster. Her article is below and is worth reading a time or two. The intriguing thing about Ms. Wormald is that, certainly compared to me, she is a fan of cruising and is sympathetic of the cruise lines which have faced bad press this year, writing:
" . . . in reality, cruising is FAR safer than virtually any land-based vacation. But every time there’s an incident on a ship, the media goes into a frenzy. People get norovirus and food poisoning every day in a LOT of places we never hear about.
Costa Concordia certainly deserved all the bad press it got, but something like 13 million Americans cruise every year and experience only a tiny fraction of the crime and injury experienced by people on land . . . "
I don't agree with Ms. Wormald about cruise safety in general, particularly norovirus (which is primarily caused by contaminated food and water on cruise ships), but that's not the point.
Read her article about the life boat drill aboard the Carnival Glory, Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety, and ask yourself whether Carnival is ready for the next Concordia type of disaster? Ms. Wormald was nice enough to let me re-print her article:
Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety
"After Costa Concordia capsized in January, exposing slipshod safety practices that contributed to 32 fatalities, you’d think Costa’s parent, Carnival Corp., would be fanatical about safety now. Especially on Carnival line ships, whose Italian captains must overcome the shame of Concordia’s incompetent master, Francesco Schettino.
I just spent 6 days on Carnival Glory, and saw first-hand Carnival’s current safety measures.
My cabin TV welcomed me with a safety video on endless loop, with Captain [Italian Name] delivering the intro and closing. I must have heard a dozen times to look for crew members wearing green fluorescent caps in an emergency.
Glory was scheduled to sail at 5 p.m., with the lifeboat drill at 4:30 on Deck 4.
At 4:20, on Deck 8 I saw a crewman directing able-bodied passengers to elevators down to Deck 4 — it’s stairs-only in any emergency.
On Deck 4, this sign left the lifeboats’ exact location a mystery . . .
Part of the sign (below in yellow) was reproduced on walls throughout the ship, like it means anything . . .
Somebody finally opened the “Emergency Exit Only” door (forbidden for passengers), revealing the “secret” outer lifeboat deck.
This 952-ft. ship was divided into only 8 muster stations, 4 on each side, leaving wide open expanses with no signs (screw the near-sighted). Nobody knew where to go. At 4:40, a few young crewmen in orange vests (not green caps) began straggling in and herding us.
Each muster station was assigned multiple lifeboats, whose numbers were read to us later as an afterthought — as if anybody would remember them.
Now, let’s do the math: Glory holds 2,974 passengers and 1,150 crew, so each muster station must accommodate about 372 passengers and 144 crew (if they want to survive), or 516 souls in all.
I saw 2 crewmen at my station to handle that mob.
The drill/lecture was conducted from the bridge not by the captain, but by a young English-speaker. (Nor did the captain verbally preside over the 3 crew drills they presumably had during that voyage. I assume his Italian accent is considered a problem.)
On any other ship, an emergency signal consists of 7 short blasts followed by one long blast of the ship’s whistle.
Glory’s was 5 short, a long pause, then one more short, then one long.
The bridge voice kept saying drill attendance and our complete silence were mandatory. Then he’d go silent for so long, it seemed he’d forgotten us. In the meantime, we were just standing in silence, being told nothing on Deck 4.
Later I learned the protracted silences weren’t due to any sweep of the ship to get all passengers to the drill; I met a couple who stayed in their cabin. Nor was roll taken at muster stations to verify our presence. I’ve seen both procedures on other ships.
We didn’t wear life jackets, nor did anyone learn how to don and tie one because the crewman who demonstrated was standing in a dark area in the bow and made no effort to be seen. Lockers of life jackets lined the deck (locked, presumably, and I imagine rotsa ruck finding anybody with a key), but we were told to return to our cabins for our jackets in a pinch — because that worked so well for the obedient Concordia passengers whose corpses were found underwater in theirs.
The drill took 45 minutes, delayed sailing, and taught anybody NOTHING. If I hadn’t attended good drills on other ships, I’d have been irate.
Many passengers on Glory were taking their first cruise, and thank God it was uneventful, because if you don’t know how to save yourself on a Carnival ship, you’re doomed to a watery grave."
Karen actually elicited a response from Carnival's CEO (something I have never received in my last thousand blogs) which you can read at this link.
A small cruise ship in Turkish waters, transporting 100 passengers, burned to its hull after a fire ravaged the ship today while cruising off Turkey's Aegean coast.
The Didim Mavisi, which cruises the Aegean islands,experienced a fire shortly after departing from the Aegean district of Ayvalık today.
The fire reportedly broke out in the cruise ship's galley as the ship cruised near the coast of Sarımsaklı. According to the Anatolia News Agency, the fire quickly spread as the captain directed the vessel to a nearby cove.
All passengers and crew were safely evacuated as other boats came to the distressed vessel's aid. Some passengers jumped from the deck and swam ashore.
The Maritime Bulletin reports that a fire occurred on the Crown Princess cruise ship on July 14 2012 in one of the cabins.
The Princess cruise ship was some 3 miles east of Antipaxos island in the Ionian Sea and was sailing from Corfu to Piraeus with 3325 passengers on board when the alarm went off. The fire was extinguished automatically by a sprinkling system causing minor property damaged. Nobody was injured. Katakolo port authorities boarded the vessel for survey and investigation, and the cruise ship was cleared to resume its voyage.
July 17, 2012 Update:
Following our article this morning, Cruise Critic ran the following:
"A small electrical fire broke out in passenger cabin on Crown Princess Saturday evening, the line has confirmed.
'There were no injuries and we're currently investigating the cause,' Princess said in a statement sent to Cruise Critic. The ship, carrying 2,948 passengers on a 12-day Eastern Mediterranean cruise, is sailing on schedule. The voyage ends in Rome on July 23.
Cruise Critic member MSH from Norway, who was onboard, posted that the fire occurred on the Emerald Deck (Deck 8) and that several cabins filled with smoke. Some cabins were also waterlogged MSH from Norway wrote.
While Princess did not comment on the damage to the ship, the line did tell Cruise Critic that the passengers in the affected cabin, as well as those in the cabin next to it, were moved -- both cabins were left without electricity."
Newspapers in Germany are reporting that a fire broke put on a river cruise ship with 134 people on board this morning. The ship is the Dutch-owned Regina Rheni. The ship was mostly filled with British tourists.
The fire quickly spread and forced the passengers to the top deck. The newspaper accounts indicate that the 102 passengers and 32 crew members were in "grave danger." There are inconsistent reports of injury. Around a dozen passengers suffered smoke inhalation and four were hospitalized. The cause of the fire is still unclear.
The passengers were mostly elderly.
It took three hours to extinguish the fire.
A month ago, a fire erupted aboard another river cruise ship, the MS Gerard Schmitter, while it was sailing from Amsterdam to Strasborg, requiring a similar evacuation.
Photo credit: Welt Online
Please note that the photograph above is not of the river cruise ship (the Regina Rheni) which caught fire. Rather it is a photo of another river cruise ship, Tauck's MS Swiss Sapphire, which was in the vicinity of the Regina Rheni and came to its aid. The Regina Rheni's passengers were evacuated to the Tauk vessel, where the crew provided them with food, blankets and warm drinks. The MS Swiss Sapphire then transported the passengers to Dusseldorf, where they disembarked and were met by authorities who provided additional aid.
The MS Swiss Sapphire continued on the rest of its journey, and is now back on its regular schedule.
Travel Agent Central reports a hour ago about what appears to be a small fire which broke out aboard Carnival's new cruise ship, the Carnival Breeze.
The publication states that shortly 2 PM (ship time), crew members from the "Alpha" fire team were summoned via the ship's public address system to a forward portion of the crew area on Deck O where smoke was accumulating. Fire doors in the forward section of the ship closed as well.
The ship's Master, Captain Vincenzo Alcaras, reportedly announced over the PA system the fire team arrived and observed the electrical system smoking. The team "extinguished it immediately" and the "ship is now continuing on as normal" to Dubrovnik. The article didn't contain much of an explanation regarding the cause of the fire.
Cruise director, John Heald, himself a cruise celebrity blogger, also apparently spoke to the passengers in an effort to keep them calm.
It will be interesting to learn how a new ship would experience a fire, big or small, so soon.
Carnival public relations representatives tweeted 30 minutes after the fire but made no mention of the incident. Instead, @CarnivalPR tweeted a link to a promotional article on USA Today's Cruise Log "A new look for industry leader Carnival Cruise? We're reporting live from the cruise line's new Carnival Breeze."
Too bad that @CarnivalPR didn't bother to tweet about the fire on its new ship.
June 20, 2012 Update:
Some other cruise media people on the cruise mentioned a small fire,such as @ExpertCruiser: "Small electrical fire on #CarnivalBreeze extinguished. Captain made announcement that everything is under control. Good job by crew."
Where there's smoke, there's no fire?
Carnival Public Relations has stated that there was no fire, only smoke in the crew quarters due to overheated fan belt in an air conditioning unit. Here is the Carnival statement:
"A fan belt inside an AC unit in a crew area overheated and started generating smoke. There was not an actual fire and no smoke entered guest areas. The ship's crew responded immediately and all is well. The Carnival Breeze is continuing on its voyage as normal."
Thanks Carnival for clarifying matters . . .
My friend has a blog - Mikey's Cruise Blog which contains a quote from cruise director Heald:
"It is a beautiful day here at sea. Blue skies, calm seas spoiled only by a burning smell on deck 0 ( crew deck ) forward that had alarms sounding, alpha team calls ( fire investigation) and my fat arse running up 6 flights of stairs to the bridge. All is well, there was an electrical fan belt which had produced the smell and there was no fire or smoke but a strong burning smell on the crew deck forward. So, 10 minutes later I let the guests know what had happened as I insist on always letting them know and especially as we had paged the fire teams over the PA system. Anyway, the ship is continuing on her way to Dubrovnik at full speed with all systems as normal, the guests are calm and having fun, the smell of smoke has dissapissatated (spelt correctly) and I now have to dispose of one ruined pair of Carnival Splendor flashback underpants."
Newspapers in Germany are reporting that a fire erupted yesterday aboard the MS Gerard Schmitter river cruise ship while it was sailing from Amsterdam to Strasborg, France.
The cruise ship was approaching Krefeld, Germany when the fire broke out and produced heavy smoke. Fortunately, the cruise ship was preparing to berth at a dock in Krefeld when the fire started. The city fire's department responded and extinguished the fire.
154 passengers and 34 crew members were evacuated ashore. One passenger and one crewmember required medical treatment.
The fire was apparently caused by an electrical failure.
The river cruise ship is operated by CroisiEurope.
SeaTrade reports that the Gerard Schmitter was christened on April 10, 2012 and has been in service for a little over two months. The vessel was named after the founder of CroisiEurope, Gerard Schmitter, who died in February.
Tonight I began to receive text messages from passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas stating that a fire broke out in the engine room. Heavy black smoke billowed out of the stacks. There was initial panic by some passengers. The cruise ship made emergency announcement and altered its course so that the prevailing winds would not blow smoke into the ship.
There are no reports of injuries to passengers at this time. The Allure is continuing its cruise and there apparently remains propulsion, electricity, lights, and air conditioning. The ship is heading from St. Maarten back to Fort Lauderdale, and is somewhere east of Turks and Caicos.
We do not have a statement from the cruise line at this time.
If you are on the cruise and have info, photos or video, please leave a message.
Update April 20, 2012: Several readers pointed out that my reference to and photos on the webcam were dated April 19, 2012 (yesterday). The webcam is not active now. I deleted the image. Sorry for the misleading reference to normal events yesterday - but why is the webcam not showing what's going on tonight? I suspect the cruise line shuts the web cams down during emergencies.
Update April 21, 2012: Here is the official cruise line PR statement:
"At approximately 7:45 pm (ET) Royal Caribbean International's Allure of the Seas experienced a small and short lived engine fire. The ship's high fog system was immediately activated, which contained and extinguished the fire. There were no injuries to guest or crew. The ship is sailing towards Port Everglades, Florida, where it will arrive on Sunday, April 22 as scheduled."
Royal Caribbean wrote a masterful PR statement. "Small" fire which lasted "short" time and was "immediately" extinguished. But let's have some real information? What caused the fire? Why did a new ship touted as having new generation technology catch on fire in the first place? All fires start out "small." A small fire on a huge ship in the middle of the sea is not a good thing. The 2006 fire aboard the Star Princess started out with a single cigarette smoldering in a towel and then barely erupting, yet it led to 100 cabins being destroyed, one death and multiple injuries.
Did An Explosion Occur Before the Fire on the Allure of the Seas?
We have received some inquiries asking whether an explosion took place in the engine room before the fire broke out. Does anyone have any information about this claim? It was mentioned that: "This morning it was reported on the Swedish shipping forum Landgangen that Royal Caribbean's ALLURE OF THE SEAS experienced an engine explosion/failure last night. According to a Swede who is currently on board, first a loud bang was heard, followed a few minutes later by a tremendous shaking sensation throughout the ship." Can anyone aboard verify this?
The Vessel Tracker web site contains a comment that there was a "bang" that preceded the fire and that the vcruise ship drifted between one and two hours before continuing back to South Florida:
"Passengers of the 'Allure of the Seas' were alerted by a bang on 7.45 p.m. on Apr 20, 2012, followed by development of smoke. Soon afterwards fire instructions were given to the crew. Shortly thereafter the captain informed the passengers that there had been an incident in the engine and that all watertight bulkheads had been closed. The entire section 6, apparently the section that includes Viking Crown Lounge, was evacuated. Some passengers on board were shocked, however, no one was injured. The ship drifted between one and two hours before continuing with the only one functioning machine left after the small and short-lived engine fire was extinguished by using the ship's high fog system which had been immediately activated to contain the fire."
Did the cruise ship really drift for this long? This could have been very serious if the explosion and fire occurred during a storm.
Update April 22, 2012: Some passengers disembarking the Allure today (see comments below) state that there certainly was an explosion in the engine room, initial panic and less than optimal communications. One passenger commented that Royal Caribbean was down-playing what happened. I am sure that other passengers will leave comments as they are now off of the cruise ship and will be describing what they observed from their home computers.
A reader brought to my attention that there is an interesting thread of comments on the cruise critic message board by passengers who disembarked, including this one:
"Just got off the Allure and I have to disagree that there was NO panic. The crew were visibly scared as we're many of the passengers. Our cabin steward told us that our hallway had many families in tears and begging for life jackets. We were in the main dining room for our lobster dinner and when you feel a 225000 ton ship shake like that you know something big just happened. The crew were trying very hard to appear in control and they did a good job, but you could seem them passing notes to each other and the concern on their faces. We were finished our dinner, but skipped out on desert because I really couldn't eat much after hearing Bravo bravo bravo and water tight doors closing. We saw many in tears and I felt the need to get my kids away from that and the ridiculous people that laughingly and loudly started talking about the titanic and going down with the ship. We strolled the the Royal Promenade and tried to appear normal for the kids. Communication was good and they did a great job of handling things quickly, but there were lots feeling very unsettled. Very glad it ended quickly."
Another passenger said there were "nervous" people but no panic. The passenger also commented: " . . . no power from the engines as it appeared we were drifting - this occurred for at least an hour maybe two . . . "
It will be interesting to hear what other passengers observed . . . anyone have photos or videos of initial reaction of passengers and crew? . . . Please leave a comment below:
Norwegian Broadcasting reports that the cruise-ferry Stena Saga, which operates between Oslo and Fredrikshavn in Denmark, was hit by an explosion in its engine room over the Easter weekend. The explosion sparked a fire.
A newspaper in Norway reports that "alarmed residents south of Drøbak called emergency services when they saw smoke billowing from the ship and noted that it was off course in the sound leading into the inner Oslo Fjord."
A Stena Line spokesman confirmed that the explosion created a lot of smoke but claimed it was contained by the vessel’s sprinkling system in the engine room. The vessel drifted for a brief period but was able to continue sailing towards Oslo, where it arrived around 30 minutes late.
1,392 passengers and a crew of 180 were on on board at the time of the explosion and fire, although no evacuation took place.
A cruise line spokesperson stated that the incident involved a "minor" explosion which caused "no major damage." The vessel was cleared to sail back to Denmark Saturday night.
If you were on the ferry and have information, photos or video to share, please leave a comment below.
On Monday, the Miami Herald published an article "Cruise Ship Fires Uncommon, Experts Say." The article was ostensibly about the Azamara Quest cruise ship fire, which is just the latest disaster to plague the cruise industry. The Miami Herald's article was actually the latest puff piece by a newspaper preoccupied with placing the cruise industry in the best possible light.
The article's headline "Cruise Fires Uncommon," was attributed to various people who the newspaper suggested were "experts" on the probability on how often such fires occur. The problem with this claim is that none of the three individuals mentioned in the article are experts in cruise fire statistics. All of them are either employees, friends or business partners of the cruise industry.
The Herald quoted Lanie Morgenstein, who is a cruise line media spokesperson. She manages the Twitter account of the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization.
The news paper also cites a representative of a fire-fighting company which is under contract with Royal Caribbean Cruises, and an editor of a cruise business publication who says "as a regular cruise ship passenger, I’m not worried about this." Great, but how about explaining a factual basis for this nonchalant attitude?
The Herald didn't cite to any cruise fire statistics. How often do fires occur on cruise ships? The cruise industry and the Miami Herald won't tell you. Shouldn't that be the point of the article?
The Herald cites no facts but tells you that cruise fires are "uncommon." What is "common" or "uncommon" is a relative concept. It's ultimately a personal opinion based on an objective, rational and factual analysis of the issue. The Herald didn't contact any true "experts" with a historical understanding of how often fires break out on cruise ships.
Just last month, Ross A. Klein, PhD, an international authority on the cruise ship industry, testified before the U.S. Senate, following the Costa Concordia capsizing. This is the third time that Professor was invited by our U.S. Congress to analyze the safety of the cruise industry. He discussed the number of cruise ship fires (as well as collisions, sinkings, and so forth) which have occurred over the years. He submitted comprehensive statistics and analysis of such incidents, from "minor" incidents to large scale disasters. Are cruise ships, as the industry often claims, the safest mode of commercial transportation he posed?
Cruise ships that have run aground, 1973 - 2011: 99;
Cruise ships that have experienced fires, 1990 - 2011: 79;
Cruise ships that have had collisions, 1990 - 2011: 73; and
Cruise ships that have gone adrift or have had other issues that could be seen to pose a safety risk, 2000 - 2011: 100.
Seventy-nine fires on cruise ships since 1990? That's more than three / almost four a year. "Uncommon?" I suppose so as long as it doesn't happen to you or your family while on a cruise. But don't ask that to the five crew members with smoke inhalation injuries, one in critical condition, who were injured in the Azamara Quest fire last Friday.
The Herald ignored these statistics and didn't mention the injuries to the Quest's crew. It discussed only the last three "disabling" fires since November 2010: Royal Caribbean's Azamara Quest and Carnival Corporation's Costa Allegra and Carnival Splendor.
The Herald omitted several other recent "disabling" cruise ships fires, included the December 2011 fire aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship which sailed from South Florida to the Bahamas and experienced a "potentially disastrous situation" after a fire erupted in the engine room causing the cruise ship to lose all power. It was hauled into the harbor in Freeport by tugboats.
The Herald also ignored a potentially catastrophic gas turbine fire on the twelfth deck of the Queen Mary 2 in October 2011 where passengers were afraid that they were going to have to get in lifeboats in 20-25 foot seas in the Atlantic.
This is not the first time that the Miami Herald has hooked up with the cruise line PR people. There is a long tradition of friendship between the Herald and the cruise lines. The Herald's former publisher and chairman was a member of Carnival's Board of Directors. And Carnival has been a sponsor of its travel, food and wine shows for years.
Last month, the same Miami Herald reporter, Hannah Sampson, who wrote the don't-worry-about-cruise-fires article served up a happy-go-lucky PR piece after interviewing Carnival CEO Micky Arison who had been in hiding after one of his cruise ships, the Costa Concordia, killed 32 and terrorized thousands of other passengers and crew in January.
Ms. Sampson is the "tourism writer for the Miami Herald." Her probing questions revealed this insight into the disaster: "We as a company do everything we can to encourage the highest of safety standards . . We continue to offer a great vacation value, a great product, a safe product at a fantastic price . . . People should avail themselves of that product."
Ah, what's good for Carnival is good for Miami tourism.
32 dead and some poor souls still missing in the capsized cruise ship - and the Herald is helping the richest man in Florida, multi-billionaire Micky Arison, sell cruises?
The Herald chose not to interview Professor Klein despite his substantial experience, expertise and impressive credentials. Instead, we have a tourism reporter interviewing a cruise line PR representative who tweets for the cruise lines.
79 cruise fires since 1990. 4 disabling fires in the last 6 months.
According to first hand accounts taken by reporters in Malaysia, passengers from the Azamara Quest cruise ship that was stranded at sea for 24 hours after an engine room fire, were full of praise of their Captain and crew members.
After the passengers reached a hotel in Sandakan, Malaysia, reporters interviewed them on camera.
"The Captain and the staff and the crew were fantastic, Absolutely Fantastic . . . If it wasn't for the crew, there could have been more serious problem," said passenger Allan Mackenzie from Scotland.
Passenger Jackie from England said," The crew were brilliant. It was a bit worrying, we thought we may have to go into the lifeboat . . . but they managed to put the fire out very quickly"
Passenger John Rosemead said, "There was no panic and everything as far as I am concerned ran perfectly smooth. The officers and the captain kept us fully informed." He continued," the Swedish Captain was very visible throughout the cruise, even when we got off the port tonight, he was there to wish us all well as we left the ship and got onto the buses."
The AP reports that "the smell of smoke spread fear on the cruise ship Azamara Quest, whose passengers put on life vests and gathered for roll call thinking of a deadly capsizing of another luxury vessel."
However, "for most of the 48 hours it took the fire-damaged ship to lumber into a Malaysian port, they were partying more than panicking. Passengers said the hardworking crew who quickly put out an engine-room fire Friday night kept their spirits buoyant, even as they suffered without air conditioning in sweltering heat. They enjoyed barbecues on the deck and free drinks."
The AP quotes passenger Diane Becker Krasnick of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, who was celebrating her 40th wedding anniversary with her husband, "everyone was joyous that they were alive."
A passenger mentioned that one crew member was seriously injured due to smoke inhalation after being trapped in an unspecified location, apparently after the fire doors shut. Prior reports indicate that five crew members were injured, one seriously.
The passengers will be in Sandakan, Malaysia for two days sightseeing and will be flown by chartered flights to Singapore.
Photograph credit: Passenger Marc Kresnick / AP / SeattlePI
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 from 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.
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.
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 email@example.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.
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.
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.
Remember, the motto of the Conde' Nast Traveler magazine is "truth in travel."
Tell your readers the truth.
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."
"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."
At a time when Costa Crociere and its parent company Carnival are under the scrutiny of the international media, reports are now emerging that the Costa Allegra caught fire when the vessel was around 260 miles from the Seychelles in the Indian Sea.
Lloyd's List states that the fire was extinguished. There is no explanation how the fire developed, although Costa is saying that the fire started in the generator room.
There were 636 passengers and 413 crew aboard the ship.
At this time, there is no indication that any passengers or crew were harmed, although this news is dependent on the transparency of the cruise ship and its operations center in Italy.
There is a diverse number of nationalities on the cruise ship, including: Italy 135, France 127, Austria 97, Switzerland 90, Germany 38, UK 31, Mauritius 15, Russia 15, Spain 15, Canada 13, Belgium 13, Slovenia 12, USA 8, Croatia 6, Czech Republic 4; Latvia 3, Portugal 2, Poland 2, Romania 2, Brazil 2, Hungary 2, Luxembourg 1, Algeria 1, Uruguay 1, and Ireland 1.
The Allegra is Costa's oldest cruise ship in operation, having come into service in 1992.
Fires on cruise ships is one of the greatest dangers the vacationing public can experience. We have written many articles about cruise ship fires. To put this latest cruise ship fire in perspective, read:
Following the spectacle of the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise industry is starting its campaign to convince the public that cruising is safe notwithstanding the terrifying and grotesque images of the stricken ship.
Pro-cruise trade organizations line the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") will claim that incidents like this are "rare" and will characterize the Costa Concordia as a "freak" accident. But in truth this incident is just the latest cruise disaster in a long line of disasters.
The 93,000-ton cruise ship needs twenty-five feet of draft but sailed into only fifteen (15) feet of water. Fortunately for the cruise ship (and unfortunately for the priceless and irreplaceable reef), the vessel ground the fragile reef into bits. MSC was not able to get off the reef until high tide. But the incident did not stop the cruise ship from tendering cruise passengers to Port Lucaya to enjoy themselves at the beach. Once high tide freed the ship, the Poesia sailed off as if nothing happened. Few people in the media reported on this near disaster.
It takes deaths and destruction to focus the media on problems in the cruise industry.
There have been two serious collisions of Costa cruise ships in the last two years.
In February 2010, the Costa Europa cruise ship collided with a pier in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The allision ripped a hole in the hull of the ship and flooded a crew cabin, resulting in the death of three crew members and injury to four passengers. Photographs of the Costa Europa show the vessel listing heavily on its port side, in order to keep water pouring into the large opening on the starboard side. You can read about that incident here - Costa Europa Collides With Pier in Egypt - Three Crew Dead, Passengers Injured
In October 2010, the Costa Classica cruise ship collided with a cargo vessel, the Belgian registered bulk carrier Lowlands Longevity, at the mouth of the Yangtze River. The ship suffered a long gash over 60 feet long in its side and several passengers were injured. You can read about that Costa cruise ship crash here: New Photographs Reveal Extent of Damage to Costa Classica
In addition to these collisions, an engine room fire broke out onboard the Costa Romantica near Uruguay in February 2009. A year earlier, in may 2008, there was a dangerous near-collision between the Costa Atlantica and a cargo ship, the Grand Neptune, where the captain of the Costa cruise ship was heavily criticized. You can read the UK Marine accident report here. (There is speculation that Captain Schettino was at the vessel's captain at the time.)
The parent company of Costa is Carnival cruise line which has had more than its fair share of disasters.
The U.S. Coast Guard blasted Carnival for its negligence following the November 2010 fire aboard the Carnival Splendor cruise ship when the cruise line's fire suppression system malfunctioned. The Splendor was a relatively new cruise ship manufactured in Italy. The fire caused the failure of all of the generators on the cruise ship which stranded over 3,500 passengers on the high seas off the coast of Mexico. "Coast Guard Blasts Carnival Splendor for Fire Negligence"
The U.S. Navy sent an aircraft carrier to the scene and the U.S. Coast Guard had to tow the stricken cruise ship back to the U.S., at the U.S. tax payer's expense.
All of this occurred in the last two years! In May of 2010, I chronicled the series of serious cruise disasters back over the last decade - Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything? If you are going to read one story on this blog, it is this one - the dangerous history of cruise ship fires dating from the Princess Cruises Star Princess fire in 2006 to the fire and sinking of the Sun Vista earlier in the1990's.
So as you digest the disturbing story of the renegade captain working for a cruise line with numerous recent casualties and the photos of the luxury liner on its side, don't let the cruise industry fool you into believing that this is an isolated accident.
A local news station in Palm Beach Florida reports that a fire broke out yesterday on a Palm Beach-based cruise ship in the Bahamas.
WPBF Channel 25 reports that the fire occurred Bahamas Celebration cruise ship. The cruise ship operates between Palm Beach and Freeport, Bahamas. According to Wikipedia, the cruise ship is available for cruises to be purchased directly from Celebration Cruise Lines; however, it is primarily used as a lure by time share companies to attract clientele.
The report indicates that the crew doused the fire themselves and no Coast Guard crews were called to the ship.
The ship is expected to return to the Port of Palm Beach this morning. No one was reported injured.
There is no explanation regarding the cause or the extent of the fire. The cruise ship is operated by the Celebration Cruise Line.
The ship was previously known as the Princesse Ragnild. It entered service in 1981 and was owned by Jahre Lines until 1991. From 1991 until 2008, it was operated by the Color Line.
This is not the first fire on the cruise ship. On July 8 1999, a fire erupted in the engine room resulting in the evacuation of the ship. After repairs in Germany, ship resumed operations in September 1999. On March 1, 2002, the cruise ship experienced another engine room fire, which was quickly extinguished.
If you were on the cruise or know what happened regarding this latest fire, please leave a comment below.
December 13, 2001 Update: The Freeport News reports today that the Bahamas Celebration avoided a "potentially disastrous situation" after a fire erupted in the engine room of the ship some four miles off Grand Bahama early Monday morning. The vessel was hauled into the harbor in Freeport by tugboats.
Seven-hundred-seven passengers and a crew of 300 plus were on-board the ship as it came into the harbor where a fire truck and an ambulance were stationed.
The fire was caused by generator number three which threw a rod and oil caught fire.
The newspaper reports that the fire was ultimately contained within 25 minutes and nobody on-board was injured.
The remaining generators were then shut down deliberately.
The crew and passengers were led up to deck nine. Some of the passengers were quoted as describing the incident as "unsettling" and "nerve-racking."
A cruise line representatives called the incident a "minor fire."
The cruise ship's engine will require a complete overhaul because a lot of cables which melted need to be replaced.
A fire broke out yesterday aboard an Egyptian bound ferry, the Pella, in the Gulf of Aqaba, which is the northeastern tip of the Red Sea.
There were approximately 1240 passengers aboard the cruise ferry at the time of the fire. The ferry was ten miles off of the coast of Jordan. A number of military vessels and helicopters responded to the emergency. There are conflicting news accounts whether the rescue operations were conducted solely by Jordan or a combination of Jordanian and Egyptian vessels.
One passenger died. All other passengers were rescued and various news sources are reporting between twelve and twenty-five passengers were hospitalized for smoke inhalation injuries.
The Pella is owned by the Al-Jisr Al-Arabi company, which is described as a shipping company owned by Egyptian and Jordanian businessmen.
The AP reports that in February 2006, about 1,000 passengers, mostly Egyptian workers returning home from Saudi Arabia, died when a fire broke out on a ferry.
Photo credit: Abraham Farajyan / EPA (via MSNBC photoblog)
For aditional information about cruise ship fires, consider reading:
A fire broke out on the Queen Mary 2 Wednesday night.
Cruise Critic, which characterizes the fire as "small," explains that "fire was caused by one of QM2's gas turbines, which are situated below and behind the ship's funnel. They're used to augment power to the ship's main quartet of diesel turbines, allowing the ship to travel at a higher maximum speed . . . "
Cunard issued a statement claiming that the fire was "immediately extinguished." The cruise line also claims that "neither passengers nor crew were adversely affected, and neither was the operation of the ship."
"A gas carbine in the engine room of the QM2 caught on fire this evening. Cunard staff were given a 90 minute warning in order to prepare to deploy the lifeboats. Guests had their children dropped off and their animals picked up from the kennels. Apparently it is now under control, but people are understandably shaken up."
The QM2 will be arriving today in New York late due to what the cruise line describes as "high winds and active seas."
It is a scary proposition that the Cunard cruise ship was contemplating the use of life boats in such rough weather.
It will be interesting to hear the first hand accounts of the QM2 cruise passengers once they disembark today from their transatlantic voyage.
If you were on the cruise and have comments, photos or video to share, please leave a comment below.
October 10, 2011 Update: We are receiving some interesting and intelligent comments from a number of cruisers who were on the QM2. Sounds like a bumpy ride and a fortunate ending to a potentially dangerous situation. Here is a quote from a passenger who emailed me rather than leaving a comment:
"The biggest problem with the fire on the QM2 was its location. It was NOT as previously reported in an engine room, but in a gas turbine up on deck 12. The problem was this was an open deck and the winds were very strong that night. Yes the fire was minor but the risk was that it could have been spread by very high winds. In fact after the fire was contained, the captain announced that there would be an observation team on deck 12 all night as there were some burning embers.
We learned later that if the fire had not been contained we would have had to board lifeboats in very rough waters (20-25 ft seas). Many of the passengers were needing assistance when we tendered in calm seas, because of age and physical limitations, walkers, wheelchairs etc. At the time of the fire we were more than 250 nautical miles out to sea. Just wanted to clear up a few facts. Thank you."
The Associated Press is reporting that a fire on the M/S Nordlys cruise shipthis morningkilled two people and injured at least nine others while operating on a popular route along Norway's coast.
The AP reports that nine people were taken to the hospital, two with serious burns and smoke injuries. Eight of those injured and sent to the hospital were crew members. Mail Online reports that 16 people were injured and two additional people (probably crewmembers) are missing.
The fire broke out in the engine room.
The Nordlys, operated by Hurtigruten, reportedly had over 200 passengers on board at the time of the fire. 100 passengers were evacuated by lifeboats before the cruise ship reached port in Alesund, which is 230 miles northwest of Oslo. The cruise ship was then escorted into port where the remainder of the passengers were evacuated.
The cruise line has an information link on its website which can be viewed here. The only information posted is as follows:
"Following a fire on board the MS Nordlys all guests have been safely evacuated to the Rica Parken Hotel in Ålesund. There were 207 guests on board of varying nationalities and 55 crew. Relatives hotline: +47 47 83 47 00."
If this information is correct, all of the injuries and deaths involved crewmembers.
In the last week there have been a number of articles about certain cruise lines enacting new policies to restrict smoking on their cruise ships.
Yesterday the Miami Herald published an article Cruise Lines Putting Out More "No Smoking" Signs which discussed the policies of some of the cruise lines which have new rules prohibiting smoking in cabins and other areas of the cruise ships.
None of the articles mention passenger safety. Rather the articles focus on the annoyance of passengers arriving in a cabin which had been smoked out by prior guests, or the nuisance of having to smell the smoke of cigarettes drifting into into cabins from adjacent balconies.
The article mentions a new policy by Norwegian Cruise Line ("NCL") which announced that smoking will be banned inside cabins on all of its eleven cruise ships starting in January 2012. However, NCL announced that passengers can still smoke on balconies.
Carnival also announced that smoking is permitted only in dance clubs, jazz clubs, casinos and bars, and certain parts of open decks. Like NCL, Carnival is forbidding smoking in all staterooms across its fleet of cruise ships, but it gives a green light to its passengers to smoke on balconies.
Oh, how these cruise lines forget the lessons of history.
On March 23, 2006, a passenger aboard Princess Cruises' Star Princess cruise ship smoking on a balcony flicked a cigarette overboard, thinking that it would drop innocently into the waters off of the coast of Jamaica. Instead, the burning cigarette was whipped by the winds of the cruise ship, as it proceeded at over 20 knots, into a lower balcony. It came into contact with the highly combustible furniture and partitions on a lower balcony. The cigarette smoldered, then erupted into a nightmarish fire.
Cruise passengers Richard Liffridge (photo above left) and his wife Vicky were asleep peacefully in their cabin. The plastic partitions between the balconies below them were easily combustible. The Princess cruise ship had no fire suppression systems on the balconies of the cruise ship. The fire quickly spread across hundreds of other cabin balconies and then erupted into the cruise ship cabins.
Disoriented and confused, Richard and Vicky tried to crawl out of their cabin, through the cabin hallway. They tried to hold on to one another as they tried to escape the billowing fire as they crawled, scratching across the hallway carpeting seeking safety. Fire sparked and smoke billowed over their heads.
But the smoke and fire separated them as they tried to escape.
Vicki heard Richard moan “Vicky, don’t let me die!”
Vicki searched for her husband but was overwhelmed by the smoke and fire. Richard was lost in the darkness and oppressive heat. Vicki was taken to an open deck and treated for smoke inhalation.
Vicki later identified Richard's dead body, covered in soot, resembling a chimney sweep - a far cry from the distinguished, smiling man whose photograph (top left) was taken in a smart suit and tie just the day before.
Vicki and Richard's daughter, Lynnette Hudson, and other family members retained our firm to represent them in a case against Princess Cruises. The case was highly successful, but that's not the point of this article. Rather, the surviving family members demanded that the cruise line take steps to make certain that such a catastrophe never occur again.
Princess acted quickly to replace the highly combustible balcony wall partitions and furniture on the balconies, and to install fire detectors and fire suppression systems which had never been installed on any cruise ship before.
Ms. Hudson later boarded the cruise ship with us after it had been repaired and inspected the external heat detectors and sprinkler systems which were installed after her father's death.
Ms. Hudson is shown (below) pointing to the heat detectors and sprinklers. Although Princess cruise ships have been retrofitted with sprinkler systems on the cabin's balconies, not all cruise ships sailing today have such safety systems.
Vicki Liffridge and Ms. Hudson later traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a Congressional hearing into the safety of cruise passengers. They requested Congress to enact legislation to protect passengers on cruise ships.
In her Congressional testimony, Ms. Hudson expressed her fear that other families may face the risks of a cruise fire which killed her father:
"CLIA tells us that by the year 2010 twenty million passengers will sail on cruise ships. Visions of these passengers flicking their cigarettes over the rails as unsuspecting passengers are asleep in their cabins, with no fire detectors or sprinklers instantly comes to mind . . . "
Unfortunately, many cruise lines, including Carnival (which is the parent company of Princess Cruises) and NCL have not replaced the easily combustible balcony partitions and installed fire suppression systems on the balconies.
The news today is disappointing. Carnival and NCL still permit smoking on balconies.
Why would any responsible cruise line not tell the smoke addicts that balconies are strictly off limits for lighting up a smoke?
Has Carnival and NCL learned anything in the past ten years?
Before you take your family on a cruise, ask the cruise line or your local travel agent if the cruise ship has fire suppression systems for the passenger balconies. If not, consider selecting a cruise line which does.
The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. has an interesting story containing a passenger's account of events aboard the Independence of the Seas following the explosion at the port in Gibraltar. Some of the accounts:
“People thought it was a bomb and started screaming. Parents jumped in the pool to grab their children, while others dashed to the kids’ club on deck 12 to see if their children were injured.”
"One crew member . . . heard screaming and saw black smoke; she thought one of the restaurants was on fire."
"At dinner that night, the explosion was on everyone’s lips. 'We thought it was a bomb,' one middle-aged passenger said. 'American ship in a British port – quite an easy target.'
All of the accounts we have read praised the captain and crew. "Within minutes, the captain made an announcement, ordering everyone off the open decks and balconies, and sending a rapid response team up to deck 11 where the outdoor pools and bars were packed with young families making the most of the Gibraltar heat."
"Officers ran along the side of the dock to the stern of the ship, presumably to check for any damage . . . Just four minutes later, we slipped our moorings and the ship sailed . . . Thanks to a quick-thinking captain, a major incident was averted."
YouTube member "Kasbah89" posted a video of the fire. It shows the Independence of the Seas quickly departing away from the burning oil tank and turning to head out of danger:
Were you on the cruise and have photos or video to share? Please let us here from you.
Video credit: kasbah89 / YouTube
Some amazing photographs can be viewed at David Parody's Flickr photostream here.
Several news sources are reporting that an oil tank exploded at the port in Gibraltar today.
Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas cruise ship was in port at the time of the explosion. One newspaper reports that the cruise ship was due to sail at 4 p.m. but was "berthed nearby" when the oil tank exploded.
The cruise ship then reportedly "quickly sailed away and anchored in the bay."
The Gilbraltar Chronicle reports that two people ashore were injured, one reportedly seriously due to burns.
Twelve cruise passengers were injured. The cruise line issued a statement indicating that the injuries are allegedly "minor." Subsequent news sources are saying that eleven Britons and one Swiss passenger sustained injuries consisting of burns, abrasions and a dislocated finger.
Radio Gilbraltar ran a live feed of the fire as it continued to burn, with an additional oil tank involved. Radio Gilbraltar reports that the Independence of the Seas felt the "full force" of the blast:
There is an indication that the explosion may have been caused by a spark from welding.
If you have photos or video of this incident, please contact us and we will post them on our blog.
Yesterday was a rather strange day. I received a couple of calls and emails asking for information about a cruise ship fire which ruined the honeymoon of Tina Fey.
Tina Fey? The comic, I asked? You mean the Saturday Night Live star with the great impressions of Sarah Palin? The star of NBC's 30 Rock?? On her honeymoon on a cruise ship which caught fire, I asked??? Yes, that's right the inquiring minds insisted, mentioning something about "reading about it in the newspapers."
Hmm. The last cruise ship fire I am aware of involved the Mexican cruise ship, the Ocean Star Pacifica, earlier this week. A generator fire knocked out power to the cruise ship, forcing the evacuation of its passengers and crew. Certainly a celebrity like Tina Fey would not be caught dead slumming on a 41 year old Mexican cruise ship. Maybe she sailed on a super luxury ship like the Silver Cloud or the Seabourn Sojourn but certainly not an old tub like the Ocean Star.
So I googled Tina Fey and cruise ship fire and sure enough, there were a dozen "articles" about the topic. But the "newspapers" were all gossip rags like STAR magazine which published the "breaking story" "Fey's Honeymoon Cruise Was Wrecked By Fire," which gave this account:
Comedienne Tina Fey will always remember her honeymoon for all the wrong reasons - the cruise ship she and her husband were sailing home to New York from Bermuda on caught fire.
The actress/writer admits the voyage had been a lot of fun until she found herself standing by a lifeboat about to abandon ship.
Fey recalls, "The ship was on fire, so we had to go and stand by our lifeboats... and we really had to stand women and children in the front, men in the back, and I remember holding hands with my husband, thinking like, 'Oh my gosh, we're gonna be one of those people on the news that died on their honeymoon...' and he said he was thinking... 'It's gonna be so hard for her when they bring the lifeboats down and she stays with me'. I was thinking, 'It's gonna be so hard for him when I get on that lifeboat. But it all worked out.'
This account intrigued me even more. Tina Fey is a joker but certainly she would not joke about something as serious as a cruise ship fire with passengers about to abandon ship.
So I did a little research, and found out that the incident did occur although it certainly was not "breaking news." The fire occurred in June 2001, and involved Royal Caribbean's Nordic Empress.
The Nordic Empress was sailing back from Bermuda to New York following a 7 day cruise. The fire erupted when the cruise ship was about 140 miles northwest of Bermuda.
The Royal Caribbean PR people said that the fire "was quickly extinguished by the ship's crew and its sprinkler system."
The Coast Guard investigation revealed that the fires in the engine room were not completely extinguished for three hours. The damage caused the vessel to be adrift for seven hours. (The country of Liberia, where the cruise ship was flagged, invited the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct the inspection).
You can read the marine casualty report here, and you can review an excellent summary of the incident by the Professional Mariner here.
Saturday Night Live (SNL) has entertained the public with some funny skits about cruise ships over the years. Seth Meyer did a funny bit about Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. Adam Sandler starred in a unfunny movie called "Going Overboard."
But unlike her co-stars on SNL, Tina Fey went through the real deal - a fire which disabled the cruise ship and caused over 1,500 passengers to stand at their muster stations on the deck at night ready to abandon ship - only to now laugh about it ten years later.
First impressions are everything. The first Mexican cruise line has already earned a dubious reputation.
The Secretary of Tourism, Gloria Guevara Manzo, said that the cruises are key to the expansion to tourism in Mexico.
Mexico is off to a rough start.
Ocean Star Cruises had just its second cruise this week. Cruceros Ocean Star had a disastrous start. A generator fire knocked out power to the Ocean Star Pacific cruise ship, forcing the evacuation of its passengers and crew Saturday. Some 522 passengers and 226 crew members were reportedly evacuated by catamaran to the port of Huatulco with the intention of flying them to Mexico City.
The Ocean Star Pacific was built in 1971 for Royal Caribbean Cruises and sailed as one of Royal Caribbean first cruise ships as the Nordic Prince.
We wish our Mexican friends better luck with their new cruise line!
Yesterday, the U.S. Coast Guard issued 2 Marine Safety Alerts regarding the CO2 firefighting system on Carnival Splendor cruise ship which failed to operate following an engine room fire on November 8, 2010.
The first alert indicated that the fire instruction manual (FIM) did not match the actual CO2 system aboard the cruise ship. The second alert revealed that the pipes and hose connections of the fire suppression system "leaked extensively," actuating arms to valves were loose, a wrong type of sealant was used on the pipe threads, and a valve failed to work.
The bottom line? A newly constructed cruise ship, flying the flag of Panama, with a confusing fire instruction manual, poor maintenance, and faulty equipment - endangering the lives of U.S. passengers.
Cruise expert Ross Klein's popular Cruise Junkie website is reporting, according to newspapers in Brazil, that a fire in the engine room of the MSC Cruises' Musica knocked out air conditioning and the water supply of the cruise ship.
The cruise ship had boarded at Rio de Janeiro and was supposed to leave at 18:00 for an eight-day trip with stopovers in the ports of Recife, Maceió and Salvador. With no air conditioning and no water supply, passengers were angered. Nevertheless, shortly after 18:30 the sound system announced the departure of the ship. Disgusted, a group of about 50 people took to the gangway of the ship, preventing it to be hoisted. The trip was then canceled.
The ship is due to re-enter service on Dec. 26 from Rio for its scheduled week-long cruise to Salvador, Buzios, Copacabana and Ilha Grande.
A temporary power outage on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 in September was caused by the "catastrophic failure of a capacitor and explosion in an 11kV harmonic filter" on the vessel, according to the U.K.'s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) which issued a marine safety report yesterday.
On September 23rd, the Queen Mary 2 was approaching Barcelona early in the morning when the vessel lost lights and power, causing the cruise ship to drift off of the coast of Spain. No explanation for the power failure was provided by the Captain or the cruise line.
The explosion near one of QM2's main electric switchboard rooms (photo below) when a capacitor failed and leaking oil sprayed onto high voltage bars, causing a "major arc flash event. The explosion blew the steel door to the room out of its frame! (photo, left) "The blast ... also caused serious damage to an adjoining steel door into the main switchboard room, the stiffeners on the bulkhead of the compartment were buckled, and the steel cover plate on a cross-flooding duct was blown out into the main switchboard room," the report says. "Fortunately there were no personnel in the vicinity."
The reporting of this latest incident raises the issue of the safety of foreign flagged cruise ships, and comes after a string of recent disturbing mishaps.
Earlier in the week, the negligence of Holland America Line permitted a drunk passenger to enter a restricted area and drop an anchor as the cruise ship was underway - Drunk Passenger Drops Cruise Ship Anchor.
Last week, a passenger died on the Carnival Splendor under mysterious circumstances and Carnival added to the mystery by issuing a terse and questionable statement that the death was "medical related" notwithstanding a small army of FBI agents spending the day in the cabin and leaving with bags of evidence - Death on a Fun Ship: What Really Happened on the Carnival Liberty?
And two weeks ago, the cruise industry faced the spectacle of what an engine room fire can due to a new mega ship as the disabled Carnival Splendor drifted around off of the coast of Mexico for the better part of what seemed like forever.
But the cruise industry will never admit that it has a safety problem. Rick Sasso, president of MSC Cruises (USA) and chairman of the marketing committee for CLIA, disagreed with me yesterday in an article about cruise safety issues in Cruise Critic. Sasso said "I challenge people to measure the cruise industry's safety record against any other industry . . . Any critic that says cruises are unsafe -- sorry, it's just B.S."
Cruise Law News (CLN) has been cited by lots of newspapers and television stations in the last year. But today I was excited to learn that OpenSecrets.org (Center for Responsible Politics) cited CLN in its blog article about the Carnival Splendor ship fire.
OpenSecrets.org is one of my favorite websites. It is a nonpartisan watchdog organization which tracks money’s influence on U.S. elections and public policy. It shines light on who is funding politicians and the effect of money on the government formulation of policy and laws which affect all of us.
"News stories continue to trickle in on the nearly disastrous Carnival Cruise voyage that safely embarked in San Diego on Thursday. After an on-board fire disabled the ship, passengers were forced to live two days without the promised luxuries of a Carnival Cruise ship. Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire. The recent fire brings to light the not altogether uncommon occurrence of fires on cruise ships, an event that has made the news more than a few times in recent years. Employees of the parent company of Carnival Cruise Lines, the Carnival Corporation, have contributed modestly during the recent 2010 election cycle -- donating only about $317,600 to federal candidates and committees. And the Carnival Corporation itself has spent only $90,000 on lobbying in 2010, with legislative targets including H.R. 802, the Maritime Pollution Prevention Act of 2008 and H.R. 6434/S. 2881, the Clean Cruise Ship Act of 2008. With the media firmly focused on this nightmare voyage, legislators may turn towards the issue of cruise safety but until then, comedians will continue to rib the harrowing experiences of this cruise."
The article also linked to David Letterman's "Top 10 Things You Don't Want to Hear While You Are Stranded On A Cruise:"
NBC New York has a nice video of the spirited reaction of passengers, who were aboard the disabled Carnival Splendor cruise ship, after returning home. The video is from NBC New York's "The Show Must Go On, Even if the Ship Couldn't" by Tim Minton.
Now that the disabled Carnival Splendor is back in a U.S. port, some lawyers are advertising that the passengers should consider filing a lawsuit. One cruise site, offering "cruise insider expert advice," is shilling for a Miami lawyer: "Now is the time to join the November 7, 2010 passengers in a joint effort for compensation. Contact us if you were on this cruise."
Such desperate solicitation like this never ceases to amaze me.
Any time there is a cruise disaster, the issue of lawsuits arises. Sometimes there is a basis to file a lawsuit, and sometimes - like this time - there is clearly not. Many passengers from the Carnival Splendor have contacted our office seeking a maritime lawyer to sue the cruise line for damages. We have told them that there is no basis to consider suing Carnival under these circumstances. They are wasting their time and money if they file a lawsuit, for these three reasons:
In order to have a legitimate case for compensation, a cruise passenger has to suffer a personal injury. Experiencing inconvenience and unpleasant circumstances does not constitute a personal injury unless there is a physical injury. If you fall down a flight of stairs in the dark and break your hip, that's a personal injury. But taking cold showers, smelling toilets that can't be flushed, eating Spam sandwiches in the dark or other similar "cruise from hell" stories are not compensable.
The cruise ticket drafted by Carnival protects the cruise line: “If the performance of the proposed voyage is hindered or prevented by . . . breakdown of the vessel . . . Carnival may cancel the proposed voyage without liability to refund passage money or fares paid in advance.” The passenger ticket also requires passengers to file suit in Miami, which the United States Supreme Court has upheld.
Carnival has already offered to refund the passengers' fare and travel expenses and a free cruise of equal value in the future. So if you are foolish enough to file suit (in Miami), you simply will not do any better than what is already being offered now. Plus you will incur legal expenses and travel expenses pursuing a case in Miami which you are certain to lose.
Carnival's offer after this fire should be compared to its response to the fire aboard the Carnival Tropicale cruise ship in 1999. Like the Splendor, the Tropicale was disabled by an engine room fire and the cruise ship bobbed around in the Gulf of Mexico. Carnival offered the passengers only a 25% discount - which the passengers felt was a slap in the face and created a public relations nightmare.
Carnival has handled this fire knowing that its response will be scrutinized in the court of public opinion. Its CEO traveled from Miami to San Diego and held a press conference where he apologized and offered a full refund, reimbursement of travel expenses and a free future cruise.
Most Americans think that Carnival's offer is fair. MSNBC ran a story yesterday "Free Cruise Should Be Enough for Splendor Passengers." In a poll of over 10,000 readers, MSNBC asked should the passengers stuck on the Carnival Splendor consider legal action? 88% said: "No - Carnival's compensation package is more than generous." Only 8% said: "Yes - Days at sea in miserable conditions is worth more than money back and a future cruise." (The remaining 4% said: "Unsure - Passengers may have a tough time since they signed an air-tight contract.")
Although the passengers on the Splendor were inconvenienced by the fire and the elderly undoubtedly suffered the most, sometimes a cruise line will step up to the plate and make a fair offer. But if you decide to reject it, please don't call us. Most jurors will not have much patience for vacationers complaining about eating Pop Tarts on a cruise ship, when some of the jurors cannot afford a cruise in the first place and our U.S. troops have been eating MRE meals in the middle of the desert in Iraq and Afghanistan.
November 14, 2010 Update:
A reader of Senior Cruise Director John Heald's blog sums up Canival's compensations as follows:
Future credit equal to total of what was paid to be applied to a future cruise and must be used within 2 years.
Refund of transportation costs to the pier and from San Diego back home. One person said they took a bus from Las Vegas to the pier and Carnival (besides putting them up in San Diego is flying them home.)
Overnight stay in San Diego for those who requested it AND a daily stipend.
For those who had flights Carnival made the changes for them.
Any charges made on Sunday on the guests “Sign and Sail card were forgiven!!! (This included spa treatments, alcohol, purchases in the gift shop AND even gambling losses in the casino slots!!!)
All photos taken by Carnival of the guests were put out in the photo shop and guests were invited to come get their pictures at no charge!
On Tuesday and Wednesday Carnival opened some bars. Alcohol, wine and beer was given to the guests.
Carnival advised the guests that everything in their mini bars was free! (My minibar had 6 sodas, 6 beers, and 10 or 12 shot bottles of alcohol.)
This blog article went viral and was discussed by:
As I watched CNN and MSNBC interview passengers disembarking from the ill fated cruise aboard the Splendor, passenger after passenger stated that no one explained to them that the cruise ship had been disabled due to a fire. Several passengers said only that thee was "some smoke." One of the reporters on CNN responded "that's incredible!" upon learning that the cruise line had kept the passengers in the dark, literally and figuratively, following the fire which left the cruise ship dead in the water.
Keeping passengers in the dark is nothing new for Carnival and other cruise lines following disasters like this. Carnival has the worst history of fires than any other cruise line over the past ten to fifteen years. In 1995, the Carnival Celebration caught fire. In 1998, the Carnival Ecstasy burned shortly after leaving the port of Miami. A year later, the Carnival Tropicale was disabled following a fire in the engine room, and the cruise ship bobbed around in the Gulf of Mexico for a couple of days. These two Carnival ships had suffered previous fires as well. In 2006, a large fire broke out on the Star Princess operated by a subsidiary of Carnival, Princess Cruises, in the middle of the night resulting in a death and multiple injuries. Last year, a fire in the engine room disabled the Royal Princess operated by Princess Cruises, which had to be towed back to an Egyptian port.
In all of these incidents, passengers learned the true facts only after leaving the cruise ship. Following the Tropicale fire, passengers complained that some crew members did not speak English well enough to provide safety instructions.The New York Times reported on the debacle in an article "Language Barrier Cited In Inquiry Into Ship Fire."
During the ensuing NTSB investigation,the Master of the Tropicale testified that he was concerned that the engine room would explode. He kept information about the raging fire from passengers because he worried they might panic and jump overboard, according to the St. Pete Times article "Cruise Captain Feared Panic."
Some of the passengers interviewed yesterday by CNN did not seem to mind the limited information. One passenger commented that she understood why Carnival withheld information from them, reasoning that it was a prudent decision to avoid panic among the passengers.
I'm not too sure about that. We have an obligation to our children to screen information to keep them from being unduly frightened. But treating adult passengers like children is not the cruise line's prerogative. Passengers should not learn the basic fact that their ship was disabled by an engine room fire only after walking down the gangway.
"Two tug boats are slowly towing the Carnival Splendor cruise ship and her 4,500 passengers towards San Diego today. The 952-foot ship, which left Long Beach on Sunday for the Mexican Riviera, has been adrift since an engine room fire early Monday. Rather than lavish meals, passengers are surviving on Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crabmeat flown in by helicopter. Friends and families of stranded passengers are concerned because communication with their loved ones has been severely limited. It’s expected that the Splendor will arrive in port in San Diego late Thursday. Critics say there are serious safety lapses throughout the cruise industry and this accident was waiting to happen. What’s being done to protect passengers?"
Kendall Carver, Chairman, International Cruise Victims
Jim Walker, Maritime attorney based in Miami and editor of “Cruise Law News”
Photo credit: Kevin Gray/U.S. Navy via Getty Images (via KPCC South California Public Radio)
L.A. Times: The L.A. Times also featured ICV members Ken Carver, my client Lynnette Hudson (photo bottom) whose father Richard Liffridge was killed due to a fire on a cruise ship operated by a Carnival subsidiary Princess Cruises, cruise safety expert Mark Gaouette and me in an article "Stranded Cruise Ship Offers Lesson in Huge Vessels' Vulnerabilities." Here is the text:
"They're called "floating cities," massive cruise ships that resemble skyscrapers and offer all the amenities of high-end resorts — spas and casinos, Broadway shows and amusement parks, fine dining and luxury shopping.
But the Carnival Splendor also offers a cautionary tale about just how vulnerable these mega-ships can be. Left powerless by an engine fire shortly after embarking on a seven-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera, the Splendor is expected to be towed into port in San Diego late Thursday. If the ship cannot make sufficient speed under tow, it is possible it will be taken to Ensenada, company officials said.
An early morning fire in the generator compartment Monday knocked out several of the ship's operating systems and left the nearly 4,500 passengers and crew members without air conditioning, hot food and telephone service. Even the flush toilets were down for a while.
With communications largely cut off, it's unclear what kind of hardship passengers have had to endure. But Carnival Chief Executive Gerry Cahill acknowledged in a statement that passengers were dealing with an "extremely trying situation."
"Conditions on board the ship are very challenging, and we sincerely apologize for the discomfort and inconvenience our guests are currently enduring," he said.
The "gourmet delicacies" of the " Manhattan chic" Pinnacle Steakhouse were replaced by 70,000 pounds of bread, canned milk and other emergency supplies, which were flown from the North Island Naval Air Station at Coronado to the U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and then helicoptered out to the Splendor, stranded 160 miles southwest of San Diego. The company is paying the military for the food and supplies, officials said.
"There are significant risks as these ships get bigger and bigger," said Kendall Carver, president of International Cruise Victims. "This one held over 4,000 people. The new ones owned by Royal Caribbean hold over 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew members, over 8,000 people. A fire on a ship like that would be disastrous."
The Carnival Splendor experienced its problems relatively close to several major ports, making rescue possible in only a few days.
"If it was hundreds of miles out, and you had a fire that wasn't suppressed, and you had rough weather, you'd have a complete disaster," said Jim Walker, a Miami-based attorney who specializes in cruise line litigation.
Although the $40-billion cruise ship industry — and its vessels — has been growing, it has been dogged in the last decade with controversies over passenger health and safety. Carver helped start International Cruise Victims after his daughter, Merrian, disappeared while on an Alaskan cruise in 2004.
The organization has pushed for stiffer laws regulating the cruise ship industry; just four months ago, President Obama signed into law tougher new rules for reporting crimes at sea, improving ship safety and training staff to collect evidence of crimes. The changes will go into effect in 2012.
But the new law makes only passing mention of fire safety issues, even though "the most serious event that can happen on a cruise ship is a main space fire, which is what happened on the Splendor," said Mark Gaouette, former director of security for Princess Cruises and author of the recently released "Cruising for Trouble."
On a Navy ship, Gaouette notes, every person has a fire-fighting role, and the crew is trained constantly in how to respond to a fire. On a cruise ship, "two-thirds to three-quarters of the population are passengers. They become problems and liabilities in a major fire. They have to be shepherded to safe areas."
Statistics are hard to come by for incidents on cruise ships, but Gaouette said the website cruisebruise.com lists eight major fires on cruise ships in the last five years, compared with just three in the previous seven years.
"As cruise ships become larger and their number increases on the high seas," he said, "the threat of fire and other risks to passengers will increase proportionally."
On the Splendor at 6:30 a.m. Monday, the 3,299 passengers were evacuated from their cabins and told to go to the ship's upper deck. They were later allowed to return. By afternoon, the U.S. Coast Guard had dispatched three cutters and an HC-130 Hercules helicopter to the ship's aid. The Mexican navy sent aircraft and a 140-foot patrol boat.
The Coast Guard has remained in contact with the ship throughout the ordeal, officials said. Whether the ship goes to San Diego or Ensenada, the company has promised to transport passengers back to Long Beach.
Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines has promised a full refund for passengers and a complimentary future cruise equal to the amount paid for this voyage, which was scheduled to visit Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. The company announced that the Nov. 14 seven-day cruise from Long Beach to the same ports has been canceled.
"The safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority, and we are working to get our guests home as quickly as possible," said Cahill of Carnival Cruise Lines. Carnival Corp., which also includes such lines as Princess Cruises and Holland America and has 98 ships worldwide, reported revenues of $13.2 billion in 2009.
A spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Assn. did not respond to requests for comment. The organization's website says the U.S. Coast Guard calls cruising "one of the safest modes of transportation, and the industry is constantly striving to improve its safety procedures. Over the past two decades, an estimated 90 million passengers safely enjoyed a cruise vacation."
But that is little comfort to Lynnette Hudson, whose father died of smoke inhalation during a fire on the Star Princess, which is operated by Carnival, in 2006. It was his first cruise, she testified to Congress, and he was celebrating his 72nd birthday.
Hudson pushed for the more stringent standards that were signed into law this summer and is still fighting for stiffer laws. "I think if there's a major fire on a cruise ship, they're not prepared," she said in an interview. "They don't have sufficient training."
A fire broke out this morning in the engine room on the Carnival Splendor during a cruise to the Mexican Riviera (Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.) Passengers were told to move from their cabins to the Lido Deck on the upper level.
The fire burned from around 6:00 a.m. until it was extinguished around 9 a.m. according to several news sources. However, the fire erupted again according to U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Kevin Metcalf.
The Press-Telegram reports that two guests and a crew member suffered panic attacks, but no one was physically injured.
The cruise ship had left the Port of Long Beach on Sunday with 3,299 guests and 1,167 crew members.
The cruise ship is dead in the water. There are reports that there is only an emergency generator running, which means no air conditioning or working toilets.
The cruise ship is approximately 55 miles west of Punta San Jacinto, which is about 150 miles south of San Diego, and will have to be towed back to a port by tugs.
The Splendor is the Carnival cruise ship which Senior Cruise Director John Heald is currently on. Cruise Director Heald writes an excellent blog called the John Heald Blog. He wrote a timely and sensitive blog last month when a Carnival crew member tragically committed suicide. Will he write an informative blog about this latest incident on the Splendor?
The engines were manufactured by Wartsila. The Splendor is diesel-electric powered using six Wartsila diesel engines and has a power output of 63,400kW. I have made an inquiry to Wartsila but I have not received a response.
Were you a passenger or crew member on the cruise ship? Do you have photos or video to share? Please leave a comment below.
Over 200 passengers were rescued after an explosion rocked the Lithuanian passenger and car ferry, Lisco Gloria, which was on route from the German port of Kiel to Klaipeda in Lithuania. A fire then engulfed the ferry which had 236 passengers and crew on board. Over 20 people on the ferry reportedly were injured. Several nearby vessels rescued the passengers, many of whom were swimming in the water.
The Washington Post reports this morning that a fire on a German cruise ship at a port in western Norway forced the evacuation of the 607 passengers and crew members on board.
A rescue services spokesman says the passengers on the Deutschland cruise ship are being evacuated.
The fire started in the machine room and firefighters have now contained it to that area. The cruise ship was carrying 364 passengers, 241 crew members and two Norwegian ship pilots when it caught fire at a port in Eidfjorden. The ship was heading to Hamburg.
The cruise ship is operated by Peter Deilmann Cruises and caters to the German premium market.
The Deutschland was featured in the German TV show "Das Traumschiff" - which is similar to the "The Love Boat" in the United States.
One of the dangers of cruising is the cruise ship catching on fire. Most families who go on a cruise don't like to think about it.
But it happens.
A Rash of Fires on Carnival Cruise Ships
One of the most publicized incidents involved Carnival's Ecstasy (left) in 1998 when it caught fire shortly after leaving the port of Miami. If the fire had occurred thirty minutes later there would have been no fire boats to extinquish the flames. Local news helicopters from Miami flew to the scene and filmed the burning ship. The story was broadcast on all of the local Miami news stations.
The next year, another Carnival cruise ship, the Tropicale, caught fire and the ship was adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with 1,700 passengers and crew members for almost two days after the fire disabled the engines. This incident received national attention, particularly after passengers complained that some crew members did not speak English well enough to provide safety instructions.The New York Times reported on the debacle in an article "Language Barrier Cited In Inquiry Into Ship Fire."
During the ensuing investigation,the captain of the Tropicale testified that he was concerned that the engine room would explode. He kept information about the raging fire from passengers because he worried they might panic and jump overboard, according to the St. Pete Times article "Cruise Captain Feared Panic."
Despite wide-spread media coverage, few major news organizations reported the Tropicale’s prior problems which could be traced back to 1982 when a fire broke out during its inaugural cruise. And the Ecstasy had also caught on fire earlier as well, in 1996.
Carnival has had more than its share of fires, with the Carnival Celebration burning in 1995 which forced 1,700 passengers to evacuate.
Between the Ecstasy and Tropicale fires, the Sun Vista ignited off of the coast of Malaysia and 1,000 passengers found themselves in lifeboats in the Straits of Malacca.
The most recent fire occurred last year involving a Carnival subsidiary, Princess Cruises. The Royal Princess' engine room caught fire in June of last year during a Mediterranean cruise near Egypt. The cruise line initially didn't release any information to the public. But a passenger, a Pastor from South Carolina, Greg Surratt tweeted on his Twitter account @GregSurratt about the fire from his iphone on the cruise ship.
Reverend Surratt tweeted that the fire had disabled the cruise ship and a tug had to tow the ship back to port. Frantic families in the U.S. had to rely on Pastor Surratt for information about their loved ones. He even tweeted photos of the fire and the passengers sprawling out on the deck in the dark (right) via "Twitpic" - an application which permits photos to be uploaded onto Twitter.
When Princess finally posted its typical less-than-forthcoming corporate press statement, no one was paying attention to the cruise line. Everyone was listening to Pastor Surratt tweeting away on the cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Fortunately no passengers were injured.
Disaster Strikes the Star Princess
Real tragedy struck passengers on Princess' Star Princess cruise ship in 2006.
A fire began on a balcony and quickly destroyed several hundred cabins and killed a passenger, Richard Liffridge of Georgia. We represented Mr. Liffridge's children in litigation against Princess.
The cause of the fire was a cigarette being flicked over an upper balcony. Some of the Princess cruise ships are designed with the balconies of the lower cabins jutting out (photographs below).
So if anything - like a cigarette - is thrown out from an upper balcony, it will land in the balconies below. This created an obvious fire hazard, particularly considering that the balcony chairs and balcony partitions were highly combustible and none of the balconies had heat detectors or sprinkler systems.
Princess knew about the danger, but chose to simply place a sticker on the sliding glass doors stating: "fire hazard - do not throw cigarette ends over the side."
Hoping a smoker won't flick his or her cigarette butts over the rail is wishful thinking - and Princess had no fire suppression systems in place to deal with a balcony fire. The balcony furniture and partitions acted like kindling wood, ready to explode into flames.
Mr. Liffridge's children's story was widely reported, including in an article in the Dover Post, which is re-printed below:
"Siblings Take on Cruise Line after Father’s Death"
Richard Liffridge’s children intend to make sure no other family endures the heartbreak they must bear for the rest of their lives.
An Air Force tech sergeant who retired at Dover Air Force Base, Liffridge and his wife Vicky were on a Caribbean cruise March 23 when a fire broke out aboard their ship, the Star Princess. The fire damaged or destroyed 283 cabins – and killed Liffridge.
Shortly thereafter, Phil Liffridge and his sisters, Michele Norris and Doris Henry, all of Dover, and Lynnette Hudson of Bear, set up the non-profit Richard Liffridge Foundation in honor of their father. Their goal is to bring about tougher fire regulations aboard cruise ships and to lobby for legislation to make cruise ships safer.
They also plan a wrongful death lawsuit against Princess Cruises, owners of the Bahamas-registered Star Princess.
The official report on the fire, published Oct. 23 by the British Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), placed the blame on an unknown smoker whose cigarette ignited plastic partitions and furniture on one of the stateroom balconies surrounding the exterior of the ship. While room sprinklers kept the blaze from spreading to the interior, choking black smoke from the burning plastic blocked inboard escape routes.
Awakened by fire alarms shortly after 3 a.m., Liffridge and Vicky struggled out of their stateroom and into a hallway, but failed to reach fresh air. Vicky was one of 13 people later treated for smoke inhalation.
Liffridge succumbed to the toxic fumes, his death at first attributed to a heart attack.
The picture of health
“I said, ‘Yeah, right,” Henry said of the news her father had died of a coronary.
At the age of 72, Liffridge had the look and energy of a man 10 years his junior. He was self-conscious about his weight, so he ate properly and exercised regularly at a basement gym in his Locust Grove, Ga., home, Henry said. Her father enjoyed traveling and he and Vicki rarely missed the chance to socialize with their friends.
The cruise was a belated celebration of Liffridge’s birthday, which had taken place March 11.
“He was at the peak of his life,” Henry said.
“Who would have thought he’d be celebrating his birthday and then have so much tragedy?” Norris said.
Although they stop short of accusing the cruise line of deliberate insensitivity, Liffridge’s children feel the Princess Cruise officials were slow to react to the aftermath of the tragedy. Even though Hudson was listed as an emergency contact, no one from the cruise line called to notify her, they said. They found out about their father’s death when their distraught stepmother telephoned from Jamaica, seven hours after the fire was extinguished.
The cruise line also seemed more interested in smoothing things over with survivors whose vacations had been interrupted by the fire than with helping her family, Hudson said.
“They were focused on taking care of people who were inconvenienced, not on the family of the man who died,” Hudson said.
While the cruise line made sure the Star Princess’ passengers got a rebate for the incomplete cruise and a discount on their next excursion, the Liffridge family had to pay to have their father’s remains returned to the United States, Hudson said.
A start, but more needs to be done
Cruise lines, including Princess, started replacing plastic balcony dividers and furniture soon after the Star Princess fire and are acting on additional MAIB recommendations that include posting extra fire watches aboard ship. The United Nations-sponsored International Maritime Organization also is set to discuss new balcony fire safety requirements this December.
But more needs to be done, according to the Liffridge family.
Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., is co-sponsoring legislation in Congress that would require cruise ships calling at U.S. ports to report incidents involving U.S. citizens within four hours. Working through the Liffridge Foundation, the siblings also hope to influence Congress to ban smoking on cruise ships, except within designated areas.
Despite these efforts, Hudson and her sisters and brother know they’re just reacting to an industry that failed to be proactive.
And although they realize their lobbying efforts and the wrongful death lawsuit, if successful, won’t bring their father back, it may help him rest easier.
“Our focus is to make sure this never happens again,” Hudson said.
“No amount of money will replace our loss,” she added. “The main thing for us is that another family does not have to go through this like we did.”
Lynnette Hudson - Joins The International Cruise Victims Organization
Mr. Liffridge's daughter Lynnette Hudson, who was appointed the personal representative of her father's estate, joined the International Cruise Victims organization. She was asked to testify before Congress and proposed recommendations to prevent other families from suffering through similar tragedies.
Her Congressional written submission to Congress can be viewed here.
Ms. Hudson later boarded the cruise ship after it had been repaired and inspected the external heat detectors and sprinkler systems which were installed after her father's death.
Ms. Hudson is shown pointing to the heat detectors and sprinklers. Although all Princess cruise ships have been retrofitted with sprinkler systems on the cabin's balconies, not all cruise lines sailing today have such safety systems.
In her Congressional testimony, Ms. Hudson expressed her fear that other families may face the risks of a cruise fire which killed her father:
"CLIA tells us that by the year 2010 twenty million passengers will sail on cruise ships. Visions of these passengers flicking their cigarettes over the rails as unsuspecting passengers are asleep in their cabins, with no fire detectors or sprinklers instantly comes to mind . . . "
What have cruise lines learned over the course of the last ten years? Is the cruise industry ready for the next fire on a cruise ship filled with several thousands of passengers?
Maritime & admiralty lawyer & attorney James M. Walker of Walker & O'Neill Law Firm, offering services related to injuries, sexual assaults, fires, negligence, rapes & disappearances on cruise ships, pirate & terrorist attacks, missing passengers, shore excursions, wrongful death and the Jones Act, serving cruise passengers, crew members, cabin attendants, utility workers, waiters, bar tenders, ship doctors and cleaners on cruise ships worldwide.
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