Royal Caribbean Uses Illegal Lobbyist to Conceal Cruise Fares

Over the years, Royal Caribbean has been sued by the State of Florida for antitrust violations for its confusing advertisements. The cruise line previously agreed to end its misleading advertised cruise fares, including failing to reveal hidden fuel supplements. An agreement signed by cruise executive Adam Goldstein is attached. Royal Caribbean and sister company paid a settlement of $21,000,000.

But it doesn't seem like Royal Caribbean learned its lesson.

The Tampa Bay Times has exposed shenanigans between Royal Caribbean and the former and present Pam Bondi Tom McCollum Royal CaribbeanFlorida Attorney Generals which suggest that the cruise line is still trying to conceal the true price of a Royal Caribbean cruise fare.   

Royal Caribbean hired former Attorney General Bill McCollum last year to meet with his successor, current Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Royal Caribbean's general counsel Brad Stein in an effort to conceal the true costs of its cruise fare. 

The Tampa Bay Times writes: "Royal Caribbean's advertised rates would no longer have to include fees for services like baggage handling and loading cargo. The fees, which can inflate a trip's cost by more than $100, could be listed separately from the company's advertised rates." 

The Times explains that McCollum didn't register himself or his client Royal Caribbean with the state "which is a requirement for anyone who lobbies the executive branch." 

McCollum claims that as a lawyer he's exempt from registering as a lobbyist.

McCollum's firm contributed $650,000 to Bondi's re-election campaign over a two year period.  

In my view, it seems that the Republican controlled Florida Attorney General is open for secret Royal Caribbean Cruisesbusiness for her friends and corporations lacking transparency like Royal Caribbean. 

Earlier this year the Miami Herald reported that John Fox, Royal Caribbean Cruises' vice president for government relations, met with the chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Commission and voiced the cruise line's opposition to a proposal to build a new soccer stadium next to the cruise company's headquarters at the Port of Miami. 

Miami-Dade rules require company principals to register if they are going to discuss items pending before the county with government officials.

Royal Caribbean called the lack of registration an "oversight."

 

Photo Credit:  Rick Flagg, Florida Broadband News

Cruise Line International Association Gobbles Up Smaller Cruise Associations

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) announced today that eight cruise line groups have agreed to be merged with CLIA in order to operate under a common organization.    

The associations are the European Cruise Council (ECC), Asia Cruise Association (ACA), Passenger Shipping Association (PSA/ACE), France's AFCC, Brazil's ABREMAR, Northwest and Canada Cruise Association (NWCCA), Alaska Cruise Association (ACA), and International Cruise Council Australasia (ICCA).

CLIA will be governed by what it is calling a "Global Executive Committee," chaired by Carnival Corporation Chief Operating Officer Howard Frank.

Christine Duffy will continue as the President and CEO of CLIA.

Cruise Line International AssociationThe new CLIA global organization will represent the cruise industry at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) based in London, and the International Labour Organization in Geneva.

The CLIA press release is silent regarding what new member lines will be joining CLIA.

In my view, the consolidation of these smaller cruise groups under the CLIA umbrella will strengthen South Florida-based CLIA's lobbying efforts world-wide and also infuse CLIA with additional money from the additional cruise line members. It may also help CLIA deal with critics of the cruise industry's environmental practices, cruise ship crime issues, and exploitation of cruise employees.

The inclusion of these various cruise organization under one roof is the natural evolution of the multi-national cruise lines increasing their control of the international cruise industry. 

Did the Cruise Industry Sabotage the New Cruise Crime Law?

The Arizona Central newspaper published a blockbuster article this morning, Law Withholds Cruise Safety Information, which reveals how the cruise industry avoids reporting crimes.

In 2010, Congress passed a federal law which requires cruise lines to report missing passengers, murders, sexual assaults, and other crimes on cruise ships. Over the years there has been great debate over the frequency of crimes during cruises.  Some experts have reported that the likelihood of being a victim of rape is twice as high on a cruise ship compared to on land, whereas cruise lines conclude - without reference to actual statistics - that cruise crime is "rare."

Cruise Ship CrimeThe new law, called the "Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act," was designed to force greater transparency from cruise lines regarding just how many women are raped and children molested during cruises. But instead of revealing the true number of crimes which take place, the new law permits cruise lines to cover the crimes up. 

As originally written, the law required the Coast Guard to post on an internet site, "a numerical accounting of the missing persons and alleged crimes . . ." However, shortly before the bill was enacted into law, the language was changed to "a numerical accounting of the missing persons and alleged crimes . . . that are no longer under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

As the article explains, this means that the public is not allowed to see reports of:

  • Cases handled only by the cruise lines; 
  • Cases not investigated by the FBI; 
  • Cases under active investigation by the FBI; and
  • Cases left open after the FBI files charges.

The result is that only a tiny fraction of cruise ship crimes are being disclosed to the public. The Arizona Central newspaper states:

"The public is not allowed to see reports of all alleged crimes aboard ships. Where the FBI once publicly reported more than 400 crimes a year, only six crimes on ships in the past nine months have been listed on the public database. And cases not investigated by the FBI -- for example, allegations handled by a ship's security staff -- never will be reported in the database under the new law."

6 crimes on 200 gigantic floating cities?  Give me a break. Earlier this year I reported on 13 sexual crimes committed by a single pedophile crewmember on just a couple of Cunard cruise ships. None of these crimes against little kids ever found their way onto the database. Hundreds of thousands of parents booked cruises and took their kids into the cruise ships' "playzones" without knowing a child predator worked there. That's exactly how the cruise lines want the cruise crime law to work.  

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization worked hard for six years to see that the new cruise law came into effect.  The cruise industry and its trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA), fought tooth and nail against the ICV.  But at the last minute, CLIA dropped its opposition to the new law.

I attended the five Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. leading up to the new law (including the June 19 2008 hearing before the Senate, photo below).  I remember thinking that it was funny (i.e., odd, Cruise Ship Safety Hearing strange, suspicious) that CLIA rolled over at the last minute.  Well, now it's clear, the cruise lines were just playing possum.

Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are full of former FBI agents and Coast Guard officials who go into the private sector to make the big bucks working for the cruise lines at the end of their careers.  

While the victims of cruise ship rapes and families of missing cruise passengers were celebrating the passage of the cruise crime bill, the cruise lines were at work with their former colleagues at the FBI and Coast Guard to water the language of the new law down.

The newspaper quotes a FBI spokesperson Denise Ballew saying "We are not at liberty to discuss any information we may have fed into the legislative review process." 

Before the cruise crime bill passed, cruise lines were self-regulating and not required to report crimes that took place in international waters.  Now, there is a law but it was subverted to provide greater secrecy for the cruise industry than ever before.

Cruise lines can now safely hide before the loopholes that were inserted at the last minute without the knowledge of the cruise victims' organization.  The result is that the public cannot learn of the actual number of crimes on cruise ships.

Take a look at the cruise crime statistics here.  They are a joke.   

Let's hope that Congress will not let cruise lines get away with these shenanigans.  Congress needs to change the language of the bill back to as originally drafted.  Otherwise, families thinking of cruising will be tricked and their family members potentially victimized if they rely on this incomplete and deceiving information. 

 

June 10, 2012 Update:  USA Today re-printed the article and there are some brutally honest comments being made in the comment section about the cruise industry, corporate lobbying, Federal government and FBI and pay-offs & sell-outs . . .  

Cruise Lobbyist Michael Crye to Leave CLIA

Fairplay reports today that Michael Crye, a lawyer and long time lobbyist for the cruise industry, will soon be leaving the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Lines International Association ("CLIA"). Fairplay does not mention where Mr. Crye is going. 

Mr. Crye used to be the president of the old International Council of Cruise Lines ("ICCL") in the early to mid 2000's. ICCL was the cruise industry trade association before the lobbying duties shifted to CLIA.

Michael Crye - CLIA Mr. Crye's background was with the U.S. Coast Guard for 25 years, from the early 1970's to the mid 1990's. He parlayed his Coast Guard experience into a career as a Washington DC lobbyist for the cruise lines.

Mr. Crye was the face of the cruise industry when our U.S. Congress began to focus on cruise ships disappearances and sexual assaults around 2005.  

He appeared before a series of Congressional sub-committees which were investigating incidents of passengers going overboard on the high seas following the high profile disappearance case of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise in July 2005.

Mr. Crye was not a particularly warm and fuzzy fellow.  Some thought he was symbolic of the cruise industry's arrogance and indifference to families who lost loved ones on cruises.

I will never forget his performances at the Congressional hearings after women testified about being raped on cruises or when cruise honeymooner George Smith vanished on the high seas under disturbing circumstances.  When the cruise industry faced embarrassment over Royal Caribbean's mis-handling of Mr. Smith's disappearance, Mr. Crye told an AP reporter " it's difficult if someone chooses to do harm to themselves . . . "   

One of the best know photos of Mr. Crye was taken at the Congressional hearing in December 2005, as he sat in front of George Smith's mother Maureen, and his widow, Jennifer Hagel. 

One of the amusing things I liked to to watch following Congressional cruise hearings was what I called the "Crye exit." Mr. Crye, the lawyer, would sit behind the CLIA president (Terry Dale or Christine Duffy) while they testified.  At the end of the hearing, Mr. Crye would quickly escort the CLIA president up to Michael Crye - CLIAshake hands with the Congressmen and Congresswomen.  After exchanging pleasantries, he and the cruise line witness would make a beeline for the rear exit of the hearing room.  Mr. Crye would quickly take the CLIA president down a hallway, out a rear door, and into an elevator.  

This way the CLIA witness could avoid interacting with the cruise victims' family members and answering the press' questions.  

In addition to safety issues, Mr. Crye was a leading spokesperson on behalf of the cruise lines on regulatory issues, such as trying to avoid waste-water restrictions and air emission controls on cruise ships. 

Mr. Crye's last public appearance on television was in a documentary earlier this year entitled "Ships of Shame."  Mr. Crye appears around the 5:23 mark.  He makes an extremely nervous defense of the cruise industry's safety record.  

You can watch the video here

 

 Photo credit:  Top - Kevin Wolf / AP

Cruise Industry Spent $2,505,094 Lobbying Congress This Year, $36,389,955 Since 1997

Cruise Line International Association CLIA Lobby CongressBusiness Week reports that the Cruise Lines International Association ("CLIA") spent $453,444 lobbying the federal government in the second quarter this year.

CLIA is the cruise industry's trade organization which promotes the interests of the cruise industry. 

It lobbied Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, and the U.S. Coast Guard on issues such as vessel sanitation, safety and security.

Professor Ross Klein maintains a data base of the cruise industry's lobbying on his popular cruise site "Cruise Junkie."  

CLIA has spent a total of $1,644,094 so far this year (six months).  Royal Caribbean alone has spent an additional $741,000 lobbying Congress, with Holland America Lines and a Carnival / Arison family group spending $120,000 each.   The total money spent by the cruise industry so far this year is $2,505,094.

CLIA and the cruise lines have spent $36,389,955 since 1997 lobbying the U.S. Congress and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lobbyfederal agencies. 

Royal Caribbean spent over $6,000,000 in the last five years, during a time when most of the cruise crime hearings involved incidents which occurred on Royal Caribbean ships.

To understand how the foreign flagged cruise industry uses its tax free money to lobby U.S. Congressmen and Congresswomen, consider reading:

Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act

Cruise Industry Spent $400,000 Last Quarter Lobbying Against Safety & Environmental Regulations

Cruise Industry Spent $490,000 Lobbying Congress & Federal Agencies in First Three Months of 2011

Forbes is reporting that the Cruise Lines International Association ("CLIA"), the trade trade group which promotes the interests of the cruise industry, spent $490,650 in the first quarter this year, lobbying the U.S. government. 

The cruise industry lobbied Congress, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs & Board Protection, State Department, Homeland Security Department, Transportation Department, Justice Department on a number of matters, including  vessel quarantine and safety issues.

 

Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act

Today the Senate will debate amending the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA) to permit the families of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion to recover compensation for their emotional damages for losing their husbands and fathers.  The House of Representatives previously voted to amend DOHSA.

We have discussed the inequities in this archaic law which has been denying just compensation to families for 90 years.  

Senator Rockefeller introduced the "Fairness In Admiralty and Maritime Law Act" (S 3600), which Senator LeMieux - Cruise Industry - Oil & Gas Supporterwill permit recovery of compensation for the families of oil workers, cruise cruise passengers and crew members on maritime vessels killed in international waters. 

But the cruise industry has unleashed its lobbyists to work the Senators over to try and kill the amendment and exclude the families of cruise passenger and crew members from the Rockefeller amendment.  With the urging of the cruise lines, Florida Republican Senator LeMieux (left) introduced an amendment to exclude everyone except the BP widows from compensation.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is once against trying to strip the rights of cruise passengers and crew members.  CLIA's Michael Crye (below right) has been working with the cruise industry's lobbyists. 

CLIA has assembled its usual cast of characters to try and kill the Senator Rockefeller's amendment to DOHSA, including the Alcalde & Fay lobbying firm.  The cruise lines have paid millions to the lobbyists at Alcalde & Fay.  

Cruise Line International Association - Micahel Crye - CLIACruise Law News (CLN) has learned that Alcalde & Fay lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi (below left) and Harold (Hal) Creed, have been been working with Senator LeMieux's staffers to grow support for the cruise industry's interests.  This means that when a cruise line's negligence kills a retired passenger or child, the surviving family is barred from receiving compensation.   

Senator LeMieux has made a deal with Alaskan Senator Begich to support LeMieux if Begich's study amendment passes.  A classic I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine.  Alaskan Senator Inouye's staff has been communicating with LeMieux's staff.

The Alcalde & Fay people have been pressuring Senator Nelson but have been unable to obtain his commitment to join forces with Senator LeMieux.  Ms. Bondi met with Senator Cantwell's Chief of Staff yesterday. 

Tabdy Bondi - Alcalde & Fay - Cruise Line Lobbyist Alcalde & Fay's consensus is that the Republicans will support LeMieux, so they are working on lobbying the Democrats.  Today they will be releasing a letter from the coalition of industries which are trying to keep the passengers and crew members from being included in DOHSA.

One of the coalition members is the American Waterways Operators (AWO), which is the trade association for the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry. 

The AWO's Jennifer Campbell (Senior Vice President - National Advocacy) and Chris Coakley (Vice President - Legislative Affairs) have been lobbying on behalf of the AWO.  Ms. Campbell has been calling the Senators to try and derail the expansion of DOHSA, and Mr. Coakley has been walking the halls of Congress. 

The AWO lobbyist have been placing alot of pressure on Senator Vitter, who is in a key position Cruise LIne International Association - CLIA - BPbeing from Louisiana which is at the epicenter of the BP disaster. 

It is an amazing spectacle seeing the cruise industry using Senator LeMieux as a front man for its nefarious interests.  The cruise lines have a big industry shill in their hands.  Before he was a Senator, LeMieux lobbied heavily for offshore drilling by companies like BP off of the coast of Florida - a story which the St. Petersburg Time published BP - CLIA - Cruise Line International Associationlast year.

So we have kindred spirit companies, the cruise lines and BP and their maritime and oil & gas industry friends, teaming up to fight against the families to deprive them of their DOHSA remedies which are desperately needed to protect innocent people killed on the high seas.  

Two dirty industries are paying millions to their lobbyists to put profits over people again.     

Consider reading:

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense 

What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common? 

Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families

Will BP and the Cruise Industry Join Forces to Screw Americans?

 

Senator Le Mieux - BP - Cruise Lines - CLIA - Alcalde & Fay

Governor Parnell Gets Punked

Stein Kruse Scold Alaskan Governor ParnellEarlier this week, I attended the "Cruise Shipping Miami" convention here in Miami and reported on the threats against Alaska's Governor Parnell leveled by Holland American Lines' CEO Stein Kruse to pull HAL cruise ships from Alaska. (photo courtesy Travel Agent Central)

As we all know, HAL is wholly owned by Carnival and Kruse reports directly to Carnival CEO and multi-billionaire Mickey Arison.  Mickey has been threatening Alaska ever since the state's voters passed legislation to protect its waters from major polluters like HAL, Princess Cruises and other subsidiaries of Carnival who cruise to Alaska.       

But the issue is not the $50 head tax, as Carnival's lackeys argue.  Its the fact that Alaska has serious environmental regulations which the cruise industry wants to avoid. 

Did the cruise industry's tongue lashing and finger pointing work?  Newspapers like the Alaska Daily News and the Alaska Journal are now reporting that the Governor now wants to reduce the cruise head tax by 25% and make Alaska more conducive to attracting cruise ships.  

In exchange for lower taxes, the cruise industry would drop its lawsuit to repeal the tax and send Alaska Governor Parnell - I promise to do what the cruise lines tell me to do more ships to Alaska. 

The fact that these huge cruise ships burn nasty bunker fuels and discharge massive amount of ammonium, phosphorus, and fecal matter into Alaskan waters was probably not a topic of conversation when Governor Parnell (right) was chatting  with the cruise line executives. 

Alaskan voters previously voted in favor of the cruise tax to protect its waters.  Who did Governor Parnell pledge his allegiance to?  The citizens of Alaska, or the Miami-based cruise lines?  

Wiggling out of Alaska's laws will be the cruise industry's next step.  Cruise lines don't like to be regulated, especially where Alaska's environmental regulations cause the cruise industry to spend money on state-of-the-art wastewater technology.

 

Credits:

Cruise line executives       Travel Agent Central

Cruise Industry Spent $400,000 Last Quarter Lobbying Against Safety & Environmental Regulations

Cruise Line International Association - CLIA - Lobbying Today Business Week published an article "Cruise Trade Group Spends $400K on 4Q Lobbying" which is re-printed, unedited, as follows:

"Cruise Lines International Association spent almost $400,000 in the fourth quarter to lobby on security and environmental issues along with other matters, according to a recent disclosure report.

The trade group that represents cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival also lobbied the federal government on legislation related to seaport inspections, customs matters, sanitation and health laws, quarantine procedures, international health requirements and crime reporting.

In the October-through-December period, the trade group, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., lobbied both chambers of Congress, along with the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control Cruise Line International Association - CLIA - Eric Ruff - Washington Insiderand Prevention, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Transportation Security Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a disclosure report filed in January with the House clerk's office."

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is the organization which promotes the interests of the cruise industry and lobbies Congress and federal agencies to avoid as much Federal regulation as possible. 

The $400,000 from CLIA is in addition to the millions of dollars spent in lobbying by the individual cruise lines.  For example cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein reports that Royal Caribbean alone spent over $3,000,000 for lobbyists for the last three years.  

The lawyers here at Cruise Law have attended five Congressional hearings where CLIA fought against safety laws and resisted reporting cruise crimes to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the U.S. Coast Guard.  

CLIA has a strange group of bedfellows:  

CLIA's Vice President of Communications is Eric Ruff (photograph above, far left with glasses) who was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's spokesperson who helped sell the U.S. on the war against Iraq.  He is now responsible for CLIA's "public policy."  Mr. Ruff is using his experience gained at Cruise Line International Association - CLIA - Terry Dale  the Department of Defense to fight the war against cruise crime regulations and environmental restrictions which may require the cruise industry to spend some of its tax free money to protect passengers and public waters.    

CLIA's President is Terry Dale (photograph left) who had the unenviable job of appearing before Congress and testifying against cruise line rape victims.  His half-hearted and ultimately losing argument, that cruising is safe and there is no need to report crimes, failed to convince Congress and further tarnished the cruise line's already battered and dubious public image.       

Another Vice President is Michael Crye (photograph below right).  As down to earth as a Brooks-Brothers-suit-with-extra-starch, Mr. Crye's title involves "technical and regulatory affairs," but he  routinely shows up at Congressional cruise crime hearings to belittle crime victims.  He is most infamous for accusing missing Royal Caribbean passenger George Smith of being responsible for his own "disappearance" during his 2005 honeymoon cruise.   

There is a lot at stake for the cruise industry.  The CLIA cruise lines, like Carnival, Norwegian and Cruise Line International Association - CLIA - Michael Crye Royal Caribbean, collect around $35,000,000,000 (billion) a year from mostly U.S. tax-paying citizens yet the cruise lines pay no U.S. taxes. Because of Congressional loopholes, U.S. based cruise companies - which register their businesses and flag their cruise ships in foreign countries - can avoid all U.S. taxes and safety and labor laws.

CLIA and the cruise lines are spending millions a year to make certain that Congress doesn't touch their tax free status and they can continue to skirt U.S. laws.  

In contrast to the cruise industry's multi-million dollar lobbying machine full of Washington insiders - Americans across the U.S. volunteering for the non-profit, grass roots organization International Cruise Victims (ICV) have traveled to Washington D.C. to keep the cruise industry accountable for crimes on cruise ships.  To see what an unfunded but dedicated group of victims can accomplish, consider reading:

Congress Passes Cruise Crime Law 

Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4

Ken Carver Fights for Cruise Ship Safety  

International Cruise Victims - ICV - Ron and Sue DiPieroThe photograph (left) shows Ron and Sue DiPiero of Ohio, who lost their son Daniel on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, outside their Congressman's office in Washington D.C.       

The DiPieros are fighting for a reform of the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) which provides no recovery for the emotional injuries sustained by grieving families who have lost a loved one on a cruise ship in international waters. 

The cruise industry has spent millions of dollars to make certain that families like the DiPieros are deprived of their rights:

The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years  

Cruise Industry Tries to Kill Amendment to Death on the High Seas Act    

 

For additional information regarding cruise industry lobbying, please read:

Lobbying Congress - Dirty Waters: The Politics of Ocean Pollution.  

 

Credits:

Eric Ruff     AP via politico.com

Terry Dale    cruiselaw's Flickr photostream

Michael Crye    seatrade-global.com