King 5 TV reports that there has been a drop in the number of departures of cruise ship and cruise passengers through Seattle.
The video below features the Carnival Miracle which arrived back in Seattle after a cruise to Alaska.
805,000 passengers and 178 cruise ships will pass through Seattle during the May-September cruise season. That's compared to 870,000 passengers and 187 ships in 2013, and 934,900 passengers and 202 vessels in 2012.
The estimated drop of 8% in passengers equates to a loss of $30 million hit to the local economy.
The seafood businesses and selling fresh salmon at Pike Place Market are a major attraction to cruise passengers arriving in Seattle.
I'm currently in Seattle with my law partner (and spouse). We attended a vessel inspection of the Carnival Miracle yesterday.
USA TODAY / 10 BEST Announce John Heald As Best Cruise Blogger, Cruise Law News Comes In Sixth Place
USA TODAY / 10 BEST announced the winners today in the "10Best Readers’ Choice New Media Award for Best Cruise Blogger."
An initial list of 20 cruise bloggers was selected by a panel of experts. The experts were USA TODAY Cruise Log blogger Gene Sloan, long-time Cruise Diva Linda Coffman, Doug Parker with Cruise Radio, and Stewart Chiron a/k/a The Cruise Guy. All of these expert bloggers could have been picked as top 5 cruise bloggers themselves.
After the initial list of 20 was selected, the "top 10" cruise bloggers were determined by popular vote. John Heald (photo right), the witty Cruise Director for Carnival, seems to have won in a land-slide.
Our blog came in 6th place, not a bad result considering that many people consider me the "anti-cruise" blogger. I am surprised that Cruise Law News was voted that high.
Here is the top ten list:
- John Heald - John Heald's Blog
- Matt Hochberg - Royal Caribbean Blog
- Anita Dunham-Potter - Expert Cruiser
- Scott Sanders - Disney Cruise Line Blog
- Chris Gray Faust - Cruise Critic's The Lido Deck
- Jim Walker - Cruise Law News
- Fran Golden - Porthole Cruise News
- Chris Owen - Chris Cruises
- Danielle Fear - Cruise Miss
- Sherry Laskin - Cruise Maven
The other ten nominees included Aaron Saunders (From the Deck Chair), Anne Campbell (Ship Critic Blog), Carrie Finley-Bajak (Cruise Buzz Blog), Jason Leppert (Popular Cruising), John Honeywell (Captain Greybeard), Linda Garrison (About.com Cruises), Mike Faust (Cruise Currents Blog), Paul Motter (CruiseMates Blog), Peter Knego (Peter Knego’s Sea Treks and Peter Knego's Decked!), Ralph Grizzle (Avid Cruiser), and Steve Newman (Time Spent At Sea).
I voted for Peter Knego's blogs on Maritime Matters.
Thanks to everyone who voted for us.
Yes, it's true that our blog is often viewed as "negative." But the voting proves that there are cruise fans out there who like to hear the "con" as well as the "pro" aspects of cruising and understand that being forewarned is being forearmed!
Thanks again and safe cruising!
Photo Credit: Carnival Corporation
The murder of the three Jewish boys in the West Bank last week was about the worst thing I have heard of recently until learning of the retaliatory murder of the 16 year old Palestinian boy whose burned body was found in East Jerusalem.
Hamas and Israel are now exchanging rocket and bomb strikes.
This afternoon, a Facebook friend working on a cruise ship contacted me saying that a German TV channel reported that the German cruise ship AIDA DIVA was hit by debris from rockets fired between the Israel & Hamas forces.
There are several news accounts of the incident (below) but it is less than clear who is shooting at whom at this point.
Read for yourself what the news reports are saying:
The mother of the dead Palestinian boy and the mother of one of the Jewish boys are pleading for a cease-fire.
Photo Credit: AP/dpa via express.de
The Miami Herald just published an article about Arnold Donald, who has now spent one year at the helm of Carnival Corporation after Micky Arison selected him following a series of disasters (Costa Concordia, Carnival Triumph, etc.) The article is entitled One Year In, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald is Working to Right the Ship.
Unfortunately, the Herald article is mostly a feel-good piece. The reporter interviewed only Mr. Donald's friends, other cruise executives or financial analysts. It contained absolutely no critical insight into Mr. Donald.
There's no question that Mr. Donald is an interesting and impressive fellow, growing up in up in New Orleans as a child and overcoming the challenges which came with being an African-American born in the 1950's in the deep south. He excelled as a student and became a successful executive of chemical-giant Monsanto Corporation. He's certainly no born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth Micky Arison.
But what has he done for the crew members, who are the heart and soul of the company, after joining Carnival?
In my assessment, Carnival cruise ship employees are collectively in their worst shape in the forty-plus history of the company. They are working harder than ever before for less money and fewer benefits. Shortly after Mr. Donald appeared on the scene, Carnival gutted the meager retirement benefits of its crew members. I mentioned the massacre of the retirement program in an article entitled Cruise CEO Arnold Donald's First Blunder: Carnival Guts Crew Retirement Benefits.
Like other cruise line employees, Carnival crew members have no union representation and no bargaining power. Carnival can easily exploit them. Mr. Donald has taken the exploitation to a higher level.
You can read the thoughts and comments of Carnival ship employees in this article on our Facebook page.
Mr. Donald has also drawn the ire of unionized workers in a company, Crown Holdings, in Canada where he sits on the board of directors. Crown became involved in a labor dispute after it demanded that Crown's new employees agree to wage cuts. When the union employees would not agree, Crown replaced them with non-union workers.
In response to Mr. Donald's actions, the United Steel Workers (USW) of Canada recently organized a boycott of Carnival cruise brands. The boycott includes the million-member Ontario Labor Federation and the 500,000-member Congress of Union Retirees of Canada.
Terminating employees for complaining about working conditions or wages is nothing new for Carnival. In 2012, Carnival fired and black-balled 150 cruise ship waiters from India who protested low wages.
Mr. Donald has an interesting past and he brings a dynamic personality to Carnival. But he's the perfect business executive to continue the cruise giant's exploitation of its crew members.
Photo Credit: Top - Businessweek via Power in a Union; bottom - LaborNotes.org.
I returned from a two week vacation last week to find that our blog was picked as one of the top 20 cruise blogs by readers of USA TODAY.
The newspaper and "10 Best" are now asking the public to pick the best blog out of this group. At the end of the voting on July 11th, a "top 10" list will be published.
The USA TODAY top 20 list includes many of the bloggers who I have picked in the past: Chris Cruise, Captain Greybeard, CruiseMates, Expert Cruiser, Peter Knego's Decked (Maritime Matters)(which is really outstanding), and Cruise Maven.
At the moment, Carnival Cruise Director John Heald is the top vote receiver.
I was surprised that this blog made the list. The other 19 bloggers promote the cruise industry and never criticize it. Our motto, on the other hand, is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
The voting continues for the next three weeks. You can vote once everyday.
News accounts of violent crime against both tourists and residents in the Bahamas continue to be regularly published in the international and local press.
David Jessop, the Managing Director of the Caribbean Council, has written insightful articles this year regarding the damage to the image of the Bahamas caused by articles in social media regarding such crime. He states that that the Bahamas, like other Caribbean islands, doesn't have the social media skills necessary to promptly and effectively minimize damage to the country's reputation when tourists become victims of violent criminal acts. I suggest reading his articles: Social Media and Managing Reputation published in January, and Reputational Damage published a few days ago in the Bahamas Tribune.
But how does the Bahamas manage its reputation when its newspapers are regularly filled with gruesome stories of violence virtually every day?
On April 30th the local newspapers in the Bahamas reported that a jury acquitted three Bahamian men in their 20's of the "near-fatal stabbing" of a Canadian tourist, Mitchell Nini. Mr. Nini was stabbed 7 times in the chest, back and stomach when the thugs robbed a gold chain from Mr. Nini's friend.
I have written before that tourists injured during violent crimes in Nassau cannot find justice in the archaic Bahamian legal system, although the Bahamian tourist police seem effective in boarding cruise ships at the wharf and arresting U.S. citizens for small amounts of pot.
I first learned of the acquittal of Mr. Nini's attackers when his friends and family posted the news of the acquittal on Facebook and Twitter. The articles posted by his mother on Twitter indicate that the three men confessed to the crime but later claimed that the police beat them into signing the confessions.
The Canadian press published New Brunswick Man Warns of Traveling After Being Stabbed in Bahamas. The newspaper article shows a photo of Mr. Nini recovering from the vicious attack in the hospital while saying that tourists should stay clear of the island. He told the Global News "Whether you feel like you’re safe on the resort, as soon as you step off the resort you’re in a war zone.”
Mr. Nini's reference to a "war" is appropriate.
Bahamian Prime Minister Perrie Christie told that Tribune newspaper last week that the government is "developing new crime fighting strategies to win the 'war' that they are fighting against the 'hostile young men' in the capital."
Meanwhile, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader Branville McCartney made the news stating that he does not feel safe given the ongoing scourge of crime in the Bahamas. He told the Tribune “I don’t feel safe in this country . . . We live in paradise, but we are paralysed by fear. We are in prison in our own homes because of the criminal element running amuck in this country.”
There is good reason for even the politicians to be afraid of crime in Nassau. In December, the Acting Prime Minister Philip Davis was robbed at gunpoint. Then in January a police officer assigned to guard a residence of the Prime Minister Christie was arrested on suspicion of stealing a television at the residence. The latter is a petty crime I know, but you have to shake your head when the bad guys are bold enough to stick up the Acting Prime Minister and the police are stealing from the Prime Minister.
What's the response from the Bahamas to these and many other stories about trouble in paradise? I have received many comments from the citizens of the Bahamas chastising me for suggesting that the out-of-control crime in Nassau also exists throughout the many islands which make up the country. But there are too many stories about crime against tourists outside of Nassau as well.
Last month Edgar George Dart, a 56-year-old British citizen who lived in Canada, was shot and killed and slowly died in front of his family after three masked intruders burst into his mother's home in Freeport. And a 14 year-old U.S. girl was raped on one of the out islands just ten days ago.
Violent crime is a part of life in Nassau. Dangerous young men with knives and guns are menacing the residents and tourists alike. Do the families on Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise ships know that a war is raging in Nassau and even the top politicians in the Bahamas are afraid of crime and have been victimized themselves? How can a country even attempt to manage its reputation as a paradise for tourists when the local residents are paralyzed by fear?
Watch the video of Mr. Nini below:
Bahamas Weekly: The Bahamas - Still Paralyzed by Fear: "Over the past two weeks, newspaper headlines have recounted horrific stories of violence, murder and mayhem which have gripped communities here in New Providence and on Grand Bahama Island; cementing crime and the fear of crime as one of the country’s most pressing national issues."
Photo Credit: Global News
For the past week I have watched specials on television and read articles about the Korean ferry disaster when the Sewol capsized with several hundreds school children aboard.
I have been asked to provide interviews on CNN and radio talk shows.
All of the television and radio interviewers invariably asked about the similarities between the sinking of the Costa Concordia and the current disaster. I have been asked about the cowardly conduct and arrest of both captains, the erroneous information provided to the passengers on both vessels, the failure to deploy and utilize the lifeboats and life-rafts in a timely manner, and the unnecessary loss of life on both ships.
This afternoon CNN aired coverage about both the Sewol and Concordia disasters.
Today the New York Times published Duty and Shame as the Ship Sank.
In both the NYT article and the CNN video today, more time was spent talking about the Costa cruise disaster than the recent ferry mishap.
A survivor of the Concordia appeared on CNN this afternoon (photo below) and talked about her family's harrowing ordeal of escaping the sinking ship after Captain Schettino abandoned ship. She lamented that there is no international maritime organization with any real authority to require greater responsibility of the maritime companies which transport passengers.
The images of helicopters hovering over the stricken Korean ship and grieving families ashore appear indistinguishable from the Concordia disaster over two years ago.
The cruise industry has taken a beating in the last few years. More Concordia-like cowardly captains, dead passengers and dramatic news anchors on TV are not the type of images that sell cruise vacations.
The last two weeks has been an eye opener for knowledgeable tourists thinking of traveling to Roatan. A cruise line employee was gunned down near the port. The bloody death was widely reported in the local newspapers which published gruesome photographs of the dead crew member.
As a result, a major cruise line temporarily pulled out of Roatan. A major excursion company also canceled all tours of the island expressing concerns for the safety of cruise passengers.
The story revealed some disturbing information about the island. A number of tourists, some arriving by cruise ship and some by air going to dive, have been robbed at gun point and machete point this year.
Hundreds of people have left comments on our website and Facebook pages about what they think of Roatan. Many islanders and expatriates who bought homes and invested in businesses in Roatan swear that the beautiful island is perfectly safe. Others have stated that it is a dangerous place, with corrupt and/or incompetent/indifferent policemen, where crimes are covered up.
I have received a wide range of responses to my articles, including curses and threats from those who feel an obligation to protect the island's reputation, whether it be for sincere, patriotic reasons or in the calculated defense of their financial investments. I have also received comments from expatriates who have fled the island in fear, or who are stuck with their debt on the island, saying you-have-no-idea-how-bad-it-is-here.
The most expressive of expatriates in Roatan have informed me of the dangers they perceive presented by what they describe as the thugs in gangs or crack-heads desperate to feed their drug habits. These types intimidate the good people in the community who are afraid to swear out complaints to the police out of fear of retribution. There is animosity between the islanders and the people from the mainland where murders are so frequent as to earn Honduras the infamous designation of having the highest murder rate in the world since 2010. Honduras and the Bahamas are the only cruise destinations in the Caribbean with critical crime warnings from the U.S. State Department.
Some defenders of Roatan argue that things will get better and justice is possible in Roatan, pointing out that the police quickly apprehended the man who shot and killed the cruise line employee. (Photo above) But others point out that police work really didn't solve the murder. Rather, the mayor's $5,000 reward led to the alleged murderer's friends shooting him in the leg and then calling the cops for the reward money. Some people has posed the question to me - do you want to live in a place where a ship employee will be gunned down for a $250 cell phone and the crime will be solved only when the murderer's friends commit another crime by shooting him for a $5,000 reward?
It is with this backdrop that I read an article today in the Huffington Post entitled "Your Next Trip Should Be to Roatan, Honduras. Here's Why."
It's what I call a "puff-piece" by a travel writer, extolling the quiet "authentic island charm" and the "warm and friendly" people. There is no mention of murder or robbery or crime in the article - only images of the beautiful blue waters, the white sandy beaches, and the thick green forests of the "paradise island of Roatan."
The article has seemingly been liked and re-tweeted by virtually every resort, dive shop, and bar on Roatan.
Is Roatan the "paradise" portrayed by the article? The article mentioned several resorts and tourist attractions. Did the travel writer pay for her stay on the island or was this a quid-pro-quo great review for a free vacation?
Some people have warned me that if I travel to Roatan to check things out for myself, not to take a taxi or rent a car. Some of the tourists and locals have been held up by the taxi drivers. Tourists renting cars have been ambushed when they leave the main roads (photo right). If you complain to the police, I am told, there is an even chance the police will do nothing or, worse, they will be in cahoots with the crooks.
I have written before about travel writers ignoring crime and violence and painting a false and misleading image of travel destinations: Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.
As I said before, travel writers who ignore the murders and violence in the Caribbean ports are not doing anyone a favor. And they are providing a grave disservice to the next unsuspecting family who travels to Roatan blindly looking for paradise.
April 21 2014 Update: Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World
Read: Crime, What Crime? - Bay Village Voice January 2006
Photo Credit: Cruise Critic (bottom)
This week has been a public relations disaster for the cruise lines and the travel industry.
A Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member from the Norwegian Pearl was gunned down in Roatan after he walked off the ship to call his wife and check on his child back in the Philippines (suspect photo below right). A Disney crew member sexually molested a 13 year old girl on the Disney Dream. A visitor from Canada was murdered and his family terrorized in the Bahamas. A MSC cruise ship, the Magnifica, was raided by the police and labor officials in Brazil for human rights violations. Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ships infected hundreds and hundreds of guests with norovirus aboard the Grandeur of the Seas and the Crown Princess.
You can read about the stories here.
A month ago I attended the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM) and listened to NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan say: "we are ruled by public opinion; unless we can keep our business running right we will always be on defensive." The NCL boss added: "a period of operational excellence and no media incidents are needed."
A month ago I wrote that the continuous stories about mistreatment of crew members, sexual assaults, and children victimization will continue to damage the cruise industry's image. Its like reputation death by a thousand cuts. I heard no PR plan by the cruise lines at CSM to turn things around. I said at the time that the cruise lines were just "hanging in the balance hoping for the best."
Well the best didn't come and cruise executive Sheehan didn't get his prayer answered for "no media incidents."
This week Sheehan pulled his cruise ships out of Roatan after one of his crew members was murdered last Sunday, but the move is just temporary. His ships will again start calling on Roatan at some point. But the danger is still there. Many cruise passengers, from Carnival and Royal Caribbean, as well as other tourists, have been robbed at gunpoint or machete point in Roatan earlier this year.
Crime in Roatan will not magically stop. Other cruise tourists will undoubtedly be robbed. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world not to mention dysfunctional police and legal systems. Where do the cruise line go instead? Belize? The Bahamas? Their crime and murder rates are also some of the worst in the world.
Roatan, Belize, and the Bahamas are all beautiful but they are all dangerous places to visit. What families want to save up all year and go on a Caribbean vacation to get away from the stresses of their lives just to end up in some of the most dangerous countries in the world?
A new Harris Poll revealed that the cruise industry's image is sinking. The poll says that the U.S. public questions the safety and reliability of cruising. The poll cited the numerous norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships as one reason for the lack of confidence in the cruise industry. The poll was taken before the Roatan shooting or the Disney child molestation case this week.
Crime, Crew Member Treatment & Environmental Practices - Not "Wow" Gadgets - Will Shape the Millennials' View of Cruising in the Future
This week I have read a couple of articles about the Cruise Lines International Association's (CLIA) "Cruise 3 Sixty" conference in Fort Lauderdale. I read an article in the Sun Sentinel (Cruise Execs Talk About Industry's Future) and an article in Travel Weekly (CEOs Say Cruise Lines Must Wow Travelers).
CLIA's Christine Duffy moderated the conference attended by the travel agent loyals. She discussed the future of cruising with the executives of the major cruise lines like Richard Fain (Royal Caribbean), Arnold Donald (Carnival), Kevin Sheehan (NCL) and Pierfrancesco Vaga (MSC Cruises).
To attract more first-time cruisers, CLIA is targeting the "Millennials" (consumers born between 1980 & 2000).
The Sun Sentinel quotes Ms. Duffy saying: "This demographic group offers a window into the next generation of travelers and provides opportunity for serious growth. They have a strong desire to travel and to share experiences."
In simple terms Ms. Duffy is talking about the next generation of young people from age 14 to 34 (like my children and nieces) who CLIA is targeting as the next wave of 25 to 55 year-old cruisers.
Who are these "Millennials?" What will they be interested in for their vacations?
Selling cruises to the the "Millennials" will not be an easy task.
First, they are poorer than prior generations. They have more debt and student loans. And it won't be difficult to sell them cruises just because they will have lower incomes and less wealth. It's because there will be a disconnect between what the Millennials are interested in and what the cruise lines are offering, and because the Millennials will have a greater social consciousness than the current cruisers.
Wow Gadgets Won't Wow the Millennials
The articles report that the cruise industry is trying to attract more first time cruisers by offering the public "more innovative ships with 'wow' features."
A recent publication correctly called the Millennials "digital wizards." Like my kids, they have grown up with high tech gaming toys seemingly before they could walk or talk. I don't see the Millennials being impressed by the "gee-whizz" and so-called "wow" gadgets being touted by Royal Caribbean (virtual balconies & the "North Star" device) or Princess (the "SeaWalk"). The Millennials are smart and their taste for technology is sophisticated. My kids have been mastering Apple products for 15 years. They are not easily impressed with what I or the 60 and 70 year old cruise executives think are "cool."
Some of the new attractions touted by the cruise lines are hardly wow gadgets in the first place. The bumper cars projected to appear on Royal Caribbean's next ship are a silly, old-school idea. The Travel Weekly article even talks about "bowling alleys and self-leveling pool tables" and quotes Royal Caribbean's Chairman Richard Fain saying: "All of that conveys what cruising has to offer. It says something about what the industry stands for.” Circa 1950 bumper cars, bowling alleys, pool tables for the Millennials? You have to be kidding me.
The Millennials are less privileged, more diverse, and more liberal than today's cruisers. 4 out of 10 will not be white. They will be more sensitive to the plight of workers in the international community being over-worked and underpaid. They will be more attuned to environmental issues. They will have a greater understanding of the fragility of the air and water ecosystems that the cruise lines routinely abuse.
Human Rights, Not Bumper Cars
In the last three months, one cruise line in particular, MSC Cruises, has repeatedly made the news in the worst sort of way. Just this year, passengers and crew members have accused it of dumping garbage bags at seas in marine sanctuaries. The police and labor authorities raided one of MSC's ship to investigate allegations of the cruise line abusing crew members. MSC has drawn the ire of environmentalists by sailing through the San Marco basin and damaging the port in Venice.
The traditional newspapers, like the Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald, and travel publications like Travel Weekly, have given little attention to these type of horror stories.
The image of the cruise industry will be shaped by issues like crime on cruise ships (a Disney crew member allegedly molested a 13 year old girl yesterday), crime in ports of call (a NCL crew member was shot and killed this week in Roatan), treatment of crew members from around the world (Carnival & Royal Caribbean seem to be competing to see who can best screw the crew members), and the cruise industry's pollution of the air and sea (have you seen the videos of MSC dumping trash?)
These are important issues that the Millennials will focus on. In the next 10 to 20 years, we will see the continued rise of social media and the presence of more contemporary publications focusing on issues of relevance to the Millennials.
Old school newspapers, which often blindly cater to the cruise industry, will continue to decline in readership and relevance.
The bumper-car-and-pool-table and gadget-promoting cruise lines will lose the Millennials as customers unless they understand what the future really holds and begin to address issues of crime, crew member rights and environmental problems.
A Harris Poll released today reveals that the public has a lack of confidence in the reliability and safety of the cruise lines. Although the cruise industry was improving the public's perception of cruising, the numerous norovirus outbreaks aboard cruise line ships this year seem to have "effectively stolen the wind from the industry's collective sails."
Just this week, the Princess Cruises' Crown Princess experienced a norovirus outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced six prior gastrointestinal outbreaks this year. That's 7 so far this year, compared to 9 all of last year. The public is questioning the cruise lines' usual excuse that it is always the passengers' fault for not washing their hands, as there is evidence that many crew members work while ill in violation of the CDC protocols.
The Harris Poll reveals that the public's perceptions of "quality," "trust" and "purchase intent" are still below the scores before the Triumph debacle last year.
"We've all heard the saying that a rising tide lifts all boats," says Deana Percassi, Vice President and Public Relations Research Consultant with Nielsen, "but the inverse also holds true. In a field as crowded as the cruise industry, bad press for a small handful of brands – or even a single one – can have negative repercussions for major players across the board."
Americans continue to have more favorable attitudes toward air travel than toward cruises. Roughly six in ten think that air travel is much more reliable than taking cruises and a majority agree that air travel is much safer than taking cruises.
A majority of Americans also agree that they're less likely to take a cruise now than they were a year ago.
The cruise industry has also been rocked this year with a scandal that MSC Cruises has been dumping garbage bags at sea and have been exploiting its crew to the point that the police in Brazil had to raid a MSC cruise ship. Just this week, NCL decided to pull its cruise ships from Roatan following armed robbery of cruise passengers and the murder of a NCL crew member.
Last year, the cruise industry attacked the Harris Poll, accusing it of being "unscientific," "unreliable" and "flawed." The cruise lines, especially the trade group Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), always say this when there are unfavorable reports criticizing the cruise industry. It tries to discount its annual failed environmental cruise ship scores by the Friends of the Earth in this way too. Last week, CLIA said that it was "disappointed" by a study criticizing it for abusing crew members and the environment. It said the report was "unscientific" and "flawed."
Expect a similar statement from the spin masters at CLIA about the latest critical Harris Poll.
KTOO in Alaska published an article today entitled "Is Juneau Ready for a Cruise Ship Security Threat?
The article states that Juneau, which receives over 1,000,000 cruise passengers a year, is conducting an emergency exercise today involving a "cruise ship security threat."
The article quotes Emergency Programs Manager Tom Mattice saying that the emergency exercise involves cruise ship passengers and some type of "large-scale" security event.
Coast Guard employees, city officials, fire and rescue personnel, police officers, cruise line officials and relief organizations like the American Red Cross will be involved in the drill.
The city official calls this a "large-scale event" but that seems hardly true. A reader of our Facebook page sent us a link from the Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska requesting " . . . up to (40) enthusiastic volunteers to role play as victims/patients for sheltering, mental health and medical victims." No actual cruise ships will be involved.
Three dozen volunteers playing injured and no cruise ship in sight? That's hardly a realistic or "large scale" test.
The cruise ships sailing to Alaska today have 2,000 to 4,000 passengers aboard, in addition to crew members from 60 different countries. Many critics of the cruise industry are concerned that the local ports and emergency response officials will be overwhelmed by a true large scale cruise disaster.
A former cruise safety manager recently sent a letter to Senator Rockefeller outlining his concerns. Read "Let’s Not Wait for a Cruise Line Disaster to Protect Passengers." I have written many cautionary stories like this one - "Titanic Redux? Can Royal Caribbean Safely Evacuate 8,500 Passengers & Crew from the Oasis of the Seas?"
Many local emergency exercises like the one in Juneau today serve as little more than a public relations tool to tout that cruising is safe and everyone is prepared if something goes wrong.
Last year, the Coast Guard and the Bahamas participated in a emergency exercise where "actors"(photo above right) played injured cruise ship passengers and were attended to by the Bahamian police.
I'm sure that the forty or so actors lying around down town Juneau with fake bandages around their heads today were well taken care of by the emergency response teams which probably had more emergency personnel than the "victims."
Anyone have photos of the event? We'd be pleased to post them . . .
And here are the PR comments:
“We have one of the best teams out there for emergencies."
"We’re like family, we’ve been doing this together for so long."
“I thought it was very successful."
This week, our social media presence reached a milestone.
The Cruise Law News Facebook page reached 100,000 "likes."
The majority of our Facebook fans are from outside of the U.S. We have tens of thousands of crew members who have "liked" us. We receive a great deal of information from crew members regarding a wide range of issues, like cruise ship fires, engine failures, man-overboard situations and the tough working conditions which crew members face.
Thank you very much for reading our page and providing information to us! Our success would not be possible without the support of crew members on cruise ships around the world!
We have over 11,900 people following us on Twitter and many thousands of people who subscribe to our daily blog, Cruise Law News, via e-mail & RSS subscriptions.
Over 6,250,000 pages of Cruise Law News are projected to be read this year.
The motto of our blog is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
No, we are not a travel site with glossy photos of happy crew members and smiling passengers enjoying a dream vacation cruise. The fact that millions of people are reading a critical blog by a lawyer (lawyers often write boring, stuffy articles) reflects that there are a lot of things that happen on cruises which the public wants to know and the cruise lines want to keep secret.
Thanks for reading us! And thanks to the many passengers and crew members who have sent us tips, photos and videos of things like hiding food from the USPH inspectors or dumping garbage at sea which no one would otherwise know about . . .
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is beginning a two-day meeting today in Washington D.C. regarding the topic of passenger safety aboard cruise ships. The meeting was requested and largely organized by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), the trade group for the cruise lines, to showcase the cruise industry.
Participating in the meeting will be NTSB members, CLIA representatives, cruise line employees, Coast Guard officials, and delegates from the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The IMO is an United Nations entity which makes safety recommendations for cruise ships but is powerless to enforce the recommendations or discipline or punish cruise lines which ignore the recommendations.
The NTSB refused to invite the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization to Washington D.C. and refuses to permit the ICV to participate in the meeting. The ICV is a grass-roots, non-profit organization consisting of thousands of members who are dedicated to making cruising safer. Our firm has many former clients who are members of the ICV, including Lynnette Hudson, the daughter of Princess Cruises passenger Richard Liffridge from Georgia who perished in a fire aboard the Star Princess cruise ship.
The NTSB hearing is opening now with remarks from the Coast Guard about cruise ship accident investigations and fire protection. It is a shame that the NTSB and CLIA refuse to permit the ICV's involvement in the meeting given the first hand experience of the ICV members in dealing with dangers aboard cruise ships. Ms. Hudson previously inspected the cruise ship which killed her father to make certain that it finally had a fire detection and suppression system installed. She testified before the United States House of Representatives regarding the cruise ship fire which killed her father. You can read about that fire and Ms. Hudson's recommendations to prevent similar fatalities here: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?
Other ICV members were aboard the Costa Concordia when it crashed into the rocks and killed 32 souls.
When I realized that the NTSB was excluding the ICV, I send emails to the NTSB spokesperson, Eric Weiss, requesting an explanation why only CLIA members and cruise line employees were welcome. Mr. Weiss ignored my emails. But he recently spoke to a Miami Herald reporter stating that: “Security and crime is not in our jurisdiction. This is about cruise ship safety, not security.”
The ICV has many members personally affected by the absence of safety systems and protocols on cruise ships. The ICV has participated in five Congressional hearings addressing safety issues such as engine failures and fires. It appears that CLIA and the NTSB are systematically excluding any organization with victims who have personal experiences regarding cruise ship dangers while inviting only employees and friends of the cruise lines who wish to shield the industry from criticism.
I realize that the cruise lines are desperate for favorable press after the debacle of the Carnival Splendor and the Carnival Triumph, with both cruise ships igniting shortly after Coast Guard inspections, as well as the deadly disaster involving the Carnival-owned Costa Concordia. But excluding cruise victims and orchestrating a rigged meeting with dog and pony shows by CLIA and cruise line representatives is shameful.
NTSB's relationship with the cruise industry has always been a mixed bag.
Years ago, the NTSB's chairman was Jim Hall, a man of personal integrity who never wavered from who his commitment to the safety of the traveling public.
Mr. Hall earned a reputation for objectivity and credibility when he was the NTBS's top dog from 1994 - 2001. He was involved in investigating serious accidents in both the aviation and cruise industries. He voiced his concerns that there would be continued problems in the maritime industry because there was no real oversight over the cruise lines. Consider the comments which Mr. Hall made to Newsweek last year:
"Jim Hall, head of the National Transportation Safety Board during the Clinton administration, says the industry is watched over by “paper tigers” like the International Maritime Organization and suffers from “bad actors” much like in the poorly regulated motor-coach industry, which saw its latest fatal bus crash in Southern California earlier this month. “The maritime industry is the oldest transportation industry around. We’re talking centuries. It’s a culture that has never been broken as the aviation industry was, and you see evidence of that culture in the [Costa Concordia] accident,” says Hall."
After Mr. Hall retired as chairman, the NTSB went in a different direction. From 2006 - 2008, Mark Rosenker served as the NTSB chairmen but he catered to the cruise industry. In 2007, CLIA's Board of Directors wined and dined Rosenker during the annual Sea Trade cruise convention (now called Cruise shipping Miami) here in Miami. He gave a nice speech to CLIA (you can read here) which he began by stating " I am very pleased that your safety record is excellent." This was a rather amazing and outrageous thing to say given the fact that just a year earlier, the Star Princess ignited off the coast of Jamaica and burned through 100 cabins and killed our client's father, Richard Liffridge, mentioned above.
Rosenker even promised CLIA that he would help the cruise lines keep "sensitive" information about maritime accidents away from the public, telling CLIA "there are provisions in the law to keep certain voluntarily provided safety information confidential."
Rosenker and CLIA were a perfect match. Both were interested in suppressing damaging information about cruise mishaps from the public.
After Rosenker retired from the NTSB, CLIA paid him as a consultant for the cruise industry. His job largely appears to tell everyone who will listen that "the industry has an outstanding safety record and the most dangerous part of the cruise is undoubtedly the drive to the port. It is very rare that people are injured on a cruise ship,” as he told the cruise industry publication World Cruise Industry Review in 2010.
In 2012 and 2013 Rosenker continued his gushing praise of a cruise industry which puts money in his pocket, telling a travel agent publication that “it is important for consumers to understand that cruise vacations are extremely safe. This industry is highly regulated with tremendous oversight.” Rosenker told another cruise industry publication that “every aspect of the cruise industry is heavily monitored and regulated under US, EU and international law.”
Senator Rockefeller admonished Rosenker during his testimony last year when he repeated the cruise industry's talking points before a Senate hearing on cruise ship safety issues last year, because of his obvious bias for the cruise lines.
The cruise line routinely hires from the NTSB, FBI, Coast Guard, USPH and other federal agencies. Many former federal officials seem to pander to the cruise lines while in public office. Former Coast Guard officials often quickly turn into paid cruise line consultants who are pleased to appear in cruise industry publications still wearing their Coast Guard uniform and medals standing in front of an official Coast Guard logo while attesting to their wonderful experiences cruising.
Of course, no current or past federal employee should engage in such hyperbolic cheer-leading like this. It is unprofessional and unseemly. It is a conflict of interest. But some federal officials seem motivated to angle for private sector jobs in the rich cruise industry which pays no federal income taxes and is overseen, if all all, by poor, flag of convenience nations like Panama and the Bahamas and the "paper tigers," mentioned by Mr. Hall, at the IMO.
So the NTSB-CLIA love-fest begins this morning. Where is the integrity of Jim Hall? Where are the victims of cruise ship fires and sinkings? Who is speaking for the dead and injured? Have all of the federal agencies crawled in bed with the cruise lines?
What are the top law blogs? I suppose it depends on who you ask. Everyone has an opinion, at least lawyers who have blogs do.
I'm listing the supposedly most popular law blogs based on supposedly objective criteria, using the Alexa ranking system which ranks blogs and websites based primarily on popularity. How many people actually click on the site, view a number of pages and actually stay for a while?
Alexa ranks over 30,000,000 sites. Alexa assigns a numerical ranking to each website. The most popular sites have the lowest numbers.
Google is ranked number 1, Facebook is number 2, and so forth. The highest ranked stand-alone law blog is ranked around 28,000. The lowest ranked blog is ranked over 20,000,000. If you're a law blogger and ranked under 200,000, your blog is popular.
If your ranking is over 1,000,000, sorry to tell you. No one is reading your blog. If you are in the 2,000,000 to 4,000,000 category, I suggest giving up.
If you are interested in seeing your site's ranking, go to the Alexa website and click on the "Toolbar" link at the top to download.
The top 10 blogs which I listed below are mostly ranked 100,000 or lower. They are popular and widely read. I listed their rankings as of the date of this publication. I have also mentioned whether they are advertising (desperate) or soliciting money (truly desperate). I have tried to identify the primary editor or writer.
10. SCOTUS (107,715) (advertising - Bloomberg Law) Two dozen people smarter than me writing minutia about Supreme Court decisions. Super popular when the Supremes are publishing cases.
9. Patently O (105,835) (advertising) Law professors writing about patents. I remember why I hated law school.
8. China Law Blog (100,256) The blog of Seattle lawyer, Dan Harris, of the Harris Moure law firm. Why isn't it also written in Chinese?
7. Volokh Conspiracy (92,779) (advertising) A butt-ugly site written by two dozen brainiac professors who need to get laid. I'm not sure who reads this erudite stuff. It recently moved to the Washington Post.
6. Althouse (78,079) (advertising) (solicits money) I don't get this site. A law professor, Ann Althouse, writes and posts photos and videos. She shares a photo of the side of her head. Random. Quirky.
5. Lawyerist (65,914) (heavy advertising) A nice site, mostly it seems written by Sam Glover about law practice technology, management, and marketing, also offering services to build web sites, since 2007.
4. Food Safety News (60,812) This is one of the truly amazing law blogs by Seattle lawyer Bill Mahler who handles food poisoning cases. He is a great guy and a super lawyer. He surrounds himself with a very talented team to publish this really good stuff.
3. Cruise Law News (59,871) My blog Cruise Law News. "Everything the Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know" is our motto. "Why do I want to know that?" most people may be thinking.
2. Legal Insurrection (45,434) (incredibly heavy advertising)(solicits money)(multiple writers) A law professor at Cornell oversees this gaudy conservative blog. Annoying, bizarre banner ads, like this lady-in-the-tight-dress Google ad which links to a rant against President Obama. Go figure.
1. Above the Law (28,096) (advertising) (multiple editors and writers) This number one law blog caters to big firm news, in-house counsel at major corporations, law school rankings and issues of largely no relevance to most lawyers' practices. Typical topics involve new partners at top 10 national firms, salaries in New York, and who'll be the next Supreme Court clerks. I suppose first year associates at Skadden Arps gossip about these important issues over their 15 minute lunches at their desks?
A bizarre group of blogs no doubt.
Did I leave anyone out?
Photo Credit Top: lawyerfacts.biz
This week I listened to the multi-millionaire cruise executives praise the cruise industry at the "state of the cruise industry" at the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2014) trade show.
As anticipated, Carnival's CEO and former Monsanto chemical executive Arnold Donald said cruise ship accidents are "so rare . . . cruising is safe." Royal Caribbean's long time executive Richard Fain claimed that cruise lines are "heavily regulated." The audience of travel agents and vendors tied to the cruise lines all politely clapped.
The speeches contained little substance, no statistical support, and virtually all self-serving opinions. I felt like I was at a motivational speaker convention sponsored by Amway.
The telling comments at the conference came from Norwegian Cruise Line's CEO Kevin Sheehan. He said: "we are ruled by public opinion; unless we can keep our business running right will always be on defensive." The NCL boss added: "a period of operational excellence and no media incidents are needed."
Of course, this was the real insight into the state of the cruise industry - the cruise lines are on the defensive. The cruise lines seem nervous as they claim that their troubles are behind them. They are in the business of selling fantasy dream-like vacations to ports in the Caribbean which are becoming more and more violent. They are praying that the media doesn't bash them after a cruise ship catches on fire or a family is gunned down in the streets of Nassau.
What's the industry's plan to pull itself out of the harsh media scrutiny? I didn't hear one at CSM. The cruise lines, it seems to me, are just hanging in the balance hoping for the best.
But history tells us that more trouble lies ahead.
There have been over 90 fires on cruise ships since 1990, according to testimony at one of the many Congressional hearing on cruise ships disasters. Some fires were big, some were small although there is nothing really insignificant about any type of fire on the high seas.
Last year, the big story involved the Carnival Triumph, of course, which CNN covered non-stop. But the more significant fire involved the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas which burned for two hours. Most people seem to have already forgotten the fire on the Grandeur. Yes there will be cruise ship fires this year; hopefully minor ones only with no injuries. The public knows that accidents happen. The most important issue is whether the cruise lines respond promptly and responsibly (like Royal Caribbean did after the Grandeur fire) or delays unreasonably (like Carnival after the Triumph fire) and / or acts outrageously (like Carnival after the Concordia disaster)
The cruise industry's image problem is not just because of ship fires and Concordia-like disasters. The continuous stories about bad medical care, mistreatment of crew members, sexual assaults, children victimization, missing passengers, and so forth, coupled with a callous PR response, have more of an effect on the cruise industry's image. Its like reputation death by a thousand cuts.
Last December, I published Top 10 Most Outrageous Cruise Ship Stories of 2013 & the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award.
In my assessment, the factors which most harmed the cruise lines' reputation last year didn't involve accidents at all. Rather, the most damage came from incidents showing the cruise lines' egregious disregard of the law and a lack of care and compassion of their passengers and crew. The real damage comes from events like mishandling cases involving persons disappearing at sea, ignoring the man overboard laws, crew members arrested and sentenced to jail for child porn, fleecing crew members of their tips and retirement benefits, and a family cruise line aiding and abetting a child predator escape justice.
One of the most embarrassing stories last year involved Silversea Cruises which was caught by the USPH hiding perishable food down in the crew quarters. We were contacted by crew members who complained about this, but Silversea ignored us when we contacted them. We sent the story to CNN. The special that CNN produced tarnished not only this luxury line but cast the entire industry in a bad light. The entire chain of events could have been avoided by Silversea just being honest and transparent.
The cruise lines suffer, in my opinion, from a combination of being arrogant and rattlebrained. The cruise industry engages in some really bad conduct on a continuous basis. It often makes things substantially worse when confronted by the media and bloggers like myself.
Last week, former crew members sent us video and photographs which seem to suggest that MSC Cruises has been dumping garbage, plastics and debris into the water in violation of international pollution law.
We asked MSC for an explanation. MSC ignored us just like Silversea Cruises did last year. MSC claims that un-named authorities in Brazil are investigating the allegations, but it refuses to identify the authorities or provide contact information. MSC is digging itself and the cruise industry into a deeper hole.
Cruise lines like MSC tout that they treat the maritime environment like this when in truth they may be treating the waters like this. When the major media networks latch onto a story, the cruise industry is forced to make a statement, but the cruise lines often sound and appear evasive and unbelievable.
Until cruise lines act responsibly and treat all of their crew members, guests and the earth with respect and act with transparency toward the media, the cruise industry's reputation will continue to suffer.
CSM2014: Who Will Be the First Cruise CEO to Claim Cruising is the "Safest, Safest, Safest" Vacation? And Where Are the Safety Audits?
Last year at Cruise Shipping Miami, all of the cruise CEO's talking at the "State of the Cruise Industry" presentation covered the CLIA talking points that cruising was "safe" and the cruise industry is also supposedly "highly regulated."
The hyperbole was extraordinary.
CLIA's Christine Duffy began the cheerleading by first announcing that the Carnival Triumph fire was "rare." Carnival's President Gerry Cahill topped her by saying: “Something like this is very rare." NCL's Kevin Sheehan's won the award by claiming that cruising was the "safest, safest, safest" vacation option.
Cruise executives never discuss actual statistics about fires, accidents and crimes on cruise ships. They would rather tell you their self-serving opinions than provide you with the actual facts and let you form your own opinions.
In truth, there have been over 90 cruise ship fires between 1990 and the present. That's hardly "rare." The "safest, safest, safest" form of transportation does not catch on fire every 4 months.
The horrific sexual assault which recently occurred on the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam should be a reminder that sexual assault is the number 1 crime reported on cruise ships. There will be no mention of that.
And there will be no meaningful discussions about other current topics, like the controversy surrounding recently released video and photos of MSC Cruises crew members dumping bags of garbage and debris - allegedly into the waters of Brazil. Pierfrancesco Vago, Chairman of MSC Cruises, will be speaking this morning. I'm sure no one will ask him about that. I say that the chances are 50 / 50 he will claim that his cruise line is a "guardian of the seas" or something equally clueless.
Last year, Carnival's Cahill told us that Carnival intended to conduct safety audit all of its ships. CLIA also promised regular audits as well.
I instantly tweeted "will the audits ever be disclosed of the public?" Of course not. This is just one of those things that cruise executives say. All the travel agents and vendors at CSM then politely clap.
So here we are at CSM again. Soon the CEO's will tell us that everything is great.
Who will be the first executive to tell us that cruise accidents and crimes are "rare" and cruising is the "safest" vacation you can have?
A number of news sources are reporting that the Tunisian government prohibited Israeli passengers from disembarking from a cruise ship at a stop at the Port of Tunis.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), a U.S.-based cruise line, told the Israeli citizens that they were not welcome by the Tunisian government and had to stay aboard the cruise ship.
The ship involved is the Norwegian Jade.
B’nai Brith Canada released a statement yesterday stating that there were approximately 20 Israelis on board the NCL ship. They did not know in advance that they could not leave the ship during the port of call.
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), “the cruise line had a responsibility to its passengers and (to) advise them of this discriminatory policy in advance,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Frank Dimant said in a statement. “Better still the cruise line should avoid ports that have such policies.”
The cruise blog Cruise Hive publishes a statement by NCL about the incident:
"During Norwegian Jade’s port call in La Goulette, Tunisia on Sunday, March 9, 2014, a small number of guests holding Israeli passports were not allowed to go ashore because of a last minute decision made by the Tunisian Government. Port taxes for the call in Tunisia are being refunded to these guests.
We apologize for any inconvenience to our guests and appreciate their understanding. We are reviewing this decision with the appropriate officials."
NCL's statement is pathetic. NCL should not be down-playing the incident like this. The Tunisian government's action should be immediately and unequivocally denounced in the strongest language possible.
This is not about returning nominal port taxes to inconvenienced guests. It is about much deeper and important issues. No citizens of any nation should be subjected to such discrimination. The fact that an Arab nation would exhibit such contempt and hostility against Israel is particularly despicable.
What lessons were learned from the hijacking of the Achilles Lauro cruise ship and the murder of passenger Leon Klinghoffer? Have we forgotten his death and the terror inflicted by an Arab terrorist group against cruise ship passengers in the Mediterranean and ending in the murder of a Jewish passenger?
Tunisia's actions sent a clear message to Israeli citizens. NCL's response should be equally clear. The only reasonable action is for NCL and the cruise industry to boycott Tunis as a port.
March 11, 2014 Update: NCL is boycotting Tunisia. Here's the NCL statement by CEO Sheehan:
“We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests. We are outraged by this act and the fact that we were not notified in advance of this practice. We apologize sincerely to our guests who were affected and want them to know that we have taken the appropriate action in response.”
NCL announced the boycott during the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM2014) today. I walked by the Tunisia delegation (photo left). They must be feeling rather foolish.
Photo Credit: Top - Wikipedia / Ivan T.; bottom - Jim Walker
Cruise Shipping Miami ("CSM 2014") has officially started.
Formerly known as "Seatrade," CSM is a huge trade show in the Miami Beach Convention Center with all types of cruise vendors, tourism delegates and port representatives. You can appreciate just how dynamic and wealthy the cruise industry is by attending the show.
Here's the official schedule.
The big event, of course, is the the "State of the Global Cruise Industry" where the cruise CEO's tell everyone how incredibly safe the cruise industry is.
This year we will be hearing from Arnold Donald, CEO, Carnival Corporation; Richard Fain, Chairman Royal Caribbean Cruises; Kevin Sheehan, CEO, Norwegian Cruise Lines; and Pierfrancesco Vago, Chairman, MSC Cruises.
It will be interesting to hear from Mr. Vago in light of the recent allegations that MSC Cruises has allegedly been dumping garbage into the sea.
Here's my articles from last year's Cruise Shipping Miami trade show I attended:
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to meet, discuss cruise issues such as safety & security, or have a beer over lunch or at happy hour. I enjoyed some interesting conversations last year.
My perspective - "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know" - is a little different than that of most people attending.
i will be blogging and tweeting all week.
See you there.
Lawyers involved in a trial are not suppose to make comments during trial which are likely to affect the jury or trier of fact. The theory is that trials are suppose to be decided based on the testimony and exhibits introduced into evidence, and not by PR statements which are not subject to the rules of evidence and which may be designed to sway the jury.
Yesterday Carnival send a written statement to NBC News, Carnival said: "The current litigation by a handful of individuals is an opportunistic attempt to benefit financially . . . principally based on claims of alleged emotional distress."
A nasty statement no doubt. There is no indication that Carnival's trial lawyers made the statement. But press releases like this from the Carnival PR team are obviously not released to the public until after they are vetted by Carnival's in-house lawyers.
It's a statement designed to try and send a signal to the trier of fact. Carnival is trying to sway the trier of fact to believe that the Triumph cruise passengers are just a greedy bunch of people who are not to be believed and are just looking for a pay out.
What Carnival doesn't say, however, is that the cruise line made a business decision last year not to pay a dime to any passengers who elected to file suit. Carnival was clearly negligent. Any other cruise line would have resolved this type of case on a reasonable basis long ago. But not Carnival. It would rather pay its defense lawyers a few million dollars to try and squash the Triumph passengers who decided to seek compensation.
Remember that Carnival Cruise Line's parent company is Carnival Corporation. This is the same company which owns the Costa Concordia which capsized with over 4,000 passengers and crew on board, killing 32 souls. The passengers on the Concordia lost not only their vacations but all of their clothing, cameras, iPhones, and computers which they brought on board. They lost any jewelry or cash in the cabin safes. They were terrorized as the cruise ship tilted over and the coward captain abandoned ship.
Carnival offered the passengers 11,000 euros on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. If that seems like a pittance to you, you're right. But remember that Carnival didn't offer the crew member anything.
To add salt into the wound, at the end of the year, Carnival Chairman Micky Arison (already worth close to $6,000,000,000) paid himself a $90,000,000 bonus.
In the same year, the CEO of the Carnival owned Costa cruise line, Pier Luigi Foschi, received $3,970.000 and later received a bonus of $1,700,000 when he retired. He also reportedly has shares of cruise stock worth $4,700,000.
This is the way it works with the Carnival brands. They have tens of millions in salary and bonuses to reward their CEO's even when their ships catch fire or sink. They have millions and millions to spend on defending lawsuits. But for the nice people who boarded the dangerously neglected and unseaworthy Triumph cruise ship last year, Carnival doesn't have a penny. It has only disdain.
After the Costa Concordia capsized, travel agents began telling their clients that such incidents were "rare" and that cruising was "absolutely safe." Some travel agents went as far as to claim that the last time a cruise ship sank was over a 100 years ago when the Titanic struck an iceberg.
Of course this was false. But the travel agents were repeating the talking points issued by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). This was part of a campaign by CLIA to assure the public that cruising was safe and sound. You can read about the false and misleading campaign by the cruise industry here: Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash.
It seems like the cruise industry is now back at work spreading falsehoods again.
Following the vicious rape, beating and attempted murder of the 31 year old passenger aboard the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam, HAL's president Stein Kruse released a statement claiming that "no incident like this has occurred in our company's 140-year history."
Of course this is false too. Just last month a 18 year old girl was raped by an officer on the Amsterdam cruise ship, according to an article written by another lawyer here in Miami who represents victims of sexual assault on cruise ships.
The official Coast Guard portal also reveals that there recently have been reported rapes of women on HAL cruise ships, including assaults committed by crew members.
The sexual assault of women and children is a problem which the cruise industry avoids discussing. When pressed to mention the issue, the cruise lines always say that sexual assaults are "rare."
A year and a half ago, I wrote an article revealing 23 Reports of Sexual Assault on NCL Cruise Ships in 15 Months. I have also mentioned that Royal Caribbean reportedly experienced 24 sexual assaults during the same year.
But the cruise lines will never acknowledge the true numbers. In its press releases, the cruise industry invariably fudges the numbers. The cruise lines were successful in altering the language of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act such that only those cruise ship crimes reported to and closed by the FBI needed to be disclosed to the public. The problem was that not all cruise ship crimes are reported to the FBI and the FBI keeps most files open.
The result is that only a tiny portion of cruise ship crimes is ever publicly disclosed, according to a report by the Senate Commerce Committee. Of 959 crimes reported to the FBI for a 18 month period in 2011 and 2012, only 31 were disclosed on a web site maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.
In addition to the cover-up of crimes, the cruise lines have been adept at keeping the cause of cruise ship disappearances secret.
HAL has been unable to explain why the last five passengers who disappeared from HAL cruise ships went overboard. Several of these passengers were women who disappeared from their cabins. HAL always seems to argue that the passengers committed suicide.
If the 31 year old woman recently victimized on the Nieuw Amsterdam had not fought her attacker off, and she disappeared during the cruise, what would HAL be saying about her now? Would it accuse her of committing suicide? Would the violent crime become just a "mystery?" A cruise line capable of a whopper like there-has-been-no-woman-attacked-for-140-years is capable of saying anything.
The cruise lines are relying on the CLIA travel agents to relay their false crime statistics and misleading opinions to the public. Travel Pulse just published "Agents: The Front Line In Telling the Real Cruise Story."
The travel publication says:
"Another week and another negative story hits the consumer media in regards to cruising. The latest issue involved a crewmember who is accused of raping and beating a passenger on board a Holland America Line charter.
It’s another challenge for the cruise lines, but an even bigger one for the travel agents who are on the front lines.
* * * *
Despite what you might see or hear in the consumer media, travelers should seek out the insights and advice of a professional travel agent. They’ll get the true story, and the real numbers, when it comes to that particular story." (Emphasis added)
So what is the "truth" that the cruise lines and travel agents want us to believe in order to buy cruises from them?
What is the "true story" about the HAL crew member who was, as the travel publication puts it, "accused" of "raping and beating" the passenger? He has already confessed to raping as well as beating, choking and attempting to murder the poor woman who he tried to throw into the sea.
And what are the "real numbers?" Do the travel agents really want us to believe that the last time a ship sank before the Concordia was the Titanic in 1912? And there had never been a prior rape of a passenger by a crew member on a HAL cruise ship for 140 years dating back to 1874?
A travel agent that repeats the tall tales and skewed crime statistics of the cruise lines to their clients, tells them to ignore the media stories (like CNN), and represents that cruising is absolutely safe has a good chance of being sued for fraud if their clients are victimized.
Photo Credit: Nieuw Amsterdam Wikipedia / Cybergoth
Popular Mechanics: "Troubled Waters - Cruise Lines Have Stumbled Badly Over Safety. Here's What They Need to Do."
The March 2014 edition of Popular Mechanics is out. It has an interesting article about cruising.
The article is entitled "Troubled Waters - Cruise Lines Have Stumbled Badly Over Safety. Here's What They Need to Do."
The article takes a look at some of the disasters and debacles over the last few years, including the Costa Concordia capsizing and the Carnival Triumph poop cruise. Its also takes a look at some of the lesser publicized although very deadly incidents such as the lifeboat failure two years ago on the Thomson Majesty which killed 5 crew and seriously injured three.
Popular Mechanics interviews the who's who of experts in the cruise industry, including former NCL cruise ship captain Bill Doherty who has testified before Congress on cruise ship safety issues, International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization CEO Kendall Carver, and a Carnival security director Barry Marushi. It cites cruise safety expert Dr. Ross Klein's data base of man-overboard cases.
The magazine takes a look at 4 problems with the cruise lines: (1) crew incompetence; (2) "breakdowns and blackouts," (3) poor passenger training, and (4) "security holes." The article analyzes the problems and offers practical solutions.
The article is an eye opener if you are an average family just looking for a fun and safe vacation.
One issue with the cruise industry is that it is crippled by its own arrogance, in my opinion. The cruise lines tend to instinctively reject anything proposed by victims groups or neutral and well-intended parties.
Unfortunately, there is not a link to the article currently available.
If you are interested in these issues, be sure to head to the newsstand and pick up a copy. I bought 25 copies for friends so if you want a copy, send me an email with your address. I'll mail you the magazine while they last. (February 18, 2014 - No Longer Available)
Yesterday a television station in Louisiana reported that the infamous "poop cruise" ship Triumph suffered a power story.
Carnival told KATC that the power outage was extremely brief - "8 minutes."
Because it was Friday evening, no major news stations covered the story. We published a short article and reported the Carnival quote that the outage was allegedly just "8 minutes." I placed quotes around eight minutes because it sounded bogus to me.
I thought that as soon as the passengers got off the Triumph, we would hear a different story that what Carnival was saying.
All of the popular cruise bloggers, who are essentially cheerleaders for the cruise lines, repeated the Carnival quote - "8 minutes." The bloggers took the Carnival PR statement hook, line and sinker. They "reported" on the brief power loss as no big deal.
This morning, passengers are beginning to leave comments on our article. The first person said the power was out for almost one hour. The second person said there was considerable confusion with the crew telling them to put on their life jackets and go to the muster station while other crew members told them to take their life vests off and report to the Lido deck. A third person said that the outage was 1 to 2 hours and there was substantial confusion. A fourth person said the power was out for one hour but the crew handled the situation well.
Another person said there was burnt and frazzled wiring which caused the smoke. Carnival said yesterday that it was just some smoke from an incinerator.
The cruise lines' problems with their image and reputation have more to do with how they act and what they say after a problem like this than the problem itself. Being dishonest about a loss of power on the high seas is a serious breach of the public's trust.
If the cruise line is lying about the length of the power outage the question arises whether it is lying about the cause of the power loss too?
If you were on the cruise, does anyone believe that the power was for just eight minutes? How long was it?
Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Update: Carnival Triumph: "Frazzled Wires" Caused Smoke & Power Loss"
Yesterday Travel Weekly ("travel industry's trusted voice") published an article entitled The New Wave of Attacks on the Cruise Industry.
A vacation consultant/travel agent type and contributor to the travel magazine, Richard Turen, identified me and Dr. Ross Klein (a sociologist in Canada who has written and testified before Congress extensively about cruising) as cruise critics engaged in a "new wave" of "attacks" against the cruise lines. Mr. Turen didn't provide any examples, but he voiced his concern about what he characterizes as "unsubstantiated half-truths."
Mr. Turen has a travel site where he endlessly promotes his view of the top ten cruise lines. top 10 tour operators, top 10 secrets to traveling healthy, and so forth. His site is called, ready for this, "Travel Truth."
On Travel Truth, you can read all type of hype designed to sell cruises but not a word about crime against women and children traveling on cruise ships.
Travel Truth is also a zealous defender of the cruise industry when things go wrong. Mr. Turen defended Carnival following the poorly maintained Triumph poop cruise fiasco, and concluded in a Travel Weekly article that there "simply is no other vacation option that can match the satisfaction level and the pure value of a cruise." Mr. Turen even defended Costa Captain Schettino who smashed the Concordia into the rocks and killed 32 souls in an article "A SECOND LOOK AT THE CONCORDIA TRAGEDY." He bashes a maritime lawyer who criticized Costa for hiring captains who are risk takers like the disgraced captain.
Yesterday I promised to publish a reply to Mr. Turen's article which would include some context and perspective to his comments.
Here it is:
First, there is nothing remotely "new" about my views of cruising or about what Mr. Turen characterizes, dramatically, as new "attacks" on the cruise lines.
I switched from being a cruise ship defense lawyer to becoming an advocate for passengers and crew members in the mid to late 1990's. I've spent a lot of time disclosing incidents of crime which the cruise lines try to sweep under the rug. Dr. Klein started compiling cruise information in the late 1990's dating back to the 1960's. He has been operating his informative web site since as early as January 2002. I started my blog in 2009 with the motto "everything cruise lines don't want you to know."
There are no "new attacks" on the cruise lines at all, as far as I am concerned. It's the same type of observations from Dr. Klein and the same old criticisms from me for the past decade, at least. The only thing relatively new is the proliferation of the methods of delivering information to the public. Twitter (we have over 11,500 followers) and Facebook (we have over 92,000 fans) deliver my opinions far faster and further than ever before.
So let's turn to Mr. Turen's comments.
Mr. Turen says that I have "appeared on every major news outlet and frequently testifies before Congress." Well, the first part of the sentence is 100% accurate; I have appeared on pretty much every network and cable news outlet possible. Lord knows I have tried.
But the second part of his sentence is 100% wrong. I have never testified before Congress. There have been several Congressional hearings which have featured our clients. Five of our clients, primarily sexual assault victims, have made submissions and testified before both the House and the Senate, but not me.
Now, that's petty criticism on my part, I suppose. But if you are going to criticize someone for "unsubstantiated half-truths," you better do your homework and make certain that your representations are 100% substantiated and truthful.
Mr. Turen raises 5 major issues I have discussed in some of my prior 1,800 articles. I'll briefly address each issue, so you can read the substance of my comments and understand why they may be relevant to your family's decision whether to cruise.
Cruise ships are "floating vomitoriums." Norovirus, e-coli and other gastrointestinal outbreaks are regularly covered on this blog. We do not handle noro cases and will not represent passengers sickened with GI illnesses. Why? Because it is darn near impossible to prove where the virus originated. The ships sail in and out of port so quickly and never interrupt their itinerary to permit the CDC to conduct meaningful epidemiology testing. So why do I write about it? I find the issue to represent a microcosm of the larger cruise dynamic. The primary cause of norovirus is contaminated food or water according to the FDA and the CDC, but cruise lines insist that it's the unsanitary passengers who bring the nasty virus aboard and don't wash their hands. Meanwhile the CDC has documented many instances where ill crew members who handle food continue to work in the galley and dining rooms after they are ill because they rely on tips. I also must admit that it's fun to watch the Cruise Critic fans and travel agents turn red in the face trying to convince me that it's just the dirty fingers of the passengers causing all of the fuss. Is a "floating vomitorium" an unsubstantiated half-truth? Just ask the thousands of cruise passengers aboard the Celebrity Mercury who were sickened with norovirus during numerous consecutive sailings over the course of a month. The CDC finally shut the ship down because the cruise line wouldn't stop sailing and infecting a new round of guests. Celebrity later sold the sick, old ship.
Disney is the world's "worst cruise line." After a 34 year old Disney waiter molested an 11 year old girl while the cruise ship was still in a U.S. port, and was caught red-handed on CCTV, did Disney promptly report the crime to the port police or the sheriff's office or the FBI? No, the Magical Kingdom sailed the ship (together with the crime scene, the assailant crew member and the victim) out of the jurisdiction to Nassau where the local police could have cared less and Disney knew it. Case closed. Disney then flew the pervert back to India. The "worst cruise line?" You bet. This story was my number 1 most outrageous cruise story of 2013.
Did Mr. Turen or Travel Weekly write about this crime and Disney's outrageous conduct? Of course not. The only time Travel Weekly writes about cruise crime is puff pieces like this one, where pro-cruise writers interview only cruise lines and cruise trade organizations and end up with what read likes a cruise line press release saying crime is rare.
Here's what Mr. Turen has to say about Disney: Disney at sea "is just as professional, elegant, and genuinely family friendly as Disney on land. For the majority of guests, as always, Disney will exceed expectations. It clearly exceeded ours."
"Cruise lines are a perfect place to sexually abuse children." This was one of the ten reasons I cited back in 2009 to perhaps consider taking a vacation other than a cruise. Congressional staffers have told me over the last five years that the cruise lines are obsessed with making certain that there is never a law requiring the cruise industry to disclose sexual crimes against children (no names or details of course, simply that the victim was a child). No cruise line has ever disclosed that a single child was molested. The cruise lines know that children have been raped and molested in cabins, hallways, crew quarters and in child care facilities. It's the cruise industry's nastiest secret. The Disney cover-up regarding the 11 year old girl is just one example. Dr. Klein has written and testified about this disturbing subject, but I have never read an article published by Travel Weekly or Mr. Turen which has touched upon crimes against children on cruises. That would be bad for the travel industry, wouldn't it? And it would be hard for a travel publication to sell advertisements for the cruise lines too.
"Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL are corporate felons." Evidence that a party to litigation has been convicted of or pled guilty to a felony, or a crime involving dishonesty, can be disclosed to a jury who can take that into consideration in determining whether that party has a propensity toward dishonesty. This is one of the few things I remember from law school over three decades ago. All of the major cruise lines based in Miami, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL, have pled guilty to lying to the U.S. Government, federal prosecutors, the Coast Guard and even the U.S. Attorney General. Think that these cruise lines, who are all corporate felons because of their lying ways, will be transparent to you when your children are molested? Jurors are entitled to be informed about felony convictions of corporations. Shouldn't you be too?
"If you are retired or a child, the cruise line considers your life worthless." There is an old, archaic law called the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA)(1920) which prohibits the recovery of emotional damages (grief, sadness, bereavement, pain, suffering, mental anguish, etc.) when a loved one dies at sea. All that is potentially recoverable is financial losses (lost wages for example). But if the cruise line or their doctors kill a child or a retiree, there are no lost wages. What can you recover? Zilch. Cruise lines are motivated by financial consequences. But dead children have no consequences (no wonder Mr. Turen states in his article that a child who drown in a Carnival pool without a lifeguard was of no significance to the cruise line). Legislation has been introduced to amend this unjust law, but the cruise lines have lobbied hard to keep it on the books. The cruise lines love DOHSA, because if you are retired or a child your life is worthless in the eyes of the cruise industry and their insurance companies. The cruise lines have spent millions making certain your family doesn't get a dime in death cases. This was the first issue I ever wrote about on this blog.
Is this another "unsubstantiated half-truth?" Nope. Just another part of cruising that travel writers like Mr. Turen never write about and travel publications like Travel Weekly never publish. They prefer you not know.
A year and one-half ago, Mr. Turen wrote an article for Travel Weekly about crime in ports of call, stating that he would never warn a client if that meant "destroying the dreams of others as they try to complete whatever worldwide destination their bucket list might contain."
I'm all for bucket lists, but not at the expense of a child killed or molested and the cruise line assisting the pervert escape justice or hiding the truth. Mr. Turen's fanciful top-10-best-cruise-ships view of cruising, and his success making money selling such illusions, seem to me to be based on keeping the real truth away from the traveling public.
This myth is perpetuated by pretending to be the only source of "travel truth" and attacking those who offer real-life stories about norovirus, molested children, outlaw cruise ships, and "family" cruise lines that really don't care about your children.
The Truth - Melissa Phillippe
Travel Weekly - Travel Weekly
Travel Weekly published an article today entitled The New Wave of Attacks on the Cruise Industry. It was written by a contributing editor, Richard Turen, who runs a travel agency and a marketing group.
Its an interesting article which discusses who Mr. Turen views as the critics of the cruise industry.
He discusses cruise expert Ross Klein, a professor in Canada, who has testified before Congress several times about man overboard cases and crime against children on ships. Dr. Klein also operates the website CruiseJunkie which is the definitive compilation of most everything which goes wrong while cruising.
He also discusses me and rewards me as the "king of anti-cruise tirades" and the "most visible critic of the industry."
Here are a few sentences from Mr. Turen's article:
"To give you a flavor of Walker's site, let me quote some of the reasons he does not recommend cruise vacations:
- 'Cruise lines are a perfect place to sexually abuse children.'
- 'Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL are corporate felons.'
- 'If you are retired or a child, the cruise line considers your life worthless.'
Jim Walker has appeared on every major news outlet and frequently testifies before Congress. So his impressive background and litigation record against cruise lines must be taken seriously. His goal is clearly stated on his website:
'If travel agents are going to hawk cruises by advertising all the reasons why you should take your family on a cruise, trust us that we will provide you with the other side of the story.'
Check back on our blog later this afternoon. I'll publish my response to Mr. Turen's article and place some of his comments in context and perspective. He has raised some interesting issues which deserve discussion and a larger audience.
January 24 2014 Update: Don't miss reading our response to the Travel Weekly article.
Photo Credit: Travel Weekly
Two and a half days ago, a cruise passenger on the Carnival Magic emailed us and told us that: (1) the ship was delayed returning to Galveston by fog (2) a fire had apparently broken out on deck 11 causing smoke and ending up with the hallways drenched with water, and (3) a Coast Guard helicopter medevaced an ill passenger from the cruise ship.
The email from the Carnival passenger came to me early Sunday morning shortly after 7:30 AM as the ship waited for the flog to lift and I waited for my first cup of coffee. We emailed Carnival for confirming information, and then published our article around 1:00 P.M. We included Carnival's comments that a fire allegedly didn't break out and that the smoke was caused, as Carnival says, by an "overheated electrical component." Carnival also confirmed the Coast Guard helicopter medevac.
We have heard Carnival public relation tweets before that electrical fires causing smoke were not really fires.
You can read our article here: Fire, Fog & Medevac Mar Cruise Aboard Carnival Magic.
Today, two days after we published our article, Cruise Critic published an article entitled: Smoke Scare Onboard Carnival Cruise Ship. The Cruise Critic article discussed the smoke versus fire issue and mentioned that a cruise passenger was medevaced Saturday afternoon and fog caused a delay in the ship getting back to Galveston.
The Cruise Critic article relied on information we released (and spun the story in favor of Carnival) without any credit for the story to us.
It is the norm in reporting and the world of social media to acknowledge sources of information. For example, when the Daily Mail in the U.K. (one of the most widely-read internet newspapers in the world) writes a cruise story which we break, it will cite us and link to us. You may think that the Daily Mail is sensational, but linking to sources is what reputable, professionals do. For example, read this Daily Mail article based on information in our blog which we broke after a cruise passenger emailed us.
One thing that we take seriously here at Cruise Law News is being 100% accurate and transparent in crediting the right people and organizations responsible for breaking news stories. None of our stories ever go out without a credit. It does not matter if it's our rival law firms. If someone had a big verdict against a Miami-based cruise line, we report it. We name the lawyer and include a photograph. No other law firm does that.
If Cruise Critic, USA Today's CruiseLog, Cruise Currents, CruiseMates or who-know-who breaks a story, we will of course name them and provide a link to their site.
Cruise Critic is a site we have openly acknowledged is the number one blog covering the cruise industry. I have also published rankings showing Cruise Critic is the number one blog covering cruising.
But it is also a dishonest organization, in my opinion.
Owned by the Expedia travel company, Cruise Critic is often seen as a cheerleader for the cruise lines. We have criticized it for deleting comments on its message boards and censoring members who write about events embarrassing to the cruise industry. It heavily moderates its message boards. It's the first to write a puff piece for the cruise lines when they need some good news. It's also known for being a shill for the cruise lines.
Many people criticize us for writing about negative cruise stories and having a vendetta against Carnival and Royal Caribbean. You may not like our opinions. Readers should take our articles with a grain of salt. After all, our motto here is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." We are often on television, cable news, radio and in newspapers sending our view of cruising out into the stratosphere. We know it is irritating to the hard core cruise fans.
You can disagree and criticize us for our opinions, but you cannot ever fault us for being anything other than honest in crediting the sources of our stories.
Cruise Critic, on the other hand, is not transparent. It takes credit for other's information. It can be a shill all it wants. But it should not take credit when it is not due.
I suppose, from that perspective, it is the perfect publication to cover the far-from-transparent cruise industry.
On Twitter today, a travel agent bemoaned that a video entitled "Cruise Ship Nightmares" was airing. What particularly perturbed the travel agent was the fact that the CNN video first aired last summer and was recirculating as fresh news.
This particular video was well produced and quite provocative. Images of burned cruise ships and passengers sleeping out on mattresses on the decks, with the caption "Keeping Secrets on the High Seas - Crashes, Fires, Stalls Plague Secretive Cruise Industry."
I remember this video well. I was interviewed in it.
I had an opportunity to talk about a number of issues which the cruise lines and many travel agents don't want the public to know. Like the fact that Miami-based cruise lines, such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean, are incorporated in places like Panama and Liberia and register their ship in other foreign countries like the Bahamas to avoid all U.S. taxes, labor, wage and safety laws.
So when a fire breaks out or a rape occurs on these cruise ships flying the flag of the Bahamas, it's this little island which is incapable of keeping its own citizens safe that is responsible for investigating what occurs on cruise ships full of U.S. citizens.
It would be a joke if it was not so disgraceful.
My favorite CNN video involved Silversea Cruises caught hiding trolleys of perishable food down in the crew quarters in an effort to bamboozle sanitation inspectors for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Crew members complained to us about this nasty practice. We told them to notify the CDC about the cruise line scheme. We involved CNN after the haughty cruise line refused to communicate with us. The CNN video told the story beautifully.
CNN's video of the Carnival Triumph disaster revealed that Carnival knew that there were major problems with not maintaining the ship's engines and fuel lines but the cruise line intentionally sailed when the cruise ship was unseaworthy.
Other CNN videos worth watching:
You can complain all you want that CNN covered the Carnival "poop cruise" 24 hours a day, it seemed. But the coverage was thorough and the specials are excellent. People love to watch them. That's why CNN plays them over and over.
So the next time that a ship catches on fire, or become disabled, you can bet that CNN will be covering the story.
And this travel agent will be complaining loudly.
This weekend, the Royal Caribbean Blog (an unofficial Royal Caribbean fan website) quoted Royal Caribbean President and CEO Adam Goldstein saying that the "last two or three years" of cruise ship mishaps are just an "anomaly."
Goldstein made his comments to CNBC's Simon Hobbs who excitedly told the television audience that there was a disconnect between what the non-cruising public thought about cruising and what cruise president Goldstein told him in an exclusive interview:
"I having been in this cruise business for over 25 years now," Goldstein says. "My frame of reference is two and a half decades of an extraordinarily safe of track record of great duration. Tremendous attention to detail and training that prepares the crew and the officers to do everything that they need to do from to delivering satisfaction to the guests to being extremely safe and environmentally responsible."
'Extraordinary . . . tremendous . . . extremely . . . everything they need." This is classic cruise CEO gobbledygook by CEO Goldstein. Over-the-top hyperbole in response to softball questions by a cruise friendly interviewer.
But does CEO Goldstein really want to go back to the "good old days" of cruising 20 to 25 years ago?
I don't think so.
Was Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry "environmentally responsible" 20 years ago as Goldstein claims?
I don't think so either.
The 1990's were the decade when Royal Caribbean was the environment's absolute worst enemy. Thousands of garbage bags washed ashore on Miami Beach and tar fouled the sandy beaches of South Florida and the Bahamas, while Royal Caribbean dumped waste and emptied its oily bilges from cruise ships sailing the pristine waters here in Key Biscayne to Glacier Bay in Alaska and back.
The Coast Guard caught Royal Caribbean with its bilges open. Environmentalist-from-Miami U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno slammed the dirty cruise line. Royal Caribbean pled guilty to multiple felonies, including lying to the Coast Guard and the U.S. government. Before it was over, the U.S. Department of Justice fined the cruise line a record $27,000,000 and forced Royal Caribbean to admit that it was a corporate felon.
Has the cruise industry make progress regarding environmental issues as Goldstein tells CNBC?
That's debatable. Just last week we reported on MSC Cruises caught throwing bags of garbage overboard into Brazilian waters. Just today MSC called itself the "Guardians of the Seas" but it won't talk about dumping garbage bags overboard.
But lets go back to 20 to 25 years ago, were there Carnival poop cruises back then?
Yes, and worse.
In 1995, the Carnival Tropicale, lost all power and families who brought their children aboard, couples honeymooning, and elderly citizens bobbed around in the Gulf of Mexico, nauseated. The Carnival passengers endured the same disgusting circumstances as the Triumph. Then a tropical storm, Roxanne, struck the ship. The cruise from hell turned into a ship of terror when the passenger thought that they were going to die. Carnival offered the traumatized passengers a $40 credit because the ship missed ports in Grand Caymans and Mexico.
Were there other fires and disasters back in the late 1980's and 1990's too? You bet.
Some of the most publicized incidents in the 1990's involved Carnival's Ecstasy (above right). It caught fire in 1996 and again in 1998 shortly after leaving the port of Miami. If the fire had occurred thirty minutes later there would have been no fire boats to extinguish the flames. Local news helicopters from Miami flew to the scene and filmed the burning ship.
The next year, the Carnival Tropicale, caught fire again and the ship was adrift again in the Gulf of Mexico with 1,700 passengers and crew members for 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."
The 1990's began with the captain's abandonment of the sinking Oceanos (right), which made my list as the number 1 worst cruise ship video of all time.
The 1990's also saw the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Jim Hall, calling the cruise lines an "outlaw industry" which suffered from "bad actors."
The difference between then and now is that the "good old days" of the 1990's did not have Twitter breaking embarrassing cruise news every day, or Facebook and YouTube hosting iPhone images and video of cruise ship disasters, or social media blogs, like this one, providing insight when cruise executives take you back to the past and try and pull the wool over your eyes.
Yesterday several passengers from the Holland America Line Veendam contacted us because they were upset that a passenger went overboard during a cruise to the Mexican Riviera. They returned from the cruise knowing that someone had died at the end of the cruise as the ship sailed back to SanDiego, but they did not know why the passenger went overboard, or whether it was a murder or a suicide. Some passengers thought that a child went overboard. They were very concerned.
Without exception, these passengers told us that there was no information available from the cruise line or anywhere on the internet about the overboard. Its was like there was a blackout imposed.
These individuals seemed genuinely concerned about the passenger who died. These were not "rubberneckers" wanting to take part in some type of morbid gossip. They had seen bits and pieces of a sad spectacle during what was otherwise a pleasurable cruise. They were worried when they went home. They wanted basic information about what happened around them and, in many ways, what happened to them to the extent that they and their children had witnessed an unsettling tragedy.
Some of the people who contacted us said that there were initially some comments posted on the message boards at Cruise Critic. But, according to the people contacting us, these comments were quickly deleted by Cruise Critic.
I have heard of these type of criticisms of Cruise Critic before. Message boards which contain information of potential embarrassment to the cruise lines are often pulled from the cruise-friendly Cruise Critic.
So I went online to see if anyone was reporting on the HAL overboard other than this blog.
What I found was interesting,
There were several links indicating that there were a number of people who left comments on the Cruise Critic message boards. But when I clicked on the links, all of the links were disabled. First, there was the link on Google "Veendam-New Years cruise sad ending reported by a passenger ..." There was the link "We had a strange last sea day, with a report of somebody falling past a window, a man-overboard signal, dropping a smoke flare and life ring, ..." And there was the link "Person overboard on the Veendam New Years cruise??"
But clicking on all of these links led to an error message: "Invalid thread specified. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator."
The index to the threads under Holland America Line also contained no messages about the overboard. It had also apparently been scrubbed clean.
In my view, the Expedia-owned Cruise Critic is still the same online community of cruise fans who were exposed several years ago for being paid cruise line cheerleaders and shilling for Royal Caribbean on cruise reviews and message boards.
The cruise industry has suffered through lots of bad press in the past couple of years. Travel writers, most cruise bloggers, and other friends of the industry have leaned over backwards to give the cruise lines a break. But censoring cruise passengers who make legitimate inquiries on a message board relating to the cruise lines is a disservice to the cruising public. It perpetuates the lack of transparency which is part of the the cruise lines' problem in the first place.
One of the passengers on the Veendam left us the following comment to our article:
"Thank you for the post, Jim. As a passenger that witnessed part of the discovery I do feel entitled to an explanation. While the crew seemed to handle this professionally, this was indeed a disturbing event. An explanation did not have to include the details, but may have at least provided some closure for at least those humans who were traumatized by "the incident" (to which it was referred by the captain). To carry on like nothing happened--on ship and in the media--was and continues to be even more disturbing."
This weekend we received inquiries from passengers who had been on the Holland America Line Veendam cruise ship about a passenger who apparently went overboard. Passengers indicated that the incident apparently occurred off the coast of Mexico on January 3, 2014 as the ship sailed back to San Diego.
Here are two of the comments:
"Was on the MS Veendam (Holland America) 7-day Mexican Riviera cruise and a woman mysteriously fell or jumped off the top deck the early afternoon of day 6 (last Friday, Jan 3) off coast of Mexico (coming back to San Diego). She had to be dead (body floating face down in water), as we were sent to cabin for an hour. But no news was shared or online. Crew was working on top rail, which someone (the crew?) had disassembled even before the FBI showed up Sat morning to inspect before disembarkation. Do you have any info on this? Strange that there hasn't been any news. Rumors were suicide, but I'm really wondering."
"On MS Veendam (HAL) (Jan. 3, 2014) when we had a man overboard called. We were ordered to our cabins but never offered an expiation as what happened. Only rumors that it was murder, suicide or accident . . . How can we find out the truth?"
Anyone with information please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Photo Credit: Holland America Line via L.A. Times
Death & Lawlessness? or the Best Vacation Possible? Australian Newspaper Explores Conflicting Views of Cruising
A newspaper in Australia presents two sides of the cruise industry today.
The main article is entitled: Death, Assaults, lawlessness ... the Dark Side of the Cruise Industry. It's a must read article for everyone interested in the historical view of the problems which continue to plague the cruise industry: missing passengers, excessive alcohol, drugs and sexual assault of minors.
At the other end of the spectrum is the cruise friendly piece: 11 Reasons Why a Cruise is a Safe Holiday. If you love cruising and think its the best thing since sliced bread, this article is for you.
Have a thought? Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.
I returned from a New Year's party last night feeling euphoric to be with my family at the start of 2014. Before heading to sleep, I turned on my laptop and clicked on Google news, only to read the dreadful account of a cruise passenger disappearing from the Independence of the Seas.
This is the third case of a passengers going overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in just 11 days. First, an overboard passenger from the Rhapsody of the Seas in Australia, then an overboard from the Adventure of the Seas heading to San Juan, and now a disappearance from the Independence of the Seas sailing to the Caymans.
Royal Caribbean says the latest disappearance, like the first, is a mystery. Why the mystery? Because the cruise line did not bother to install a man overboard system on its cruise ships. Royal Caribbean's CCTV cameras (which are not monitored by the cruise line anyway) did not record what happened either, at least that is what the cruise line is saying.
So we begin 2014 like we have begun decades of other New Years, with cruise ship passengers disappearing without a trace on the high seas. The families of the missing are left with trying to figure out why their spouse or children went overboard. All the cruise ships have extensive surveillance systems in their casinos because the cruise lines value their casino chips and don't want their money to disappear. You can't say that about their guests.
In 2010, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act (CVSSA) into law. It required, among other things, that cruise ships be equipped with automatic man overboard systems to capture images of overboard persons and/or send an automatic alarm signal to the bridge. This system has been extensively discussed and debated before our U.S. Congress and was enacted into law to become effective on January 1, 2012.
The purpose of the legislation was to require the cruise lines to implement systems to automatically detect when a person goes overboard so that immediate search and rescue efforts could save lives, regardless of whether the person going overboard was the result of an accident, negligence, intoxication, foul-play or a suicide.
But Royal Caribbean has refused to implement any type of system. There are all types of apologists for the cruise lines out there, like the cruise industry's trade organization the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). "The technology doesn't exist" (a lie) is one excuse. "We are working on it" is another excuse, from the cruise industry's gigantic book of endless excuses.
But at least one cruise line, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), has installed such systems successfully.
2014 could have started with a happy story of a successful rescue of the passenger from the Independence of the Seas due to Royal Caribbean's installation of an automatic man overboard system. But instead we start the year where we began it. It's business-a- usual with the cruise lines just shrugging off the latest death as a mystery. 18 people have gone overboard last year. The number will only increase and the mysteries will continue as the cruise industry continues to violate the CVSSA.
There are other ominous developments indicating that the disastrous effects of last year will continue into 2014.
Two days ago we mentioned an explosion which seriously injured 3 crew members on the MSC Orchestra. We also reported on a passengers alleging that another MSC cruise ship was throwing bags of garbage off the ship at night into the waters near a marine sanctuary off the coast of Brazil. He video-taped the dumping. For an industry which promotes itself as stewards of the environment and the safest form of transportation, these events showed that things are not as the cruise lines want you to believe. The stories should have been extensively reported and discussed within the cruise and maritime communities.
But in truth, the community of cruise fans, travel agents, cruise-friendly bloggers and the cruise industry public relations departments don't want these type of negative stories revealed to the public. It's bad for business. None of what I consider to be the top cruise bloggers would publish these stories.
The end of this year also saw evidence that Carnival knew that it had major problems with the engine systems on the Triumph and other ships, but it sailed nonetheless at great risk to its customers. Many cruise bloggers and travel writers instinctively rallied behind the cruise industry although the evidence of Carnival's guilt was overwhelming.
I wish that I felt optimistic about what lies ahead for the cruising public this year. But the cruise lines are showing signs that they have not learned a whole lot from the sad events of 2013. The recent stories are omens of more bad things ahead for the cruise lines.
Definition of "ominous:" Suggesting that something bad is going to happen in the future; being or exhibiting an omen; foreboding or foreshadowing evil.
Have the cruise lines learned anything from 2013? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
With 2013 ending, I've gone back over the 400 articles I have written this year to determine which one was the most popular.
The winner, by a landslide, was What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know.
I wrote this article in February, ten days after the Carnival Triumph became forever known as the Carnival "Poop Cruise."
A senior editor at CNN called my office and asked me to write an opinion piece for CNN. I had never written an "opinion piece" for a newspaper or major network before. I asked her exactly what she wanted. "Easy," she said, "CNN wants your opinion about the cruise industry. Please send me your draft by noon."
Yikes! It was already 10:00 AM. So I closed my office door and thought for a few moments.
My thoughts came quickly: "the engines of the increasingly larger cruise ships are poorly maintained. The ships are haphazardly inspected and largely unregulated. The cruise lines pay their employees a pittance and push them as hard as they push their over-worked ships. Flag states like the Bahamas will look the other way when things go wrong. Triumph disasters will continue," I thought. So I started typing as quickly as I could.
That afternoon, CNN posted my thoughts in an article entitled "What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know." The title was CNN's idea. But It is a variation of my blog's motto: "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
The article quickly went viral with over 13,000 Facebook likes and 2,000 comments. The cruise industry complained bitterly to CNN and demanded an opportunity to write an article in response. A CLIA hack wrote an article entitled "A Cruise is a Safe and Healthy Vacation. It was a laugher. Only 27 people left comments, mostly mocking the cruise industry's out-of-touch message.
As we all know now, the next 10 months brought a steady stream of ship fires, disabled cruise ships, over-worked and under-paid crew members, and flag states like the Bahamas assisting the cruise lines rather than the victim when crew members sexually abuse children.
The cruise industry's promises of a "safe, secure and healthy" cruise were belied by a disastrous safety record for 2013. CLIA's assertion that fires and disabled ships are "rare" were contradicted by the empirical evidence that they are quite common.
There's a reason why the cruise lines have drafted one-sided, onerous cruise tickets to exonerate themselves in the most egregious circumstances of medical malpractice by cruise ship doctors, engine failures, fires, missed ports and repeated gastrointestinal viruses.
What should the cruising public expect realistically in 2014?
Will cruising become reasonably safe? Or will there be continued ship fires, disabled ships, and a disaster requiring a mass evacuation into the water?
I have my own thoughts about these issues. But most hard core cruise fans, travel agents, and cruise bloggers (I'll-write-a-nice-article-in-exchange-for-a-free-cruise) aren't interested in reading another "what cruise lines don't want you to know" article from me again. They are probably busy writing another "a cruise is a safe and healthy vacation" article for 2014.
Have a thought? Please leave a comment on our Facebook page.
Two years ago, I published my personal choice of what I considered to be the top cruise blogs. It was mostly a subjective choice.
This year, I started assembling the top blogs again. But I decided to rank the "top" blogs with some type of objective criteria. I chose to use the Alexa ranking system which ranks blogs and websites primarily based on popularity. No matter how attractive the website may appear or how interesting or nice the publisher may be, are people really clicking on the blog, reading a number of pages and staying on the site for a while?
Alexa assigns a numerical ranking to websites. The most popular sites have the lowest numbers. Google is ranked number 1, Facebook is number 2 and so forth. If you are a blogger or own a cruise website and you are ranked under 250,000, you are doing a heck of a good job. There are literally tens of millions of blogs and websites out there.
If you are interested in seeing your site's ranking, go to the Alexa website and click on the "Toolbar" link at the top to download.
In making my top 10 list, I focused on blogs which write primarily about cruising. I excluded cruise blogs which use a sub-domain of a website such as a large newspaper. This eliminated CruiseLog, because it is published under the USA Today domain, and eliminated Captain GreyBeard because his blog is published under the domain of the newspaper giant Mirror in the U.K.
My top blog list doesn't include the websites of the cruise lines themselves. Cruise articles which are published under general travel sites or maritime publications such as the popular Fodors, Travel Pulse, Maritime Executive or gCaptain were excluded, although I would include them all if I were listing top travel and maritime web pages.
So with that is mind, here are the top 10 most popular cruise blogs, in reverse order. I've included the Alexa ranking as of the time of this publication.
10. Maritime Matters: (510,733) If I had to pick one cruise blog to read, it would be Martin Cox's Maritime Matters. It covers the range of cruising from the christening of the ship to major casualties. It contains a historical perspective of the cruise industry. It has fantastic photographs of ships old and new, interesting stories, and fantastic articles from Peter Knego. I reviewed it before. I said that it has "the perfect balance of current cruise news coupled with fascinating historical chronicles of the cruise industry." The best websites are not always the most popular, so I'm glad that this class act made the top 10.
9. RCL Blog: (398,359) The Royal Caribbean Blog describes itself as "an unofficial fan blog written for other fans of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line." It's a fan site so it is never critical of this cruise line which I criticize often. But it is full of articles and photographs which cruise fans will love. It covers the "deliver the wow" cruise line like a hawk. It is accepted by Google News as an official news site so you will find articles by this site about Royal Caribbean easily on internet searches.
8. Cruise Addicts: (308,946) I don't know a lot about the people who operate this popular site, but it has the number 8 ranking for cruise website and blogs. Its a smaller version of Cruise Critic and Cruise Mates and has the potential to become much more popular if it starts writing its own stories and begins to better utilize cruise ship photographs. I voted Cruise Addicts number 9 for my favorite cruise websites 2 years ago.
7. Cruise Fever: (295,827) Two and one-half years old, Cruise Fever provides cruise news, tips, photos, web cams, and reviews to help makes cruisers make the most of their cruise vacation. Of course it also advertises cruise deals. It is active on Twitter and has a popular Facebook page. Its popularity has risen steadily over the last couple of years.
6. Cruise Industry News: (213,488) This is a popular website with a ton of stories about the cruise industry. Never gossipy or controversial, its strictly the facts. Its motto is "number 1 in industry reporting." It has more of a focus on shipbuilding, business stories, industry news and less about the lighter side of cruising. It has added photos of ships and ports of call. It publishes a slick magazine called Cruise Industry News with a European feel to it. It has the worse Twitter logo possible.
5. CLIA's "Cruising. It's All about You:" (208,733) This is the official site of the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") and contains the blog of CLIA's CEO Chrsitine Duffy. I have called it the cruise lines' "Pravda" after the official newspaper of communist Russia. It's articles are carefully written by the cruise industry's public relations people to present a positive and completely unrealistic image of the cruise industry. Its filled with half-truths and propaganda that even Stalin would be proud of.
4. Cruise Currents: (157,757) This is the latest blog from cruise fan and cruise website prodigy Mike Faust. Two years ago when he was 15, I selected his cruise website as one of the top cruise sites and told everyone to watch out for this fellow. Still in high school, Mike changed the name of his blog from "Mikey's Cruise Blog" to the very slick sounding and appearing "Cruise Currents." He is not even old enough to cruise by himself but he has taken the cruise community over by storm. Next year, he will pass Cruise Mates and me as the most popular cruise site behind Cruise Critic.
3. Cruise Mates: (118,481) A very popular and long term cruise travel guide, community and message board somewhat like Cruise Critic but on a smaller scale. CruiseMates contains tons of information and has knowledgeable and pleasant bloggers. Paul Motter is the face of the community.
2. Cruise Law News: (79,104) I know, its tacky to include yourself in a top 10 list. But I have an excuse. I'm a lawyer and we're suppose to have out-of-control egos aren't we? I remember when I started this blog in September 2009. I was excited to have less than 5,000 people a month read my articles. This year over 1,000,000 different people have already read well over 3,500,000 pages of our blog. Our motto is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." You either love us or hate us.
1. Cruise Critic: (9,052) As I said 2 years ago, this cruise community is a real juggernaut. It has by far the most members and the most hard core cruise fans. A great place to read the messages on the boards from passengers still on the cruise ship and first learn of what will eventually be covered by the major newspapers. On the down-side, it seems like the least diversified place on the planet. Its message boards often into flame wars, and a dissenting opinion is often ridiculed. The usual comment from a Cruise Critic fan left on my blog is something like "cruise ship ambulance chaser!" or "feed the lawyers to the sharks!" I love the attention (for the record sharks don't eat us out of professional courtesy). Behind Google and Facebook, Cruise Critic directs the most people to my blog on a daily basis.
Okay, that's the top 10 numerical list. Have I left out a higher ranked cruise blog or site? If so, please let me know.
Logo credits: The logos above are the Twitter avatars owned by the respective entities named above.
It's been a long year for the cruise lines. Cruise ship fires, engine failures and other mishaps have dominated the travel news in 2013. We have written several hundreds of articles this year under our motto: "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
2013 has been the year of the disabled cruise ship. First, we suffered through the 24-hour-a-day CNN coverage of the infamous Carnival Triumph poop cruise. Next came the Carnival Dream, which experienced propulsion problems followed by the Carnival Legend which also experienced propulsion issues attributable to poor maintenance. Then the Carnival Elation and the Carnival-owned P&O Ventura joined the growing list of disabled/impaired cruise ships. It was only mid-March. Carnival's reputation was circling the drain!
The rest of the year saw more of the same. Problems with the Regent Seven Seas Voyager (propulsion), Carnival-owned Crown Princess (sewage), Carnival Ecstasy (propulsion), Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas (fire), NCL's Breakaway (loose nuts & broken welds), Royal Caribbean-owned Pullmantur's Zenith (fire causing loss of power), Bimini SuperFast (propulsion), Celebrity Millennium (propulsion), Carnival-owned Sun Princess (propulsion), Carnival-owned Royal Princess (propulsion), Carnival-owned Noordam (fire), Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas (propulsion), Carnival-owned Dawn Princess (fire), MSC Magnifica (allision), Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas (hull repair), Saga Ruby (generator break down), and Celebrity's Constellation (propulsion).
Wow what a list, but none of the disabled ships made the top 10 list. Luckily, no one was killed or seriously injured in these mishaps.
So what's the criteria for inclusion on the top 10 list of outrageous cruise stories you may ask? If it makes you spit on the ground, shake your head and stomp your feet in disgust, the story has a chance to make the list. I start with the least outrageous (still pretty outrageous), at number 10, and end with the most outrageous at number 1.
Number 10: Disney and the Bahamas continue to refuse to cooperate with the Coriam family regarding the disappearance of their daughter Rebecca.
In January, I wrote about a nasty tendency of the cruise industry: Stonewalling at Sea - Cruise Lines Continue to Cover Up Disappearances on the High Seas. This involved crew member Rebecca Coriam who disappeared from the Disney Wonder. Disney continues to refuse to provide meaningful information to the Coriam family about what happened to Rebecca, who was age 24 when she vanished. Although Disney's legal and security departments conducted investigations, Disney deflects questions about the mystery off to the flag state of the Bahamas. The Bahamas sent one police officer from Nassau (Officer Rolle, more about him below) to Los Angeles to conduct what everyone now agrees was a Micky Mouse "investigation." The Bahamas refuses to provide information to the grieving Coriam family (photo right). Why? To avoid embarrassing Disney it seems. Watch the video.
The alleged cover-up by Disney and the Bahamas is, in my view, a chilling insight into the sinister nature of the cruise industry. Disney promises a fun filled family vacation, until a crime occurs or a person goes overboard. Then the floating Magic Kingdom becomes your worst nightmare in my opinion. Undaunted, the Coriam family created an international maritime victim's website to assist other families.
Number 9: 55 Celebrity cruise passengers robbed at gunpoint in St. Lucia.
Yes, crime and armed robbery during cruise excursions happen, although the cruise lines and travel agents hate to talk about it. Robbery at gun point of cruise passengers of their Rolexes, iPhones, cameras and cash in the Caribbean and Mexico is increasing. The cruise lines and local tourism bureaus deny it, but they're usually lying. The most dangerous port of call? Nassau, without a doubt. We've written about murder, robbery, purse snatching, and rape of tourists, in addition to the usual drug solicitations. Read a compilation of crimes against tourists here. Read this local Bahamian man's view of crime in the islands, published just today. The local police in Nassau can't even keep the teenage girls sailing from Miami safe while walking back to the ships from Senor Frogs. And this place is in charge of flag state investigations into missing persons and ship fires regarding cruise ships flying the flag of the Bahamas?
Number 8: Royal Caribbean cuts pay, increases work, takes crew tips, and axes 100 (mostly women) employee from its corporate headquarters.
This was a year where cruise executives' greed reached a zenith. And Royal Caribbean led the way. It took away cash tips direct-to-the-crew, ripped off a percentage of the tips, decreased pay of officers, staff & crew, increased work, and fired over a 100 (mostly women) jobs from its corporate headquarters. When a popular YouTube video "Screw the Crew" revealed the tip-snatching scam, the cruise line banned the video. No one can abuse its crew better than Royal Caribbean, except maybe Carnival (discussed below).
Number 7: Cruise Industry ignores man overboard safety law.
In 2010, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act into law. It became effective in 2012. Cruise lines are required to install state of the art technology to respond immediately to persons going overboard. The technology exists. But except for one or perhaps two cruise lines, the cruise industry refuses to comply with the law. Passengers and crew, who could be quickly rescued, die because of the cruise industry's lawlessness. The non-compliance by the non-tax paying foreign flagged cruise industry also causes the U.S. Coast Guard to spend millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in unnecessarily-wide search and rescues which are rarely successful. Making matters worse is the cruise industry's substantial under-reporting of persons overboard. With a few million dollars spent lobbying Congress and federal agencies like the Coast Guard and the FBI, the cruise industry can do, or not do, pretty much anything it wants.
Number 6: Breaking news - Celebrity crew member sentenced to 8 years in prison for child pornography.
Two days ago, a Celebrity crew member was sentenced to 8 years in jail for child porn. Here's the full story. I'm tired of these perverts. In April a 15 year old boy was sexually assaulted on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. In May, a Royal Caribbean passenger was sentenced to jail for transporting thousands of child pornography photos and videos on the Monarch of the Seas from Port Canaveral. No it's not rare. In the same month, a woman on her 17th cruise encountered a man stalking her and masterbating. She says Royal Caribbean could of cared less. Earlier this year, I wrote about Sexual Perverts & Pedophiles on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships. Some say that sexual crimes and weirdos are everywhere and such incidents are not limited to cruise ships. They're right. Don't believe the cruise lines for a second when they say their ships are super safe. Lesson to be learned: Watch your kids.
Number 5: Cruise industry teams up with retired Coast Guard officials and uses official Coast Guard logo to sell cruises.
What do you do when you are a Rear-Admiral and ready to retire? Go into business with the cruise industry as a consultant. Write editorials praising the cruise lines. Leave glowing comments whenever CLIA CEO Christine Duffy writes an article praising the cruise lines. When cruise ships begin to ignite to the right and left of you, tell the public that cruising is the safest and most regulated form of transportation. Be sure to say that you and your family love to cruise all of the time. Use photos of yourself still wearing your uniform and medals. Use the official logo of your former federal agency you no longer work for. No one will know the difference. But whatever you do, don't admit that you work for CLIA. Don't explain that the Splendor and the Triumph cruise ships both caught on fire the day or two after the so-called "rigorous" Coast Guard inspections.
Don't worry that the Coast Guard will protest your unauthorized use of federal uniforms and official logos. That's because everyone at the Coast Guard will eventually end up working for the cruise lines too.
Number 4: Carnival fleeces its crew members and insulates itself from liability.
Carnival's outrageous conduct this year has not been limited to the Triumph poop cruise. It terminated its crew members' retirement program leaving many of its crew, particularly its loyal Filipinos, feeling betrayed. Its brands dipped into the crew's tips. The crew can't protest, because they will be fired and black-balled. Carnival has spent millions lobbying Congress for favorable legislation which insulates itself from legal and financial liability when crew members (as well as passengers) are seriously injured or killed on its cruise ships. Carnival's brands, like Princess, also over-work their crew and subject them to grueling hours. Carnival pays no U.S. taxes.
Meanwhile Carnival Chairman Micky Arison is the richest person in Florida worth over $5,000,000,000.
Number 3: Royal Caribbean ship doctor evades jurisdiction after allegedly maiming an ill passenger.
A ship doctor employed on Oasis of the Seas allegedly commits gross malpractice on an ill passenger leading to sepsis, multiple organ failure and cerebral hemorrhage. Think that the cruise line will be responsible for the doctors who are officers on the ship, wear cruise line uniforms and work in the cruise ship infirmaries? Think again. The cruise line and the doctor reportedly tell the patient that its impossible to arrange for a medevac helicopter from the Coast Guard. They neglect the poor woman and cruise on to Mexico. This case makes me sick.
Number 2: Silver Shadow fails sanitation inspection after caught hiding trolleys of meat, fish, ham, and cheese in crew quarters.
We always knew that cruise lines played hide-the-ball games with the USPH inspectors, but haughty Silversea Cruises was particularly good at it. Crew members complained to us about the hide-the-food-from-the-inspectors games so we wrote to Silversea for an explanation. It ignored us. So we wrote about it. Silversea ignored us again. So we wrote about it again and posted photographs. Then we pitched the story to CNN which broadcast the disgusting story to a national audience in a well produced video.
For a high-brow cruise line to be both reckless and arrogant is a bad combination.
Number 1: Disney sails a crime scene and sexual predator out of a U.S. port to Nassau and flys the pervert employee home to India.
A 33 year old waiter from India brazenly follows an 11 year old girl out of the dining room and into an elevator where he kisses the child and gropes her breast. The little girl tells her grandmother who immediately reports the crime to ship security. But Disney doesn't promptly report it to the local port police in Port Canaveral, or the Brevard County police or sheriff's office, or the FBI. Disney instead sails the ship, and the assailant and the crime scene, out of U.S. waters to Nassau, Bahamas. Even though the Bahamas is the flag state for the Disney Dream and is required to investigate crimes on Bahamian-flagged ships, the Bahamas declines to make an arrest or prosecute. Law enforcement and prosecutors back in Florida are outraged. Disney says it did nothing wrong. You can read articles, see photos and watch video about the incident here, here, here, here, and here.
Who was the police officer in Nassau who let the criminal go free? No one other than Officer Rolle. Remember him? He was responsible for botching the investigation into the disappearance of Disney crew member Rebecca Coriam who we mentioned in outrageous moment number 10 (above). What a fellow. He hides his report from the grieving family about a Disney employee lost at sea and lets the Disney child pervert go free. Yes, its a small and nasty little cruise world, isn't it?
Worst Cruise Line in the Word:
If your child vanishes on the high seas or is assaulted during a cruise, the cruise lines may be your worst enemy. They may help the assailant escape justice. They certainly don't think that they have any obligation to release any information to you. Disney hides behind the foreign-flag scheme of the indifferent and incompetent Bahamas. Disney, it seems to me, is complicit in the conspiracy to deceive the public. It's a dishonest, secretive, and rotten system.
Who gets the trophy for the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" for 2013? Disney and its magical cruise ships. Carnival may have dominated the popular cruise news with its endless poop cruise, but no one comes close to the outrageous conduct demonstrated by Disney this year.
Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Photo credits: Grandeur of the Seas - abcactionnews.com; Coriam family - Daiy Mail; cruise passengers robbed in St. Lucia - DBS TV St. Lucia via the Times; Carnival Chairman Micky Arison - Forbes; man overboard - CruelKev2's blog; retired Coast Guard official - Travel Weekly and Darley Consulting; Royal Caribbean ship doctor - LinkedIn; Disney - WKMG Local 6 Orlando.
The coverage of the fire-stricken Triumph was brutal earlier this year. CNN aired the disgusting story of the powerless poop cruise ship adrift in the Gulf of Mexico literally 24 hours a day. Never before in the history of the televised world have the words "feces" and "urine" been broadcast so many times in such a short time period.
Carnival tried to make things right. It reimbursed everyone completely, paid for all transportation expenses, and gave everyone a free cruise. Carnival President Cahill apologized to everyone he could find. He looked as distraught as a cruise executive could be.
I quickly went on record saying that we would not represent anyone for the debacle because claims for inconvenience and annoyance without a physical injury are excluded by the terms of the passenger ticket and are not compensable.
Carnival made some major changes to try and avoid this from happening again. It tried to cast its beleaguered brand in a more positive light.
It invested some $300 million in the much needed deferred maintenance of its neglected ship. Carnival and its brands brought in some new marketing companies and embarked on new advertising campaigns. It took the seemingly indifferent (and Miami Heat obsessed) CEO Micky Arison out of public scrutiny by hiring a new CEO. Carnival brands Princess and Holland America also reshuffled their decks to bring in new leadership.
But then the CNN special aired Monday night. The images of the damning inspection reports and maintenance deficiencies juxtaposed with the feces and urine bio-hazard bags were devastating. Then the AP article, which further revealed the outrageous decision to risk human life by selling tickets on this fire-trap-of-a-ship, dropped on the cruise line liked an atomic bomb.
These explosive articles and videos were followed by a series of shock waves from the likes of TIME magazine, the Miami Herald, and hundreds of AP associated newspapers across the country.
Carnival tried to fight back. But it could find only a couple of cruise line fan publications, like their friends at Cruise Critic, to present a contrary view in fluff articles. But this only made matters worse. Cruise Critic quoted a PR crisis manager saying: "Exceeding the manufacturer's suggested time between overhaul does not implicate safety concerns with the engines." (Every lawyer who sues Carnival saved that quote for future use.)
Today a cruise travel agency publication quoted Carnival saying that the allegations in the CNN and AP stories were "frivolous." But no one was listening. The damage had already been done. The CNN images told the story. Carnival's excuses seemed flimsy and contrived. The cruise line sounded bitter, desperate and ultimately unbelievable.
Where did all of the goodwill generated by the $300 million improvements, the new advertising and the new leadership go?
Behind the scenes, Carnival decided not to try and settle the many hundreds of lawsuits and claims filed (notwithstanding my opinion) by the aggrieved passengers who were not satisfied by reimbursements and free cruises. They are pissed off, and rightfully so, because they believe that Carnival played Russian roulette with their lives, as the CNN special seems to reveal.
Why is Carnival in this spot? It decided not to pay a penny to their guests in compensation and instructed their defense firms to vigorously defend the claims. Millions to the wealthy defense lawyers but not a penny more to the cruise guests.
So the lawyers for the passengers press forward. In the process, the documents revealing the truth are handed off by the lawyers for the passengers to the producers at CNN and the AP reporters.
More damaging documents will follow. These documents will show a pattern of neglect of the cruise ship and pressure to keep the cruise operating 24 hour hours a day, risking passenger and crew member lives.
Whatever eventually happens with the lawsuits seems irrelevant to me. The "Poop Cruise" PR debacle continues. And notwithstanding free cruises, new marketing, and fresh faces in management, Carnival's reputation remains in the pooper.
We have a tradition of decorating our Christmas tree a week before Christmas.
We had a nice night tonight. Johnny Mathis singing his favorite songs of the season. Rum and egg-nog. We listened to the music as we decorated the Christmas tree.
My mother-in-law gave me a little Carnival cruise ship decoration for the tree. I assigned an elf to sit on it.
I'm afraid it will catch my tree on fire . . .
Dear Ms. Deeble.
Cruise and ferry executives have difficult jobs, I suspect. You have to effectively deal with labor disputes, increasing fuel costs, and price wars with your competitors in an increasing difficult economy. What a headache.
In addition to managing the financial pluses and minuses of your businesses, cruise executives like you also have to timely and effectively respond to public criticism when things go wrong on the high seas. But many maritime CEO's, who are well educated and highly experienced in business and accounting matters, suffer from an inability to manage their company's reputation when they face public scrutiny.
I know that you have faced tough economic times before while running your ferry business. At this time last year, you were finishing a major evaluation of P&O operations which addressed declining revenue and increasing costs facing your staff over 4,000 employees. P&O encountered stiff competition from rival ferry lines Danish-based DFDS Seaways and France's MyFerryLink as well as the underwater train operators to France, in addition to generally tough economic times across Europe.
It must be hard to be responsible for over 4,000 employees who depend on P&O to support their families. After prior evaluations over the years, I know that you had to axe thousands of ferry employees to maintain profitability for the corporation. It's doubly hard when a U.K. company like yours goes head-to-head with well run companies like DFDS Seaways (those Danish are hard working and efficient people, aren't they?)
Your other competitor, France's Groupe Eurotunnel, has not only the underwater train system but they enjoy lower priced ferry fares with their MyFerryLink brand. This upsets me. I'm a fan of Winston Churchill and the U.K. battle against Germany from 1939 to 1945 still inspires me. So P&O having to compete with the French, who would be part of Germany but for the U.K.'s sacrifice and courage, seems hardly fair. I am rooting for your U.K. ferry line to beat its overseas rivals. But I suppose that's just my biased perspective.
Added to your difficult financial equation, I know that P&O received embarrassing treatment by the press in the U.K. last year after an internal company report concluded that exhausted cross-Channel P&O ferry workers suffering from sleep deprivation and stress presented a danger to their ships and passengers. The information from your internal report, based on a survey of 500 of your ferry workers measuring their hours of work, watch-keeping and fatigue, was leaked by a worker to a newspaper which published "Passengers at Risk Because of Tired Ferry Workers." Sometimes its hard to keep these type of things secret with all of the newspapers looking for a scoop.
I am also not insensitive to the recent bad news when the British Competition Appellate Tribunal granted relief earlier this month to Groupe Eurotunnel, which had been hit with an antitrust ruling stopping it from also operating its MyFerryLink ferries between Calais and Dover. You got a ruling knocking them out of your ports for a while. Good for you! But the ruling was overturned which brings stiffer competition to P&O.
But the stiffest challenge you face is growing protests that your company treated the parents of ferry passenger Richard Fearnside shabbily after he disappeared from the Pride of Kent earlier this year. I was disturbed to read that your ferry lacked any closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) on its exterior passenger decks. Money's tight I know, but no CCTV? And I was even more disturbed and angered when Richard's mother, Marianne Fearnside, raised this issue of why-no-CCTV cameras in this day and age in a letter to you. You kicked the letter downstairs to your PR fellow Chris Laming, who rudely rebuffed her and, incredibly, dismissed her proposal as "not practical."
You may recall that this dismissive attitude has plagued P&O in the past. Over 190 passengers and crew were killed in 1987 when the ferry line considered it was not practical to install CCTV cameras or alarms to determine whether the Herald of Free Enterprise bow doors were closed. The ferry capsized after a crew member responsible for closing the doors was exhausted and fell asleep (a problem which continues today). I know you were not with P&O / Townsend Thoresen back then, but as a well educated professional I am sure you are more familiar with this disaster than I. You understand that when you forget history, it repeats itself.
I wonder what you think of Marianne Fearnside. I really do. You're a mother of two boys, now men. You must love your children deeply. You must have thought, at least once, what if one of my boys disappeared from one of my ferries at sea, at night, into the dark and cold water, alone. How would I feel? What would I do? You must have thought of these things, right?
I can tell you what I, as a father of two boys, think of Marianne. Unlike prior P&O victims understandably crippled by the loss of loved ones, Marianne Fearnside is a brave soul and a tough lady. She will not let her son's voice fade away. It's not easy, but she has taken her heart-felt campaign to improve safety on P&O ferries to the public. Initially dumbfounded and paralyzed, she has been vocal and full of action of late. She has found an audience and her cause has resonated with the public. Over 85,000 people have signed her petition to require P&O to install CCTV on its ferries. (This is a modest request considering that cruise ships based in the U.S. not only have hundreds of CCTV cameras but are required by U.S. law to install state-of-the-art automatic man overboard systems).
It's only a matter of time before a major newspaper in the U.K. digs into this appalling story and P&O's tattered image is further sullied. No one wants to see a home-town U.K. company take such a hit. You have hard working staff who deserve better than go down with a ship sinking in the eyes of the public. But even former P&O ferry workers have signed Marianne's petition and proclaimed to the public that it is unreasonable and irresponsible for P&O to refuse to install CCTV. They are saying what many of your tired staff are probably thinking.
Let me quickly tell you a few lessons from cruise CEO's here in Miami, the cruise capital of the world, who have failed miserably handling public relations disasters. There are lessons to be learned.
Cruise passenger George Smith disappeared in 2005 during his honeymoon cruise. When a passenger photographed a blood soaked awning on the ship, the story went viral. Royal Caribbean fought a war on the cable news for a year claiming that Mr. Smith was drunk and it could not have prevented his death. The cruise ship had no CCTV cameras or overboard systems. We represented Mr. Smith's widow and appeared on FOX News, MSNBC, CNN and the major networks bickering with the cruise line's PR representatives, safety managers and even the Chairman Richard Fain on Larry King Live. A Congressional hearing was convened about cruise passenger safety, followed by six other Congressional hearings in the House and Senate which continue today. It turned out that Mr. Smith didn't just fall overboard as the cruise line said. He was likely thrown overboard by other Royal Caribbean passengers. The cruise lines were subsequently ordered not only to install CCTV cameras but automatic man overboard systems on all of their cruise ships, but not before the Miami-based cruise lines tarnished their image.
Another lesson comes from the debacle of Carnival CEO Micky Arison who, by all accounts, acted callously after the Carnival owned Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy and killed 32 passengers and crew and terrorized thousands. He was roundly criticized for his apparent indifference to the disaster involving one of his over 100 cruise ships. But he didn't seem to care. He continued to focus just on profits and losses (and his Miami Heat basketball team) and not the human suffering created by his irresponsible captain. As additional Carnival disasters and embarrassments (like the infamous Carnival poop cruise) unfolded, Arison stayed indifferent to the plight of his suffering cruise line guests. His once proud and popular cruise company became the laughing stock of late night comedians. When the Carnival earnings and stock flattened out, his board removed him as CEO. The new CEO has spent hundreds of million of dollars in safety improvements to the ships in the neglected fleet.
How will you respond to the PR nightmare facing your company? The P&O website is filled with thousands of well reasoned and succinctly written criticisms about the line's perceived insensitivity and lack of ethics. Continuing to slough the matter off to your PR team will only make matters worse.
Now one other cruise CEO story to tell. Here's a hint how to turn things around.
When the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Sea caught on fire earlier this year, the passengers faced a raging 2 hour fire after the automatic fire suppression system failed to operate. Royal Caribbean faced a major PR problem, especially coming on the heels of other well publicized Carnival mishaps. But unlike Carnival's CEO Arison, Royal Caribbean's CEO Adam Goldstein jumped on a jet to the Bahamas where he quickly met up with the burned ship. I'm not a fan of Mr. Goldstein, but this time he was a man of action with the right attitude. He was photographed inspecting the scene of the fire and discussing the fire while drinking iced tea with the passengers. He apologized profusely and promised improvements to his ships. The public quickly forgave the cruise line for the fire, and praised the cruise CEO for his quick action, transparency and concern for his guests.
The press is coming after you Ms. Deeble. The public outrage is growing. The nation is learning that other passengers and crew have disappeared off your ships. The time for mysteries is over. The Fearnside petition will shortly have over 100,000 signatures. Legislation requiring CCTV is inevitable.
How are you going to respond. Will you even respond?
You are the past President of the U.K. Chamber of Shipping. You're highly respected and influential in your industry. Others will follow your lead.
Its time to get out from behind the desk. Put your financial papers aside for a moment. Drive the short distance over to Marianne's house. You both live in Kent. Invite yourself in for a cup of tea. No lawyers, just you and Marianne. Make a New Year's promise to her to install CCTV on your ferries. Future passengers and your own crew deserve it. And bring your photographers too. The public will love the image of you doing the right thing, and saving your company in the process.
P&O Ferries spokesperson and crisis manager Chris Laming is at the epicenter of the public relations disaster following the disappearance of ferry passenger Richard Fearnside.
After 31 year-old Richard went missing from the P&O Pride of Kent, his mother Marianne Fearnside wrote to P&O Ferries to ask what happened to her son and to complain that the ferry company did not have closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras on its ships. The chief executive officer of the ferry company tasked Mr. Laming with writing a letter back to the grieving mother.
In a time of crisis a cruise line's reputation, and its relationship with the families of killed or missing passengers, are often formed not by the circumstances which caused the crisis but by the company's attitude, appearance, and action afterwords.
I call this the "three A's" of cruise line crisis management: attitude, appearance & action. When disaster strikes and passengers are killed or disappear during a vacation cruise, the public has a remarkable capacity to forgive the company involved - provided it takes a few basic steps not to make matters worse.
In practical terms, people understand that accidents are inevitable. "Sh*t happens," the saying goes. An individual or company can be forgiven if they demonstrate a humble and respectful attitude; they appear on the scene and appear to take stock of the problems they caused; and they take prompt action to prevent others from suffering a similar fate.
Sounds easy, doesn't it? But most cruise lines and ferry operators don't seem to have a clue what to do in a time of crisis. Many companies do the opposite of what they should do. They demonstrate an obnoxious attitude. They try and disappear from public scrutiny and disavow responsibility. They act defensively and take no steps to prevent the event from occurring again.
Bad or malicious PR can infuriate families of the victims and cause them to dedicate their lives to requiring cruise lines and ferry companies to act responsibly.
I'm not sure what P&O crisis manager Chris Laming was thinking when he wrote back to Richard's mother. His letter consisted of just seven sentences. You'd think that a PR professional for ferry companies for 27 years could string together a few sincere sounding pleasantries to acknowledge the grief of a mother who lost her child, together with choice action phrases suggesting that the company would be conducting a full investigation with an eye toward learning lessons from the mishap and possibly implementing safety improvements to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
Just two weeks ago, I complemented P&O Ferries who did the right thing when it transported a morbidly obese young man from Dover to Calais by ferry. Cunard and British Airways had refused him passage from the U.S. because of his weight (500 lbs). Virgin Airways flew him to the U.K. and then P&O helped him reach France where he lives. Mr. Laming had issued a very compassionate statement on P&O's behalf: "It's difficult to imagine the frustration that this gentleman has gone through. But for us, it's very straightforward as we are set up to carry people who have medical needs."
P&O's letter to Mrs. Fearnside, however, contained no hint of compassion or sympathy and no illusion that the company would be taking the matter seriously with an eye toward remedial action. There was nothing sounding like "please-accept-our-sincerest-condolences-for-the-loss-of-your-son" type of thing. P&O's attitude (the first "A" in crisis management) was all wrong. The letter contained nothing polite, conciliatory or respectful.
But the last couple of sentences were worse. Mr. Laming wrote:
"It would not be physically possible to cover all of the open deck spaces with CCTV, or monitor such cameras 24 hours a day, or make and retain recordings in perpetuity."
He concluded his letter stating ". . . we do not consider that anything more could have been done in the circumstances."
Later, when local newspapers in the U.K. began to cover the story, Mr. Laming explained why P&O refused to consider installing CCTV cameras on open passenger decks to prevent and assist in responding to man overboard situations:
"It is so rare. It is just not practical to consider doing this."
I have seen many PR managers at cruise lines make these type of statements to try and get out of a tight spot. "We have carried millions of passengers and nothing like this has ever happened before. We are the safest way to travel. Overboard passengers are ultra-rare. Our ships are safe. We are going to continue to sail without any changes." And so forth and so on.
Statements like this are usually false. (P&O has a history of unexplained man overboard cases). Plus these type of statements eventually make the cruise or ferry company look like they are hiding something. The "it's rare" defense just invites people, like me, to begin to investigate how many times similar incidents have in fact occurred. Invariably, the public learns that man overboards are hardly rare and occur with alarming frequency. The end result is that the ferry companies lose credibility and invite public scorn.
Mr. Laming has defended ferry companies in the court of public opinion before. According to his resume poster on LinkedIn, a year after he became the public relation officer for Townsend Thoresen / P&O European Ferries in 1986, the ferry line experienced one of the worse public relation disasters imaginable.
In 1987, the Herald of Free Enterprise was sailing a route between Dover and Zeebrugge in Belgium. The ferry carried 459 passengers, 80 crew members, 81 cars, 3 buses and 47 trucks. Within minutes after leaving its berth in Zeebrugge's harbor, the ferry began taking on massive amounts of water. The ship began to list. It lost all power and electricity, leaving the passengers in darkness. The ferry then capsized. 193 people died due to drowning or hypothermia in the icy cold waters.
Mr. Laming responded to the disaster on the cruise line's behalf. He told newspaper reporters words to the effect that the ship was safe and this was just an isolated, freak accident. He was quoted in a London newspaper article entitled "Disaster Cause Unknown" saying that the ferry company's fleet of three ships of this class had carried "millions and millions of people without any mishap . . . Our ships will continue in service, and this, as far as we are concerned, was a tragic, one-oft incident."
But the ferry line knew exactly what had happened and also knew that at least one similar incident had happened before. A subsequent public inquiry revealed that the ship's giant bow doors (which open to permit trucks and cars to drive on ramps into the ship) had been negligently left open when the ferry left the port in Belgium. Incredibly, an assistant boatswain responsible for closing the doors had fallen asleep in his cabin. A ship officer, who duty was to stay on deck to make sure that the bow doors were closed, left his post. Another boatswain who was the last person on the car deck, testified that he did not close the doors because it was not his job. The captain did not verify that the doors were closed. There were no alarms in place to signal that the doors were open. The ferry line thought that it was frivolous to spend money on equipment to indicate if employees had failed to do their job correctly.
The official investigation also revealed that the ferry line suffered from a "disease of sloppiness" and "negligence at every level of the corporation's hierarchy." The investigation showed a major problem with the ferry ship itself. The ship did not have any watertight compartments; any flooding would allow water to flow the length of the ship. This was revealed in a similar prior incident when in 1983, the ferry's sister ship Pride of Free Enterprise had sailed from Dover to Zeebrugge with the bow doors open. Its assistant boatswain also fell asleep in that incident as well. You can read the official report of the disaster here.
The disaster lead to substantial changes in the rules and regulations pertaining to ferries of this type.
What Mr. Laming told reporters about the Herald of Free Enterprises two and one-half decades ago was the opposite of the truth. There were deadly design flaws in the ferry; there had been prior problems with a boatswain asleep on the job and sailing with open doors; and there had been at least one essentially identical problem with a sister ship sailing between Dover and Zeebrugge.
So here we are 26 years later. The ferry line's crisis manager is telling essentially the same PR story to the public. Don't worry. We're safe. There's nothing wrong with our ships. Passenger overboards are "so rare." Its "not practical" to invest in CCTV equipment for safety reasons, he says.
But PR statements like this won't work if the public has a healthy dose of skepticism and takes a hard look at a company's actual safety record. How many other passengers will be lost at sea because P&O thinks its frivolous to invest in CCTV cameras and automatic man overboard alarms?
Follow the story on Ms. Fearnside's Facebook page. After receiving P&O's letter, she started a petition to require ferry operators like P&O Ferries to install CCTV cameras. Over 80,000 have signed the petition so far. Click here and sign the petition. Also please leave a comment if you have a thought about this issue or join the discussion on our Facebbok page.
Photo Top: P&O Ferries' Chris Laming - LinkedIn
Photo Bottom: Herald Of Free Enterprises - BBC
This morning there's lots of news articles praising new Carnival CEO Arnold Donald and his cruise line.
Businessweek published "Carnival's Accidental CEO Plots New Course for Cruise Line" suggesting that CEO Arnold is the cruise giant's new messiah who's going to kill the weeds in the Carnival armada and turn things around.
But just last week the Motley Fool published a chart (right) showing that Carnival's earning growth has lagged substantially behind competitors Royal Caribbean and NCL ever since the Concordia disaster. Its article was entitled "Not All Is Smooth Sailing for These Cruise Lines."
Investors Business Daily also chimed in last week in an article "Carnival's Image Woes Linger, Good for Cruise Rivals."
Will Donald be successful in turning things around at Carnival? He certainly is trying hard. Under his management, Carnival invested heavily in new safety systems, terminated retirement benefits of the crew, created new marketing strategies, and reshuffled the management of Carnival and its Princess and HAL brands.
But the single most important factor, which none of the financial guru's are mentioning, is avoiding another Costa Concordia or Carnival Triumph disaster. With the largest cruise ship fleet in the world, Carnival statistically has the greatest likelihood of something going wrong on the high seas. There's not much the new CEO can do about that. Except say a little prayer every night before he goes to sleep, for his 100 + cruise ships.
Facebook Discussion: Will Carnival turn things around under CEO Arnold's leadership? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem: NCL Screws Another Customer in Distress
David Lazarus of the LA Times writes about how Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) refused to either refund or credit the cruise fare to 66 year old David Warlick and his wife after she was diagnosed with bladder cancer and underwent emergency surgery.
In his article "Cruise Line Unmoved By Customer's Cancer Emergency," Lazarus points out that although cruise corporations are considered to be a person under the U.S. Constitution, "when called upon to demonstrate a little human decency, they almost unfailingly respond with profound corporate indifference."
NCL defended itself by saying that it has a strict cancellation policy. Moreover, NCL pointed out the couple should have purchased insurance. But NCL had no legal obligation to screw its cancer stricken guest. From a moral perspective, it could and should have done the right thing and let the couple reschedule their cruise until a later date.
This is not the first time NCL has acted like a bad corporate citizen.
NCL refused to refund the cruise fare of a passenger whose brother died and the funeral was on the same day as the cruise. The guest notified NCL, asking for a credit on a future cruise. NCL said no. He asked for their cruise to be donated to charity (Make-A-Wish) so a child with cancer could enjoy a once in a lifetime cruise. NCL said no. Then NCL re-sold the cabin to another couple.
NCL got a double profit due to the death of a guest. Ugh.
NCL also demonstrated a lack of humanity when a grandmother, whose home was destroyed last year after being submerged by Superstorm Sandy, tried to reschedule a $4,000 cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel for her family and grand kids. She appealed to NCL for help.
She even wrote the CEO Kevin Sheehan (above right) asking to refund the cruise or reschedule it, but the cruise line and its CEO wouldn't make an exception. NCL said absolutely no refund or rescheduling, even though the grandmother works driving special needs kids to school. This trip was going to be her first vacation ever, in 70 years.
But NCL refused to help the family and took their money. A news station says that when it approached NCL about the terrible situation, the cruise line erected a "stone wall of silence."
Photo Credit: prhub.com
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?
Photo Credit top: Wikimedia (Stan Shebs)
Every so often we will publish a comment from a reader of Cruise Law News about an issue we are discussing on this blog. This morning we received the comment below from a reader about the propulsion problem on the Allure of the Seas.
Quite often, the problems with the cruise industry's poor image is not so much that things go wrong on the high seas, but that the cruise lines are not transparent when go amiss. When a major newspaper like USA TODAY or a major online cruise site like Cruise Critic breaks a story about a problem, it creates a perception that the cruise lines are being sneaky and are more interested in covering up a problem than fixing it.
Our reader's comments are below:
"What really bothers me about this is that Royal Caribbean is keeping silent on this issue instead of informing it's passengers about the problem. Haven't they learned anything from the problems that Carnival faced by not keeping their passengers informed?
I thought it was interesting that I called my travel agent and she was not aware of the problem but said that she would call the company. While I waited for her to call me back I called RCCL's customer service line to ask about the propulsion problem. The operator hemmed and hawed but wouldn't give me a straight answer. She even tried to tell me that there was a small problem and it had been fixed. When I told her that I knew about the problem and that it hadn't been fixed she said she needed to call her supervisor. I never did get a straight answer out of either of them. I, as a customer think that I have a right to know what is RCCL hiding? I think the media should be asking this of Adam. And is the ship actually safe to be sailing?"
Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Daniel Christensen)
Ever since the Costa Concordia disaster, cruise lines have increasingly resorted to paying for press releases to try and convince the public to cruise.
The latest press release was by Carnival Cruise Line yesterday, announcing that the cruise line has partnered with the New Orleans Saints.
Carnival will be sponsoring some type of half-time promotion where a Saints fan will get a free cruise aboard the renovated Carnival Sunshine cruise ship, which sails on its inaugural voyage from New Orleans the following day.
I'm not sure I understand this type of marketing. Carnival is headquartered in the cruise-ship-capital-of-the-world Miami and is associated with the Miami Heat (owned by Carnival's Micky Arison).
But Carnival is not the first Miami-based cruise line to associate itself with a sports team outside of Florida.
NCL just issued a press release announcing that it has partnered with the New York Knicks. I suppose that this makes sense because NCL's Norwegian Breakaway is a New York City-inspired ship that sails year-round from the Big Apple.
But why does New Orleans or the Saints want to associate themselves with Carnival, now asociated with poop cruises? The days of being the losing "Aints," when the New Orleans fans wore bags over their heads, are over.
Carnival has some lessons to learn from the Big Easy. New Orleans suffered from having the worst football team in the league decades ago. Howard Cosell even called the Saints a disgrace on Monday night football thirty years ago. And then New Orleans and the Saints had to endure the spectacle of the Superdome being trashed in Hurricane Katrina and people suffering miserably inside.
But since then, New Orleans recovered and the Saints won a Super Bowl. The Superdome is a raucous, fun place to watch football. And the Saints are now considered an elite, well-run and winning program.
Let's hope that Carnival's partnership with the Saints brings the cruise line equal success.
P.S. Don't miss reading my article about favorite team, the Saints, and my favorite city, New Orleans: Oysters, Dixie Beer & My New Orleans Saints.
Several news sources are reporting changes in the executive ranks at Carnival Corporation and its brands, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line.
Carnival Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Howard Frank will step down. He is slated to be an adviser to CEO Arnold Donald and Chairman Micky Arison. Jan Swartz becomes the new president of Princess Cruises, replacing President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alan Buckelew who moves into the COO role at Carnival. Holland America Line CEO Stein Kruse will begin overseeing Princess Princess under the newly formed entity "Holland America Group."
It seems like a family affair to me. Everyone is just changing hats.
The changes become effective December 1, 2013.
I'm pleased to see Ms. Swartz promoted from vice president of sales, marketing and customer service at Princess to the position of president. It's nice to see women advance in the men's club.
This weekend, the New York Times published an article about the "supersize craze" - the increasingly large cruise ships being built by the major cruise lines which are "worrying safety experts, lawmakers and regulators."
The article quotes my hero- Jim Hall, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTBS): “Cruise ships operate in a void from the standpoint of oversight and enforcement. The industry has been very fortunate until now."
The article discusses the capsizing of the Costa Concordia and the fires aboard the Carnival Triumph & Splendor and the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas, and concludes that larger cruise ships pose larger problems when things go wrong.
The article also quotes Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, who testified at a Senate hearing in July which I attended. He said that the recent cruise ship fires “highlight serious questions about the design, maintenance and operation of fire safety equipment on board these vessels, as well as their companies’ safety management cultures.”
The New York Times addressed the potential problems of evacuating Royal Caribbean two mega-ships, the Allure and the Oasis. There are not enough life boats for the crew. The 2,300 crew members on each of these cruise ships will have to jump down 60 foot evacuation chutes into life rafts.
You can see our article about this problem here - Titanic Redux? Can Royal Caribbean Safely Evacuate 8,500 Passengers & Crew from the Oasis of the Seas? Be sure to watch the video at the end of the article.
Captain William H. Doherty, a former captain at Norwegian Cruise Lines, explained the problem in simple terms to the New York Times: “The simple problem is they are building them too big and putting too many people aboard.”
Image Credit: Viking / Royal Catibbean
Cruise line loyalty to employees seems like it's at an all-time low.
Yesterday we reported that Carnival Cruise Lines unceremoniously ended its retirement benefit program for its crew members on its 24 cruise ships, leaving them feeling shocked and betrayed.
There is always a cheaper way of doing things, isn't there?
It seems like many cruise executives spend most of their time scheming on how to increase profits by laying off employees and then looking to third world countries for cheaper labor.
Travel Weekly reports today that the new UK and Ireland managing director of Royal Caribbean International is trying to reassure agents about the outsourcing of its UK call center to Guatemala.
Stuart Leven told Travel Weekly that Royal Caribbean was busy training the new Guatemalan call center staff and he would soon visit the Central American center.
Travel Mole reported earlier that Royal Caribbean planned to shrink its UK and Ireland guest and trade services center with the loss of up to 100 jobs. The center for Royal Caribbean, currently based in in Surrey, will be operated in Guatemala.
I suppose that this is an integral part of the "globalization" of the industry. Money saved yes, at the expense of terminating loyal employees. Not to mention running the risk of demoralizing the remaining staff and offering substandard services.
I hope the sales office in Guatemala works better than the service center in India I have to call when I'm having a computer problem.
Photo Image Credit: The Guardian
The Wall Street published an article today entitled 10 Things Cruise Lines Won’t Tell You (with a sub-titles of "navigating a sea of potential sickness, danger and debt") as part of its "Market Match" program.
Included in the article is the video below entitled "5 Things Cruise Lines Won't Say."
The video mentions (1) Sinking cruise ships; (2) norovirus; (3) over-consumption of alcohol; (4) cruise ships won't wait for you at ports of call; and (5) sexual assaults at sea and crimes during shore excursions.
This weekend, KHOU news station reports from Galveston, Texas that the Carnival Triumph returned to port Saturday afternoon "after a passenger had a medical emergency."
KHOE didn't explain the medical emergency but reported that the U.S. Coast Guard said the medical emergency was not life-threatening, "so they did not fly out to the cruise ship." The cruise ship then told the Coast Guard that it would be "just easier for the ship to return to port and drop the passenger off."
That's the end of the reported story.
If that's not sufficiently uninformative, here's another one from Canada's Herald News: the police are investigating a "sudden death" aboard Holland America Line's Eurodam after a woman was found dead.
The police in Canada said that the death of the 59-year-old passenger “is not considered suspicious at this time.”
The newspaper also reports that medical examiner’s officer was called to the scene and "no further information is available."
Are you satisfied with this type of "news?"
Do you believe that the details of stories like this are any of your business?
Do you think that the cruise lines and official authorities will tell you all you are entitled to know?
Photo Credit: AP Photo / Andy Newman
We were one of the first to report that the Princess Cruises' Royal Princess cruise ship lost power last weekend. Princess was cooperative telling us that the cruise ship lost power, and it quickly added that emergency generators supplied power for toilets and so forth, that the cruise ship and its guests were not in danger, and the the ship's captain was keeping the passengers informed.
But Princess never explained the most basic issue: what happened? Why did the ship lose power?
We have reported on all type of cruise ship fires over the years, including engine room fires, engine room explosions, electrical shortages and so forth.
Rarely do the cruise lines offer information regarding the most basic information why a cruise ship fails.
Today the media has finally reported on the power outage. Newspapers which mentioned the story received the same, most carefully crafted, press statement which Princess sent to us. The statement said that a momentary power outage happened out in the Mediterranean, and that the brand new, and supposedly most technologically advanced Princess cruise ship (owned by Carnival), lost power and was derelict for 3 - 4 hours on the high seas.
But no news accounts contain basic information regarding why the ship lost power. "Everything is OK" the cruise line promises. But there is no explanation why power was lost. We know that the Royal Princess limped back to Naples. The cruise is canceled. Repairs are needed. But what happened?
The lack of transparency is a trademark of the cruise industry.
Why would you would believe a cruise line if it discloses only half of the truth?
One reader left the following comment to our article, saying:
What is Carnival's problem? Bad design? Poor construction? Sloppy maintenance? Bad training? All of the above plus other things I haven't thought of?
Unfortunately I have nothing to tell this curious reader.
Princess Cruises' lack of transparency creates doubt and uncertainty among its own cruise fans in an environment where the cruise lines have repeatedly demonstrated that they are less than forthcoming about the most basic of facts.
If a Delta or American Airlines jet lost power, the companies would tell us why. Cruise lines don't. It's a major reason why cruise lines have a reputation for being secretive and dishonest.
Photo Credit: Princess Cruises via Daily Mirror
Cruise Fever reports that Princess Cruises' newest cruise ship, the Royal Princess, experienced a loss of power in the Mediterranean as the cruise ship was sailing between Mykonos and Naples. Here's what Cruise Fever is saying:
The cruise ship lost power around 1:30 P.M. local time.
Emergency generators started.
Toilets and emergency services are functional.
The captain is providing updated information.
"Power is in the process of being restored."
So far I do not see any news organizations reporting on the incident. Cruise Fever states that there has been no indication regarding why the Royal Princess lost power.
The incident has the potential to be another major embarrassment for the cruise industry, following a series of engine failures and engine room fires. The Royal Princess is Princess's newest cruise ship which was debuted with great fanfare in June 2013. It is owned by Carnival which is struggling with its image following the Splendor and Triumph engine room fires / failures where the Carnival cruise ships had to be towed back to the U.S.
Here's a statement from Princess Cruises this evening as of 6:00 P.M.:
"Today at approximately 1:30 pm local time, Royal Princess experienced a power outage. Power has since been restored and the ship is currently en route to Naples. During the power outage, an emergency backup generator was used to provide essential services, such as toilets. The ship is not in any danger, and the Captain has been keeping passengers regularly informed about the situation. The ship is currently on the seventh day of a 12-day Mediterranean cruise that departed Venice on September 15. There are 3,594 passengers and 1,336 crew members onboard."
As you can see below, Princess Cruises' web cam for the Royal Princess cruise ship seems to show a lighted ship as of 19:12 GMT heading for port in Italy.
Cruise Critic posted the following information about the incident:
Cruise Critic member funnyfingers heard from family members onboard that "they were without power for 4.5 hours and had to cancel the Naples stop" . . .
A Princess Facebook fan posted on Princess' page today that "the ship has had many other problems in the past eight days, plumbing, electrical, air-conditioning, and last night we were delayed leaving Mykonos for over four hours because they couldn't get the anchor up."
September 23 2013 Update: The ship will be taken out of service for repairs. The remainder of the cruise is cancelled. The passengers will be disembarked in Naples and flown home. Princess has promised to provide a refund of the cruise fare and a 25 percent credit. The power outage on Sunday reportedly lasted for at least 3.5 hours.
September 25 2013 Update: After a Series of Power Outages, is the Royal Princess Really Ready to Cruise?
Photo Credit: Wikipedia / barryskeates
Last week the public was transfixed on the incredible spectacle of the "parbuckling" project which, at a cost of $800,000,000 and rising, finally but successfully righted the capsized Costa Concordia in the port of Giglio.
The major news networks offered live streaming video of the event. Social media, especially Twitter, provided non-stop, second-by-second updates of the stricken Carnival-owned Concordia emerging from its watery grave.
Although there was some excitement that the Concordia didn't break-apart and topple into the sea, the expressions of success were muted by the fact that the Carnival ship was still a crime scene relevant to the criminal proceeding against disgraced Captain Schettino, as well being the tomb of passenger Maria Trecarichi, and Costa crew member, Russel Rebello (photo left), whose bodies have not yet been recovered. The images of the salvaged cruise ship showed what appeared to be a stained, stinking, and grotesquely warped ship still partially submerged in the water.
A sad sight.
The following day, incredibly, Carnival launched a new marketing campaign, called "Moments that Matter." The television advertising depicts U.S. families walking by picture frames showing wonderful moments on a Carnival cruise ship. (You can watch the video below.) A voice says:
“We never forget the moments that matter. We hang them on our walls. We share them with everyone. And hold onto them forever.”
For a second, I thought that perhaps this was going to be a tribute to the 32 dead passengers and crew from the Concordia. But it had nothing to do with the Concordia disaster. In fact, the advertising was intentionally designed to try and take the public's mind away from the Concordia and everything which has gone wrong with Carnival, and that's saying a lot, over the last several years.
I thought to myself how inappropriate the ad was. Certainly the timing was terrible. The Concordia with dead people aboard is being raised and Carnival is hawking cruises with a sentimental ad like this? The smiling U.S. citizens in the video certainly don't look like the dead people and missing people from the cruise ship. If you think of cruise ships sinking, capsizing, and catching on fire, aren't the "moments that matter" getting off of the ship alive?
The image which comes to me instantly is a photo (right) of two young women surviving the Triumph debacle and cheering in their robes when they were finally ashore in Mobile.
And what exactly is a "moment that matters?" I think I know. But it's certainly not frolicking around foolishly on a bargain-basement-fare Carnival cruise ship which flies a flag of convenience, underpays it's non-U.S. crew, and avoids virtually all U.S. taxes.
The timing of the newly trotted-out ad was terrible, at a minimal. And at the worst, the ad was insensitive, manipulative and offensive.
I'm not the only one disturbed by Carnival's efforts to sell cheap cruises by trying to take us away from the images of the deadly Corcordia, and the Carnival Triumph poop cruise, and the disabled Carnival Splendor with a U.S. aircraft carrier dropping provisions from navy helicopters to the rattled guests on the ship below.
The New York Times published an article about the new Carnival marketing scheme. The newspaper interviewed travel and marketing experts who were highly critical of the ad campaign. The Times published:
John Greening, a professor of branding and marketing communications at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, said the campaign was premature. Carnival “needs to let more time go by. It’s too soon to be promoting itself. They might do more P.R. efforts than advertising,” he said.
Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who does research in trust recovery, said the campaign was lacking “evidence of any new procedures and processes that make Carnival a more effective, safe and competent operator.”
Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst for Hudson Crossing, called the TV spot “trite and lacking in authenticity and credibility.”
"It’s almost as if Carnival is hoping that by watching its commercial filled with” smiling people, 'consumers’ memories will be magically erased of any memories regarding the series of unfortunate events that the line recently experienced,' he said.
The rumors of job terminations at Royal Caribbean ended yesterday when multiple news sources announced that the Miami-based cruise lines cut around 100 employees from its payroll.
Seatrade Insider was the first publication I read yesterday about the large scale termination at the cruise line's headquarters. Its article entitled Royal Caribbean Global EVP Bauer is Leaving, 100 Other Positions are Eliminated showed a photo of a rather somber Ms. Bauer looking tense with her hands clinched. Although the photo was probably a stock photo, the photo to me captured the anxiety and grim nature of mass lay-offs.
Ms. Bauer has been a popular executive for Royal Caribbean and has been one the regulars photographed whenever a new cruise ship comes on line or a new terminal is opened. She has worked for Royal Caribbean for the past 11 years involved in sales, marketing, hotel operations and product development.
The photograph to the right shows Ms. Bauer in happier days when she was discussing the unveiling of the Oasis of the Sea. She is shown with the Royal Caribbean fraternity brothers Chairman Richard Fain, President Adam Goldstein and Captain William Wright.
In addition to Ms. Bauer, some 100 other level positions were eliminated.
A couple of years ago, Royal Caribbean initiated a similar purge of 400 employees when the vice president of risk management, the head of crew claims, the head of passenger claims and a senior representative in corporate communications were all fired. Like Ms. Bauer, these four senior employees were all women.
The other major mass termination occurred in 2001 when the cruise line eliminated 500 jobs.
I'd like to know how many of the 100 Royal Caribbean employees terminated yesterday were women? Anyone know?
The Seatrade Insider called the most recent mass firings a "drive for greater corporate efficiency."
Hogwash. That's gobbledygook. The reality is fewer people will now do more work to keep money in the Chairman's and President's pockets.
In June, we published a spot-on article about Royal Caribbean cutting the senior officers in its marine operations department while increasing the work and reducing the pay of those officers which survived the cuts. You can read that article here: Cruise Lines Increase Responsibilities & Hours of Officers But Decrease Pay.
These actions call into question whether "Loyal to Royal" is just a publicity slogan.
Beleaguered Carnival Cruise Line, which in just a few months turned itself into the "poop cruise line," has hired a new marketing firm to turn its image around.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal reports that Carnival Cruise Lines has named the Lacek Group (TLG) as its new customer marketing agency.
The Journal explains that the Lacek Group (TLG) is a Minneapolis-based agency known for its expertise in "loyalty marketing" and "customer retention." It will provide Carnival with "strategic services and the development and management of customer communications and engagement initiatives."
Rob Borden, Carnival Cruise Lines' vice president of customer marketing, said in a statement. “TLG brings significant expertise utilizing state-of-the-art tools to identify insights from customer data and to find creative and compelling ways to engage guests through print and digital media. They are the ideal partner to help us take our customer communications and engagement to the next level."
That sounds like a lot of marketing mumbo gumbo to me. Carnival has a major image problem. It seems that cruise lines today are seeking new outside experts to help them with their tattered images.
Engine room fires, disabled cruises, no air conditioning, and toilets that don't work require some seriously talented public relations and advertising professionals.
Carnival Corporation subsidiary Princess Cruises just hired a new advertising agency to help rehabilitate ts image.
Will the Lacek Group turn Carnival back into "The World's Most Popular Cruise Line?"
I wonder why Carnival Cruise Line, based here in Miami, could not locate local talent from Miami to help with improving its marketing efforts?
Photo Credit: CollegeHumor.com
Carnival scored some much needed public relations points during an interview with CBS News' travel expert Peter Greenberg. Following several high-profile mishaps (the Costa Concordia disaster and the Carnival Triumph "poop cruise"), the cruise giant is reportedly spending more than half-a-billion dollars for improvements on its fleet of cruise ships.
Of particular interest during the interview was that new CEO Arnold Donald (who replaced Micky Arison, photo left, as CEO) was featured. He appeared relaxed during the interview with Greenberg while discussing some serious issues. Some points made by CEO Donald during the CBS interview:
"Not only did no one die, no one was hurt, no one was sick, so there was no safety health issue involved with the Triumph at all."
"In the highly unlikely event we should ever lose power again we'd be able to have a system to back that up and we'd have a process to keep from losing power in the first place."
Carnival rerouted 63 miles of cable, so that a fire would be less likely to take out both engine rooms, as it did on the Triumph. "If one room is lost, we don't lose the other."
Fire suppression was increased: water mist nozzles were increased from 30 to about 500, and a 24 / 7 manned patrol was added to look for oil or fuel leaks. And finally, a second backup generator (nowhere near the engine room) was installed just in case.
Photo Credit: local10.com / Video Credit: CBS News
September 4 2013 Update: The CBS Morning Show Segment That Looks Like a Carnival Cruise Commercial via Skift - Does CBS stand for Carnival Broadcasting Station?
Travel Weekly published a rather fascinating interview by Arnie Weissmann of the CEO of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), Christine Duffy, entitled "Cruising at a Crossroads."
Over the past eight years, there have been eight Congressional hearings on important issues which have plagued the cruise industry, such as the suspicious disappearances of cruise passengers, sexual assaults of women during cruises and cruise excursions, and the under-reporting of crimes by the cruise lines. A number of victims have traveled to Washington D.C. over the past decade to testify about the crimes committed against them. Women from all walks of life have testified how they felt re-victimized by the cruise lines's refusal to believe them and promptly and accurately report the crimes to law enforcement.
But Ms. Duffy would not acknowledge a single victim in her interview. She dismissed the issue of cruise ship crime and other problems as consisting of "inaccurate assertions" or "false assumptions." She complained about the erroneous perception of the cruise lines created by "critics."
Ms. Duffy goes as far as to say that "crime is not really an issue that consumers or vacationers should be consumed about."
She characterized the cruise lines' lack of transparency in reporting crimes, which has been vigorously debated before Congress, as a "non issue."
Addressing Senator Rockefeller's proposals of removing the cruise industry's tax exemption and imposing a 5% excise tax, Ms. Duffy threatened the loss of U.S. jobs and families being unable to take fun and affordable vacationers:
"The cruise industry, like the rest of shipping, is mobile, and these bills would create an incentive to relocate those jobs and the economic activities that U.S. ports and communities get today. There may be places where those opportunities may be more favorable. So, yes, it would place jobs and economic benefits for the United States at risk."
* * *
"Consumers who benefit from a vacation that is a very good value may not be able to otherwise take a vacation that would come close to the level of what's provided by a cruise. I think it's important for your readers and for consumers to understand that that gets put at risk, as well."
Ms. Duffy's blanket denials and browbeating show that the cruise industry is squarely on the defensive. Ignoring the stories of crime victims, CLIA demonstrates that it has no plans to bridge the gap between the cruise industry and cruise critics. And threatening to pull out of the U.S. while frightening families that they will be unable to afford cruise vacations, the cruise lines reveal that they have no clue how to deal with the public relations mess they find themselves in.
Photo Credit: Safety4Sea.com
The cruise industry is being pummeled in the world of social media. The endless stories of cruise ship fires, propulsion issues, engine failures, and, most recently, elderly passengers abandoned ashore after suffering serious injuries seem to come at a non-stop pace. The bad news affects the public's perception of cruising. A Harris Poll conducted this spring revealed positive cruise brand perception plummeted by double digits.
Even when cruise lines try and act transparently, they look suspect. Sometimes they get caught lying. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean boast that they are voluntarily disclosing all crimes and overboard passengers. But when the cruise line published its disclosures last month, Royal Caribbean revealed only one out of eleven people who have disappeared from its cruise ships over the last couple of years. Dishonesty like this does no one any good.
But today, the Consumerist published a feel-good article about Disney Cruise Line. It seems like the officers and staff aboard the Disney Wonder helped a six year-old child, who became sick on the cruise ship, receive prompt and potentially life-saving medical treatment. The article bears the heart warming title Disney Cruise Line Went Above & Beyond To Help Save Our Child’s Life.
People ask me "why don't you write about happy cruise news?"
Occasionally I do. Like when I wrote an article entitled Three Happy Cruise Stories - Salvation, Generosity & Rebirth. But that article was over three years and a thousand articles ago.
The motto of this blog is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." So our focus (and some say bias) should be apparent. We are not the most popular maritime law blog in the world because we write pleasant articles which make the cruise executives and travel agents feel comfortable.
Quite frankly I'd like to write more about truly remarkable things the cruise lines are doing, like Disney saving a child's life rather than assisting a child molester escape back to India or withholding information from family members about the disappearance of their daughter. But positive stories like the Consumerist article seem few and far between. Most stories about proactive steps taken by the cruise industry are PR stunts planned after a cruise ship sinks or catches on fire or the day before a Congressional hearing about cruise ship problems.
If you have a happy cruise story about a cruise line going above & beyond to help a passenger or crew member in distress, send us a link and we will be pleased to mention it.
At this point, the cruise industry needs all the help it can get.
"Royal Caribbean In Hot Water Over Couple's Cruise Medical Ordeal" reads the internet headline on CBS News. This morning CBS Morning News covered the story of a 89 year-old cruise passenger, on the Azamara Journey luxury cruise ship, who broke his hip on the ship.
Although the couple was initially satisfied with their treatment on the cruise ship, their feelings changed when they were dumped in a hospital in a small town in Turkey, where no one spoke English and which was ill-equipped to handle the emergency. Their hearts sank when the Azamara ship sailed away, leaving them alone.
This morning CBS joined the crowd with an interview of the couple in the hospital in Turkey after the couple's travel agent and a good Samaritan in Turkey intervened.
Royal Caribbean meanwhile made only the most cursory and cold hearted PR statement. It has taken a hit in the media. The timing could not be worse for Royal Caribbean following recent fires on its Grandeur of the Seas and subsidiary brand Pullmantur's Zenith, not to mention a loss of one month's revenue when its lemon Millennium stranded passengers in Alaska and needed extensive repairs.
Azamara, which actually operates the top brand cruise ship, has not said a peep. It is active on Twitter, as @AzamaraVoyages, but it has ignored the controversy of the abandoned 89 year-old with the broken hip.
Azamara's President, Larry Pimentel is also very active on Twitter as @LarryPimentel. A cruise blogger recently praised CEO Pimentel's social media skills, but his one tweet about the controversy reveals he doesn't understand social media or how to handle a crisis in the media.
Gene Sloan of USA TODAY's popular travel blog called "Cruise Log" posted an article about the 89 year old's ordeal and made an inquiry on Twitter: "Elderly couple says upscale line @AzamaraVoyages abandoned them in Turkey this week after husband broke hip." Sloan asked cruise CEO Pimentel about the Azamara guests' problems. Sounding like a lawyer, the cruise executive tweeted in response:
"Where did the guest purchase insurance? What did they insure against? Communicate with the agent or the insurance company!"
Considering that the couple purchased the insurance though the cruise line, the travel agent has appeared on CBS and CNN pointing the finger at the cruise line, and Florida Senator Bill Nelson publicly questioned the cruise line's commitment to its guests, Pimentel appears clueless.
There's a reason why few cruise CEO's are on Twitter. One of the few cruise executives on Twitter, Carnival's former CEO Micky Arison, tweeted about his Miami Heat basketball team immediately after the Costa Concordia disaster. He hasn't stopped tweeting, but Arison was relieved of his duties as CEO due to his insensitivity on Twitter among other reasons.
If Pimentel is going to maintain any credibility in the world of social media, he can't just tweet happy-luxury-cruise news. He needs to accept responsibility when things go wrong on his cruise ships. He needs to learn to become personally involved in finding a solution when his guests are in peril. In the world of PR, a cruise line president telling a 89 year-old cruise guest stranded in a hospital in Turkey to read his insurance policy and contact his travel agent is a recipe for disaster.
August 28 2013 Update: After an avalanche of bad press, Royal Caribbean finally agrees to pay Mr. Melkonian's out-of-pocket medical expenses. As reported in the Tampa Bay Times, a doctor in the cruise line's medical and risk management departments says in an email to the couple: "Our customarily strong support was not up to the standard you deserve. Although medical situations produce anxiety and stress, especially when they occur away from home, I regret that we weren't more successful in minimizing these inherent difficulties for you and Mr. Melkonian."
Meanwhile CEO Pimentel's Twitter page has ignored the predicament.
Azamara Journey: Wikipedia / Andy03992
Jill and Dodge Melkonian: CBS NEWS
Larry Pimentel: Cruise Chat
Video: CBS NEWS
Today the Wall Street Journal published an article about the cruise industry's efforts to overcome damage to its reputation while battling off criticism by a consumer group and efforts by Congress to regulate the industry.
The WSJ points out that the cruise lines have a lot to be concerned with, including "stranded vessels, fires, people falling overboard and being victims of crime."
The cruise industry claims that no regulation is necessary because it adequately polices itself. The cruise lines cite a number of self-imposed (although largely unenforceable) recommendations to provide a safe and secure cruising experience for almost 21 million cruise passengers a year.
I was quoted in the article saying that cruise passengers should not take comfort in the so-called "bill of rights:"
“It’s not a bill of rights, it’s a bill of the industry’s rights, a voluntary scheme to limit their own liability.”
One of the problems I pointed out is that cruise lines register their ships and incorporate their companies in countries outside the U.S. In the process, the cruise industry avoids U.S. taxes, U.S. minimum wage laws and safety inspections.
Most cruise lines are also not employing automatic man-overboard system, as required by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010.
You can access the WSJ here, but you need a subscription to read the whole article.
The cruise industry's reputation is under siege.
Cruise line presidents used to be able to appear on cable news business shows and trot out their new products and intineraries and pontificate at length without a hint of controversy.
But as you can see in this interview on FOX BUSINESS, Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO and President Adam Goldstein had to dodge and weave through what should have been a friendly interview by a FOX NEWS business reporter. It's hard to talk about the new cruise ships coming on line, when images of the stranded Triumph and the burned stern of the Grandeur of the Seas are playing as a back drop.
Cruise fires and mishaps are "extremely rare" cruise executive Goldstein says.
Are you convinced?
Bad news for the cruise industry as it tries to salvage its sunken image.
A recent Harris Poll concluded that that perceptions of the safety and reliability of the top cruise industry brands are not only low but continue to decline.
The average "Trust Score" shows the steepest decline for Carnival, although trust in the other major cruise lines has fallen significantly.
The intention of the public to buy a cruise has declined across the board with Carnival again being the hardest hit.
Over six in ten Americans (62%) agree that air travel is much more reliable than taking cruises and the majority (56%) agree that air travel is much safer than taking cruises.
Roughly half of Americans agree that they're less likely to take a cruise now than they were a year ago, with this sentiment proving stronger among those who have never taken a cruise (56%) than among those who have (43%).
The poll finds that even several moths past the Carnival Triumph debacle, which crated creating a "low tide for the industry as a whole," the perception of a dangerous and unreliable cruise industry continues. "The industry as a whole, as well as the Carnival brand specifically, may still be facing rough seas."
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.
Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or discuss the issue on our Facebook page.
The New York Times Travel Section published an article today about the topic of cruise ship "mishaps" such as collisions, fires, evacuations, groundings, and sinkings.
The problem is that there is no centralized agency collecting data about such incidents. Plus the cruise line industry is notoriously secretive about events that are inconsistent with the notion that cruising is a safe and enjoyable vacation.
This means that web sites like this and the site Cruise Junkie operated by Professor Ross Klein have to fill the gap.
You can read the article here: How Normal Are Cruise Mishaps?
The New York Times interviewed me and cruise expert Professor Ross Klein.
The Carnival PR person said the usual propaganda, saying that cruise mishaps "are quite rare” and "Carnival's ships are extremely safe." Lots of self-serving opinions and adjectives but the usual lack of statistics.
Here's the first comment to the article:
"Ah, for the days of deck chairs, hot bouillon, salt air, gentle strolls around the deck, dressing for dinner, a chance encounter with Dali walking a pair of Ocelots. Now it's down to the sea in floating Malls afloat in sewage. Captain, I think we're sailing backward."
Last week I ran across an interesting blog article by a thirty-three year old woman who sailed aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship out of Tampa with her long time boyfriend. Around 2:00 AM one night, she craved a cigarette and proceeded to an upper deck to smoke and look at the stars.
She encountered a naked man masturbating. He stalked her. She ran from the deck terrified. She immediately told crew members involved in cleaning a lower deck what happened. She then proceeded to the deck four service desk and made an official report of what happened.
The article is about the indifferent, casual and almost bemused response of the cruise line to her ordeal. The comments to her frightening personal experience are revealing. Some comments seem to be from crew members accusing her of being hysterical and essentially telling her to "get over it."
Indecent exposure and public masturbation are crimes in virtually all U.S. states. But in most situations state law does not apply to foreign flagged cruise ships in international waters. Do the laws of foreign countries like Liberia and the Bahamas prohibit such conduct? Did the cruise line report the crime to the flag state? I don't know but I doubt it. I'm sure no police detective from Africa or a small Caribbean island appeared to investigate.
The U.S. federal government theoretically has jurisdiction over federal crimes at sea where the victim is an American and a federal law was broken. But I don't think public masturbation or indecent exposure are federal crimes. Did the cruise line report the incident to the FBI? Probably not, but even if it did, I am sure that the FBI declined to appear either.
Florida is the only state in the U.S. which has laws extending jurisdiction to local law enforcement to prosecute crimes which occur on cruise ships. A state police officer or sheriff's detective from Florida could make an arrest once the cruise ship returned to port in Tampa. But this assumes that the cruise line notified the local law enforcement officials and further assumes the cruise line saved the CCTV surveillance images of the naked man and turned the evidence over to the police.
In my experience, the chances of this cruise line taking such steps are between slim and none.
There will be no prosecution of this cruise pervert. The video images of the naked man on deck and the cruise ship guest running down the stairs in terror will never see the light of day. No mug shots depicting the pervert will ever make it onto the internet. No one from the Miami offices of the cruise line will reach out to the victim with an apology, or words of assurance, or an offer of assistance.
Photo Credit: Daily Mail
This morning Cruise Law News hit a milestone when the 50,000th person "liked" our Facebook page.
The motto of this blog is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." One of our main goals is to educate the public about dangers and problems on cruise ships that the cruise industry would like to keep secret. So it's exciting to see that many people become a fan of our Facebook page.
We post most of our blogs on Facebook as well as links to other sites which write about newsworthy (and sometimes not so newsworthy) events in the crazy world of cruising. Unlike our other social media pages like Twitter which has almost exclusively a U.S. audience, our Facebook Cruise-Law-News page has primarily non-U.S. readers.
Who are the top readers outside of the U.S.? In order they are from India, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Turkey, Croatia and Serbia, as well as many other countires.
Why the reference to "50,000 fans can't be wrong?" It's a take-off on the famous Elvis Presley album "50,000,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong." (OK so I'm only 49,950,000 behind Elvis).
Thanks to everyone who like our Facebook page, read our articles, and leave comments!
Canada's CBC News reports that although It has not been smooth sailing for the cruise industry, "bargain hunters are taking advantage of deeply discounted prices due to high profile misadventures on the high seas."
The report chronicles the mishaps and disasters everyone is familiar with: the stranding of thousands on the Carnival Triumph "with no air conditioning, little food, and clogged and overflowing toilets;" Carnival flying many thousands passengers back from St. Maarten after the Dream suffered back-up generator problems; and the disaster of the Carnival-owned Costa Concordia, where 32 people died off the coast of Italy.
CBC says that the "industry is pulling out all stops to try to win back wary travelers," and quoted a travel agent saying:
"You can pick up a 12-to-14-day cruise for next to nothing."
CBC's Aaron Saltzman takes a look at the cruise industry below:
What Have the Carnival Cruises from Hell Taught the U.S. Public? It's a Great Time to Get a Cheap Cruise!
I have written around 1,500 articles about the cruise industry on this blog.
I've covered the issues which are important to me, like the negative environmental impact caused by cruise ships which dump raw sewage into the water and belch toxic high-sulfur smoke into the air. Like the exploitation of vulnerable citizens of India and the Caribbean islands who work over over 360 hours to earn less than $600 a month. Like the fact that cruise lines avoid all U.S. federal taxes, U.S. wage and labor laws, and U.S. safety regulations by incorporating their companies and registering their ships overseas in countries like Panama, Liberia and the Bahamas.
But do Americans really care about these issues?
An article the other day from the Plain Dealer struck a strange chord with me. The article was entitled Cruise Industry's Recent Troubles Could Mean Bargains on the Horizon. The newspaper writes that although the cruise industry is floundering again with images of stranded ships with over-flowing toilets (Image above courtesy Adweek), cruise lines will "fight back by throwing money at the image problem, lowering their prices until customers start buying again."
The newspaper's bottom line is that the recent spate of pseudo disasters may be a good thing for consumers - "this may be the time to find a bargain."
Americans love bargains. They want affordable and fun vacations. That's what Carnival offers.
Americans don't want to think about 400,000,000 people in India living below the poverty line many of whom are easily exploitable on cruise ships. Or the burning of toxic bunker fuel. Or the fouling of the waters in Alaska with a billion gallons of cruise ship waste water. Or the cruise line's non-payment of U.S. taxes.
Americans want to enjoy a cheap vacation on a "fun ship." The cruise lines provide that. If fair treatment of Indian crew members, clean air and water, and the payment of taxes by the cruise lines will make cruising more expensive, most cruisers will choose the cheaper cruise.
Today I saw a tweet by the IrixGuy on Twitter. Seems like a nice fellow. His YouTube video (below) explains why you should continue to cruise on Carnival. His basic points:
1. Carnival is "great;"
2. Carnival cruises have the "best prices;" and
3. With all of the "disasters" and negative press, it's a "really good time to get a really good deal."
I suppose that's basically what most cruisers want, right?
One of the interesting things about social media is that there are numerous services which track "what's tending now." Certain applications can also track words or phrases which are dominating the news.
I like to use TweetDeck as well as Monitter to follow trends involving the cruise industry.
"Carnival cruise" has been trending all week at a frantic pace. And the news is not good.
The cumulative effect of the recent cruise ship fires, power failures and images of passengers on disabled cruise ships complaining about toilets over-flowing has turned Carnival's reputation into a joke.
Carnival's "fun ships" have been ridiculed on Saturday Night Live, David Letterman & Jay Leno, and featured in MAD Magazine (see below).
Consider some of the comments which are twirling on Twitter right now:
Packing for my Carnival cruise: tent, sleeping bag for deck, iodine pills, generator, Cipro.
We all lose if CBS doesn't film the next Survivor aboard a Carnival Cruise Ship
Maybe we should shut down Abu Ghraib prison and send the terrorists on a Carnival Cruise
I wouldn't go on a Carnival cruise right now even if it were free
One of the secrets to Carnival Cruise’s unsinkable business model: free Coast Guard rescues
They have so many cruise commercials because Carnival is just sinking
Even with the 50% discount from Carnival it will be difficult to go on that cruise line again
Carnival cruise boats are shit LOL dont know why ppl go on them...
Decisions. Decisions. Trying to decide whether to take a Carnival Cruise or just stay at home and shit my pants
My new punishment for my 12 year old daughter: Do your chores or I'll send you on a Carnival Cruise
if its a carnival, there's a 96.13% chance something will go wrong and youll get a free cruise out of it... Have fun!
Last week I posed a question on Twitter whether Carnival was the Wal-Mart of the high seas? Several people said no way - don't insult Wal-Mart, Carnival is more like K-Mart.
What's the funniest comment about Carnival you have heard on Twitter this week? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
When the Cruise Shipping Miami's "State of the Industry" presentation started yesterday at 9:30 AM, I wondered whether anyone would mention Costa Concordia.
Keynote speaker, David Scowsill,World Travel and Tourism Council President, briefly mentioned the Concordia disaster in passing, saying "despite the tragic cruise ship incident last year" cruising is still "safest" form of transportation.
Holland America Line CEO Stein Kruse was the first to say the words "Costa Concordia" over 1 hour into the CEO's presentation which I quickly noted in a tweet at 10:33 AM. It was one of the few references to reality the entire morning.
All of the CEO's covered the CLIA talking points that cruising was "safe" and the cruise industry is also supposedly "highly regulated." The hyperbole was extraordinary.
Christine Duffy was the first to say that the Triumph fire was "rare." Carnival's President Gerry Cahill then topped her saying: “Something like this is very rare."
NCL's Kevin Sheehan said that cruising was the "safest, safest, safest" vacation option.
RCCL President Adam Goldstein said that the cruise industry was "highly regulated" by the IMO "regulatory scheme." He said words to the effect that he was sure "that no one in the room would dispute that."
Carnival's Cahill added that his cruise line intends to conduct safety audit all of its ships. CLIA would also be performing audits as well.
All of these statements sounded great. But there was little of substance discussed. There were all types of precise statistics presented about the number of new ships, the number of passengers and the revenue generated by the cruise lines. But when it comes to statistics regarding fires and other accidents, the cruise executives offered nothing but their personal opinions.
It was interesting what the cruise execs didn't say rather than the talking points they repeated over and over.
Last year I attended a Congressional hearing where a cruise expert detailed some 79 cruise ship fires between 1990 and the hearing in 2011. I have discussed in this blog that over 10 cruise ship fires occurred since the Splendor. That's 90 fires in 23 years.
That's hardly "rare." The "safest, safest, safest" form of transportation does not catch on fire every 4 months.
Keeping statistics away from the public is how the cruise industry works. Assuring the public that the unregulated cruise industry is allegedly "heavily regulated" is also how the cruise lines work.
Senator Rockefeller presided over the post Concordia safety hearing last year and told the cruise representatives "You Are A World Unto Yourselves." There is simply no real oversight by the U.S. over foreign flagged cruise ships.
Carnival's Cahill promised that his cruise line would police itself with its own safety audits. But what he didn't say was whether the audits will ever be released to the public.
Trust me, they will never see the light of day.
Cahill also said that Carnival "learned its lesson" after the Splendor fire in 2010. But he didn't say what lesson Carnival learned. He also didn't mention that the country of Panama, where Carnival registered the Splendor to avoid income tax, has still not even released a report about the investigation into the fire which occurred over two years ago. What lesson can be learned if the official report into the fire has still not been released at this late date?
Does anyone really think that the audits by Carnival and CLIA about the Triumph last month will ever be shared with the public when there is no public report about the Splendor which caught on fire 28 months ago?
Until the cruise industry truly falls under the scrutiny of U.S. federal regulators and there is transparency in releasing statistical information and accident investigation reports, all we will hear at the state-of-the-industry presentations are more and more self-serving opinions of an industry which is a world unto itself.
It's 11:25 AM Tuesday morning. I'm sitting here in the 4th row at the Miami Beach Convention Center listening to the final moments of the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2013) State-of-the-Industry speeches by the cruise line executives.
Before me the kings of the cruise industry are speaking: Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein; NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan; Celebrity Cruises President Michael Bayley; Carnival President Gerry Cahill; HAL CEO Stein Kruse; MSC CEO Pierfrancesco Vago; and Silversea Cruises Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio. Plus a keynote speech from World Travel and Tourism Council President David Scowsill.
My first thought as I scanned the panel of cruise executives on the stage in front of me this morning: Do you have to be a white male to speak about the state of the cruise industry at CSM?
This is essentially the same all men-in-dark-suits line up from prior years. Where are all of the women cruise executives?
Looking around me, I see some plenty of women in the audience. Why are there no women on stage talking about the future of the cruise industry? Seven suits and ties on stage and not a single cruise line executive in a dress or high heels.
Is the cruise industry the least diversified business in the U.S.?
I work in a law firm where the smartest lawyer is a woman; where the hardest workers are women; and where the decision makers are mostly women. 99% of our crew clients from around the world do not resemble any of the men here lecturing the audience at the auditorium.
Its going to be a weird week here at CSM.
Photo Credit: CMS 2013 - Jim Walker
6 Problems the Cruise Industry Needs to Fix - No. 5: Disappearances of Passenger & Crew Members on the High Seas
As part of Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2013), I have raised 6 problems which I believe the cruise lines need to address.
Problem No. 5: Disappearance of Passengers and Crew Members from Cruise Ships:.
The problem is not just that approximately 200 people have vanished from cruise ships since year 2000, but the attitude of the cruise lines when families try and find out what happened to their loved ones is just plain nasty.
When Seattle businessman Son Michael Pham's parents disappeared during a Carnival cruise, he voiced his frustration that he received greater responsiveness upon losing a piece of luggage.
Insurance company president Ken Carver's daughter disappeared from a Celebrity Cruises ship and the cruise line responded by discarding her personal items without so much as a call to the FBI.
Today, a reader of this blog sent me a link to an article which discussed how Disney youth counselors on the Disney Wonder lost track of a three year old child whose parents dropped the little boy off in the cruise ship's Oceaneer Club (for children aged 3 to 12). The cruise line's response was not only incompetent but heartless.
The youth counselors had no clue where the little boy entrusted to their care was on the ship. They appeared indifferent to the parent's understandable fears. No announcements were made over the course of 45 minutes while the ship sailed along as the parents searched frantically for their child.
This cavalier attitude is business as usual for the floating Magical Kingdom ships. Almost two years ago exactly, a 24 year old youth counselor from the U.K., Rebecca Coriam, disappeared from the Disney Wonder. The ship continued on sailing. The cruise line's attitude and response, in my opinion, seemed motivated to protect its own marketing image and cover-the-truth-up, rather than to find out exactly what happened to young Rebecca.
Today is Rebecca's 26th birthday which her parents and sister are celebrating in sorrow. Neither Disney nor the country of the Bahamas, where Disney incorporates its cruise ships to avoid U.S. taxes, will cooperate with the Coriam family. No one will provide the Coriams with a copy of the Bahamas report on the disappearance of their daughter. The callousness demonstrated by Disney and the Bahamas is the product of a foreign flagged scheme which is designed to keep cruise lines like Disney away from real oversight except by Caribbean islands whose loyalties lie exclusively to the cruise industry.
I touched upon this problem briefly in an opinion piece for CNN entitled "What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know."
There are many other examples of a cruise industry which would rather spend it efforts trying to create an image to vacationers that cruising is safe rather taking reasonable steps to make certain cruising is actually safe.
George Smith disappeared in July 2005 during his honeymoon. Going on eight years later, there remain no answers and no arrests, It was only last year that the public learned that Royal Caribbean had possession of a video of a certain passenger on the cruise ship who was taped telling his friends "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." We represented Mr. Smith's wife and were never told that the video existed; instead, we watched as the cruise line stonewalled our investigation and tried to convince the public that Mr. Smith just got drunk and fell overboard.
Last November, HAL passenger Jason Rappe' disappeared from the Eurodam while cruising with his wife. We asked the cruise line for information like videotapes, passenger addresses, statements and other basic information.
HAL refused to provide anything to us.
Instead HAL insisted that it was Mr. Rappe's wife who first had to agree to provide all of her missing husband's medical records, life insurance policies, work information and any psychiatric records before they would even think about cooperating.
No airline would act like this if a passenger or crew member disappeared in flight. But then again the aviation industry is overseen by the strict and serious Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). There is no equivalent to the FAA on the high seas - only ships flying flags of convenience in countries like the Bahamas which care only their relationships with the cruise industry.
Its too easy to commit a crime on a cruise line and get away with it. Even in cases where there is no foul play, the cruise industry's knee-jerk reaction is to deny and delay and obfuscate rather than treat families respectfully and transparently. Until this attitude changes, cruise lines will always appear that they have something to hide.
You can read our prior articles about 6 problems the cruise industry needs to fix below:
Check in this week as we explore problem number 1 - 4 during CSM.
Tomorrow we will hear the state of the cruise industry from many of the CEO's of the cruise lines. After a deadly and disastrous year, questions arise whether the cruise industry is heading in the right direction.
In many ways, the cruise industry is going backwards. I targeted what I consider six of the major problems which the industry needs fixing. Today we'll look at:
Problem # 6 - Pollution of Air & Water: The cruise industry is heading the wrong way on environmental issues. It just fought a very public battle with the state of Alaska which, in 2006, enacted the most responsible waste water restrictions in the world to address cruise ship pollution.
A typical cruise ship produces 210,000 gallons of sewage, over a million gallons of greywater, 130 gallons of hazardous wastes such as poisonous metals, and 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water in a single week-long cruise. Considering there are 28 cruise ships operating 150 days annually in Alaska, this results in over one billion gallons of sewage and waste water being dumped into Alaska state waters every year.
The Alaskan initiative targeted this nasty problem with sewage, while also prohibiting the discharge of heavy metals like zinc, copper and nickle from cruise ships' plumbing systems. In response, the cruise lines threatened to pull its ships from Alaska and lobbied legislators heavily. The major polluters of Alaskan waters, like Carnival owned Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises, led the charge to repeal the green legislation in order to avoid the expense of installing advanced waste water treatment technologies.
While polluting the waters, the cruise industry is resisting clean air legislation as well. CLIA cruise ships still burn bunker fuel, the dirtiest and most deadly fuel on the planet. and the industry is resisting complying with clean air laws, citing reduced profits.
As the industry's ships get bigger and bigger, there is increased damage to coral reefs and the environment of the fragile ecosystems from the Caribbean to Alaska. To accommodate giants of the seas like the Oasis and the Allure into its new port in Falmouth Jamaica, Royal Caribbean oversaw the dredging of 35 million cubic feet of coral reefs which were crushed and dumped onto old mangroves. The Oasis and Allure can now squeeze into the once quaint fishing village, where they sit and burn high sulfur bunker fuel.
The cruise industry has a historical reputation of abusing the seas, with the major lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL all pleading guilty to environmental crimes and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard and federal prosecutors. Although it has promised to protect the waters on which its business depends, the cruise industry has consistently chosen the cheaper and more destructive path on environmental issues.
The cruise industry needs to clean up its act. It must distance itself from its renegade past of being the conservator from hell.
Read the other problems facing the cruise industry:
Cruise Shipping Miami ("CSM 2013") starts tomorrow morning. Word on the street is that notwithstanding rough times for the cruise industry over the past year, there will be a record attendance.
Formerly known as "Seatrade," CSM is a huge trade show in the Miami Beach Convention Center with all types of cruise vendors, tourism delegates and port representatives.
You can appreciate just how dynamic and wealthy the cruise industry is by attending the show.
Here's the official schedule.
I will be there all week.
Here's my review of the last Cruise Shipping Miami trade show I attended:
Email me at email@example.com if you want to meet. My perspective - "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know" - is a little different than that of most people attending.
i will be blogging and tweeting all week.
See you there.
I have always wondered how the cruise industry PR people do it.
They face non-stop bad cruise news. The Splendor fire. The Concordia deaths. The Allegra fire. The Triumph fire. Plus another 10 cruise ship fires, 50 norovirus outbreaks and more shipboard rapes than you can count in just 3 years.
Yet, the cruise line public relations employees put their happy faces on and pull out their talking points. Cruise ship fires, crimes, deaths and disappearances are "rare" they say. Cruising is "absolutely" safe they promise. The safety of passenger is the cruise industry's highest priority, they proclaim.
But fewer and fewer people seem to believe the cruise lines shtick.
The usually friendly-to-the-cruise-lines reporters at the Miami Herald are even writing some articles that suggest that cruising may be suffering an image problem.
The Herald just published "Americans Think Less of Cruising after Carnival Triumph Fire, Poll Says." A Harris Poll of 2,230 adults showed that "trust" and "perceived quality" of Carnival and other cruise lines dropped "significantly."
According to the poll, 58 percent of people who have never taken a cruise say they are less likely to try one now than they were a year ago.
On the same day the poll was released, Forbes announced that Carnival CEO Micky Arison's fortunes increased one billion dollars last year, from $4.7 billion to $5.7 billion.
With all of Carnival's deferred maintenance of its cruise ships, exploitation of its crew members, refusal to reimburse the U.S. federal government for Coast Guard expenses in responding to disabled ships, and avoidance of U.S. corporate taxes by registering itself in Panama, how do the cruise PR representatives spin the news today of cruise tycoon Arison's enormous wealth?
Image Credit: A Bruising For Cruising (NetBase)
Today marks the 4th year Cruise Law has been on Twitter. Check out our page here. Over 10,000 tweets and over 10,000 followers later, it has been a fun four years. Tweeting is just micro-blogging in 140 characters and led me to create this blog Cruise Law News.
If you are not on Twitter you should be. It has led me to meet literally thousands of lawyers, travel agents, cruise industry people, journalists, travelers and crew members around the world. Lots of news about the cruise industry breaks on Twitter before the mainstream media knows what's going on.
Speaking of social media, we have been busy in the world of cruise law news this year. The Carnival Triumph fire and the "ensuing cruise from hell" were the latest cruise fiascos which focused the world on the unregulated foreign-flagged cruise industry.
Our firm and this blog were featured in over fifty television, cable news, & radio shows and internet, magazine and newspaper articles. Take a look here at a listing of some here of the programs and articles.
Cruise Law News (CLN), now over 3 years old, remains a top 10 law blog in terms of popularity. It is currently ranked #9 per the Alexa popularity rankings. The 8 law blogs ahead of us consist of 6 blogs which are commercial sites or are run by law professors. There's only one other law blog operated by a full time lawyer (China Law Blog) ahead of us. So we are the #2 law blog in the U.S. and Canada written by a full time lawyer.
Last month in the 28 days of February, readers visited some 415,960 pages of this blog. If we keep this pace up, we are approaching 5,000,000 page views a year!
Our Facebook page is booming, with over 45,000 likes. It is by far the most popular page by a law firm on Facebook.
Thanks for following us. If you have a question or want us to cover a particular issue or story, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
My blog Cruise Law News (CLN) is one of the few places where you can read about all of the problems the cruise lines don't want you to know about. Like sexual assault of women, molestation of children, pollution of the water and air, and cruise line cover-ups of disappearances on the high seas.
CLN has a wide, loyal and growing readership. It's the ninth most popular law blog in the U.S. This month alone, my articles have been quoted on CNN and Fox News and cited in articles or documentaries by ABC's 20/20, the American Bar Association Journal, Associated Press, CNBC, Daily Mail, Miami Herald, Newsday, Reuters, Seattle Times, Sun Sentinel, Canadian television stations and the largest radio networks in Montreal, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Vancouver and Miami.
After my opinion piece for CNN What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know, I received a number of emails and telephone calls congratulating me and thanking me for being a safety advocate and watchdog of the cruise lines.
But I also received the usual hate mail from people who like the cruise industry status quo exactly the way it is. Over the three and one-half years CLN has been on line, I have received more than my fair share of hateful emails and insulting comments left on my voice mail at work.
Winston Churchill said this: "You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
The most abusive comments usually come from people who work for the cruise lines. I'm not talking about crew members, but corporate types ashore in the cruise line corporate headquarters. These people try and stay anonymous. I call them cruise cowards. I keep a folder with the most hateful comments to read one day when I retire. Some of the hate mail consists of boring one or two line rants. Minor trash talking, very disappointing. I could do much better.
But some are works of art.
Last week, I received the email below. Quite well written, except for one typo, with lots of juicy adjectives. It was written as a comment to my article Carnival Triumph Passengers Happy to Be Home.
"And you are surely the happiest of all, uncle Jim. Like a maggot on road kill. You've got this gravy train leaching blood out of successful and responsible businesses under a phony bullshit cover. Behind that smiling cardboard cutout is a weasel scanning for the next meal. You are a helluva good example for kids thinking about a law career, buddy. You'd be a good prototype for a cartoon character that distills into one face the essence of what people hate about people in your profession. Take the low road to sucess (sic), find an easy prey, start sucking and don't let go. That's the Jim Walker way."
The comment was ironic because I already stated that we would not be filing any lawsuits arising out of the Triumph engine room fire, just like we stated that no one should file suit following the Carnival Splendor cruise ship fire in 2010 either.
But the author of this comment obviously has some deep personal animosity that existed long before the latest Carnival cruise ship caught fire. I wondered who and where the person was. So I took a look.
When someone leaves a comment on this blog, I have software that permits me to track the internet provider (IP) address. I can't see who reads the blog, but I can find out information if someone leaves a comment because the comment section tracks the IP addresses of those people who leave comments.
So I tracked the IP address. It tracked directly to Holland America Line (HAL) in Seattle Washington. I emailed the person back and said thanks. I would post an article that the hate mail was the best I had seen. The next email I sent resulted in a response coming back that there was no such email. Looks like the HAL cruise coward de-activated the email address and is probably hiding under a desk at HAL's headquarters in Seattle.
This is how the cruise lines work. HAL is not the only cruise line to send anonymous hate mail, unknowingly leave a IP address in the process, and then scamper down a hole when confronted. I have caught Carnival and Royal Caribbean doing it as well.
So why the hard feelings from the Carnival-owned-HAL?
I have only one matter right now with HAL. I represent the family of a man who disappeared from the Eurodam. I wrote HAL a standard letter and asked for a copy of the video camera images, a copy of the reports to the FBI, Sheriff's office and flag state, and a list of witnesses with information. This is the very basic information we request in all passenger overboard cases to help families try and find out what happened to their loved ones who disappear at sea.
But HAL decided to stonewall our request. It provided us with nothing but threats and insults. HAL stated that it would not even consider cooperating unless the widow first agreed to state whether her missing husband had life insurance. HAL demanded that the widow agreed to provide HAL's lawyers with her husband's employment information, all confidential medical records, and any psychological records.
Cruise lines like HAL are all smiley faces when they sell you a cruise. But if your loved one disappears on the high seas, the cruise lines will stab you in the back to conceal the truth. And if you hire a lawyer, they may send anonymous hate mail from their corporate headquarters.
Hate Mail Art: protectportelos.org
The International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization formed in 2006 in response to the problem with crime and unsolved disappearance of passengers and crew members on cruise ships around the world. ICV CEO Ken Carver's daughter disappeared on a Celebrity cruise ship which the cruise line covered up. ICV President Jamie Barnett's daughter died due to medical negligence. Other members of the ICV consist of women sexually assaulted and families who lost loved ones at sea.
The ICV was desperately needed because there is no federal oversight of the foreign flagged and foreign incorporated cruise industry. As Senator Rockefeller said to the cruise lines last year "You Are A World Unto Yourselves."
The ICV membership has increased substantially over the years with members literally around the world.
Recently, Jay Leno mentioned the ICV during his monologue with the audience responding with applause.
The U.S. and international media covered the saga of the stricken poop-filled Triumph cruise ship non-stop last week. CNN led the coverage with its "ceaseless, rigorous reporting" on what some newspapers are characterizing as essentially "inconvenienced cruise passengers without working toilets." CNN enjoyed a 74 percent increase from its recent prime time numbers according to the people that follow these type of statistics.
The media loves to interview maritime lawyers in Miami. As of the weekend, I participated in over 45 newspaper, radio, TV and cable news interviews about the Triumph fire. The media is still covering the PR and legal fallout following the debacle. There is a debate playing out in newspaper articles and cable news shows whether aggrieved passengers should pursue lawsuits over the incident or, as I feel, they should accept Carnival's meager compensation and move on with their lives.
But there is little debate about whether there are too many fires and capsizings involving cruise ships these days.
The cruise industry has done a pretty good PR job with its talking points over the years - "cruising is remarkably safe, the "safety of our passengers is the cruise industry's top priority" and so forth. But after the Costa Concordia deadly disaster just a year ago came a dozen cruise ship fires on cruise lines like Azamara, Costa, Cunard, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. At some point, the cruise casualties reach a critical mass. If the cruise lines' response is always "cruise-accidents-are-rare," at some point the public simply does not believe a word they say.
We are past that point today.
Last week CNN asked me to write an article about my opinions of the cruise industry. Readers of this blog know I have a lot of opinions about how the cruise lines operate. I had literally a few hours to type the article and CNN posted it on line later that day: "What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know." The article sparked a debate not only about cruise ship safety, but about the cruise industry's non-payment of taxes, avoidance of wage and labor regulations, exploitation of its foreign crew members, and damage to the environment. Many hundreds of readers left comments (nearly 2,000 to date) and over 12,000 people "liked it" on Facebook. Clearly the article struck a cord with a lot of people.
Yesterday, the cruise industry's trade association, the "Cruise Line International Association" (CLIA), wrote its response to my article: "A Cruise is a Safe and Healthy Vacation." Only 115 people have "liked it," and just 10 readers have left a comment. Here are some of the comments:
"This guy works for Cruise Lines, enough said."
"Why in the world would I believe this cruise line spokesperson?"
"How many wolves do (we) need to guard the hen house again, honey?"
"Someone getting Cruise industry payoffs to write this nonsense."
If I have learned one thing as a trial lawyer for the past 30 years, it's that the American public is smart. Don't ever underestimate a jury's intelligence and common sense. If I have a problem with my case, I acknowledge it. I make certain that I discuss the weaknesses in the case in my closing argument. But If you talk around troubling issues and try to bamboozle people, you will lose your credibility and lose your case in the process.
The cruise industry has some serious problems, including a lack of federal oversight over the safety of passengers and crew. But the cruise lines will not acknowledge anything negative about their industry.
By publishing a puff piece like cruising is "safe and healthy" when cruise ships are catching on fire and guests are sloshing around in urine and feces, the cruise industry is doing more harm than good to its already shaky reputation.
Join the discussion about this article on our Facebook page.
A former Royal Caribbean crew member recently posted a short video explaining, in his view, how the cruise line steals a portion of the tips intended for stateroom attendants. We posted the video in an article Are Crew Members Receiving the Tips You Pay?
Recently this cruise line announced that it was switching to a new system where it will automatically take money from its guests' accounts purportedly for the purpose of being distributed to crew members as tips. But many crew members have contacted us or posted comments to our blog stating that this is just another scheme to take money from the crew's pockets.
We posted another article earlier this week addressing the new policy and the issue of tips: Royal Caribbean's New Tipping Policy: A Money Grab to Increase Profits?
We also have a active discussion of the issue on our Facebook page.
But Royal Caribbean does not like its crew members revealing what is happening on its cruise ships. We learned that the cruise line threatened the former crew member and objected to the video. Today YouTube took the video down. Take a look below.
This is how foreign incorporated cruise lines (Royal Caribbean is incorporated in Liberia) view the First Amendment guarantees of free speech.
So this cruise line silenced one critic. But its hard to hide the truth. If you are a crew member, leave a comment below and tell us about the new tipping policy.
It has been a brutal week for the cruise industry. Consider the developments over the last week:
A 24 year old dancer from Massachusetts died aboard the Seven Seas Voyager. Her body was found when the cruise ship docked in Australia.
Two passengers went overboard from MSC cruise ships in the last couple of days. The body of a 46-year old passenger from the MSC Divina was pulled from the water but a 30 year old man who went overboard from the MSC Fantasia this weekend has not been located.
Five crewmembers are dead and three injured when a cable snapped as a lifeboat was being raised aboard the Thomson Majesty in the Canary Islands.
Yesterday, the Carnival Triumph lost power after an engine room fire disabled the ship. The cruise ship is now being towed to port in Progreso, Mexico while the guests have no running water or air-conditioning and are having to poop in bags.
So where are the reassuring words from the cruise industry's leadership? Where's the don't-worry-cruise-fans these are just rare mishaps in the remarkably safe world of cruising?
So far no word from the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), which now seemingly has every cruise line in the world as a member. Nothing either from CLIA's CEO Christine Duffy. Does CLIA and its CEO work on weekends when the lifeboats and passengers are falling and the ships catch fire?
I suppose all of this must be embarrassing to the marketing and public relations people at CLIA. After the Concordia disaster, CLIA announced 10 new safety proposals with great fanfare. One of them had to do with lowering lifeboats with only a few essential crewmembers aboard to avoid unnecessary injuries and deaths. But it seems that this was just a proposal which the cruise lines could ignore. Why were 8 men sitting like guinea pigs in the lifeboat as it is winched up to the 22 year old ship when the cable snapped?
So how does CLIA handle this mess? It seems like CLIA is about as responsive to the disastrous week in cruising as Captain Schettino was in responding to his sinking ship. Its hide-under-the-bed PR.
Eventually the executives at Carnival and Royal Caribbean making tens of millions a year will send some talking points over to CLIA. Then we will hear talk about the remarkable safety record of the cruise industry. Maybe CLIA will announce a Blue Ribbon Lifeboat or Fire Safety Task Force or something equally obtuse but official sounding.
Meanwhile eight families are mourning their dead loved ones and a boatload of families stuck on the disabled Triumph are being towed back to Mexico.
With the one year anniversary of the Costa Concordia capsizing this Sunday, there are literally several hundreds new articles on line about the disaster.
This morning CBS News aired a video (below) and published an article Costa Concordia 1 Year Later: Survivors Attempt to Move On in which several survivors explain how they are dealing with the aftermath of the horrific event.
The cruise line cheerleaders are out in full force with travel writer Jane Archer of the Telegraph newspaper in London answering her own question Is Cruising Safer One Year On? and Carolyn Spencer Brown of the Expedia / TripAdvisor owned Cruise Critic fan site conducting a puff piece interview for CNN International extolling on the virtues of cruising and blaming the series of institutional failures solely on "one rogue captain."
More critical and honest articles include I Need a Grave to Cry Over.
As the focus is now on the island of Giglio, where the Concordia capsized and remains in view as a daily reminder of the deadly disaster, Costa has done the unthinkable by writing a letter to the victims telling them that they should stay away from the island for "logistical reasons."
Amazingly insensitive, but this has been how Costa and Carnival have operated from day one.
As one survivor put it: "Costa has had an inhumane and unacceptable attitude from the start."
The cruise lines would prefer not to have several thousands of people standing with the wrecked cruise ship in the background, telling the world how Costa and Carnival have treated them over the last year.
Photo credit: CNN International
Cruise Critic & Cruise Log Continue Cheerleading for Cruise Lines As One Year Costa Concordia Anniversary Approaches
The Costa Concordia disaster provided a disturbing insight into the unsafe operations of the cruise lines. Before the Concordia capsized, the cruise industry did not even have a requirement that cruise ships conduct a muster drill before the passengers set sail. There were no restrictions to the bridge. The on board girlfriend of infamous Captain Schettino was reportedly in the bridge after the Concordia hit the rocks. And there was widespread confusion from the senior officers in the bridge all the way down to the crew members at the life boats.
Can you imagine flying on an American Airlines 757 where the stewardess doesn't bother to instruct passengers on evacuation and emergency procedures before take-off and the captain's girlfriend hangs out in the cockpit?
The image of panic and the ensuing death of both passengers and crew aboard the Concordia threatened to sink the cruise industry's idyllic image of fun, family vacations on the high seas. In response, the cruise industry - lead by the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") - devised a public relations scheme to create the image that an "independent" panel of experts was objectively scrutinizing the situation and arriving at proposals to make cruising safer.
The reality, however, was that the so-called "independent" experts were really paid consultants for the cruise lines and were hired more for public relation reasons than to really analyze the obvious weaknesses in the cruise industry's procedures.
But with every new safety recommendations proposed throughout 2012, the travel agents and cruise specialists united for a collective "hurrah!" to ensure the public that cruising was safer than ever before. Leading the PR campaign was the popular on line cruise community Cruise Critic, owned by Expedia / TripAdvisor, which like a loyal cheerleader applauded everything the cruise industry announced.
Even more disappointing was the unabashed cheer-leading by USA TODAY's Cruise Log which, although owned and operated by a major newspaper, might as well be a part of the cruise industry's PR committee. Like Cruise Critic, Cruise Log was all-too-quick to publish whatever CLIA wanted reported in the news as the Gospel Cruise Truth.
Lacking in the Cruise Critic / Cruise Log discourse was any critical analysis by experienced and truly objective maritime experts about what the cruise industry was proposing. Neither Cruise Critic nor Cruise Log offered a single criticism, or dissenting view, regarding the post-Concordia safety recommendations. No one mentioned the fact that there was no consequence if any of the recommendations the cruise industry was proposing were ignored by a cruise line.
The recommendations remain just that - recommendations - with no governing body to impose fines or sentences if they are not followed.
We here at Cruise Law News voiced our reservations throughout the year about some of these proposals, starting with the dubious and laughable "independent" nature of the so-called experts. We pointed out specific shortcomings of the ten point safety recommendations which you can read here, here and here.
With the Costa Concordia one-year anniversary less than a week away, the cruise industry is again gearing up its PR campaign to try and convince the public that it has made great strides in ensuring that a cruise vacation on the high seas is safe and sound. Cruise Log just published a puff piece extolling CLIA's 10 safety recommendations, followed by an almost identical article published today by Cruise Critic which might as well have been written by publicists hired by CLIA and Expedia to encourage the public to cruise.
Ultimately, cheer-leading like this does more harm than good. Media and internet companies like Cruise Log and Cruise Critic are selfishly short-sighted in their unrestrained support and promotion of the cruise industry. As matters now stand there is no oversight of the foreign-flagged cruise ships and foreign-incorporated cruise companies. The cruising public remains at risk. The public needs fewer cheerleaders and more watchdogs.
Instead of an independent media watching over the cruise business and a community of independent thinkers with a healthy degree of skepticism, cruising is dominated by spineless journalists and a flock of sheep ready to follow the cruise lines over the next cliff.
A television station (WBRD) in Louisville Kentucky brings us the story of 29 year-old Lauren Moore, a Bowling Green native, who sailed aboard the ill-fated Costa Concordia with her friends a year ago come January 13th.
Lauren had only been on-board for a couple hours when disaster struck. She says:
"It's not easy for me to forget. I remember the sounds of the screaming. I remember the feeling of the boat going over on its side."
"People being shoved, people screaming, people fighting each other for a spot to safe their life. My friend and I grabbed hands and we never let go of each other until we were safe on land."
Lauren says that she remembers the sights and sounds of the horrible events that claimed the lifes of 32 people every day, but she wants to celebrate the fact that she and her friends are alive on the one year anniversary.
As 2012 comes to a close, it's time to take a look back at the images of the year in cruising.
Below are 10 images of 2012 which tell the story of one of the most dangerous and controversial years in the history of cruising. My perspective is not that as a travel agent or vacation planner, but as the publisher of a law blog with the motto "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
No. 10 - The Year of the Cruise Ship Bug: Cruise lines hate it when anyone calls norovirus the "cruise ship bug." The nasty virus strikes nursing homes, day care facilities and hospitals too, but who wants to defend sick cruise ships by comparing them to facilities filled with ill patients or kids with pooh in their pants? I wrote more stories about norovirus and e-coli causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea to nice people on the high seas than I care to admit. We end the year with ABC News airing a segment on the "dangerous virus" sickening hundreds on the Cunard QM 2 and Princess' Emerald Princess cruise ships over Christmas.
Putting hysteria aside, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) documented 16 cases of cruise ship gastrointestinal illness, mostly noro, and that's counting only cruise ships calling on U.S. ports. Princess won the award for the greatest number of sick cruise ships this year, as well as the quickest to blame the passengers for not washing their hands even though the norovirus is primarily a food and water borne pathogen. The thought of being trapped on one of these floating petri dishes with hundreds of puking passengers makes me break out in a cold sweat.
No. 9 - Are Crew Members Fungible Goods? This year has seen flagrant abuse of hard working crew members who are the backbone of the cruise industry. By registering their companies and cruise ships in countries like Liberia, Bermuda, and the Bahamas, the cruise lines ensure that the cruise employees have virtually no legal rights or bargaining power. Cruise giants Carnival and Royal Caribbean take advantage of the situation. A documentary in the U.K earlier this year exposed Celebrity Cruises overworking and underpaying its waiters. Carnival's P&O Cruises terminated 150 waiters from India who went on a peaceful 2 hour strike in Seattle to protest low wages and the withholding of tips, even though the Captain personally promised that the cruise line would not retaliate against the cruise employees. Carnival and P&O broke their word but not the law because there is no law protecting the crew members if they strike. 150 Indians now find themselves blackballed from the cruise industry.
We were contacted by more ill or injured crew members this year than ever before, most with serious orthopedic and neurological injuries to their necks and backs. Cruise lines try and keep the sick employees out of the U.S. and try and suppress stories and images of injured crew employees. When the Azamara Quest experienced a disabling engine room fire, the cruise line quickly announced that all of the passengers were okay and heaped praise on the ship's captain. But the cruise line failed to mention that crew members were seriously injured during the fire, including one crew member trapped in an elevator shaft who was overcome by the heat and smoke. No newspapers in the U.S. mentioned the injuries to the crew members. Does anyone care about the crew?
No. 8 - Cruise Executives Get Richer, While Crew Members Get Poorer: 2012 was reportedly a difficult financial year for the cruise lines but you would never know it by looking at the huge sums of money which the cruise line CEO's pay themselves. In addition to his regular multi-million-dollar salary, Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain collected $11,500,000 by selling a small amount of his RCL stock. Royal Caribbean meanwhile paid its bar-servers only $50 a month and required them to work for tips carrying a dozen tropical drinks around the pool deck while balancing a bottle of rum on their heads. Carnival CEO Arison paid himself an end-of-the-year bonus of $90,000,000. Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean viewed the tips paid by the passengers for crew members as sources of income for the cruise lines while paying their executives astronomical salaries, bonuses and stock options.
No. 7 - Polluters of the Air & Seas: The cruise lines made a big pitch this year that they are leaders in conserving the marine environment, proclaiming that they vigorously protect the waters upon which they sail. The Cruise Line International Association started the year with a message to the public that the cruise lines were stewards of the environment and embedded a beautiful stock photo showing colorful coral reefs and an abundance of tropical fish. But the following day the quaint coastal town of Nahant, Massachusetts found a local beach fouled by a huge amount of human excrement, toilet paper, rubber gloves, plastic bottles, dental floss, condoms, personal hygiene items and a urinal cake covered in a mass of disgusting brown foam which was believed to have been dumped by a passing NCL cruise ship.
Cruise lines are fighting stricter air emissions laws and are still burning toxic bunker fuel, even on its newest cruise ships. A passenger sent me a photo of the Saga Sapphire which tried to continue sailing with some seriously smoking engines. The Friends of the Earth environmental group graded both Carnival and Royal Caribbean a "D+" for their disastrous impact on the air and sea.
No. 6 - Cruise Lines Stonewall Families of Missing Passengers & Crew Members: Mike and Ann Coriam are still waiting for basic information about what happened to their daughter Rebecca who worked as a child care supervisor and disappeared from the Disney Wonder last year.
Investigations into the disappearances of of people from cruise ships at sea often fall to the "flag state" countries like Bermuda and the Bahamas which have little interest in doing anything that might embarrass their cruise line customers which fly their flags.
This year, twenty-three (23) passengers and crew members vanished on the high seas. That's an average of 2 a month. The cases are characterized by the cruise lines' lack of transparency and the flag states' hide-the-ball tactics. The families are hit with a double whammy. First, they suffer the loss of a child or other family member. Then, secondly and unnecessarily, they have to endure the cover-up by the cruise line and flag state.
No. 5 - Deaths & Injuries on Zip Lines, FlowRiders, Rock Walls, Jet-Skis, & Excursions: As the cruise ships got bigger and bigger this year, the cruise lines added an increasing number of activities both on and off the ships.
We have been contacted by families seriously injured on rock climbing walls, in skating rinks, and on zip lines and simulated surfing attractions. One activity, the FlowRider attraction, is something which we consider the most dangerous activities you can participate in during a cruise. Off of the cruise ships, deaths have marred cruises due to snorkeling, diving, kayaking, para-sailing, dune bugging, catamaran, and open air bus excursion accidents around the world.
Cruise passengers have also been targeted for robberies and rapes in cruise line ports of call. The most potentially violent ports of call? You're pretty safe in Canada and Europe, but Mexico and the Caribbean ports of call are dangerous. Don't expect the cruise lines to warn you. This year we won a major appeal where the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Carnival has the legal duty to warn passengers of violence and crimes in ports of call. The case involved the tragic death of a girl who was shot to death in front of her parents in St. Thomas.
No. 4 - The Year of Cruise Ship Child Predators and Child Pornographers: Stories about cruise ship waiters, youth counselors, stateroom attendants and pool cleaners sexually abusing children were a frequent topic on this blog. But male crew members are not the only danger presented to child and young women during cruises. Male passengers raped and sexually abused other passenger on a regular basis with the most common scenario involving older teenager or young men inviting younger girls back to their cabins with promises of drinking alcohol at a party. The photo is of the most prolific cruise ship predator we know of - Cunard crew member Paul Trotter. You would think that a luxury cruise line like Cunard would carefully vet their employees. But not so. Trotter was employed as a youth counselor / child activities coordinator who worked aboard most of the Cunard cruise ships, interacting with children during nearly 300 cruises over the course of over 5 years. He was arrested in the U.K. for abusing at least 13 boys of English nationality and of course he abused American kids too.
In addition to sexual abuse of children, a number of passengers and crew members were arrested for having child pornography images and video on their laptop computers and iPhones. The cruise lines try and keep this nasty stuff secret. But the danger is real. Parents watch your kids. If something goes wrong during the cruise, don't think that the cruise line will believe your daughter over their crew member.
No. 3 - The Greatest Disappearing Act of the Year - Where's Micky? Carnival's Micky Arison disappeared when the cruise world was looking for a strong voice and reassurance following the Concordia disaster. He would not answer questions raised by families of the dead about the disaster. He said later that he would make certain that all of the Concordia passengers were taken care of. He didn't honor that promise.
Arison did prove that he is a magician who can disappear in January when leadership was needed and magically re-appear at the end of the year to watch his Miami Heat play basketball and to pay himself a $90,000,000 bonus. The only person he took care of this year was himself.
No. 2 - "Coward of the Seas" a/k/a "Chicken of the Seas:" The country of Italy has an impressive maritime tradition which dates back centuries. But cruise ship captain Francesco Schettino did a good job of single handily ruining his country's reputation on the night of January 13, 2012.
If you were asked to write a script for a cruise ship disaster movie, the Costa Concordia script would be rejected as being too outrageous. A handsome married captain is dining with a blonde cruise ship dancer and leaves his lover and glass of vino to ram the ship into the rocks during a showboating stunt only to delay evacuation and leave the passengers while sneaking off the ship like a rat? But Schettino is not capable of shame, explaining that he didn't really abandon ship but that he slipped and fell into a lifeboat. He later said that the "hand of God" touched him and he should be considered to be a hero for saving thousands of passengers and crew members from drowning. He also managed to file a lawsuit against Costa for wrongful termination. Stayed tuned.
No. 1 - Costa Concordia & Cruise Line Lies: January started with a story about a cruise ship called the Costa Concordia, a name no one will forget for a long time. Do you remember where you were when the Concordia hit the rocks? The first image (top photo) I saw of the disaster was sent via Twitter by a blogger in the U.K. When the first official communications from Costa were that evacuation was proceeding "orderly" and the passengers were "not at risk," but people on Twitter were talking about panicked passengers jumping into the water, I knew then that things were really screwed up. 32 dead people and thousands terrorized. Costa and the cruise industry want the public to believe that the disaster was due solely to one maverick captain run amuck. But the Concordia debacle reveals much about the unregulated nature of a cruise business with little regard for spending money on passenger and crew safety.
It's now almost a year later and the capsized ship remains lying on its side like a giant dead whale - a fitting image of a disastrous year.
2012 was also the year of the big lie - who told the biggest cruise ship whopper? Take your pick: "The Situation Is Under Control, Go Back To Your Cabin" says a Costa supervisor to panicked passenger who assembled on deck with their life vests ready to be evacuated. "I slipped and fell into the lifeboat" by Captain Francesco Schettino. Or "Cruising Is the Safest Form of Transportation" (as well as an endless number of other big fibs) by the shameless Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).
Thanks for Reading Cruise Law News (CLN): We enjoyed a record setting year, ending up by far the most popular maritime law blog in the world. This year over 1,200,000 people visited CLN and they read over 3,500,000 pages of CLN. I'd like to think that people read CLN because it lives up to the motto "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
Happy New Year. We hope we have less bad news to blog about in 2013. If you are vacationing on the high seas next year, have a safe and enjoyable cruise.
Please leave a comment below or leave a comment on out Facebook page.
Richard Fain - Wall Street Journal Smart Money / by Jeffrey Salter / Redux
Mike & Ann Coriam / Disney Wonder - LA Times
Costa Concordia (bottom) - Reuters
As we close out another exciting year here in Miami, I'd like to extend a Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings from the lawyers at Cruise Law.
It's that time of the year to be thankful for your family and friends as we celebrate the Holidays.
Many, many thanks to my friends, clients and extended family.
Merry Christmas! And don't forget, Its a Wonderful Life.
Photo by Jim Walker
Today the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper published an article about our trip this week to Jamaica entitled "Know Your Rights!" The article is below:
"CRUISE-SHIP workers are being urged to empower themselves by obtaining knowledge about their rights to benefits from their employers.
Several cruise-ship workers turned up on Wednesday at the Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rios to speak to lawyers from Walker & O'Neill Maritime Lawyers based in Miami, Florida. The lawyers - James Walker, Lisa O'Neill and Jonathan Aronson - were in the island to meet persons who might have been injured or fallen ill while at work on a cruise ship and who need guidance or representation.
While several persons were happy to have met the team of lawyers, there were those who left disappointed as the three-year period allowed for compensation had elapsed.
"Most of the crew members who work for the Miami-based cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and others, to be honest with you, they don't know their legal rights because the cruise lines do not inform them of their legal rights," asserted lawyer James M. Walker.
"They don't understand, for example, that they have only three years to contact a lawyer to assert a claim to seek medical treatment, or benefits or compensation for their injuries."
One woman who worked on a cruise ship and got injured seven years ago was told of the three-year limit. She left disappointed. So too did two men who last worked for a cruise line six years ago.
Walker said these persons should have been informed of their rights.
"They should know that when they leave the company. When they leave the company on sick leave, they should be told you have only three years and if you don't assert your rights within that period of time you lose them forever. So we're here for educational purposes," Walker said.
Over a dozen persons were steered in the direction that they need to go to seek redress after being injured. While they shied away from speaking with The Gleaner for the most part, one man who turned up walking with the aid of a crutch, while refusing to give his name, told the newspaper: "I'm pleased with the service so far."
He left with instructions to return with additional documents he had left at home.
But the critical issue, Walker said, was for workers to know their rights. For example, Jamaican crew members on cruise ships are entitled to get medical treatment in the United States.
Cruise workers who need information may visit www.cruiselawnews.com, a site that offers news on rights of crew members. Walker is urging persons to visit the site and educate themselves."
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's interview with disgraced Captain Schettino airs tonight in a program entitled the "Captain's Tale" produced by the CBC's Fifth Estate.
The Costa captain states that he doesn't understand why the disaster is being treated like a crime. He blames others for striking the rocks, explains that he delayed the evacuation of the cruise ship because he did not want to cause "mass hysteria," and denies that he abandoned ship.
Portions of the interview are below. The full interview on CBC will be shown tonight.
The Most Sensational Cruise Headline of the Year: "Confessed Serial Killer Boarded Cruise Ship in New Orleans"
Some of the critics of Cruise Law News say that I unnecessarily include sensationalist information in my blog. My response is that it's hard to report on developments in the world of cruising and not sound sensational when cruise ships are on fire, sinking and being chased by pirates.
But today, I read a few articles about a cruise which are about as sensationalist as you can get. A Fox news station in New Orleans published an article this morning entitled "FBI: Confessed Serial Killer Boarded Cruise Ship in New Orleans." It is now trending on Twitter. The article is about serial killer Israel Keyes who abducted, robbed, raped, and strangled a young woman to death in Alaska. It turns out that he was involved in a number of similar crimes across the country. He was finally arrested and placed in a jail in Anchorage where he recently committed suicide.
For reasons not clear to me, the FBI just disclosed a number of rather horrific facts involving the diabolical crime (as mentioned above) including the fact that he dismembered the young woman's body before disposing of it. Included in the gratuitous information released by the FBI was the odd fact that following the crime serial killer Keyes went on a two week cruise out of New Orleans.
So what is the connection between these grisly circumstances and cruising? Absolutely none. But the dubious connection to cruising was not just made by the Fox News people. It seems that many of the media outlets covering the story are making exploitative references to the fact that the sociopath ended his crime spree with a cruise. ABC News proclaimed "Serial Killer's Methodical Plan to Rape and Strangle Teen, Then Go on a Cruise" and included a video of the story which you can watch below.
The video has no reference to the fact that the killer subsequently sailed out of New Orleans on a cruise ship. The headline's reference to a cruise was just a hook to pull you into reading the articles and watching the video.
I suppose that the only point to be learned is that when you cruise, you never know who you're cruising with. A few thousand people did in fact sail out of New Orleans with a serial killer with fresh blood on his hands. If you cruise will a serial killer be aboard? Seems unlikely to me. But not so far fetched to prevent me from wondering whether the FBI checked with the unidentified cruise line to determine if there were any unexplained deaths or disappearances during the cruise.
December 6, 2012 Update: we have been contacted by passengers who sailed out of New Orleans who want to know which cruise ship Israel cruised on. We don't know. It is our understanding that he left Alaska on February 2, 2012 for a cruise from New Orleans. The cruise ships leaving New Orleans around this time were the Voyager Of The Seas (February 4th) and the Carnival Conquest & Norwegian Spirit (both leaving on February 5th). Anyone who which ship he was on?
A few minutes ago, Cruise Law News hit a milestone with the 25,000th person "liking" our page on facebook.
For the longest time, our involvement with social media involved mostly this blog and our feed on Twitter, CruiseLaw.
What I have observed this year is that our Twitter feed (with over 10,000 followers) is largely followed by cruise passengers, travel agents and cruise line employees. Most of the people on Twitter who follow us reside in the U.S. In contrast, our facebook page is mostly "liked" by many thousands of crew members from around the world. We have made friends with lots of crew members from India, Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Jamaica on facebook.
The other thing that I have noticed is that crew members and other friends from outside the U.S. are far more likely to interact with us on facebook. They leave comments on facebook. The people who read our articles and interact with us on facebook far outreach the number of people who socialize with us on twitter or contact us after subscribing to this blog.
For example, after a number of crew members went overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships a few months ago, I posted a couple of comments asking whether Royal Caribbean was working its crew members too hard. One of the posts was read by over 350,000 people on facebook. Another posting about the working conditions on Celebrity cruise ships was read by over 100,000 people. We also had many hundreds of comments to these articles, mostly by crew members who have first hand knowledge of what "ship life" is really like.
Crew members are the backbone of our law practice. Yes we have assisted many hundreds of cruise passengers over the years. But the majority of our clients are crew members (like the crew member above from Trinidad).
Whether they are crew members or not, the biggest supporters of this blog reside outside of the U.S. The last four people to "like" our page were "Raja" from India, "Natalija" from Croatia, "Novi" from Bosnia & Herzegovina, with "J.J." from South Africa being the 25,000th person to like our page. I have learned that the international community has a different perspective about things than Americans do. People outside the U.S. are far more sympathetic to the hard times many crew members face. Most Americans, on the other hand, just want a nice cruise vacation. Long hours and low pay are not their concerns.
Crew members often leave us messages on facebook, asking us for help or informal advice about their rights on cruise ships. Often crew members from places like India, Indonesia or the Caribbean islands have no one to turn to for information while working long contracts on the high seas far away from home. Problems with supervisors, long hours, bad medical care, prejudice & sexual harassment put crew members in a stressful situation. We are pleased to respond without any obligation. We hope that we can help you.
Our blog is read over a million times each year. Thanks for helping us spread the word on facebook. If you have information about working conditions on cruise ships and things that need fixing in the cruise industry, send us tips. We promise to maintain your confidentiality.
If you are a cruise ship employee, thanks for "liking" us on facebook and reading this blog. If it is helpful to you, recommend us to a friend. Share our articles with your past or present crew member friends. Help us get the word out about "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
According to AVVO which ranks the popularity of law blogs, Cruise Law News (CLN) is currently the 9th most popular law blog in the U.S. You can read the list (updated daily) here. The list does not pretend to be a compilation of the "best" blogs. It is based primarily on the number of readers and the number of pages read for each blog, if I understand correctly how AVVO works.
Of the eight blogs ahead of CLN, four of the blogs are written by law professors (Legal Insurrection, Althouse, Law Professors Blog Network, and the Volokh Conspiracy). Three other blogs are commercial (accepting advertising) types (Lawyernomics, Above the Law, and Lawyerist). There is only one blog ahead of us which is written by a lawyer who actually practices law full time, China Blog, which is authored by Seattle attorney Dan Harris.
That makes our blog the most widely read blog about our practice areas - cruise law and maritime personal injury law - in the U.S. Around 300,000 pages of CLN are read a month. We expect at the end of this year there to be well over 3,000,000 pages of CLN read just this year alone.
Being a widely read blog is admittedly a goal of CLN. The purpose of our blog is to educate the public about "everything cruise lines don't want you to know." There are a lot of problems, like sexual assault of women, molestation of children, and abuse of crew members, that cruise lines try and keep secret.
Thanks for reading our blog, and thanks for sending us tips about things that happen on cruise ships which the Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans prefer the public not to know.
If you want to track the popularity of websites and blogs, download the Alexa toolbar. Its simple and takes less than 30 seconds.
I'm not always right.
Despite the ego that I have grown to compete in the dog-eat-dog world of cruise line litigation against Fortune 200 cruise corporations in Miami Florida, every day I realize that I, too, make errors of perception, of judgment, and of acknowledgment.
Last year, I wrote an article about what I thought were the "top 12 best cruise blogs." Boy did I make a major mistake. I omitted one of the best cruise line blogs around.
Martin Cox's "Maritime Matters" is brilliant.
It has the perfect balance of current cruise news coupled with fascinating historical chronicles of the cruise industry.
What peaked my interest into publisher Mr. Cox's extraordinary website were the recent and utterly fascinating stories of co-editor Peter Knego's Journey to Giglio and his trip to explore the first and only atomic cruise ship the N/S SAVANNAH. The photography, information and perspective are rather amazing.
Take a minute, leave my blog of admittedly depressing stories of crimes against cruise passengers and mistreatment of crew members and other bad cruise line news. Travel through Maritime Matters' entertaining world of cruise lines, past and future.
Cruise Law News' grade of Maritime Matters? A+
Photo credit: Peter Knego
See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: Cruise Industry & Cruise Fans Quiet After Four Crew Members Develop Menigitis During Cruise
Early this Monday morning I reported on an outbreak of meningitis aboard the MSC Orchestra cruise ship. Four MSC crew members were hospitalized yesterday in Livorno, Italy once the cruise ship reached this Italian port. Newspapers in Italy, France, Germany and Spain mentioned the disease outbreak.
But no one in the U.S. mentioned the story.
Meningitis is a serious and often deadly disease. Meningitis developing on a cruise ship filled with several thousand passengers and crew members is a big event, particularly considering that one or more of the crew members worked in the ship's galley and could infect the unsuspecting passengers though saliva from their mouths and/or throats, or coughing and spewing infected mucous on food or into beverages.
I tweeted my article this morning "Crew Members Aboard MSC Orchestra Stricken With Meningitis." The cruise community on Twitter operating under the #cruise hash tag is relatively small, with cruise agents, and cruise lines and the cruise trade groups all incessantly and incestuously re-twitting everyone else's tweets about the joys of cruising. But aside from one travel agent who re-tweeted my article about the MSC meningitis cases this morning, none of the major bloggers or cruise publications tweeted or blogged a word about the disease.
The big boys in the world of cruising, like USA TODAY's CruiseLog and the Expedia-owned Cruise Critic, didn't mention a thing. Nor did the Miami Herald or the many travel agent publications or any of the regular cruise and travel bloggers. Instead, we had USA TODAY CruiseLog's last blog about "Princess' Next Ship to Have a Water and Light Show" and CruiseCritic writing about "Work Starts on Biggest P&O Cruise Ship."
Finally late tonight we have CNN reporting the story, commenting that more than 2,800 doses of antibiotics (Ciprofloxacin and Rifampicin) were issued for passengers. CNN repeated the Italian Health Ministry's comments that "the strand was found in the crew that worked in the kitchen and that, therefore, they should not have had continuous and close contact with passengers." CNN also brought forth the ominous information from the Ministry in Italy that passengers who have disembarked in the past week from the prior cruise should take similar antibiotics.
This morning I mentioned that the press in Italy reported that some 400 children were aboard the Orchestra and were told to take the antibiotics out of concern of possible exposure to the diseased crew members. Certainly this is not the type of a cruise story involving at least one or more infected galley workers that only a little blog like mine and a few random twitters should cover and the major U.S. media should ignore until CNN reports on it 12 hours later.
Are the travel publications and major cruise bloggers afraid to offend their friends in the cruise industry? Are they just trained monkeys who see, hear and speak no evil?
A couple of my friends on Twitter asked me about a maritime law blog in Miami which tweets under the Twitter handle @cruiseshiplaw. They were confused whether it was my blog, because it looked strikingly just like mine and had a similar name.
I clicked on the blog and, yes, it looks pretty much just like mine. A big white cruise ship in the upper right corner and the same blue theme.
Its a blog by my main competitor for cruise line clients. Very good lawyers no doubt. But why rip off my design?
I have an approach in life and in my blog to give credit where credit is due. So when I write about maritime lawyers in Miami winning cases against the cruise lines I credit them by name.
But this blog not only copied my design but actually writes about our cases. Look to the right and you can see the article "Carnival Cruise Lines May Be Liable For Child's Death." That's a precedent setting case against Carnival where we recently prevailed in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal, which we wrote about earlier this month.
Ah another law firm sponging, mooching, free-loading and otherwise riding on our coattails.
I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Cruise List broke a story today about a power outage which occurred on Holland America Line's Statendam cruise ship last Thursday.
The Cruise List blog explains that last Thursday evening his proprietary application which searches for cruise information on Twitter picked up a tweet about a “fuel pump explosion” that caused a “two hour Power Outage on the Statendam.” He re-tweeted it but later deleted it when he received a direct message from the person originally tweeting the information, begging him to delete it for reasons not explained (he sounds a lot nicer than me).
Cruise List then left a post on Cruise Critic asking if anyone knew about an incident on the Statendam. Yes, several passengers responded - the cruise ship indeed "lost all power and were serving cheese sandwiches in the main dining room."
This incident seems to have passed without much consequence other than the inconvenience of cheese sandwiches. But the Statendam is almost two decades old - it is one of the older ships in the modern cruise line industry.
As the last couple of years have demonstrated, power failures on cruise ship are a very serious matter. Engine room fires and explosions which disable cruise ships, for a few hours or to the point that the ship is disabled at sea, are hardly rare. Consider these incidents in the last three years:
- The Sun Princess lost power earlier this month;
- The Costa Allegra lost all power off the coast of southern Africa earlier this year and had to be towed back to a port;
- The M/V Plancius adventure cruise ship lost power and was stranded in the South Atlantic;
- The Azamara Quest lost most of its power this year following an engine room fire near Bornea;
- The Cunard QM2 suffered what is described as a catastrophic explosion and lost power on the high seas;
- The MSC Opera lost power in the Baltic Sea, with passengers describing the ordeal as "shocking, scary, with dark hallways and backed up toilets," according to the BBC.
- The Norwegian Dawn lost power in the Caribbean; and
- The most famous recent power failure occurred aboard the Carnival Splendor. The U.S.S. Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier had to send helicopters to drop relief food to the cruise ship and a fleet of tug boats had to push and pull the Splendor to San Diego for extensive repairs.
The cruise industry tries to keep explosions and power outages quiet, to avoid images like the Carnival Splendor cruise ship (right) stranded at sea or videos like this.
The Statendam captain's blog mentions nothing about the power outage. I'm sure that that's not a reflection of him as much as a corporate policy prohibiting any mention of something like this.
It's important for the cruise community to keep an eye out for potential safety issues that the cruise lines would prefer you not know.
Hats off to Cruise List, which states that it "was created as a place where you could go to see what was going on aboard ships without a sales pitch."
This morning two news articles caught my eye. The first one from an Australian newspaper - "Cruising Boom: 20 Million Take to the Sea" - and the second one from one of my favorite newspapers, the LA Times - "Cruise Industry Rebounding from Ship Accident, Woes in Europe."
These headlines seem incongruous given the fact that the Costa Concordia remains capsized on its side as a continuing reminder of the deadly cruise disaster (image today).
The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) does a very good job promoting statistics showing the growth of the cruise industry via press releases. Today we are learning that some 20,000,000 people took a cruise last year - a record year for cruising. According to the Sydney Morning Herald:
"A record 20 million people took a cruise last year, an increase of almost 2 million, according to the latest industry figures. While North America (11.5 million) and Europe (6.2 million) are the main markets, the Australian cruising market grew by 30 per cent, to more than 500,000 passengers."
That's good news for the cruise industry and travel agents who make a living selling cruises. But last year, of course, was pre Costa Concordia disaster. What are the prospects for the cruise industry post Costa Concordia?
According to the LA Times, the future of the $37 billion industry looks bright.
A survey of 300 travel agents in North America in July found that 64% expected bookings in 2012 to surpass last year's numbers. And plenty of new cruise ships are coming on line with 19 ships being added or slated to come on line in 2012 and 2013 (a rather surprising number to me - is this right?)
The newspaper interviewed Stewart Chiron, owner of CruiseGuy.com, who I bump heads with regularly on Twitter, saying "the impact of the Concordia on North America was almost nonexistent." That is a hard concept to wrap my head around - 32 dead including Americans with no effect on U.S. cruise sales? In my view, if this is true it reflects that Carnival (which has over 100 cruise ships) and the cruise industry can weather almost any storm provided that they remain immune from paying U.S. corporate taxes.
The newspaper concludes that cruise reservations are rising, and the drop in European bookings are offset by strong U.S. cruise ticket sales. The bottom line according to Times? The Costa Concordia disaster had only a short-term effect.
It seems to me that the LA Times article may be a tad optimistic, but who am I to rain on the cruise industry's good news? I was disappointed to see that the Times interviewed mostly just a cruise CEO, a travel agent and a cruise specialist without including an in depth analysis of the cruise lines' financial status.
It's kind of like writing an article about the prospects of a professional football team and then interviewing only the team's owner, players and cheerleaders.
Photo credit: Giglio News
One of the things about being a maritime lawyer in Miami is that when a cruise ship catches on fire or sinks, the networks will come calling for you to appear on TV.
The cruise lines usually run and hide until the drama is over. But the Miami based maritime lawyers will appear on all of the major networks as well as CNN, MSNBC and FOX News.
I have been on TV more times than that I can count - Larry King a couple of times, Fox News' Sean Hannity, CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper & Erin Burnett, MSNBC, CNN Money, Court TV, ABC's 20 / 20, Nancy Grace, Dateline, Greta Van Sustern, Joe Scarborough, 48 Hours, and so forth and so on. There are a couple of other maritime lawyers in Miami who also appear regularly when things go wrong on cruise ships.
I suppose it's great publicity. There you are on national television. Wow, you must be smart or famous or important or something. It looks very official. There you are with the cable news logo behind you with your face on one side of a split screen with a big time television interviewer on the other side.
But the truth is a little different. Unless you are actually on the production set across from the interviewer (like Larry King Live, which was great fun), you are usually being interviewed at a remote location where you are stuffed into a little closet of a room with a microphone under your tie and an audio piece in your ear with a big camera pointing at you and a tiny TV monitor in front of you.
Perched on a little uncomfortable seat staring at a 13 inch monitor trying to think of something intelligent to say to several million viewers is not always easy.
It can be disorienting the first time you do a remote interview. There is an audio delay of several seconds between when you or the interviewer talk and when the voices are heard on television. So you run the risk of confusing yourself if you watch the monitor. There you are talking away but the monitor shows you just sitting there. You have to understand that what you are watching is a couple of seconds behind real time.
I have to admit that I love it. It comes naturally to me. There is no shortage of cruise news and I have no shortage of opinions.
But the production is all smoke and mirrors.
So when you see me next time on TV, don't be impressed. Remember that I am sitting on a stool somewhere in a tiny room alone trying to hear the question through a crappy little plastic earpiece while looking at a tiny little TV screen.
Check out our media page here.
CruiseMates "Most Ridiculous Cruise Ship Lawsuits" Article Forgets P&O Cruises History of Exploitation of Women
CruiseMates recently ran an article by its editor Paul Motter entitled "Most Ridiculous Cruise Ship Lawsuits." One of the lawsuits was filed by a 50 year old lady passenger aboard a P&O cruise ship who attended a talent show dressed in a leopard skin dress who sang a Tina Turner song River Deep Mountain High.
One of the P&O judges, entertainer Rory Healey, allegedly told her he could see her underwear through her dress, commented on her breasts and suggested she could "cougar" him any time.
Her husband said that Mr. Healey then touched the screen showing her image, fondling and kissing the screen image of her breasts. Read more here.
CruiseMates editor Motter mocked the woman and labeled her lawsuit as "ridiculous."
One CruiseMates reader commented: "Wonder what Jim Walker would say about this?" Mr. Motter responded: "Something tells me Jim Walker has already commented on it - probably in the woman's favor."
Well, I haven't commented on this sorry state of affairs yet, but here are my thoughts:
This happened on a P&O cruise ship. When it comes to sexual harassment and crimes against women, P&O Cruises has a nasty history.
When I started this blog several years ago, one of the first articles I wrote was about a P&O cruise passenger, Dianne Brimble. A gang of eight slipped her a date rape drug. Ms. Brimble ended up raped and dead, naked on the floor of a cabin occupied by the men who joked afterwards that she had the breath of a dog and they thought about throwing her overboard.
P&O responded to the horrific incident in a manner that i would describe as somewhere between callous and outrageous. Eventually P&O promised to mend its way and clean up its over-the-top fraternity party attitude where women and booze are just part of the cruise fun.
But did it really clean up its act?
P&O quickly pimped out their female passengers, with a sexist "Seamen Wanted" promotional postcard, depicting a deck full of women wearing bikinis, accompanied by a tag line "More girls, more sun, more fun. There's nothing else a guy needs to know."
No wonder that P&O Cruises experienced sexual assaults in the years following this disastrous ad campaign.
So when I read about Mr. Motter giggling about women's underwear and the foolish P&O crew member's not-so-funny comments about "cougar" women, I can't help to think what a sad state of affairs remains on the P&O cruise ships for this nonsense to be going on. A P&O crew member groping and kissing an image of a cruise passenger's breasts?
Mr. Healey needs to be sacked ASAP. He needs to be made an example of sexism run wild.
And that goes for CruiseMates' editor, Mr.Motter. He needs to be canned too.
Dianne Brimble's family deserves nothing less.
After posting this article, I received a number of emails blasting me for wriiting about this cruise employee. It seems there is a facebook page called "Save Rory" trying to keep him employed. I could not find the facebook page but ran across this photo of Rory on facebook.
Seems like he posted a photo of himself, a cardboard cut-out of Jennister Anniston in the urinals. Funny? I don't think so, but let's see what P&O thinks. The cruise line defense lawyers may want to instruct Rory to take his facebook page down during the pendency of the lawsuit . . .
Cruise Law News has been on line since September 2009. We have several thousand people who subscribed via e-mail, RSS or Google Reader. A little over !0,000 people have followed us on Twitter over the last three years. Most of the subscribers and Twitter followers are from the U.S. with many travel agents, cruise planners, and regular cruisers reading the blog.
But our readership has changed dramatically over the last several months. In June, I started posting information regularly on Cruise Law News' facebook page. I've added lots of stories and photos which are not in my blog.
Since June, over 13,000 people have liked us on facebook. The majority of the new readers are from Europe, South America and India. From Europe, we have seen an unprecedented number of people from Romania, Serbia and Croatia liking us. Many are crew members or former crew members. We receive more comments to our face book page than on my blog.
If you haven't done so, consider going to our facebook page and clicking the like button. Leave us a comment and give us your thoughts about our page.
Thanks for reading . . .
I received a nice compliment this week when a top travel blogger, Chris Owen, picked Cruise Law News as one of "Three Unique Cruise Websites Worth A Look."
Chris is a popular travel expert who writes for Gadling and his own blog Chris Cruises - Inside Cruise Vacatioms."
"There are a lot of web sites around with cruise information. The king daddy of all is probably Cruise Critic, with tens of thousands of members, ship reviews that even offers the ability to price cruises from a variety of sources, a great first step before contacting a travel agent for serious planning. USA Today brings the power of a major international publication to cruise information with Gene Sloan at the helm covering breaking news alike a blanket. But some smaller, lesser-known sites are making a big impact with unique content worth a look, if not a bookmark, free subscription and daily visit."
Chris' first pick is Phil Reimer’s Ports and Bows. Mr. Reimer is the cruise expert for newspapers in Canada. I have to check him out.
Number 2 is Doug Parker’s Cruise Radio. Doug hosts a fast paced and popular weekly Internet cruise radio broadcast with co-host Matt Basford. These guys have invited me on their show a couple of times when they want to tell their lawyer jokes.
I'm last of the three, but beggars can't be choosers. Here's Chris' write up of my blog:
"Jim Walker’s Cruise Law News adds a sobering tone to what can be an industry that sometimes gets a bit wrapped up in itself, asking and answering tough questions about current maritime matters. First on the doorstep of cruise lines when things go wrong, Walker also does not hesitate to jump into the conversation when passengers have unreasonable demands."
Thanks for the mention Chris! This is the first time in many years anyone has said that I'm sober . . .
The Costa Concordia in January disaster set off a seemingly endless avalanche of stories on cable news this year about ship fires, sinkings and other cruise disasters, as well as a steady stream of articles and videos about sexual assaults during cruises, drunken brawling passengers, and the disappearance of women at sea.
I'm just one of probably 100 maritime attorneys in the United States who handle cases against cruise lines. But just this year alone I have appeared on ABC's 20/20, Dateline, PBS, Canada's CTV and CNN, as well being quoted in newspapers and magazines like the Wall Street Journal, Slate, The Daily, London's Financial Times, Newsweek Magazine, Newsweek's The Daily Beast blog, Fund Web, Reuters, Consumer Affairs, Australia's Herald Sun, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times, Sun Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Business Insider, and Greenwich Magazine.
Even Perez Hilton quoted one of our stories about a cruise crime for goodness sakes.
The cruise lines' PR have been working overtime to respond to hundreds of stories from the U.S. and international media about cruise ship mishaps and dangers.
The cruise industry's trade organization (CLIA) has been pumping out press release after press release, touting that cruise crime is "rare" and trying to explain that the Concordia debacle was an isolated incident caused by one bad-apple captain.
But stories about ship fires, engine failures and children being sexually assaulted on cruises keep coming and coming.
A lot of pressure has fallen on CLIA to salvage the cruise industry's reputation. That's a daunting task.
There's the pesky image of the Concordia lying on its side in Italian waters as a daily reminder that 32 people are dead and yet the cruise line did not even have a procedure in place to require life boat drills before sailing. Plus the cruise industry has the visual disadvantage of having to compete with the dramatic images on television of the panicked passengers trying to save their own lives, as well as teenage rape victims explaining the horror of being raped during a vacation cruise.
Slick corporate gobbledygook after-the-fact PR statements about the "safety of our guests is the cruise lines' highest priority" are not going to cut it.
The victims' stories are too compelling. Belated PR statements from an industry with a major credibility problem won't work.
One of MS. Duffy's first blogs was "Sailing with Respect" where CLIA touted itself as a steward of the marine environment. It included a beautiful stock photo of colorful tropical fish and pristine water. But today a story broke about what is believed to be cruise ship garbage and feces drifting ashore on a quaint beach in Massachusetts. Local officials believe a HAL cruise ship emptied its bilges after sailing from Boston last month. The story was covered in the local press, a television station in Boston and USA Today's travel section.
Faced with these images, its hard for anyone to believe the cruise industry statement that it is "extremely committed to protecting the waters and surrounding environments where we operate to preserve their natural beauty, minimize impact on native species and protect the waters upon which we sail." Happy talk won't persuade the public faced with plastic bottles, used hygiene products and condoms washing ashore covered in a gooey brown mass of human excrement.
Also breaking today was a story from a local station in Houston about a woman from Texas raped during a cruise out of Galveston. CLIA responded with its usual PR statement that crime is "rare," which seems cold and callous juxtaposed against a video of a woman sobbing that no one helped her after she was raped on the last night of the cruise.
I don't see how Ms. Duffy can keep up with the continuous bad news.
An image comes to mind of an "I Love Lucy" episode of Lucy working at a chocolate factory. Pieces of chocolate come out of the kitchen on a conveyor belt. It's Lucy's (and Ethel's) job to tie the chocolate up in an attractive wrapping (not unlike Ms. Duffy's job to wrap the bad news with a pretty bow).
But the conveyor belt picks up speed. Soon Lucy is overwhelmed. She tires to eat or hide the chocolate but makes a mess of herself and the chocolate in the process. Finally, she exclaims "I think we are fighting a losing game."
Today the cruise Industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), sent out a press release announcing that its CEO, Christine Duffy, now has a Twitter account: @CLIACEO
I could not help but think, oh boy is this going to be fun.
Ms. Duffy began her tenure at the helm of CLIA in January of last year. She started her employment with a bang when she answered some friendly questions from a travel magazine about lobbying Congress for the cruise lines. Somehow she managed to criticize the U.S. automobile industry while trying to promote the cruise lines. Listen to this whopper:
Part of the message we delivered in D.C. is that the travel industry employs more people than the auto industry, and we didn’t get a bailout. We employ a lot more people than anybody recognized, and our impact is in all 50 states. We’re not going to offshore our jobs . . .
The fact of the matter is that all of the CLIA cruise lines are foreign corporations. Unlike Ford or Chevrolet which are U.S. corporations and employ U.S. employees, the CLIA cruise lines are 100% foreign corporations. Carnival was incorporated in Panama. Royal Caribbean was incorporated in Liberia (yes, Africa). And all of these cruise lines fly the flags of foreign countries like Panama, Liberia, Bermuda and the Bahamas.
By registering their companies and cruise ships overseas to avoid U.S. labor, wage and safety laws, the foreign cruise lines also avoid U.S. income taxes. The $35,000,000,000 (billion) cruise industry pays virtually no U.S. Federal income taxes. If the cruise lines were required to pay U.S. taxes, they would pay over $10,000,000,000 a year. The cruise industry receives a $10 billion bailout each year, year after year.
But that's not all. All of the cruise ships are manufactured and constructed in foreign shipyards, in Italy, Norway or France. And 99.9% of the officers and crew members (except some U.S. dancers, singers and an occasional assistant cruise director) are from "overseas." No U.S. workers are going to work 360 hours a month for around $545 like the incredibly hard working utility cleaners from India, Central America and the Caribbean islands.
The cruise industry is the most outsourced, non-U.S. industry in America. The industry is built on the business model of tax-paying U.S. citizens paying their hard earned wages to the foreign corporation cruise lines who pay no taxes to the U.S.
This year, at a hearing in the U.S. Senate about cruise safety issues following the Costa Concordia disaster, Senator Rockefeller questioned Ms. Duffy's honesty when she testified about the cruise industry's failure to pay U.S. taxes.
A happy faced former travel agent, Ms. Duffy knows the importance of staying upbeat while selling cruise tickets. But the question remains whether she has the gravitas to actually discuss important issues regarding the safety of the cruising public.
Will Ms. Duffy use Twitter as just a PR platform to repeat the CLIA talking points laid out by the cruise line public relations experts and cruise lobbyists ( "cruising is safe . . . the security of our guests is CLIA's number one priority") or will she will actually engage the public and answer some tough questions about crime on cruise ships, sexual abuse of minors, and working conditions of the predominately non-U.S. crew members.
What will Ms. Duffy do when she receives a tweet from a mother whose daughter was served alcohol and taken to a crew member's cabin, or a father whose daughter disappeared overboard from a cruise ship, or a widow whose husband experienced a heart attack and was then dumped on a Caribbean island?
My prediction? Ms. Duffy will tweet happy gobbledygook carefully vetted by CLIA's PR consultants. She will chit chat with travel agents. But she will ignore the cries of those families who suffered death or injury. She will avoid all spontaneous and genuine discussions of real issues. She will religiously avoid making direct comments about cruise ship fires, sinkings, deaths, disappearances, crimes and norovirus outbreaks.
And when the next disaster strikes the cruise industry, Ms. Duffy's Twitter account will go silent.
Interested in other articles about CLIA? Consider reading:
Last week I mentioned a compensation claim filed in the U.K. at London's High Court following the death of a doctor, Michael Bedford, age 70, who lost his life while cruising as a passenger aboard the MV Athena. Dr. Bedford fell down a flight of stairs on the cruise ship as it sailed to North America during a storm. He later died due to his injuries.
The gist of the claim is that the cruise ship was negligent in not heeding weather warnings or providing safety warnings to the doctor and other passengers. Sixteen passengers are also suing for injuries claimed in the rough weather.
There was not a lot of information on BBC News which mentioned the death. So I can't comment on the specifics of the storm and the details of the ensuing death and multiple injuries. But there are some generalizations which I have learned over the years handling injury and death cases due to rough weather.
First, most injuries are entirely preventable. If the navigational officers utilize their available systems and convey meaningful and timely warnings to the passengers and crew, all passengers and crew should be ordered to stay in their cabins until the high winds and rough waves pass. All activities on the cruise ship - like dinners, shows, casinos - should be shut down and there should be no one walking around the ship.
The situation is particularly serious when elderly quests are involved. Some cruise lines have standardized procedures requiring crew members to be positioned near stairwells and elevators to make certain that the passengers get safely back to their cabins when a storm strikes.
Maritime law requires cruise ships to exercise the highest degree of care to its guests when rough weather strikes.
Dr. Bedford's wife stated that "Michael was a disciplinarian and would have stayed in his cabin if he was told to do so by the ship's Captain."
No one should forget the two deaths and serious injuries to 14 passengers on the Louis Majesty cruise ship during rough weather in the Mediterranean where passenger were permitted to freely walk around the cruise ship. No one would have died if the officers warned the passengers and instructed them to return to their cabins.
A similar incident occurred two years ago where a passenger died and multiple passengers were injured during rough weather which struck the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas as it was heading to port in Egypt. The cruise line denied all liability but thereafter paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements and the Royal Caribbean captain was relieved of his command.
So it was disturbing today to see the flippant and disrespectful comments to the account of the deadly storm tossed cruise ship in the popular USA TODAY cruise log by Gene Sloan. Here are the reader comments:
Steve Clouther - Please, give me a break . . The cruise line should sue them for attempting to tarnish their reputation.
Mona Graham - . . . this is ridiculous.
Martin Lynn Vogel - Lawyers are vultures.
Chip Gay -· The judge better throw it out or you will see lawsuit rain. I got hurt on a passenger train, because of the thunderstorm. I was on a bus and we did some hydroplaining (sic) and it made me poop my pants . . .
Hanno Phoenicia - Please put these passengers and their lawyers on a leaky boat and throw them overboard.
Corcho Ekim - Drown the crybabies.
Even the moderator of the cruise blog, Gene Sloan, got into the fun with a comment on Twitter: Says one @CruiseLog reader of lawsuit over stormy weather on cruise across Atlantic: "What a bunch of nonsense!"
Of course, there is nothing nonsensical where someone dies on a cruise ship, particularly an elderly passenger trying to navigate a flight of stairs during rough weather, apparently without assistance.
The disturbing thing about the Cruise Log comments is that there was no debate, no difference of opinion, no intelligent discourse, no understanding of the laws which govern the situation, and no interest in being informed. Only contempt for the dead and injured, seemingly egged on by its moderator.
Photo Credit: Athena Cruise Ship - thisisplymouth.co.uk
This year has been a public relations mess for the cruise industry.
2012 started off with the January Costa Concordia disaster, followed by a series of articles and TV specials about cruise ship engine failures, fires, sexual assaults and controversy over the cruise industry's manipulation of the new cruise safety law.
Just the other week the cruise industry's best friend, the Miami Herald, published a critical article stating that "the cruise industry is treading water, faced with depressed fares in key markets, continuing negative headlines and would-be cruisers still spooked by the deadly disaster."
But yesterday the cruise industry tried to turn the bad press around. The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) released a press release stating that it polled 300 of its 16,000 CLIA travel agents and over one-half of them claim to be "doing better than last year."
But let's take a look at the actual poll. The percentage who claim to be doing better is only 51.9% which, if accurate, means that 48.1 are doing no better or even worse than last year.
Of course, the CLIA poll is not scientific, or quantifiable, or verified by a third party. Even if it were, there would still be a margin of error, something like like 4-5%. So the notion that over half of travel agents are really enjoying increased bookings is a rather dubious proposition at best.
But that did not stop Reuters from writing a promo piece for CLIA "US Cruise Industry Sees Increased Bookings for 2012." Reuters ran with the conclusions on the CLIA PR release that ticket sales were up and then quoted the CLIA CEO Christine Duffy characterizing the Costa Concordia disaster as "a very isolated event and not indicative of how the broader cruise industry operates."
Other travel publications then quickly fell in line and reported that cruise ticket sales were up.
Breaking Travel News reported "Cruise Lines International Association Finds Optimism in Industry;" Travelers Today published "Cruise Bookings on the Rise in 2012 Despite Costa Concordia Incident;" Travel Agent's Report stated "Agents' Cruise Sales Are Outpacing 2011;" and the Sun Sentinel reported "Cruise Agents Optimistic About Sales, Survey Says."
Its a fascinating process to watch a cruise industry, battered by bad press, create its own happy news and then feed it to the press as a newsworthy event.
Today, Newsweek magazine and its online edition - The Daily Beast - weighs in on the 6 month anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster with a far reaching article looking at all aspects of today's cruise industry.
Cheap cruise fares? Certainly. But at what cost? Long working hours, low pay, and exploitative working conditions. An injured india crew members says to Newsweek: “They never feel that we are humans . . . They believe we are machines.” But Costa counters: employees are a “precious resource whose rights must be safeguarded as an ethical and moral imperative.”
Newsweek takes a look at a number of other cruise health and safety issues, like norovirus and sick crew members pressed into working while ill and who lie to passengers to keep the machine running.
I'm quoted a couple of times about the cruise industry's new safety policies (what a joke).
The article's title is not subtle: "The Hidden Horrors of Cruising," written by Eve Conant and Barbie Latza Nadeau.
Your travel friendly publications won't be re-printing the article anytime soon.
If you can't wait until the magazine arrives at your newsstand, you can read it online at the Daily Beast.
"The industry hopes you won’t worry about such disasters next time you’re lured by an Internet ad for a $299 cruise."
Photo credit: Max Rossi / Reuters-Landov
Friday the 13th was the 6 month anniversary of the January the 13th Costa Concordia disaster.
This weekend, I read through several dozen articles which looked back over the last 6 months since the Costa cruise ship killed 32 people and terrorized thousands. I watched the recent specials on NBC and CNN about dangers inherent in cruising, including rapes as well as ship fires and sinkings.
I am struck by just how badly all of the articles and videos portray the cruise industry.
The Miami Herald recently published an article Cruise Industry Still in Troubled Waters Six Months After Costa Concordia, written by tourism reporter Hannah B. Sampson, who I have criticized for writing puff pieces supporting the cruise lines. Ms. Sampson seems to have had a moment of insight. She writes " . . . the cruise industry is treading water, faced with depressed fares in key markets, continuing negative headlines and would-be cruisers still spooked by the deadly disaster."
The article continues: " . . . lawsuits related to the Jan. 13 catastrophe are piling up. The captain blamed for the accident — still being investigated but no longer on house arrest — is making new headlines in television interviews. And the larger question of safety on cruise ships is earning greater scrutiny as longtime critics gain a wider audience."
This time, the Miami Herald has the story exactly right. Things are indeed tough when the Miami Herald - a huge supporter of the cruise lines - delivers a message that the cruise industry is struggling.
The Miami Herald interviewed the usual cruise lines fans and industry representatives. Carolyn Spencer Brown, the editor of the popular online cruise community Cruise Critic, and an unabashed cruise supporter, is quoted saying “It was horrific, the ship’s still in the water, we’re still hearing about it.” She predicted that " . . . we won’t see the new normal until we get past the year’s anniversary." I agree, assuming the doomed ship is not still lying on its side in the little port of Giglio next year.
Salvage operations are finally starting in an effort to float the dead cruise ship out of sight to a scrap yard where it will be disemboweled, cut up and eventually melted. The salvage operations seem to be painfully slow to me, although I suppose it is a massive undertaking with a ship that big.
Will the salvage be done by January 13th of next year? It will be a PR disaster if not. The cruise industry doesn't want the ship to still be there when the families of the dead return for another vigil. I would not doubt it if the salvage contract contains incentives to complete the job before January 13, 2013.
There is another operation underway - to try and salvage the cruise industry's reputation. This is a far more difficult task.
The Concordia disaster brought the world's attention not only on the outrageous conduct of the captain but on the manner in which the cruise industry treats its customers after disaster strikes. Part of the discussion today involves the onerous terms of the passenger tickets which the cruise lines draft to protect themselves against all legal claims. It is shameful for a cruise industry, which collects over $35,000,000,000 a year and pays no taxes, to offer 11,000 Euros on a take-it-or-leave-it basis to traumatized passengers.
There is also the pesky business of cruise ship crimes (particularly rape) and accusations that the industry covers crime up. The debate whether cruising is a perfect place to commit a crime has resurfaced and reached a much broader audience.
The cruise line's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), doesn't have much to say to compete with the images of the panic and terror aboard the Concordia or the spectacle of a rape victim explaining how a family vacation turned into a nightmare. CLIA's talking points are old. This is an industry that promises cruising is safe, but works overtime to conceal crimes from the public.
The public must feel uneasy when CLIA's favorite PR statement “the number one priority of the cruise industry is the safety of its passengers” is juxtaposed against a 15 year old girl on CNN's Anderson Cooper's program discussing how a crew member raped her.
CLIA was under siege at a Senate hearing into the Concordia last March when Senator Rockefeller characterized CLIA President Christine Duffy as dishonest and the cruise industry being more interesting in avoiding U.S. taxes than the passenger's safety.
Add to this the recent revelation that the FBI and the cruise lines scuttled the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act in a concerted effort to prevent the U.S. public from learning about the hundreds of crimes which occur each year on CLIA cruise ships.
CLIA tries to portray the cruise industry as proactive and interested in regulating itself. But many think this is more publicity than substance. Consider how little the cruise lines have done since January to actually improve cruise ship safety.
The Herald article outlines only a handful of steps the cruise lines have discussed in an effort to convince the public to spend their vacation dollars cruising:
(1) more life vests on the ships; (2) no unnecessary people in the bridge; (3) pre-approved ship routes shared with all members of bridge; (4) twelve uniform emergency instructions; and (5) evacuation drills before a ship leaves port.
But these are such basic procedures that it is shocking to think that they were not in place 100 years ago, after the Titanic sank.
It's like having an aviation industry where there are no mandatory safety instructions before take-off, girlfriends of the captain are permitted to enter the cockpit during an emergency landing, and the captain is the first one off the plane and down the emergency slide.
Even uber cruise fan Carolyn Spencer Brown admits: "Many of those changes should have already been in place before the incident."
My prediction is that the salvage efforts will have the Concordia out of sight before the one year anniversary of the disaster.
But the cruise line's reputation? If the cruise industry doesn't develop transparency, its battered reputation will sink further below the waves.
Top - AP / Pier Paola Cito
Bottom Sky News
Paid Over $60,000 for Interview, Captain Schettino Still Can't Offer Genuine Apology to Concordia Cruise Victims
The big news coming our of Italy as we approach the 6 month anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster is an interview the infamous Francesco Schettino gave to an Italian television channel.
Now that an Italian court has released Captain Schettino from house release and lifted the gag order imposed on him in January, we have the first extensive interview of the disgraced captain since he ran the luxury cruise ship into the rocks and killed 32 passengers and crew members.
The interview was conducted by Italy's Canale 5, which is owned by controversial former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
From what I have read and listened to, it doesn't seem like Schettino has learned much during his sentence of house arrest and 6 months of silence and self-reflection. Yes, he eventually got around to an apology but it was mixed in with denials, excuses, a bruised ego, and a nervous eye twitch. The low points:
He said he was a "victim" claiming he was not in charge at the time of the wreck;
He claims he was distracted by a telephone call;
He claims that the rock the cruise ship hit was not charted;
He says it was just an accident and not a crime;
He does not regret delaying the deployment of the life boats; and
His dinner companion blond hostess Domnica Cemortan was just a friend and did not enter the bridge.
Several news sources report that Schettino received 50,000 Euros (over $60,000) for the interview although the Italian news station denied paying him anything.
The U.K.'s Mail Online reports that after the interview aired, the news station's website was "bombarded with angry comments towards Schettino."
One read: "I was on the ship that night with two children and they didn't let me onto a lifeboat. Schettino and most of the crew deserve nothing." Another read: "Schettino you are a coward. A captain never abandons ship. Shame on you,"
Royal Caribbean Posts Bogus Comment to Article Regarding Alleged Near Collision Involving Liberty of the Seas
Yesterday I blogged about a near collision which allegedly occurred between Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas and a small Italian fishing boat, the Angela II, which is based in Civitavecchia.
You can read my article: Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas Nearly Runs Over Italian Fishing Boat. The article was based on an account from the highly credible cruise blog Noticias de Cruceros. You can also read about the incident here from an Italian newspaper.
This morning, someone posted a comment to my article, claiming that the near collision story was a lie, and suggesting that the Italian authorities made it up. The person who posted the comment claims that he was on the cruise ship and says that the fishing boat had no fishing equipment and that it was the Liberty of the Seas which altered course and passed the boat by some 250 meters.
Now, I was not on the cruise so I don't know what happened. There are two sides to every story and I'd like to know what really happened.
We have the fishing boat's version of events. There is no official corporate statement by Royal Caribbean at this point. And I can find no comments from the passengers on the cruise ship. Just this one comment to my blog:
"It's such a lie, what they wrote there,I been on this ship and watch what happened.This fishing boat was with out any fishing equipment and just suddenly start to run towards the ship from close distance.The ship is the one who alter course to avoid collision,where fishing boat just stopped dead in front of them and distance when we pass fishing boat was over 250 mtrs.
However,it's was a nice try from Italian authorities to blame the ship,but not their own fishing boat,for creating such a dangerous situation for the ship."
The person leaving the comment left only a first name and a bogus email address: John10@gmail.com.
After a little research, I determined that the comment was posted by someone at Royal Caribbean's headquarters in Miami. How do I know that? I'm not saying. But I am 100% certain that it was sent from the Royal Caribbean offices near the port of Miami.
Cruise Law News (CLN) is a very popular blog. Lots of people love to cruise but subscribe to this blog to get "the other side of the story." Many major cruise lines here in Miami understand that. They will respond to our inquiries about issues we write about here and send us press statements. If we have our facts wrong, the cruise lines will call or send us an email. I will immediately post their statements to set the record straight, even if the statements are pure PR drivel.
But Royal Caribbean is different. It is the least transparent cruise line in the business. It refuses to respond to requests for information. Instead of issuing a corporate statement under its letterhead, it will be sneaky and try and slide in a comment pretending to be a passenger, and an eye witness at that! What kind of reputable PR department acts like this?
People ask me why I practice "cruise law." My answer? It's the most exciting type of law practice possible, like being in a movie - except it's the real world with real people.
Consider the news in the world of cruising this year.
A showboating and debonair Italian captain runs a $500 million luxury cruise liner into the rocks. He puts his blond girlfriend into one of the first lifeboats to safety. His officers announce on the PA system that "the situation is under control. Go back to your cabins." He abandons ship, claiming that his slipped and fell into a life boat. Passengers as young as 5 and as old as 70 then drown.
If this were a movie, no one would believe such an outrageous script.
Click on the TV and chances are you'll see Images of cruise ships adrift on the high seas. These are not rusting freighters from third world nations. They are the cruise lines' best, biggest, safest and most technologically advanced cruise ships carrying the most precious cargo in the world - your families.
This year alone we've seen cruise line abandonment of mariners in distress, abuse of crew members, capsizing, collisions, conspiracy, cover-ups, crimes, disappearances, engine failures, fires, groundings, and union busting involving Azamara, Carnival, Costa, MSC, Norwegian, P & O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Saga Cruises and many other cruise lines.
When a passenger or crew member is injured or a victim of crime on the high seas, the cruise lines are their worst enemy. The deceit and double-dealing by the cruise lines are right out of a bad movie script.
I have written over a thousand articles about bad behavior of cruise ship over the last couple of years.
There will be no end of the stories in the future.
Our firm is on the edge of the drama, always ready to help a cruise passenger in distress or a crew member needing medical care. In an industry which cares most about it's own image and reputation rather than your family's health and safety, we are always eager to help the underdog. In the process, we will expose "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
Every once in a while a story comes along which blows the lid off of the status quo.
Such a story broke yesterday when Salon Magazine published a blockbuster article "Erasing Cruise Ship Crime." Written by Matthew Harwood, the Salon article tackles the ugly spectacle of our nation's FBI sabotaging the efforts of a grass roots cruise victims organization.
The story goes like this. The International Cruise Victims Organization (ICV) labored for the past six years to enact a cruise safety law to require the cruise lines to report the many cruise ship crimes which occur each year. All of the cruise victims' stories are compelling - a son or daughter who vanished at sea under mysterious circumstances, a child lost due to gross medical negligence by shipboard doctors, a woman raped at sea - all real tragedies that happened to real people.
The cruise lines fought tooth and nail against the passage of the ICV supported law, but dropped its opposition at the last minute. Why? The fix was in. The FBI altered the language in the cruise crime bill at the last minute. Instead of reporting all crimes (averaging over 400 a year), the cruise ship crimes which are now disclosed on the FBI database average barely one tenth of that figure. As a final indignity, the cruise lines and some travel agents point to the bogus database as proof that cruising is absolutely safe.
The Salon article points out the fact that cruise lines hire FBI officials to maintain the status quo. The result is that the FBI and its fraternity alumni brothers on the cruise ships all scratch each other's backs. No one will give their friend a hard time. No need for anyone to be embarrassed. The cruise lines even invite the FBI to private wine and dinner parties, but exclude the victim's group.
The truth here is ugly. It involves behind-the-scenes shenanigans by large offshore corporations and a large federal agency. The secret deals stifle democracy. The editing of Congressional bills by a self-dealing FBI perpetuates a system which rewards the indifference of federal law enforcement officials who are suppose to respond to victim's horror stories on the high seas but, in truth, are deep in the cruise lines' pockets. It condones and encourages cruise lines to cover up ship crimes whenever and wherever they can, while the FBI looks the other way.
The Salon story hit a nerve.
The conservative South Florida Business Journal asked whether the Salon article was the "smoking gun" which revealed a cozy relationship between the FBI and the Miami-based cruise lines, particularly Royal Caribbean which hired many FBI agents as well as senior FBI officials. Is it a coincidence that the cruise lines' friends at the FBI were the ones who watered the cruise crime bill down?
Many other reporters and bloggers picked up the story and added a sense of outrage to the FBI cover up.
Jezebel wrote "FBI Works With Cruise Lines to Bury Reports of Rapes at Sea," and added a photo of a huge Royal Caribbean cruise ship (photo top).
Inquisitir published "FBI Involved In Cruise Line Sexual Assault Crime Coverups."
Leisure Guy said "Concealing Crime: How the FBI Improves Its Crime Fighting Statistics."
Raw Story reported "Loophole Lets Cruise Ship Rapes Go Unreported."
Grey haired old-school PR experts will tell the cruise lines and FBI not to worry about the bad press because the bloggers are not writing for the major newspapers. But with the explosion of social media today, no one cares what the AP or Reuters are saying. Now it's the Huffington Post types who are spreading the word and influencing public opinion.
Other stories will follow. You will see major newspapers and networks come with the next round of stories exposing the FBI cruise crime cover up.
The cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) will eventually respond with their own spin. CLIA will open the prepared, canned statements: "Crime is rare. Our number 1 priority is the safety of our guests. We reports all allegations of crime to the appropriate law enforcement." But the tide has turned. The public knows these types of official statements are gobbledygook.
Truth be told, the FBI, which is suppose to watch over the foreign cruise line corporations and protect the public, has acted like a secret lobbyist for the cruise lines.
Should you trust the cruise lines and a corrupt FBI organization with the most precious cargo carried on cruise ships - your family?
Photo credits from the original media sources, top to bottom:
Jezebel, Inquisitir, Salon.
Last night I attended a pre-game party for the Miami Heat - Oklahoma City Thunder basketball game at a friend's house. One of the families was excitedly talking about leaving on Wednesday for a cruise to Italy. Other families began comparing cruise stories to Italy. I don't talk "cruise law" during social events. I just listened.
There were no discussions about cruise ship fires, groundings or disappearances at the party. No jokes about "watch out for the rocks." No mention of the Costa Concordia crash. It was as if the capsizing of the Concordia never happened.
This morning the sun arose over the little Port of Giglio. There slept the Concordia, peacefully resting on her side. The terrifying screams of panicked Costa passengers have been replaced by the gentle lapping of the Mediterranean waters against Concordia's hull.
Image credit: Giglio News webcam
After publishing Cruise Law News for the past two and one-half years, I decided to create a second blog: "Maritime Lawyer." It will cover maritime issues and events which don't involve cruise ships. I registered MaritimeLawyer.com long, long ago and will be using that domain for the new blog.
My friends at LexBlog are going to create and host the new blog. The LexBlog people created this blog. It has been far more successful and influential than I ever dreamed possible. Per Alexa, Cruise Law News (CLN) is ranked number 12 in the U.S. / Canada in terms of popularity of law blogs. There is only one other law blog published by a practicing lawyer (another LexBlog client, China Law Blog) ahead of CLN in terms of popularity (for what that's worth).
This year alone, CLN has been cited by a diverse group of media organizations, from tabloid bloggers like Perez Hilton to serious journalists like the reporters at the Wall Street Journal, PBS and Newsweek. CLN has led me to appearing on CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett, ABC's 20/20, NOVA, BBC Radio and Australia's Dateline in just the last three months. Our articles range from serious investigations into news the cruise line don't want you to know, to mundane legal issues about cruise law, to the bizarre, odd & weird things that happen on cruise ships.
My new blog will take a look into the larger world of maritime law of which cruise law is a small part. If the story involves a cruise ship, you will find it on CLN. But if a tugboat, tanker, trawler, bulk carrier, sailboat, yacht or fishing boat is involved, Maritime Lawyer will cover the story.
I will be also posting my maritime articles on a new Maritime Lawyer facebook page. This will be the first article posted on that new page. I have 6 "likes" so far on the facebook page; pretty pitiful. Drop by, "like" us, and post a comment.
Let us know what type of maritime stories you want us to cover . . . .
The big cruise news this weekend is the delivery of a new cruise ship for Costa Cruises which will sail from Venice tomorrow.
The Costa Fascinosa, which will carry 3,800 total passengers, is touted as Costa's new flagship and the largest Italian-flagged cruise ship today.
Costa invited some 1,800 travel agents to sail on the inaugural cruise, as part of its 'Champions of the Sea" program.
Costa's CEO Pier Luigi Foschi said the cruise line has "bounced back" from the troubles the company faced following the Costa Concordia disaster in January. He said "booking volumes are back to the same levels recorded this time last year."
That seems hard to believe. Two months ago there were serious questions being raised whether Costa was a "ruined brand" and whether the cruise line was heading into bankruptcy. After all, today the Concordia is still lying on its side off the coast of Giglio with two dead passengers unaccounted for. But now everything is just fine and dandy?
CEO Foschi says so: "Our share of the market in the main countries where we operate has not been affected. We were, are, and remain number one in Europe."
"We're Number 1!" Am I back in Cameron Indoor Stadium cheering on my Duke Blue Devils? Is this a high school pep rally?
I suppose one thing to consider is that according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, two months ago Costa's parent company Carnival posted $851 million recovered funds from its insurance policies which included $515 million in insurance proceeds coverage for the destroyed Concordia. Most people probably don't realize that large corporations like Carnival can make an insurance claim and collect their $850 million in losses from large underwriters in the U.K. or Europe in a multi-million dollar disaster far faster than a homeowner can collect insurance proceeds from Allstate or State Farm in a minor fender bender.
To the extent that there were any nagging questions regarding safety following the crash of the Concordia, Costa took advantage of the Fascinosa's debut to announce "new" safety protocols and systems. Costa mentioned real time tracking of cruise ship routes (old school technology), bridge access limited to officers involved in navigation (what I call the "no bimbos in the bridge" policy) and muster drills before the ship sails. Hardly innovative stuff, but its the thought that counts, right?
Let's hope that the Fascinosa has more luck than her sister ship Concordia.
May God bless the Fascinosa and all who sail in her . . .
One of the interesting things about having a website or blog is that it is easy to see how many people are clicking on your site and reading your stuff.
Google Analytics is an easy (and free) program that lets me see how many people visit Cruise Law News, how long they stay and how many pages they look at. It interesting to see where the readers are based and what page they look at.
The analytics program has been around for years.
For the first four months of this year, 392,335 unique visitors have made 470,053 visits and looked at 1,385,586 pages. The Costa Concordia disaster brought in a number of new readers.
All types of statistics are available. One of the more interesting statistics is how many people are reading Cruise Law News blog on a regular basis as opposed to randomly appearing from search engine results and quickly leaving.
22,904 people have read the blog 9 or more times in the last four months. So I have a small town of people who are reading it over 2 times a month.
The most interesting statistic is that 2,296 people have each read Cruise Law News over 200 times since the beginning of the year. That's more than once a day for the past four month. Many leave comments or call or email me with tips for stories.
I'd like to think that Cruise Law News is providing information and a perspective that you can't anywhere else. Maybe, maybe not. Our motto is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know . . . "
If you are a daily reader, take a moment and leave a comment about what you like (and dislike) about the blog. Are there topics about the cruise industry which I am overlooking? Are there regular readers who would like to write a guest blog?
Be sure to subscribe by entering your email address in the box at the left, or sign up for our RSS feed. Like our facebook page too.
Thanks for reading!
Norwegian Cruise Lines has pulled off a major marketing coup with several of its cruise ships being featured in a new reality show called "Love for Sail."
Think of the new show being a mix of "The Bachelor / Bachelorette" meets "The Love Boat." Men and women will set sail on a NCL ship looking for love. TV Cruise Director Julie McCoy from the Love Boat has been replaced by two cruise directors "Bocko" and Carmen who will act as matchmakers for the beautiful people during the cruises.
Fox News describes the activities as including activities on and off of the cruise ships:
"The passengers go on dates, parties and shore excursions, stopping in ports of call that include Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Nassau, Bahamas. The series will be shot on the Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Star with scenes filmed in the Mandara Spa, the Bliss Ultra Lounge and La Cucina Italian restaurant . . . "
The show premieres on the Lifetime channel and will debut tomorrow night (April 10th) at 10:00 PM EST.
With as much bad news coming out of the cruise industry this year, "Love for Sail" has the potential to bring a sense of romance and escapism back to the cruise industry - unless one of the NCL cruise ships catches on fire, collides or sinks during one of the shows . . .
Photo credit: Lifetime / NCL
I am out of town with my family on Spring Break for a couple of days. This morning I was on my computer reading the Twitter feed for Cruise Shipping Miami 2012.
As all of you know, the Cruise Shipping Miami event (previously known a SeaTrade) is the annual event sponsored by the cruise industry where the cruise line vendors, excursion companies, port agencies, and foreign tourism boards fill the Miami Beach Convention Center advertising their services.
It sounds like a rather surreal environment this year.
The Mexican tourism people are telling everyone how extremely safe Mexico is. Let's not talk about the 22 Carnival cruise passengers robbed at gunpoint last month.
Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy - two weeks after her disastrous performance before the U.S. Senate where she was chastised for a lack of candor - started off her moderation of the cruise line president's discussions with the usual talking points about the cruise industry's incredibly safety record.
Carnival executive Howard Frank said cruise ships are safe and his Costa crewmembers were the "true heroes" in the Costa Concordia disaster. A Celebrity Cruise president and a NCL captain raved about the safety of cruise ships and so on and so forth.
If you ran a computer analysis of the words spoken by the cruise line leaders at the convention, "safe," "incredibly safe" or "remarkably safe" would be at the top of the list.
But the first two months of this year have been as disastrous a period of time for cruising as I have ever seen. Not just the Concordia capsizing and the Allegra ship fire. There have been nine gastrointestinal sickness outbreaks in 2012, a new record. Plus a steady stream of child molestation cases, crewmembers and older passengers raping teenage girls, deaths and overboard crew and passengers, including another highly suspicious disappearance of yet another woman during a recent cruise.
Cruise experts like Professor Ross Klein, who maintains the most comprehensive list of cruise ship overboards, norovirus cases and cruise mishaps - are not invited, and are not welcome, at the cruise convention.
We will read newspaper accounts from the cruise friendly press and travel agent publications reciting the safety "facts" touted by the cruise industry as the Gospel Truth.
This is the cruise industry's happy fest. Critics, complainers or independent thinkers stay away.
Cruising is safe, remarkably safe, the cruise executives say. Repeat after us - cruising is safe. It really is. Trust us.
Now can I sell you a discounted cruise to Mexico?
Let me place my biases front and center.
I am no fan of the Miami Herald. it's beholden to the cruise industry which pays it for cruise advertising ads. The Herald's "business" editor, Jane Wooldridge, is the former travel editor for the newspaper. Although she graduated with me from Duke in 1980, she is at the opposite of the spectrum. She unabashedly praises the cruise lines whether they are right or wrong.
Unlike the L.A. Times, the New York Times, or other newspapers with some sense of investigative journalism and professional integrity, the Miami Herald is a journalistic mistress to the Miami-based cruise lines.
So it was no surprise to me that when Carnival CEO Micky Arison decided to give his first interview after the Costa Concordia disaster, he picked his friends at the Miami Herald. They were happy to offer up some softball questions for Mr. Arison for him to pitch the cruise industry's talking points.
Arison and the Carnival president Howard Frank touted the wonderful safety record of its subsidiary Costa, saying such unchallenged drivel as: "we as a company do everything we can to encourage the highest safety standards."
Arison whined: “No matter what I would’ve done, I think I would’ve been criticized.”
He touted Carnival as offering a "great vacation value, a great product, a safe product at a fantastic price.”
The assessment by Arison's next in command Howard Frank was more of the same, referring to Costa as a "great company and a great brand, with a terrific management team and with a great future."
Today, the cheer-leading by the Miami Herald continues in its article "Getting the Cruise Industry Back on Course."
The Herald touched on the recent troubles afflicting the Costa brand with the capsizing of the Costa Concordia and the fire aboard the Costa Allegra, as well as cruise over-boards and norovirus cases. However, it was careful to call upon cruise line executives and cruise lines fans to place the cruise into a positive light.
The article calls upon the usual cruise line shills like Carolyn Spencer Brown, who recently wrote an article for Conde' Nast Traveler. She falsely represented that no one died on the latest Carnival cruise ships which caught on fire - read my open letter to Ms. Spencer-Brown for the truth - and she blamed the parents of a 16 year old girl who was the fancy of a NCL pedophile child porno collector assistant cruise director in a stairwell of the cruise ship.
The Herald was careful not to include any survivors of the Concordia disaster, representatives of victim organizations or neutral experts to comment on the nasty state of affairs of the cruise industry.
I read an interesting article today about the high prices that some attorneys are paying to advertise on Google. The paid ads, sometimes called "sponsored listings," appear at the top or the top right side of the Google search engine search results.
There are two types of search results on Google: (1) "organic" listings which rank sites based on the value of their content and popularity of the site, and (2) paid listings which list results based on how much the lawyers pay for certain words or phrases.
The article, "Lawyers Outspend Obama On The Web," discusses a study conducted by the Institute for Legal Reform for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The study found that some lawyers are spending as much as $79 for a single "click-through" ad word. When the sponsored ad is "clicked-on," the lawyer is charged the amount bid on for the word or phrase.
Some 25 lawyers across the country are spending over $100,000 for Google click-through ads. The report states that one law firm in Houston is paying $16,600,000 for Google ads.
The report also identifies one of our main competitors in Miami as most closely associated with the phrase "cruise ship assault" both via paid ads and search engine optimization. Some other Miami attorneys are paying to advertise phrases on Google like "cruise rape," "cruise sexual assault" and so forth.
There is nothing wrong with Google ads, although we do not pay for any advertisements like this or any advertisements at all for that matter. Our blog is strictly "organic" in nature, meaning that it is ranked solely on the relevancy and current status of the content, the number of sites which link to it and so forth. Based on the Alexa/AVVO ranking system, Cruise Law News is a top ten most popular law blog in the U.S. In the first two months this year, Cruise Law News had 289,530 visits and the visitors read 862,721 pages.
My only criticism about the concept of Google ads is that there are law firms which I have never heard of who probably have handled only a few cruise line cases at best. Nonetheless, they are advertising themselves on Google as "cruise lawyers." I call these lawyers "Google lawyers."
I saw this happening after the Costa Concordia cruise ship crash. All types of lawyers across the U.S. began billing themselves as "cruise ship accident lawyers" on paid Google ads. An internet marketing company has an interesting article about what it calls ambulance chasing marketing.
If you want to see where a law firm's website or blog is ranked based on objective criteria, download the Alexa toolbar here. It's easy to install and will take less than 30 seconds.
If you are looking for a lawyer to handle a cruise ship case, don't be fooled by the top listings on the click-through Google ads. Many of these lawyers are not even licensed to practice in Florida where most cases have to be filed. Be certain to inquire into how many cases they have actually handled and the success of those cases. Be sure to ask to speak to former clients for their opinion on how their cruise line cases turned out.
Image: Avalanche Internet Marketing
I read your recent article in the Conde' Nast Traveler entitled "Ironically, the Costa Allegra Fire Gives Me More Confidence in the Cruise Line."
You write: "Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises had major fire outbreaks and not a life was lost."
Perhaps you forgot about my clients' husband and father, Mr. Richard Liffridge. Mr. Liffridge was sailing with his wife Vicki Liffridge when the fire broke out on the Princess cruise ship, the Star Princess. The fire erupted on a balcony and burned through one hundred cabins. As explained in the LA Times article "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters:"
Victoria Liffridge recalled that she and her husband crawled along a passageway filled with thick, black smoke as flames shot above their heads. It was "like being in an oven," she said. The couple became separated. 'The last words I heard him say were, "Vicky, don't let me die, she said. Victoria Liffridge crawled to safety, only to be told later that her husband had not survived. When she identified his body it was covered in soot from head to toe.
Mr. Liffridge left behind his wife, four children and many grandchildren.
After the fire, Princess Cruises lied to the public, saying that Mr. Liffridge died of a "cardiac arrest," as if his death and the fire were unrelated. This contrasted with his autopsy report that concluded he died in the soot-filled hallway as a direct result of the fire due to inhaling incombustible toxic particles.
Mr. Liffridge's daughter, Lynnette Hudson, was invited to Congress to testify about the ordeal and the shabby way that Princess Cruises treated her family after the fire.
Carolyn, I realize that the cruise industry has launched an aggressive media campaign to try and salvage its tarnished image with a series of false "talking points" after the Costa Concordia capsizing and the Costa Allegra fire. I am well aware that the cruise lines are asking their travel agents and friends in the media to publish positive articles about the joys of cruising. But lying to the public just perpetuates the cruise lines' reputation for dishonesty.
Educate yourself. Take a moment and read the MAIB report on the fire that killed Mr. Liffridge. Read our tribute to Mr. Liffridge and take a moment and look at some of the photographs of Mr. Liffridge and his family. Read our article: "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires: Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"
Remember, the motto of the Conde' Nast Traveler magazine is "truth in travel."
Tell your readers the truth.
March 6, 2012 Update: Although neither Ms. Spencer-Brown nor Conde Nast bothered to respond to us, today Conde Nast corrected the false article with the following statement:
"*Correction: In the original publication of this article, we stated that no lives were lost in the ship fires mentioned. That was incorrect. One death was caused by the Star Princess fire, and per Princess Cruises, the cause of the death was smoke inhalation."
Today, Ms. Spensor-Brown was back to shilling for the cruise lines after a story was published about a NCL cruise line assistant cruise director who was arrested for child pornography and sexually abusing a 16 year old girl. She decided to blame the parents:
"Carolyn Spencer Brown, from Cruise Critic, says typically cruises are very safe. "There's a lot of checks and balances along the way to keep people as safe as possible . . . You're still responsible for your child."
Shortly after the Costa Concordia capsized, the cruise lines' PR committee assembled to try and figure out a strategy to minimize the disaster's effect on the cruise industry.
A decision was made for the cruise lines to issue a series of "talking points" to the media. The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) distributed "cruise safety talking points" to travel agents, travel magazines and the media. CLIA embedded the talking points into "updates" on the Concordia crash on its website. CLIA's president Christine Duffy released "open letters" which travel publications and blogs often published in their entirely, without questioning the accuracy of the information.
Travel agents began pitching the talking points to the public in articles like this one from Travel Market Report entitled "What to Say to Clients Post-Concordia." You can read "6 Talking Points" and other tips from travel agents on how to overcome reluctant clients' fears and talk them into buying a cruise.
Here are some of the cruise industry's talking points:
1. "100 Million Passengers Sailed in Last Five Years and Only 16 Died"
This talking point is part of the "cruising is incredibly safe" message. It's false and misleading. It's based data from a private consulting firm for the cruise lines which excludes crew deaths and excludes cruises which don't call on U.S. ports. This excludes the deaths in the last cruise sinking (the Sea Diamond). Click on the cases under our section "Maritime Death" and "Disappearances" categories to the left. You will see that there have been many more than 16 people who die during cruises each year.
The information is further limited to "maritime casualties," like two ships colliding into one another. But if you take into consideration the passengers and crew who died because of bad cruise ship medical care, murder, lifeboat accidents, deaths during excursions, deaths on Flow Riders and rock climbing walls, drownings, drug overdoses, drunken assaults, being dropped overboard during medical evacuations, and suspicious disappearances - there are far more than 16 deaths during cruises each year for each of the last five years.
The cruise industry wants you to think that the Concordia is just a freak accident. But read about prior similar accidents here and the problems with cruise ship fires here. The Concordia is just the latest in a long list of catastrophes.
Cruising is not just a means of transportation. Cruise ships are floating amusement parks and entertainment venues. Compared to Disney World (which attracts more tourists than all cruise ships combined) or any international hotel or resort chain, there is no place where you are more likely to die than on a cruise ship.
2. "Cruising Is Safe for the Family & Kids"
This whopper of a lie makes my skin crawl. Last week, the bloated body of Dayana Arlotti (photo left), a five year old little girl from Italy, was finally pulled from the wreckage of the Concordia.
It's a sick joke for a travel agent to hawk cruises by telling parents "hey, I bring my children cruising - it's perfectly safe!" Don't tell that to Susy Albertini, Dayana's mother (photo below right).
Read though my blog and learn of other dead children caused by cruise line negligence over the last few years. Read about cruise tragedies involving kids, and the extraordinary efforts the cruise lines take to avoid accountability, like this story. And this doesn't include the kids who are sexually abused during cruises, including being molested by cruise line youth counselors.
3. "No Cruise Ship Has Sunk Since the Titanic"
Some travel agents have taken the "cruising is safe" talking points so far that they are claiming that no cruise ship has sunk in 100 years.
The Travel Market Report quotes travel agent Nancy Yoffe of Cruise Planners, in Spartanburg, South Carolina explaining how she sells cruise tickets in the post-Concordia world: “ . . I would say the last time a ship like this went down was 1912.”
These travel agents may be good salesmen but they are bad historians.
The truth is that many cruise ships have sunk with loss of life. The last sinking was the Sea Diamond,which nailed a charted reef, and sank just four years ago.
Then there is the infamous sinking of the Oceanos cruise ship (photo left), where the captain abandoned ship leaving women, children and elderly passengers to die (they miraculously survived). The sinking of the Oceanos is featured on my list of top 5 cruise ship disasters - watch the video here.
Other spectacular sinkings of cruise ships include the loss of the Sun Vista which burned and sank.
No one can forget the sinking of the Andrea Doria, which ironically enough was home ported in Genoa, Italy where Costa is based. It sank in the Atlantic after a collision with another cruise ship. The fire and sinking of the Yarmouth Castle resulted in nearly one hundred dead passengers and crew. Add to this list, the sinking of the SeaBreeze I, the Majestic Explorer, the Al-Salaam Boccaccio, Achille Laura, Explorer, M/V Saurav, Queen Of The North, Senopati Nusantara, M/V Bulgaria, Estonia, and the Mikhail Lermontov (which sank in 100 feet of water off the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island after hitting a reef).
If a travel agent sells a cruise by misrepresenting that no cruise ship sank for the 100 year period between the Titanic and the Concordia, they should be sued for fraud.
4. "The Cruise Industry is Heavily Regulated"
The basic business model of the cruise industry was perfected by Carnival's founder Ted Arison in the 1960's - incorporate the business in Panama and register the cruise ships there too in order to avoid all U.S. taxes and safety and labor laws, and then sell cruises to tax-paying U.S. citizens.
There is no way that an U.S. incorporated business which pays income tax and complies with U.S. minimal wage and overtime laws can possibly compete with an offshore business like Carnival which collects nearly $15 billion a year, pays no taxes, and exploits workers from India and the Caribbean islands who earn as little as $550 working 360 hours a month.
Ted Arison's son, current Carnival CEO Micky Arison, is carrying on this tradition of avoiding all U.S. regulation and oversight. He and other executives understand perfectly well that the success of their cruise lines depends on avoiding U.S. oversight at every turn. No wonder Micky is the richest person in Florida with a net worth of many billions.
Flag states like Bermuda, Bahamas and Panama will never meddle into the cruise lines' business. Yes, there is the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and its "regulations." But truth be told, the IMO is a weak and toothless U.N. entity. It's "regulations" are mere suggestions. If a cruise line ignores a IMO rule, there is no consequence. That's why you have have reputable journalists like reporters at Reuters who are characterizing the Concordia crash as a symptom of the cruise industry's "lax regulation and supervision," as explained in the recent article "How the Cruise Industry Sails Under the Radar."
5. "Cruising Will Now Be Safer Now Than Ever"
There is a warm, fuzzy and entirely naive sentiment expressed by travel agents that once a disaster happens, the cruise industry will quickly learn from its mistakes and make changes to improve safety. The problem is that's not true with an industry which keeps things secret and does not invite regulatory scrutiny.
For example, two Costa cruise ships were involved in separate collisions in the years before the Concordia crash. The Costa Classica ran into a freighter and slashed a deep gash through the side of the ship. The Costa Europa slammed into a dock and killed several crewmembers. The flag state, Italy, investigated the incident but refused to turn the report over to the International Maritime Organization. In the article "Costa Cruise Egypt Accident Report is Strictly Confidential," BBC News points out that the IMO cannot begin to assess the accident and consider potential improvements to safety without seeing the report.
After the Concordia deaths, Carnival stated that it would be conducting a full blown audit of Costa to make certain that its operations were being conducted safely and responsibly. Whether this is happening who knows. This was a PR move, to head off public demands that the cruise line should be investigated by the government.
There is no statement by Carnival that the results of the alleged audit will be released to the public or that it will permit its operations to be investigated by professional and independent maritime experts. That will never happen. If there is an audit, Carnival will keep the results secret. This is the wild west environment of the cruise industry, not the aviation industry which is squarely under the thumb of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
6. "Excessive Drinking, Violence & Crime Are Rare"
Shortly after the Concordia disaster, ABC News aired a 20/20 cruise special. I was in the special explaining how the Concordia drama unfolded. You can watch the first segment of the program here.
The second part of the program showed the problem of excessive drinking and violence. You can see that segment here. I learned a new phrase watching the show - "cruise drunk." It has been clear to me for years that there is way too much booze and way too few security personnel on cruise ships. When I expressed these opinions on the 20/20 show, I received hate e-mails for a week after the program aired.
The ASTA and travel agents took it upon themselves to include talking points in response to the 20/20 program, believe it or not. The talking points included assurances that passengers don't get out of line or drink excessively.
Two weeks later 16 drunken cruise passengers were kicked off P & O's Pacific Dawn cruise ship for out of control violence.
Be Honest, Tell the Public the Truth
The cruise industry's reputation has been tarnished with a lack of transparency over the years.
A post-disaster PR campaign of talking points should start and finish with "be honest" - which is absent from the CLIA talking points. Instead, CLIA suggests that travel agents should require clients to sign a "waiver" releasing the travel agent from all liabilities, including misrepresentations of the cruises. Why would an agent need such a waiver if they were simply telling the truth?
There is a certain irony about all of these false talking points. Many life threatening situations which the Concordia passengers faced after the cruise ship struck the rocks can be attributed to false information provided by the vessel's officers and crew.
Remember, as water poured through the 160 foot gash in the Costa Concordia's hull, the officers were dishonest with the guests. As the cruise ship sank, they lied to the passengers - "everything is okay; the ship had just experienced an electrical failure." Later, the Costa crew falsely assured passengers - "the situation is under control, go back to your cabins." And no one can forget the lie told by Captain Schettino after he abandoned women and children to die on his ship that he had somehow "fallen into a lifeboat."
CLIA's talking points, like the lies told by the Costa captain and his officers, perpetuate the cruise industry's reputation as lacking honesty and transparency.
There are travel agents who don't rely on someone else's talking points. New Jersey travel agent and my friend David Stern has his own warnings and safety videos on his web site.
If you are a travel agent reading this, don't get caught up in CLIA's cult of personality. Be yourself. Learn about the history of cruise ship fires, collisions, groundings, sinkings and crimes. And then tell your clients the truth.
Dayana Arlotti: lego.it
Susy Albertini: Telegraph
Seatrade Insider has an interesting article today entitled "Costa Battles Media Onslaught, Concordia Scams."
The article raises the issue whether there is a future for the Costa Crociere brand following the Concordia disaster. The article quotes Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi admitting that Costa's sales across the fleet are 35% below the same period last year.
But even if sales pick up, what long term damage did the Concordia crash cause Costa? The Seatrade article explains that Foschi told an Italian newspaper that "we have been annihilated in the media. Our brand has been massacred . . . " He went on to complain of the " . . . enormous attack of the mass media, for the most part unfair and unverified." (emphasis added)
I have never hear of such frank and dire talk by a cruise CEO.
A couple of newspapers here in the US asked me for my opinion on how the Costa Concordia spectacle will affect the parent company, Carnival Corporation, and the cruise industry in general. I stated that the Concordia is only one of over 100 cruise ships in the Carnival fleet. Carnival is the proverbial 800 pound gorilla. And its so diversified with multiple brands line Costa, Cunard, Princess, Holland America Lines and so on that even the loss of a $500 million luxury cruise ship (representing a little over 1% of its fleet) will be nothing but a blip on the screen of Carnival's financial bottom line.
As far as the cruise industry, the thought of the Concordia heading into the rocks while Captain Schettino dined with his girlfriend and then abandoned ship is going to be a headache for the industry for a long time.
And what about Costa?
Will Costa be forever stigmatized by this disaster?
Costa has a strong brand identity. Its logo is beautiful, with the distinctive blue "C" emblazoned on a yellow smokestack.
But will the public ever forget the Costa Concordia's smokestack at a 45 degree angle, sticking out of the water off the coast of Giglio, with 15 dead passengers trapped inside the ship?
Do you have an opinion of whether Costa will weather the storm and continue as one of the premier European cruise brands? Please leave a comment below.
Don't forget to read some of our other articles on the Costa Concordia disaster:
Swamped from a tide of bad publicity following the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise industry today announced a change to its safety drill policy. The new policy? Hold your breath:
All cruise lines will begin to provide a safety briefing to the passengers before the vessel sets sail.
That's it? Why wasn't this the law a hundred years ago, after the Titanic sank?
This should convince even the most hard core cruise fan that there is something seriously amiss in the world of cruising when almost a month after the Concordia disaster, the cruise lines have finally proposed such a basic safety policy.
This should also reveal how lax the policies are under the International Maritime Organization ("IMO"). The IMO rules (suggestions I say) suggest that cruise ships can wait up to 24 hours after passengers embark to hold a safety briefing. It's difficult to justify such an unsafe policy which undoubtedly caused or contributed to deaths of some of the Concordia passengers. But what can you expect from an United Nations organization?
The cruise industry has announced this simple common-sense policy with great fanfare. USA Today's pro-cruise blog CruiseBlog quotes a cruise agent praising the new policy which was revealed in a joint statement by the Cruise Lines International Association, the European Cruise Council and the UK"s Passenger Shipping Association.
Notwithstanding the new cruise line voluntary policy, the IMO "rules" still permit waiting until 24 hours to have a muster drill. And if the cruise lines don't follow their own voluntary agreement? There is no consequence.
Just what the public needs, a trust-us promise from an unregulated cruise industry which should not be trusted.
Just when you thought this National-Enquirer-like story of the cowardly Costa cruise ship captain could not get any weirder, the Italian magazine Chi published a photograph of Captain Schettino and former cruise dancer/hostess Domnica Cemortan. It seems like the love birds were eating oysters and crab legs at a restaurant about a month before married Capitano Amore wrecked his cruise ship and killed over 30 passengers and crew while again dining with young Ms. Cemortan during the ill fated cruise.
The spectacle of this foolish captain cavorting with his mistress must burn a hole in the hearts of the families of the dead and missing.
Story credit: DailyMail
Photo credit: Chi Magazine
The Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster fueled not only significant coverage by international newspapers and cable news programs, but also spawned an unprecedented look at the cruise industry by part-time bloggers and recreational twitter & facebook users.
I use a Twitter application called "TweetDeck" (photo below left) where I follow certain terms like "Costa Concordia" and hashtags like #Costa to stay ahead of this latest cruise disaster story. The number of posts about the Costa crash has been phenomenal since the Friday the 13th of January disaster. There remains a steady stream of links - particularly from Italy which remains fascinated by the drama created by Captain Schettino and his spectacular destruction of the $500 million Costa cruise ship.
The coverage of the Costa incident has spilled over into larger issues.
Professional journalists and small-time bloggers have now taken a closer, and harsher, look at the cruise industry as a whole.
Recent cruise events have given the media a lot to consider. For an industry who likes to claim that disasters, deaths, crimes and sickness on cruise ships are "rare," a mind-boggling number of mishaps and bad press have placed cruise lines in an unfavorable light just this year alone.
Just take a moment and look at our archive of stories from last month here.
Multiple rapes, molestation of children, suicides, over-boards, deaths, medical malpractice, a grounding of an Italian cruise ship (not the Concordia), NBC and ABC 20/20 cruise exposes which infuriated cruise fans and travel agents, tons of bad press from the New York Times to this modest blog, plus five norovirus outbreaks in the first five weeks of the year, and you have an never ending public relations disaster for the cruise line folks.
The readership of Cruise Law News has exploded in the last month. Our motto is everything the cruise lines don't want you to know. So we know that when bad things happen on cruise ships and the industry tries to cover-everything-up, we see the most first time readers stumbling across our blog trying to find some basic facts and real insight.
The Google Analytics people tell us that over 175,000 people read over 515,000 pages of our little blog in the last 30 days.
That's a lot more people visiting us than fans of any cruise president's blog or the cruise industry's blog by a long shot.
A long time reader of Cruise Law News just contacted me. He suggested that I take a look at the promotional language in the website of the cruise industry's trade group, the Cruise line International Association ('CLIA") regarding Costa Cruises.
So I took a look at CLIA website on Costa Cruises. it refers to “Cruising Italian Style:"
”Cruising Italian Style” with Costa is much more than a voyage to a new and exciting destination – it’s an experience that creates lifetime memories . . . "
CLIA mentioned "5 Key Selling Points" for travel agents to keep in mind in selling Costa tickets. The first 4 points listed are "Cruising Italian Style, Europe’s #1 cruise line, Italian-inspired ships & ambiance, and True European experience."
It was selling point # 5 that knocked my socks off: "Cruise Innovator: unique routes . . ."
Oh boy. I can't make this stuff up.
I suppose that the hardest job in the world is to try and handle the PR work for a cruise line right now. "Unique routes?" "Cruising Italian Style?" I hear the jokes already. Yes, that's when the Captain dines with a blonde bimbo former crewmember as the ship sails by a quaint Italian village at 16 knots within spitting distance of the rocks. Don't worry, enjoy your antipasti and vino, the home office in Genoa has approved the route.
Another reader of my blog, who also wishes to remain anonymous, sent me a current banner ad (below) for another cruise line. it seems that Silversea wants to compete with Costa for the most "unique cruise route."
Let's hope that this advertisement is the result of some skilled photo-shop work rather than a reckless stunt by another foolish cruise line.
As rescue and recovery attempts continue to try and locate the bodies of passengers missing from the Costa Concordia disaster, law firms in the United States are moving forward to file class action lawsuits against Costa Cruises and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, in Miami, Florida.
One of the firms advertising for such cases and taking a high profile position is the New York firm of Proner & Proner. On its page "Costa Concordia Passengers: We Are Here for You," the Proner firm states that it intends to seek "at least $160,000 on behalf of each of the passengers aboard the ship at the time of the wreck. Those who were injured, as well as those with wrongful death claims, may be able to collect multiple times that amount."
In a telephone interview with a local reporter in Miami, the Proner firm said it intends to represent passengers of "all nations" from "Peru to Shanghai." It will be seeking to recover "millions" on behalf of the dead or missing passengers. During the interview, the New York lawyer said a lawyer was flying to Miami to file the class action lawsuit and would include Carnival as a defendant.
Whoa Nellie! Lets slow down and collect our thoughts for a second.
Cases against cruise lines are governed by a specialized area of maritime law which is different than land based law.
The courts have applied maritime law to uphold certain contractual limitations set forth in the passenger ticket issued by the cruise lines. These terms and conditions of the cruise passenger ticket are quite draconian in nature. Take a minute and read one of our articles about this issue: Top 10 Shocking Clauses In Your Cruise Contract.
One of the most important contractual terms includes what is called a "forum selection clause." This clause specifies where the lawsuit must be filed. The cruise lines identify a location that it convenient for them and inconvenient for the passenger. The location is usually where the cruise line is located, which gives the cruise line a home court advantage so to speak. It is inconvenient, time consuming, and expensive for passengers injured during a cruise to travel to the location chosen by the cruise line to file suit.
The cruise lines have been successful in enforcing these type of clauses. In the case of Shute v. Carnival, the United States Supreme Court required a passenger who lived in Oregon, and injured during a cruise from California to Mexico, to file suit here in Miami. No the passenger terms and conditions are not fair, but they are routinely enforced.
For the Concordia disaster, the Costa passenger ticket contains a clause specifying Genoa, Italy as the location for the lawsuit. Most tickests issued by cruise lines based in Miami like Carnival and Royal Caribbean select Miami as the place where the lawsuit must be filed. But Costa's ticket is different. For Costa cruises which call on an U.S. port, the lawsuit has to be filed in Broward County in South Florida. If the cruise itinerary does not include a U.S. port, the lawsuit must be filed in Italy.
Last year, we wrote about a similar situation. In Seung v. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, a passenger was injured while cruising on the Paul Gauguin cruise ship, operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises, in the Pacific Ocean. After Ms. Seung filed suit in South Florida where the cruise line is based, the defense lawyers moved to dismiss the case arguing that the forum selection claim required the lawsuit to be brought in France. The federal court here dismissed her case. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal and held that the passenger, from California, had to travel to Paris to pursue her remedies. Our article is entitled Cruise Forum Selection Clauses: Do You Speak French?
As soon as lawsuits are filed against Costa in this jurisdiction, the cruise line will move to dismiss the cases and will cite the Shute and Seung cases discussed above.
The cruise line defense lawyers will argue that the lawsuits cannot be filed here. The Costa company is incorporated in Italy and based in Genoa. The cruise ship is flagged in Italy. The disaster occurred in Italian waters. The Italian Coast Guard responded. The Italian authorities are investigating the cause of the crash and the casualties. The criminal proceedings are taking place in Italy. The lawyers for the passengers will be hard pressed to explain why the cases should not be filed in Italy.
The Costa cruise ticket has another curious twist. It specifies that Italian law should apply. For death cases, Italian law may actually provide for a more equitable remedy that the U.S. General Maritime Law and statutory law - particularly where the deceased passengers are retired.
In the U.S., wrongful deaths on the "high seas" (non U.S, territorial waters, including territorial waters of other countries) are governed by a federal statute called the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA"). There is no recovery under DOSHA for pre-death pain and suffering or emotional losses of the surviving family members such as grief and bereavement. The only recovery is for financial losses such as lost wages of the decedent. If the decedents are retired or children, then there are no recoverable damages except for burial and funeral expenses assuming the bodies are located.
So if the wrongful death cases are filed in the U.S., and the court applies U.S. law, there may be no recovery in certain death cases. Yet if the cases were filed in Italy, there could be recovery under Italian law. A passenger could conceivably file suit in a more convenient forum in the U.S. yet receive no recovery; whereas if the passenger filed suit in a less convenient location in Italy there may be greater recovery in some cases.
Then there is the matter of Carnival. Yes it is the parent company of Costa. And yes, as the Proner lawyers mention to the news reporter, it collects over 14 and 1/2 billion dollars a year. But that does not automatically give anyone a basis to sue it in Miami every time one of its subsidiary company's cruise ships around the world suffer a casualty.
There are often severe consequences of filing suit in the wrong location or against the wrong party, including the assessment of costs and in some circumstances attorney fees.
We hope that the lawyers who are working faster than the recovery teams in Italy to file suit here in Miami know what they are doing and are not navigating their clients into dangerous legal waters.
Yesterday one of my clients, who I will call Jane Doe, contacted me after receiving an unsolicited email from the President of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Adam Goldstein.
The e-mail addressed her by her first name. It seemed to be personalized to her. It recognized her as a past customer and contained statements like:
"At Royal Caribbean International, the safety and security of our guests and crew is our highest priority. It is fundamental to our operations. Our maritime safety record over our 42-year history illustrates our commitment to the safety of the millions of guests and crew that sail on our ships."
President Goldstein's email outraged Jane Doe. You see, she had just returned home with her young daughter who had been raped on President Goldstein's cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas.
Goldstein's unsolicited email to a rape victim's mom had nothing to do with the humiliating shipboard rape suffered by Jane Doe's daughter, one of many rapes of children on the Royal Caribbean fleet over the years. Instead, it was part of this cruise line's media campaign to try and distance itself from the negative fall out following the deadly Costa Concordia disaster.
Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line making such public statements following the Concordia crash. You can watch Royal Caribbean's slick video touting the safety of cruising here. President Goldstein's blog is here. "Safety is in our DNA." "Cruising is the safest form of transportation." "The safety and security of our guests is our highest priority." Royal Caribbean covered all of the cruise industry's talking points in its video, the president's blog and its e-mail blast below.
Of course, in truth, Goldstein's email was not a personalized message to Jane Doe. He does not know her from the man in the moon, even though her daughter was raped on the cruise line's showpiece megaship and the biggest cruise ship in the world.
Royal Caribbean spammed Goldstein's email to every single family who had sailed with them. This was an intentional and reckless stunt, considering that hundreds of women and children have reportedly been sexually assaulted during Royal Caribbean cruises over the years. Certainly, the cruise line knew that its former customers who are victims of crime, and whose names remain in its customer database, would feel salt being poured into their wounds upon reading Goldstein's email in their personal email accounts.
Insensitive & thoughtless, if not outrageous? Definitely. But Goldstein is not thinking of his customer's feelings. He is motivated by his cruise line's bottom line. He wants to reassure his customers that it is safe to return to cruising, whether that is true or not.
This is hardly the first time this has happened.
In 2006, one of my clients, Laurie Dishman (photo right), was brutally raped by a part time Royal Caribbean security guard with a prior record of sexually harassing passengers. She retained us to represent her. I sent a handful of letters to President Goldstein, asking for our client's medical records, her statement, and the name and address of the Royal Caribbean employee who raped Laurie. We received nothing in response. Goldstein ignored us.
The only things Laurie initially received from Royal Caribbean were unsolicited emails inviting Laurie to return for another "cruise of a lifetime" on a Royal Caribbean ship. The emails continued for over a year. Each email popping into her computer's email in-box took Laurie back to the scene of the crime and reactivated a sense of panic and stress. It was only after a half dozen letters of protest from us, and a Congressional investigation into the crime initiated by Laurie's Congresswoman in 2007, that the cruise line scrubbed her from its marketing database.
We pleaded for Royal Caribbean to implement a system to remove a passenger's information from the company's marketing database whenever a passenger was raped, killed or lost a loved one overboard during a cruise. Believe me, cruise vacationers don't want promotional brochures in their mail boxes after a family member has been raped or lost at sea.
It looks like Royal Caribbean ignored that request too.
President Goldstein's blog talks in grandiose terms about the Costa Concordia crash being a "defining moment" for the cruise industry. He promises a renewed commitment to passenger safety. Let's hope that's true.
But when a cruise line president sends an e-mail blast to the mother of a child raped during a cruise, you wonder whether cruise line executives like Goldstein really get it.
Adam Goldstein - Royal Caribbean Flickr page
Laurie Dishman - Sacramento Bee
ROYAL CARIBBEAN EMAILS ADAM GOLDSTEIN'S LETTER TO MILLIONS OF CRUISE CUSTOMERS:
All of us at Royal Caribbean International continue to extend our heartfelt sympathies to those affected by Carnival Corporation's recent tragic incident on the Costa Concordia. As a Crown & Anchor Society member and loyal Royal Caribbean guest, we know you may have some questions as the situation continues to unfold.
At Royal Caribbean International, the safety and security of our guests and crew is our highest priority. It is fundamental to our operations. Our maritime safety record over our 42-year history illustrates our commitment to the safety of the millions of guests and crew that sail on our ships. The measures we take in the interest of safety are many, often exceeding the regulatory requirements – these are all part of our ongoing commitment to innovation and continuous improvement in every aspect of our business.
To address some of your questions and concerns, here is a video that will provide an overview of safety onboard our ships; the training of our crew, officers and captains; and the many regulations that govern our practices. Click here to watch.
As a past cruiser, we know your friends and family may be asking about your own time at sea. We hope that you'll share this video along with your personal Royal Caribbean experiences with them, and reinforce that cruising continues to maintain the best safety record of any industry in travel.
Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to welcoming you aboard again soon on one of our ships sailing to 270 destinations worldwide.
President and CEO
Royal Caribbean International
The following is from LexBlog TV which hosts our firm's blog Cruise Law News:
By far and away, the most encapsulating part of the news surrounding the Costa Concord shipwreck in Italy has to be the remarkable and unbelievable imagery. But while the images of the ship lying on its side, half above the water, are difficult to comprehend, things get even more unbelievable as you find out more and more about exactly how this type of thing could happen.
To explain what we know about how this happened—starting with Captain Francesco Schettino’s bizarre actions—and the culpability he and the cruse line may face, we bring in Jim Walker of Walker & O’Neil and the excellent Cruise Law News.
It was only a matter of time before the public would realize that the crash of the Costa Concordia involved far more than just the actions of a reckless cruise ship captain. Costa's quick smack down of Captain Schettino (photo left) was not an impulsive outburst by the Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi. It was undoubtedly a decision carefully thought out with the involvement of the Carnival decision makers in Miami.
If Schettino had to be lynched by public outrage to save the cruise corporations, so be it.
However, It seems that the much talked about "fly-by" of Giglio may not, after all, have been showboating of an unpredictable captain but initiated and approved by the cruise line itself back in Genoa. And if Costa knew about and ratified the dangerous maneuvers which took over 4,000 lives perilously close to the rocks, then what does this say about the safe operations of the entire Carnival fleet with its fleet of over 100 ships carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers every day?
The spotlight has now moved from Captain Schettino to Costa in Genoa and now to Carnival Corporation here in Miami. But where is Carnival's CEO Micky Arison?
Arison is trying to remain anonymous. But that's hard to do. After all, he is the smiling face of the Carnival "fun ship" fleet. He is the big name owner of a high profile NBA basketball team of superstars, seen at court side rubbing elbows with celebrities at the Miami Heat games. But he obviously does not want to be identified with this mess. Arison does not want his mugshot to be posted alongside the likes of bad guy Schettino or rat fink Costa CEO Foschi (photo right).
Two days ago I wrote that Arison and other Carnival cruise executives are ruining their reputations by not flying to Italy and speaking to the surviving passengers and crewmembers
Now the international press is calling Arison out.
Cruise writer John Honeywell of the U.K.'s Mirror wrote a strongly worded article today demanding answers from Arison: Concordia: Arison Must Act Now.
The London Independent followed suit by the article Concordia's Invisible US Owner Branded "A Disgrace."
Independent quoted Italy's La Repubblica newspaper asking: "Who is this mysterious boss and how has he managed to remain like a ghost since the tragedy?"
Business Insider was to the point with Carnival Is Failing Spectacularly In The Handling Of Its Costa Concordia Crisis.
Where is Micky Arison?" asks The Wall Street Journal in an article Carnival CEO Lies Low After Wreck.
The Miami Herald, which will usually shy away from any critical issues which may embarrass the cruise lines which advertise with the newspaper, published the article Carnival Cruise Lines Faces a Hostile PR Tide.
The Herald quoted two PR experts saying:
“Micky Arison should come out, and take ownership, and get in front of the story.
"I would have had him go to the scene. Micky is a likable guy and pretty well known. This is one of those cases where I think the presence of the CEO would have been helpful.”
These PR experts are right. Arison is well liked by cruise fans and travel agents. He is loved by the local NBA fans, particularly after he brought Shaq to Miami from LA and won the NBA basketball championship.
When the Heat won the NBA, Arison was photographed everywhere and with everyone, holding his prized trophy. He even took his trophy on a world wide tour, including taking it on Costa cruise ships. A photo (right) of Arison and Foschi, in happier days, show them with the NBA trophy aboard the Costa Allegra cruise ship.
But now with around 30 dead or missing from the Concordia wreck, Arison is nowhere to be seen. Arison has never stepped up to the plate to address unpleasant issues, like sexual assaults on his fleet of cruise ships, Carnival's avoidance of taxes, or exploitation of foreign crewmembers.
I don't see Arison appearing anytime soon before a microphone to discuss the deaths of his cruise guests either.
Captain Schettino: Karl Ritter
Costa CEO Foschi: Tano Pecoraro / AP
Carnival Ceo Arison: Reuters
Arison & Foshi with trophy: NBA.com
"The Situation Is Under Control, Go Back To Your Cabin" and Other Lies From The Costa Concordia Disaster
When I first learned of the unfolding Costa Concordia cruise disaster ten days ago, I remember reading a statement attributed to the cruise line stating that the evacuation was proceeding "orderly" and the passengers were "not at risk."
Initially there were no reports of deaths or injuries, but I knew that something was terribly wrong. Elderly passengers are always at risk while transferring from a cruise ship to a lifeboat, even to a tender to shore on a perfectly calm day. How possibly could there be no risk to passengers during during an emergency evacuation at night under these dire circumstances?
We now know that this was just one of many lies to be told by Costa and its captain.
What other statements will long be remembered from the Costa disaster?
"I slipped and fell into the lifeboat" by Captain Fransesco Schettino.
This is perhaps the biggest whopper I have ever heard in my life. It takes great acting skills to deliver such a ridiculous explanation for abandoning a ship you just sank. Being a liar does not erase being a coward. If Schettino really slipped and fell, I offered on Twitter to represent him in a lawsuit against Costa (a bad joke on Twitter I suppose in a time of great sorrow). But If I were his lawyer, I would file for a trademark on the "slipped-and-fell-onto-the-life-boat" phrase for its sheer comedic genius.
What other cruise lies will long be remembered?
"The Situation Is Under Control, Go Back To Your Cabin" says a Costa supervisor to panicked passenger who assembled on deck with their life vests ready to be evacuated. How many of the passengers were deceived by this false information? The most compliant personalities were probably the first to follow these instructions, whereas the cynics didn't. Did the deferential passengers die in the bowels of the ship?
In an every-man-for-himself situation do the gentle souls die first?
Photo credit: Reuters
Caption credit: Costa Cruise Line
Cruise Crisis Management FAIL - How Carnival is Ruining its Reputation Following the Costa Concordia Disaster
A cruise line's reputation in a time of crisis is often formed not by the circumstances which caused the crisis but by the company's attitude, appearance, and action afterwords.
I call this the "three A's" of cruise line crisis management: attitude, appearance & action.
When disaster strikes and passengers are injured or killed during a vacation cruise, the U.S. public has a remarkable capacity to forgive the individuals and companies involved. Part of this tendency to forgive, rather than judge, is tied to the Judeo-Christian heritage of our country - where we sacrifice resentment and seek redemption in the process.
In practical terms, Americans understand that accidents are inevitable. "Sh*t happens," the saying goes. Bad things happen to good people. An individual or company should be forgiven if they demonstrate a humble and respectful attitude; they appear on the scene to take stock of the problems they caused; and they take prompt action to help others injured by their conduct.
So how have the principal actors in this drama performed so far?
Captain Francesco Schettino failed miserably. His attitude has been defiant. His appearance? None. He abandoned ship in dereliction of the traditional maritime duty to stay with the vessel dating back to the Medieval Sea codes. He fled the scene of a crime. His actions? Self preservation. Disregarding orders by the Italian Coast Guard to return to the cruise ship and assist in the evacuation. Lying. I slipped-and-fell-into-a-life-boat defies reason and belief.
Costa's chief executive, Pier Luigi Foschi, and parent company Carnival's CEO, Micky Arison, are close behind the disgraced captain in trying to ruin their reputations.
Arison admittedly expressed his condolences from the comfort of his 200 foot luxury yacht in the Miami area. But carefully crafted corporate PR statements go only so far. He failed to appear at the scene. How hard is it to hop in a Gulfstream jet and fly to Rome and then head over to the island of Giglio?
In Miami, we hear snickering that as the Costa Concordia sits on its side with dead passengers still trapped inside, some of the the Carnival executives have been seen gallivanting around town at black-tie gala parties and even Miami Heat professional basketball games. (CEO Arison owns the Miami Heat.) But it was only this weekend, one week after the crisis started, that Arison sent senior executive Howard Frank to Italy. Even then, Howard appears to be in Genoa where Costa's headquarters are located. He apparently has no intention of making an appearance at the scene of death and destruction.
Although the physical presence of corporate executives at the scene of a mass disaster may be largely symbolic, such visual images are important to demonstrate the corporation's attitude of concern and compassion.
President George Bush was perceived as demonstrating the right attitude when he appeared at the remains of the Twin Towers following 9/11. He was photographed (left) standing on a pile of smoking rubble, with his arm around a fire chief, encouraging other fire fighters through a bullhorn. But when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and images of panicked residents waving to helicopters on the roof of flooded house were broadcast on the cable news stations, the president was no where to be seen. Photographs of President Bush (below right), later published of him looking from a window on Airforce One 35,000 feet over the disaster below, made him appear aloof and disconnected and did his reputation more harm than good.
Carnival has managed prior cruise disasters effectively in the past. When an engine room fire disabled the Splendor cruise ship in 2010, Carnival sent a team of executives from Miami to San Diego where they conducted a highly publicized press conference at the port. Carnival offered reimbursement of all cruise fares, waived all onboard purchases and promised a free cruise in the future.
Carnival followed the "three A's" of crisis management perfectly. Its attitude was humble. It appeared on the scene. And it took immediate action to solve the problem.
I was so impressed that I wrote an article praising Carnival and providing my opinion why it should not be sued for the accident.
But Carnival does not seem to know how to act following the Concordia disaster.
We hear Carnival's CEO Arison finally saying the rights things. Five days after the crisis unfolded later, he finally tweeted "I gave my personal assurance that we will take care of each & every one of our guests, crew and their families" He included a link to a press release issued by Carnival promising to take care of everyone. But this weekend, there are news reports that the cruise survivors were stunned and insulted when Costa CEO Foschi offered a 30% discount on future cruises as part of proposed compensation to stave off lawsuits.
A 30% discount? Talk about pouring salt into the wound. The cruise industry collects over $35,000,000,000 (billion) a year mostly from tax paying Americans yet it pays no U.S. federal taxes because it registers it vessels overseas and incorporated itself in Panama to avoid U.S. tax, wage and labor laws, and health and safety laws. Arison himself is the richest person in Florida with a net worth of over $4,000,000,000.
Carnival will not hesitate to make a claim against its underwriters for payment of $500,000,000 for its wrecked cruise ship as well as seeking hundreds of millions of dollars for the lost revenue caused by not being able to collect money from passengers sailing on the cruise ship in the future. It is now rightfully facing public ridicule by offering a discount worth a few hundred dollars to avoid litigation. I hate to think what the families of the dead loved ones think about taking a discounted Costa cruise in the future.
Carnival and CEO Arison have a mixed reputation in Miami over the years. Lots of travel agents love Arison. But Arison has faced more than his fair share of critics for Carnival's avoidance of taxes, exploitation of foreign crewmembers and indifference to the problem of women and children being sexually assaulted on Carnival's cruise ships. Consider these articles: "Is Mickey A Greedy Corporate Pig?" or "The Deep Blue Greed - The Arison Clan Built Carnival into a Money Machine by Cleverly Avoiding Tax Laws" or Carnival? Try Criminal.
Carnival has enormous financial resources and insurance proceeds to respond to the disaster and compensate the families who are suffering because of its reckless captain. It can take care of the mess and salvage its reputation. But does it have the corporate ethics to do so? We know that CEO Arison loves the limelight when his businesses are successful. But if Arison and Carnival's executives don't care enough to appear in Giglio to speak with the survivors directly and assess the situation personally, they risk earning reputations no better than that of their arrogant and cowardly Captain Schettino.
Top: News Pictures / Rex Features
Late last Friday, I received a tweet from one of my 9,000 friends on Twitter informing me that a cruise ship had run aground off the coast of Italy. Not much was known about what happened. No one in the media was initially reporting on the incident.
I stayed up all Friday night and Saturday morning watching the increasingly frantic twitter feed about the emerging circumstances surrounding the grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship. Twitter friends like London cruise blogger John Honeywell a/k/a @CaptGreybeard began tweeting the first photographs of the beached cruise ship. Other friends on twitter like Mikey's Cruise Blog tweeted non-stop as the story unfolded.
Completely missing from the discussion on social media sites like twitter and facebook were Carnival (the owner of Costa) or its CEO Mickey Arison ( @MickyArison ) or the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) which has a twitter name @CruiseFacts.
CLIA did not make a single tweet, statement or press release all weekend.
The few bits and pieces of information which trickled from from Costa falsely suggested that the stricken cruise ship was being orderly evacuated and that the passengers were "not at risk."
In the first blog I wrote that night, I suspected that the cruise line's comments were "probably the usual misleading and false cruise propaganda." As it turned out, while Costa was assuring the public that everything was fine, panicked passengers were jumping overboard or struggling to survive as water filled their cabins.
The motto of the $35,000,000,000 a year cruise industry is CLIA's "one industry, one voice." But CLIA apparently does not work on the weekends. When disaster struck the Concordia and over 4,000 passengers and crew feared for their lives, CLIA remained silent.
Meanwhile, the void was filled with insightful analysis and photographs from the international media, particularly from the U.K., as well as iReporter accounts from the scene of the disaster.
The first tweet from the Carnival CEO Arison, who has amassed a personal fortune of over $4,000,000,000 (billion) from cruise fares, came long after the disaster, expressing his condolences, but quickly followed by a tweet (since deleted) supporting his pro basketball team of NBA superstars.
The void created by the absence of information from CLIA and Carnival and its subsidiary line Costa was quickly filled by non-stop interviews of surviving passengers who described the chaos and deadly confusion as they tried to escape the sinking vessel, which we now understand was caused by the reckless conduct of the cowardly cruise ship captain (above right) who abandoned ship when things got tough.
The media quickly called on maritime lawyers here in South Florida to provide insight into the disaster. Our firm received inquires from major television and radio networks like ABC, 20/20, NBC, CNN, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, CNBC, the Canadian Television Network and BBC Radio, as well as national and international newspapers and magazines like Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and U.K.'s Telegraph. I spent the better part of this week speaking with several dozen journalists and shuttling between TV production studios in Miami and Fort Lauderdale for interviews.
The cruise industry did not have much to say. No one appeared on TV on behalf of the cruise lines. CLIA finally updated its facebook page to assure the public that cruise disasters like this were "extremely rare." But journalists are turned off by such false and self-serving garbage, and turn to information like that contained on my article Costa Concordia Calamity Just the Latest Disaster for Cruise Industry which discussed prior deaths and injuries on Costa cruise ships in the last two years and a rash of deadly cruise disasters which CNN featured this week.
CLIA also teamed up with a local cruise line defense lawyer here in Miami to write a press release with claims like "the cruise industry is a heavily regulated industry and safety is our highest priority" and "all cruise ships are designed and operated in compliance with the strict requirements of the International Maritime Organization."
I have learned that the media hates corporate PR statements like this. It's called "gobbledygook" (definition below).
Most journalists understand that cruise lines are largely unregulated. To the extent that there is any regulation it is mostly self regulation by an industry whose business model is to incorporate in places like Panama and Liberia and flag their vessels in places like the Bahamas and Bermuda to avoid all U.S. income taxes, labor laws and safety laws. The so-called "strict requirements" of the IMO are, at best, mere recommendations which the cruise lines can choose to ignore with impunity, like the decision Costa made not to bother to conduct a lifeboat drill before sailing on this disastrous cruise.
As this week comes to an end, the misleading cruise line press releases simply added to the lack of credibility and silliness of an industry which is known for its lack of transparency. As the Costa Concordia disaster became a nightly staple for the cable news stations this week, CLIA and the cruise line supporters were no where to be found. They seem to be hiding under the covers.
Perhaps CLIA's new motto should be "one industry, no voice."
Here are examples of some of the articles we participated in this week:
Canadian Television: Crime, fires compromise cruise ship safety: experts
International Herald Tribune / New York Times: Disaster Cripples Cruiser, Not Cruising
Cleveland Plain Dealer: Cruise ship accident prompts questions about industry safety
*The word "gobbledygook" comes from Maury Maverick, a Texan lawyer who served as a Democratic Congressman and the mayor of San Antonio. He used the word in the New York Times Magazine in 1944 referring to a turkey, “always gobbledy gobbling and strutting with ludicrous pomposity.”
Yesterday award winning cruise radio host Doug Parker (photo left) broadcast an earlier interview with me about tips about staying safe during a cruise. The text of his blog is below. Don't forget to listen to the interview at the bottom link:
"It’s not something you like to think about but just like on land, crime too happens on cruise ships, too. This week’s news has been about the George Smith case, a man who disappeared on his honeymoon cruise back in July 2005, aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. A follow-up “Overboard” will be on NBC’s Dateline this Friday night.
A lot of people let their guard down while cruising and think it’s safe to get crazy drunk or let their kids have full rein of the cruise ship because it’s a “safe-haven,” but that’s not always the case. I mean you can drink all-you-want and not have to drive anywhere, right?
Maritime attorney Jim Walker of Cruise Law News sat down with us and gave us ”Six Tips for Staying Safe at Sea.” This interview aired in January 2011 on Cruise Radio but we think this is a good time to reinforce what could be consequences of letting your guard down.
You will want to forward this article to any frequent cruisers in your life."
Listen to this short but informative interview here.
Today is January 1st. The first day of 2012! This year over 14,000,000 people will sail on cruise ships. Cruising continues to be one of the fasting growing travel industries, with a wide variety of cruise ships and destinations. It is not a perfect industry and I consider myself one of its harshest critics. But If you are considering taking a cruise this year, be safe and have a good time. There are lots of good sources of information online. I picked my favorite 12 blogs for 2012, from number 12 to number 1 (twitter name follows website/blog):
12. Mikey's Cruise Blog by @mikeycruiseblog. This is a blog which I started following this year. The founder is Mikey Faust who, although just 15 years old, is the head blogger of this increasingly popular blog. Mikey's Cruise Blog contains interesting articles written by Mikey and two other bloggers. He just awarded the 2011 "Cruisey Awards" for best cruise line, best cruise director, best new ship, and so forth. Somehow I won best cruise blog. That automatically makes his cruise blog a top dozen blog in my book. Keep an eye on Mikey's Cruise Blog this year.
11. CruiseMates - the "Complete Online Guide Cruise Guide and Community." An online cruise community and message board somewhat like Cruise Critic (see below) but on a smaller scale. I have bumped heads over the years with its chief author, Paul Motter, regarding the issue of cruise ship crimes and unexplained disappearances of cruise passengers. But CruiseMates nonetheless contains tons of information and has knowledgeable and pleasant bloggers. If you want cruise friendly editorials, this is the one channel for you. It needs to become active on Twitter to become a top 10 player in the cruise world of social media.
10. The Ocean Escape, by @CruiseMan3000. This high energy cruise blog is authored by Shon "Cruise Man 3000" Ford, who is an unabashed cruise fan and NCL fan in particular. His blog contains a "cruisetacular" (trademark pending) collection of Shon's personal cruising experiences, cruise ship reviews, and cruise line ratings. Feeling blue? Read Shon's exuberant & joyful articles. If his blog were a church, I would join just for the fellowship.
9. (Tie) Cruise Line Fans by @CruiseLineFans, a friendly cruise community with cruise reviews and a cruise forum / message board, and Cruise-Addicts by @CruiseAddicts, another popular cruise community. Its website has a good cruise news section, a forum, cruise tracking application and gallery. I don't know the principals behind either site but enjoy the interesting articles.
8. Cruise Maven by @CruiseMaven. This is another cruise blog that I just started reading this year. Authored by Sherry Laskin, a freelance travel writer, blogger and photographer, Cruise Maven's blog is bright and airy and contains well written articles and sharp photos. She occasionally blogs on her first hand observations about potentially embarrassments to the cruise lines, such as when a cruise ship recently flunked a CDC inspection. A real pro, Sherry's articles have appeared in many travel industry publications such as Travel Trade, Travel Weekly, Travel and Leisure News, and Senior Scene Magazine, as well as online media such as Travel Market Report, and CruiseReviews.com.
7. Chris Cruises by @OrlandoChris. Chris Owen is the editor of his blog which has a reputation for straight forward and insightful information about cruising. I like Chris' blog because it strikes the right balance between cheerleading for the cruise industry and frank discussions about parts of the cruise industry which need improving. For example, he has written articles about the need for parents to supervise kids on cruises which are right on the mark. Chris is from Orlando and writes for Examiner and Gadling in addition to his website, LifeIsCruising.
6. Cruise Critic by @CruiseCritic. This cruise community is a real juggernaut. It has by far the most members and the most hard core cruise fans. Its members will often report on an outbreak of a virus or an overboard passenger - often before the cruise ends and before the mainstream media publishes anything. On the down-side, its community seems like the least diversified place on the planet. Its message boards often turn vicious with flame wars, and a dissenting opinion is often ridiculed. Threads critical of the cruise lines are sometimes pulled. The usual comment from a CruiseCritic fan left on my blog is something like "feed the lawyers to the sharks!" or something equally enlightened. Cruise Critic has not overcome the stigma of being exposed for being a paid cruise line cheerleader and shilling for Royal Caribbean on its reviews and message boards. Whenever the cruise industry needs some good news, Cruise Critic will interview a couple of PR people at CLIA and deliver a puff piece for their cruise line friends.
5. Captain Greybeard by @CaptGreyBeard. Perhaps its the British accent or the fact that my parents lived in London, but John Honeywell is one of my favorite cruise bloggers. He writes for the U.K.'s Mirror about cruises. Insightful. Witty. Good stuff. He is also the only person I know who can type while holding a martini.
4. Cruise Radio by @CruiseRadio. Doug Parker and his sidekick Matt Baisford are the geniuses behind this ridiculously popular blog and radio show which contains a continuous stream of interviews with travel agents, cruise executives, crew employees and tourism representatives. Doug is the founder and friendly face of Cruise Radio. He exploded onto the scene in 2009 and has risen to the top of the world of cruise social media. He seems to be the one person in the world of cruising who is perpetually on a cruise ship having a good time. Why do I think he has a beer koozie in one hand and a microphone in the other when he conducts his witty interviews? A great, fun show with some good info to boot.
3. Cruise Junkie by Professor Ross Klein (no twitter). While the U.S. media refused to take a critical look at the shortcomings of the North American cruise lines over the past five years, Canadian sociology professor Ross Klein has been a diligent watchdog of the cruise industry. He has testified before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about the problem of crime and sexual assaults on cruise ships. In an industry known for secrecy where what happens at a sea stays at sea, Professor Klein is the only credible independent source accurately tracking issues such as cruise overboards and noro-virus outbreaks.
2. Expert Cruiser by @ExpertCruiser. Anita Dunham-Potter is a rare find - a travel enthusiast who is as principled as she is intelligent. She is experienced about the cruise industry and her articles reflect that. She recently joined the USA Today cruise team along with Gene Sloan. It really not fair to the other cruise bloggers. Its like teaming up Dwayne Wade and LeBron James.
1. CruiseLog by CruiseLog. Gene Sloan is the perfect host for the perfect blog about cruising. The blog is light on editorial opinion and encourages discussion and debate on all sides of the issue. The marketing people at USA Today were ahead of the curve when they launched their "capture the national conversation" mission many years ago, and it worked particularly well with its travel section around cruises with Gene Sloan as the host. You can read about the success of the CruiseLog community in the best selling book "The Hyper-Social Organization." Gene will pen a short article about some newsworthy cruise topic. He has nothing to sell and no ax to grind. The USA Today readers will leave their comments pro and con, including some really thoughtful ideas. A lively debate mostly by intelligent travelers. A far cry from the lynch mob mentality at Cruise Critic.
Did I leave your favorite out? Leave a comment below . . .
This weekend I clicked on Royal Caribbean's website to read the cruise line president's "Why Not?" blog which is on the cruise line website called the "Nation of Why Not."
Believe it or not, I like reading what cruise line CEO's write about. It's interesting to me to see the disconnect between the usually mundane things the cruise executives promote compared to missing passengers, shipboard crimes and norovirus outbreaks which the executives don't want you to know about.
You may recall that back in 2008 Royal Caribbean abandoned its high energy and highly successful Get Out There! marketing campaign, which featured videos of passengers hiking on a glacier, dog sledding and kayaking, while a upbeat tune with a heavy base blared out the refrain of Iggy Pop's Lust for Life! Quite frankly, I would sometimes find myself humming that damn song after a Royal Caribbean ad would come on the TV.
For reasons not clear to me, Royal Caribbean discarded the brilliant Get Out There! theme. Instead of the dynamic images of active cruise vacationers, Royal Caribbean introduced a new marketing campaign called the "Nation of Why Not."
I thought that the cruise line had lost its mind. It replaced the high octane energy of its Get Out There! campaign with odd images of the whimsical and lackadaisical Nation of Why Not. Was the cruise line trying to compete with Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman's What Me Worry motto? Why walk away from the positive energy of Get Out There! and replace it with the ambivalent if not negative karma of a marketing slogan with the word NOT in it?
I clicked on the Nation of Why Not link on the bottom right corner of the Royal Caribbean home page to read the president's Why Not? blog. But instead of entering the Why Not nation, I was directed instead to a page named "Answer It Royally."
Where did the Nation of Why Not go? The cruise president's Why Not? blog also disappeared, replaced with a blog called Sea Views.
What's going on? Did the cruise line abandon its marketing concept? Did Royal Caribbean tell the citizens of Why Not that their nation no longer existed?
So I looked around on the internet. But I couldn't find anything. The cruise president's last article on the new Sea Views blog was about how important it is to blog as a CEO and, ironically enough, the need to maintain brand loyalty. It was strange to read someone talking about the concept of brand loyalty instead of actually practicing it.
How about an explanation regarding whether the Why Not? mantra is being replaced with "Answer it Royally?" And what does "Answer it Royally" mean anyway?
The only information I could find about what appears to be a new marketing theme is that Royal Caribbean trademarked the phrase "The Sea is Calling. Answer it Royally." OK, now I get it. Cute, I suppose.
Royal Caribbean just filed its application for the new service mark on September 13th. Perhaps there will be some type of announcement from the marketing and web agency people in the future about all of this?
Loyal-to-Royal cruise fans, did I miss something in the last couple of months? Do you know what happened to the Nation of Why Not? What do you think about the Answer it Royally theme?
I say bring back the Get Out There! videos and turn Iggy Pop's Lust for Life on full blast.
December 12, 2011 Update: A reader brought to my attention that Royal Caribbean's new ad debuted in October in Spanish ("El Mar Te Llama"). You can watch it here.
Another reader pointed out that if you type in "the sea is calling" dot com, you go to a Royal Caribbean's facebook page which has the new video.
Cruisemates published an article today discussing the cruise line's new national ad campaign which you can read here. Royal Caribbean invited some members of the media to a conference call this morning and introduced the new ad.
Every time you turn on the TV it seems like young people are being sprayed in the face with pepper for exercising their freedom to speak out about corruption and injustice. Juxtaposed against these disturbing videos and photographs are images of smiling rich Republican Presidential wannabes approving of the pepper-spraying of our country's youth.
Today we watched the spectacle of Republican Presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, initially ignoring the spectacle of maced protesters and talking about the economy, proclaiming that if elected he will reduce the federal deficit by firing janitors in public schools and, in their place, pay the school children to clean the school classrooma and bathrooms. Is this guy for real?
This comes from a scoundrel who divorced his first wife while she lay dying of cancer in a hospital bed and, just recently, enjoyed a decadent cruise with his third wife aboard the luxury cruise ship Seaborn Odyssey. Vacationing with Seabourn is not like an El Cheapo $599-week-cruise on Carnival's "fun ships." It is about as elitist as it gets in the world of cruising. You can pay $20,000 to a foreign flagged cruise line which pays no U.S. income tax and receive a nice suite with cabin attendants from India, who are paid a salary of $50 a month (plus tips), to wait on you like you are the Greek God Neptune.
Speaking of Greek Gods, Newt rationalized his cruise earlier this summer through the Mediterranean by telling his supporters that the cruise was an "educational opportunity to learn about the Greek debt crisis." Dear Lord, what crap. The only problem, I suppose, is that his own campaign staffers were so disgusted with his antics that they quit in protest when he disappeared with his latest Mrs. Gingrich on the high seas for a couple of weeks.
But Newt is not to be troubled by the issue of abandonment, proof being that he abandoned his dedicated staffers just as easily as running out on his first dying wife only to return to the U.S. from his vacation and pick up a new group of Republic staffers to continue his I-know-I'm-going-to-lose-but-its-good-for-my-ego campaign.
While students are pepper sprayed for protesting against corporate greed, greedy Newt has lots of money to burn. It was recently revealed that he collected somewhere around $1,600,000 in consultation fees from Freddie Mac, the now defunct mortgage scam, while his think tank consulting/lobbying firm sucked some $37,000,000 from health care corporations scamming the public.
I suppose the final straw came for me today, which led me to throwing my remote control at the TV, when Newt supported the pepper-spraying of the "Occupy Portland" protesters, while gratuitously telling the protesters that they needed to "take a bath and get a job" - all to the amusement of a cheering FOX NEWS audience.
I suppose Newt is talking about 20-year-old Elizabeth Nichols, a young woman from Arkansas, who joined the protest movement in Portland in response to her parent's plight. As explained in the Atlantic Wire, Elizabeth's mom is housebound with multiple sclerosis. She joined the Occupy Wall Street movement because of her parents' dire situation. Her mother explained: "I have no medical care. I'm not eligible. My husband's disabled . . . We live on one disability check. No, we don't live. We exist."
If you have not seen the photo yet (credit Randy L. Rasmussen, photo above right), it is young Elizabeth who the cops blast in the mouth with a stream of pepper spray while she protested in Portland. The authorities then knocked her to the ground and hauled her off to jail for expressing her thoughts about the Gingrich-like corruption the public has endured in the banking and insurance industries of late.
Pepper spray is the new weapon of authority. Unlike the bullets at Kent State 40 years ago, pepper spray is an approved, recommended and widely used weapon. Campuses, cities, and corporations - which do not like to be on the receiving end of public criticism by protesters who won't go away - just need to draw a canister and spray with legal impunity.
On the University of California at Davis campus, riot policemen pepper-sprayed an entirely peaceful group of protesters (photo left) and then returned for a second dose, close up and personal, into the students faces as they sat peacefully and silently on the ground.
There is a certain insanity in the air.
When master charlatans like Newt Gingrich can propose firing school custodians, flout child labor laws and chuckle when the police spray peaceful young Americans exercising their freedom of speech not unlike how a pesticide crew sprays a yard to get rid of chinch bugs - something is terribly wrong.
The U.S. is a free country we tell our children. But when our kids leave home and our theoretical teachings are tested in the real world, they will learn that their individuals freedoms, if they choose to exercise them, will be challenged by thugs and elitist megalomaniacs who are just as eager to maintain the status quo as the worst despots from Iran to China.
As Aaron Neville sings on the Neville Brother's Sons & Daughters album "It's freedom of speech as long as you don't say too much."
Today if you express an unpopular point of view in public and rail against renegade corporations, insurance companies and banks, expect a good dosing of pepper spray. And while the riot police advance on your children on campuses next year, rest assured that President Gingrich will be vacationing with his most recent wife on a luxury cruise in the Mediterranean.
Don't miss this classic video on the Colbert Report on cruise passenger Gingrich:
An unusual debate continues over the use of Charleston, South Carolina as a cruise port and the scale of the cruise industry's presence in this quaint old southern town. There is a lot to argue about - air emissions, waste discharge, traffic, noise and passenger congestion as well as the visual pollution of this beautiful city.
The debate is unusual insofar as few places, other than Alaska and California, have taken steps to hold cruise lines accountable to public health and community standards.
Cruise lines such as Carnival Corporation have a deplorable history of air emissions and waste discharge. They are used to having their way with third world countries and U.S. ports, only to suddenly leave town when they can think they can get a better deal elsewhere.
The Coastal Conservation League, the Preservation Society of Charleston and Charleston's Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood are wise to try and hold Carnival accountable to local laws and regulations.
The Charleston City Paper reports that the debate over cruise ship regulations in Charleston has now led to a "billboard kerfuffle."
The newspaper explains that in September, a citizens' group called Charleston Communities for Cruise Control put up a billboard (top) on I-26 that reads "SAVE CHARLESTON: SUPPORT CRUISE CONTROL." The billboard depicts the smoke funnels of a Carnival cruise ship looming over the skyline.
On Monday, an anti-regulation business group calling itself CruiseOnInCharleston.org erected its own billboard (bottom) with the message "CRUISE ON IN ... WELCOME and THANK YOU."
Its exciting to actually see this debate continuing about a cruise industry which usually bullies its way without discussion into one-sided business deals which contain no guarantees for the host ports. The billboard battle reflects that Charleston, unlike 95% of cruise ports, is a community with citizens of intelligence and integrity who are not about to roll over and let the cruise industry turn their community into a place like Key West or Nassau.
One day Carnival will pull out of Charleston with no notice when it finds that it can make more money sailing from another port which has no concern for issues like pollution and congestion. Carnival will then leave Charleston's businesses with nothing more than their welcome billboards.
This month marks the two year anniversary of the first publication of Cruise Law News ("CLN").
My first blog was back on September 7, 2009. Since then I have written around 700 blogs about all types of disturbing and weird things that happen on cruise ships.
As I predicted two years ago, cruise lines and travel agents cringe daily at the articles. But hopefully, you have learned about issues that the cruise industry PR machine and the happy-go-lucky cruise fanatics don’t want you to know. And hopefully you are safer in the process.
In the past two years, the public has read over 1,300,000 pages of CLN. My little blog is currently ranked as the 13th most popular law blog per the AVVO / Alexa ranking system, for what that's worth. 1,630 people have taken the time to leave a comment, some negative and some pro.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading the blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Here are some of my favorite articles over the last two years:
Most read article: Passenger Busted for Selling Drugs on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas The public can't resist a story about a drug dealer busted on a gay cruise aboard the world's largest cruise ship, National Inquirer anyone?
Most popular article: The Splendor Cruise Ship Fire - Three Reasons Why You Will Lose If You Sue Carnival The blog was picked up by the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, the ABA Journal, South Business Law Journal, Gadling, Slate, the U.K.'s Guardian and others. Everyone loves it when a personal injury lawyer tells the public not to sue following a cruise disaster . . .
Most ironic articles: Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire's Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas and Cruise Passengers Attacked & Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet
Best article with the word "sex" in the title: Marketing "Sex at Sea" on Cruise Ships (includes my favorite photo of a cruise line executive, in bed with booze surrounded by women with the Royal Caribbean logo across their bikini tops??)
Most comments to an article: Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas
Second most comments to an article: Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas
Most positive reaction to an article: Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers
Most negative reaction to an article: Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers
Happiest article: Three Happy Cruise Stories - Salvation, Generosity & Rebirth
Most inspiring article: The Compelling Story of Jamie Barnett - Living Through the Loss
Saddest article: More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas
Most disturbing article: Neither Dead Nor Alive - The Faliva Family Remains In Limbo
Most bitter article: What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common? Unfortunately you have to lose a loved one before you can figure the answer out.
Scariest articles: Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship, Carnival Cruise Ship Bartender Arrested On Charges Of Raping 14 Year Old Passenger and Most Wanted Rape Suspect Arrested On Carnival Cruise Ship - Worked As Manager Of Onboard Hair Salon
Best social media articles: The Cruise Industry's Reputation - A Sinking Image and Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News
Best series of articles: Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise
Best article the cruise lines don't want you to read: "Cruise Ship Sickness" - Is Norovirus In The Food and Water?
Most terrifying cruise video (over 326,000 views and counting!): The Clelia II Skirts Disaster Again in Antarctica
Best sports article: Oysters, Dixie Beer & My New Orleans Saints
Best personal article: Switching Sides And Finding Your Soul
Best article not read by the cruise industry: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?
Thanks to my readers, friends, supporters, detractors and enemies for making Cruise Law News a success.
Bottom photo credit: Clelia II Fiona Stewart/Garett McIntosh (via jonbowermaster.com)
This morning I was trying to find articles with real time and genuine insight into the ferry disaster off Tanzania.
An old vessel called the Spice Islander grossly overloaded with over 1,000 passengers sank. There have been around two hundred people pulled from the water dead and some 600 rescued.
I kept finding one detached articles after another from the mainstream press, many erroneously publishing a photograph of a ferry from the Philippines. Finally I stumbled across an article "Tragedy Unfolds as Passenger Ferry Capsizes off Zanzibar" which was published by Storyful which aggregates content from Twitter.
The Twitter hashtag following the disaster is #Zanzibarboataccident as well as #Zanzibar
I then began to follow @Tanganyikan who has been tweeting updates and uploading compelling photographs of children rescued from the water as well as tense families waiting for word on whether their loved ones are dead or alive.
@Rasahi uploaded an accurate photo of Spice Islander which looks like an old rust bucket.
Twitter has indeed delivered information and photographs over the mass media noise. Images of children thought to be lost at sea yet held high above jubilant rescuers, some wearing wet suits.
You won't find these type of stories and images of joy and sorrow in Reuters or the AP.
Photo credit: @Tanganyikan
The big news this week in cruise ship social media 2.0 is that no one other than Carnival's CEO Micky Arison just joined Twitter. You can check out his tweets at @MickyArison. He has received a warm welcome mostly by cruise fanatics and Miami Heat fans.
It will be interesting to see if CEO Arison sticks around and really engages on Twitter. He has 4,800 followers. So far he has followed pretty much just his cruise lines, basketball players and celebrities on Twitter.
Speaking of CEOs and pro basketball, Mr. Arison's nemesis Dallas Maverick's Mark Cuban has over 637,000 followers on his Twitter account @mcuban, whose in-your-face avatar shows him holding the NBA trophy, smoking a cigar. Don't let him trash talk you Micky!
When the week started, I could not help but think it only a matter of time that a dissatisfied Carnival customer began a campaign of tweeting Mr. Arison about an unpleasant cruise. I wondered how this would turn out and whether Arison would ignore the passenger.
Sure enough a very unhappy disabled passenger by the Twitter name @MyLadyGuinevere began tweeting about a horrific cruise experience. She suffered an asthma attack caused by a smoke filled stateroom. Carnival's shipboard employees mocked her for using a wheelchair. She suffered from food poisoning. Carnival then inadvertently double charged for everything, and ignored her when she complained. She inundated the Carnival CEO with a dozen tweets like:
"@MickyArison - Your cruise line made me ill, mocked me for my disability, doublecharged me and wiped out my bank account . . ."
You can read about the debacle in an article in the Consumerist entitled Carnival Cruise Becomes Vacation Nightmare.
After a day of tweets, it looks like the Carnival guest now has high praises for Carnival and Mr. Arison. Her last tweets suggest that everything has been worked out: " A very, very nice person by the name of Alicia contacted us. We now understand things better . . . and feel like we were listened to. Thank you. We really appreciated it." @MyLadyGuinevere deleted all of her complaints on Twitter and promised to update her story on the Consumerist article.
Did CEO Arison come to the guest's rescue? Or was this a case where the Carnival customer support team realized that their CEO's debut on Twitter was being spoiled and they gave the guest some extra attention? Not sure. But the bottom line is that the dispute is resolved and eveyone seems happy.
Will Mr. Arison stick around on Twitter? I hope so, for no other reason than I'd like to see him update his Twitter avatar at the end of the NBA playoffs with a photo of him holding the NBA trophy and smoking a cigar on one of his cruise ships.
Shon "Cruise Man 3000" Ford, recently interviewed Jim Walker, whom he refers to as The ‘Cruisetacular’ Legal Eagle, regarding his Cruise Law business. Cruise Man 3000 is not afraid to provide insight to both the good and bad of the cruise industry. Shon has a great blogspot where he posts about his travels on the high seas. He’s traveled aboard 23 different vessels composed of 5 different cruise lines.
Cruise Man 3000 is unique because he has the confidence to expose the negative side of the cruise industry in addition to his cruise industry enthusiast attitude. Cruise Man 3000 gives his honest perspective, something we appreciate here at Cruise Law.
Check out Cruise Man 3000's interview with Jim Walker here. Keep up the great work Cruise Man 3000. Safe travels!
Photo Credit: The Ocean Escape
Today I had the pleasure of visiting the headquarters of LexBlog in Seattle Washington. As many of you know, LexBlog is the company which provides the technical support for this blog. LexBlog designed the layout of Cruise Law News so if you like the design and functionality of this blog, thank LexBlog.
LexBlog does much more than just design and manage law blogs. It is the leading network for law firms, big and small, in the world of social media.
I met the CEO of LexBlog Kevin O'Keefe last year when he was in Miami speaking at a meeting. My family is starting our family vacation in Seattle so I decided to reciprocate and drop by to say hello and meet his team.
LexBlog is located in a cool old building in a hip part of Seattle. I met lots of people in the design and technical groups. They have nice open work spaces and there was a lot of energy in their office.
The photo below shows Kevin and his son Colin O'Keefe. If you get the impression that these are nice, energetic and talented people (in addition to being Green Bay fans), you're right.
When lawyers ask me about my blog, I brag about the people at LexBlog. They have an outstanding group of creative design people and great technical support. And they are building the top network of connected and influential law firms today,
I have avoided watching anything to do with the sad case of Caylee Anthony over the past two years.
The image of the big brown eyed pretty little child, missing but then found skeletonized in a swampy dump, juxtaposed against the photos of her smiling mother dirty dancing at clubs have been broadcast, it seems, like 25 million times on cable news over the last couple of years. No thanks. I don't need to hear Nancy Grace whip her talking heads into a frenzy about Casey Anthony's guilt and ridicule the whacked out dysfunctional Anthony family on Nancy's cable-news-gossip-drama-show when I walk into the house after a long day at work.
Fifteen and one-half years ago - on October 3, 1995 - I remember the spectacle following the acquittal of O.J. Simpson, when mostly the African-American community exploded in joy following O.J.'s acquittal, while the mostly white audience shook their collective heads in disbelief. In a trial which lasted for months, the jury returned a not guilty verdict in less than just 4 hours of deliberation.
200 years of slavery, the Civil War, poll taxes and Jim Crow laws, the Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education decisions, Reverend Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement, sprinkled with white on black police brutality ends in a queer result which had little to do with the facts of Nicole Simpson's murder.
Where were you when O.J. was acquitted? Everyone can remember. I was taking a deposition in West Palm Beach. I don't remember the name of the case, or the other lawyer or even the name of the person I was deposing. But I remember watching the TV as everyone in the court reporter's office moaned and groaned as O.J. smiled and walked free from the courthouse.
So here we are some fifteen plus years later. Casey Anthony - not guilty - of premeditated murder, child abuse or aggravated child abuse. Everyone will remember where they were when the verdict was announced.
I was in the Dallas / Fort Worth airport, waiting for a flight back to Miami. I took a photo of the CNN broadcast on my blackberry.
In the past fifteen years, I have handled hundreds of cases, and seen cases turn out far differently than I thought they would. Anyone who tries cases for a living knows that anything can and will happen in a trial.
Unlike the O.J. verdict, this was no shocker. Whereas I avoided all of the cable news shows, I was intrigued watching the closing arguments last Sunday. The state attorneys did a competent job, but defense attorney Jose Baez smoked the prosecution in his closing. "Reasonable doubt lives in this courtroom," he bellowed. Maybe not on the cable news shows, but he was not trying the case to Nancy Grace or her cast of executioners.
After watching Baez for 2 hours on Sunday afternoon, I turned off the TV. If I learned anything in the last fifteen years, I knew there was no way a jury would convict Casey Anthony for murdering her daughter based on this evidence.
Yes, there are tens of millions of Americans in shock, crying about the injustice. But what is clear is that Jose Baez, like Johnny Cochran, love em or hate em, did his job.
Many will bemoan that there is no justice for Caylee, as there was no justice for Nicole, as there is no justice for thousands of other murder victims and their families whose stories are not broadcast nightly on the cable news.
Fifteen years from now, I will remember where I was when the Casey Anthony verdict was read. Will you?
July 6, 2011 Update: This article was picked as one of the "Best in Law Blogs: The LexBlog Network: July 6, 2011."
Yesterday, the Bermuda Gazette reported on the sentencing of an American tourist who was arrested for possessing pot on a cruise ship which ported in Bermuda.
The Gazette identified the passenger as 43-year-old Edward John Molinari, from New York. The newspaper reported that after the cruise ship arrived in Bermuda, customs officers and police searched Molinari’s cabin with a drug sniffing dog and "found seven homemade cigarettes in the room’s safe, plus a partially-smoked eighth, containing cannabis of an estimated street value of $178."
The other major newspaper in Bermuda, the Bermuda Sun, also reported on the petty drug offense and mentioned that Mr. Molinari was married with three children. The Sun included a photograph of Mr. Molinari taken by a photographer camped outside of the courthouse.
Neither the Gazette nor the Sun mentioned the name of the cruise line, and the Gazette did not mention the name of the cruise ship either. Why not? Was it because Mr. Molinari informed the Bermuda judge that that cannabis had been in use “all over the boat?”
I have been critical of the press in Bermuda in general, and the Royal Gazette in particular, for not mentioning the names of cruise lines when the stories include embarrassing facts like drugs and crimes on the cruise ships.
For example, the Bermuda Gazette recently covered a trial in Bermuda involving allegations that a crew member raped another cruise line employee. We covered the incident and of course mentioned the names of the cruise line and cruise ship. We tried to place the incident into context by mentioning this cruise line's history of similar alleged crimes on its fleet of cruise ships.
The Gazette, however, choose not to mention the name of the cruise line (Princess Cruises) or the name of the cruise ship (Caribbean Princess). Was this because Princess Cruises incorporated itself in Bermuda and registered its cruise ship there in order to enjoy that country's lax safety regulations and minimal taxes? Is the Bermuda press extending the same courtesy of "looking the other way" routinely extended by the Bermuda vessel registry and incorporation officials? The Gazette claims that it decided not to mention the cruise line or cruise ship in order to protect the identity of the alleged rape victim and defendant. That seems like quite a stretch. But assuming that to be true, why did the Gazette decide not to mention the name of the cruise line or cruise ship which allegedly had drug use "all over the boat?"
When you search the Bermuda Gazette's archives, you will find that while it is quick to identify U.S. passengers caught with small amounts of pot on cruise ships, it will not publish anything potentially embarrassing about the cruise lines.
The island is very strict when it comes to prosecuting U.S. passengers. Bermuda will bust U.S. passengers for minor drug possession on cruise ships porting in Bermuda even if its clear that the pot is for the passenger's personal use and the pot never leaves the cruise ship. And the newspapers in Bermuda love reporting about such minor offenses.
But Bermuda does a deplorable job investigating violent crimes or mysterious disappearances which may implicate cruise ships which fly the flag of Bermuda. You will see no real journalism by the Bermuda newspapers into the issues of cruise ship crime, pollution, exploitation of crew members and tax avoidance. Take a moment and read about Bermuda's indifference to crimes on Bermuda flagged cruise ships.
For example when Italian crew member Angelo Faliva disappeared from the Bermuda flagged Princess cruise ship the Coral Princess, Bermuda eventually conducted a dilatory and unmotivated "investigation" which quickly ended without any answers and no criticism of the cruise line. The Royal Gazette and other newspapers in Bermuda completely ignored the Faliva family's plight.
The Angelo Faliva disappearance demonstrates the fundamental corruptness of incorporating cruise lines in remote islands and flying flags of convenience of countries with a non-existent regulatory scheme and a press which acts like a cruise line PR department. Disappearances often go un-reported, un-investigated, and un-prosecuted because of the indifference of the flag countries and the desire of the image-obsessed cruise lines to sweep the problem under the rug.
Independent newspapers with integrity keep large corporations like the cruise lines honest.
But newspapers like the Bermuda Gazette are a different story. If you are a passenger caught with some reefer in a safe in your cabin on a cruise ship docked in Bermuda, be prepared to have your name and photograph appear on the front page of the Bermuda newspapers. But if you are a cruise line with a history of pollution and shipboard crimes, don't worry - the newspapers in Bermuda will be certain never to mention you.
Top: Edward Molinari leaving courthouse, photo by Kageaki Smith via Bermuda Sun
Bottom: Angelo Faliva, courtesy of the Faliva family
It's official. Cruise Law is the top vote receiver in the Shorty Awards contest in crowd-sourced field of law for 2011.
For those of you who follow this blog or interact with me on Twitter, you know that I am a lawyer who believes in the power of communicating via the social media of blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
Last year I tied for first place in the law category. I then did the chivalrous thing of voting for my opponent, a lawyer in England, to break the tie. Yes I believe in Karma. What goes around comes around. This year I won in a landslide.
So what is the significance of the Shorty Awards in law? The Shorty Awards people say that the award recognizes the "best people and organizations on Twitter and social media."
Our blog is just 18 months old but has been a top 10 most popular blog for going on a year now.
If you are looking for an insight into what is happening in the off-shore, multi-national, tax avoiding, and non-sustainable cruise industry - you will find it here first.
Today a newspaper in the U.K., the Chester Chronicle, contains an interesting article "Family Demand Answers as Investigation into Chester Disney Cruise Ship Worker Continues." Although the article is a bit of a rehash of events since last week about the disappearance of youth counselor Rebecca Coriam from Disney Cruise Line's Wonder cruise ship, the newspaper reports that:
" ... cousin Kerry Gaffney has been using the social networking website Twitter in a desperate bid for information on Rebecca’s whereabouts. Her post read: 'My cousin, Rebecca Coriam, is missing and Disney is not as helpful as it makes out. Please help put the pressure on them.' Another post said the family are getting conflicting reports about what was seen and what went on."
Kerry Gaffney's witter name is @kerrymg and the tweet asked those on Twitter to "RT" (re-tweet) her message.
Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are useful tools to obtain information from the public about mysteries on the high seas. Cruise lines maintain exclusive control of the scene of disappearances, and access to witnesses and evidence on cruise ships. When the Disney Wonder returned to port in Los Angeles last Sunday, over 1,700 passengers scattered across the U.S., Canada and other countries without being interviewed by anyone. This is fine with the cruise lines, who want this public spectacle to end sooner than later irrespective of whether the family finds answers to this latest mystery.
So how can you appeal to potential witnesses scattered around the country? One way is Twitter.
Disney's Twitter page for its cruise line is @DisneyCruise. It has 26,000 followers.
Twitter, Facebook, websites and blogs can help level the playing field with cruise lines and their we-just-want-the-media-to-go-away attitude. If you are reading this and have a Twitter page, send a message:
"What is @DisneyCruise doing to find information for the Coriam family about the #cruise disappearance of their daughter on the Wonder?"
Ask your followers to re-tweet your question.
Cruise Law News was featured today in Attorney at Law Magazine in an article by legal marketing expert Paula Black.
In her article "The Right Results," Paula writes:
"Jim Walker of Miami firm Walker & O'Neill P.A. runs the popular Cruise Law News, a blog focused solely on "breaking news and legal commentary regarding cruise ship passengers and crew members around the world." A niche practice? Yes. A smart blog? Also yes. As a result of being one of the only attorneys blogging about the topic - and the only one providing actual daily commentary - he has seen his visibility skyrocket. Jim has been featured over one hundred times on television, cable news and radio shows, as well as in documentaries, newspapers and magazine articles."
In the short time our law blog has been on line, we climbed to the number 10 most popular law blog in the U.S.!
Paula is a real pro when it comes to assisting law firms in developing business. Check out her highly regarded blog: "In Black and White."
Cruise Law News (CLN)'s readership exploded last month. In February, our followers read 100,000 pages of CLN which remains the 10th most popular law blog in the U.S. Here is what people are recently saying about Jim Walker and CLN:
"Top Maritime Lawyer" - ABA Journal.
"Top Cruise Lawyer" - USA Today.
"Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" - Fox News.
"Cruise Law Expert" - Slate Magazine.
"Prominent Cruise Plaintiff Attorney" - Law.com (America Law Media).
Perpetual Pain-In-The-Cruise-Lines-Neck Jim Walker - Gadling
Cruise Law News - "A Hard-Hitting Blog" - Miami's Daily Business Review.
Last month saw the revival of the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award, won again by Royal Caribbean due to an epidemic of crew deaths and the prevalence of drugs on RCCL cruise ships, This month you will be reading a lot more about crimes associated with the Royal Caribbean cruise brand, here on the most popular maritime law website in the world.
One of the interesting things about having a blog is that there are programs which indicate how many viewers you have, how many pages they look at, and the countries where they are from.
For the first two weeks of this month alone, Cruise Law News (CLN) has been viewed over 62,000 times. We have been the tenth most popular law blog for several months now.
The number one referrer of visitors to CLN is Google (US), with other referrers via the Google search engines from the United Kingdom, Canada, Poland, Puerto Rico, Australia, India, Germany, Norway, Mexico and Brazil.
The number two referrer to CLN is Facebook, which surprises me. Rather than just being a place to socialize on line, we are finding that Facebook is increasingly becoming a place where news is disseminated and issues are discussed.
We created a Facebook page for CLN recently to help get the news out about things that happen on cruise ships. You can read about some of the high profile cases involving the cruise industry. You can see our photographs of some of our clients and cases here. We have a rather modest group of followers at this early date (around 200) which includes cruise passengers and crew members. It is slowly growing. With the new Facebook format, our followers can post their own links to articles as well as post photographs and upload videos.
We hope that you click the "like" button and follow CLN on Facebook. Please consider taking a moment and post a comment to one of our blog articles, or post your own interesting link to a cruise-related story.
Thanks for your interest!
Year 2011 began with a bang at Cruise Law News ("CLN").
CLN was the first publication in the U.S. to cover some of the most newsworthy stories about the cruise industry this year.
We started the year by pointing out that the new president (Christine Duffy) of the the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), has carried on CLIA's Pinocchio-like tradition of tall tales by telling her first lie. And it was only the third day of the new year!
Royal Caribbean's reputation of having the most passengers overboards and the least transparent PR department is alive and well n 2011. Two weeks ago, we reported that a 21 year old passenger fell from Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas as it approached Belize. The local press in Belize speculated wildly (seemingly to RCCL's approval) that the passenger may have committed suicide (the cruise lines' favorite excuse). The U.S. newspapers (especially the worthless Miami Herald) ignored the story.
CLN was the the first U.S. publication to explain what really happened. In our artice - "Another Passenger Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship" - many passengers including the missing young man's family posted comments about the circumstances surrounding the tragedy. We caught someone criticizing the family on our blog's comment section using a computer connection which we traced back to the Royal Caribbean headquarters. Sick!
Talking about sick cruise lines, we covered the first case of "cruise ship sickness" (CLIA hates that expression) which occurred on Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas. Sixty-five passengers left comments about the experience. Yuck. The cruise line went to its PR playbook, diverted attention away from its own food and water, and blamed the passengers, as usual, for not washing their hands.
The month so far has seen CLN report on a crew member child porno addict (allegedly mind you) who worked as an audio visual manager and provided onboard guest-entertainment services on the Constellation cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's sister line Celebrity Cruises.
This month CLN covered the bizarre cruise story of a child predator / defrocked catholic priest who was accused of molesting 33 little girls. Yet, a local cruise company (Voyages of Discovery) was more than pleased to let him buy a cruise ticket. We also blogged about yet another drug smuggling ring on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, this time the Explorer of the Seas.
Our readership is exploding.
Yesterday, we had well over 5,000 people read our blog. Weekends are usually slower than weekdays, so 5,000 readers a day is a lot of people clicking on CLN. So far this month, over 70,000 pages of CLN have been read. We are on track for over a million people reading CLN a year. We had more readers in one day yesterday than in our first month when the blog started in September 2009!
Last week, CLN was featured on Cruise Radio, the most popular cruise related radio show in the world, about how to stay safe on cruise ships. As the host mentioned, we "gave some brutal but honest facts. It's a great reminder" about cruise ship safety. Take a listen here.
CLN is also in first place in the Shorty Awards in law. It's admittedly a faux award, but its purpose is to recognize the "best people and organizations on Twitter and social media."
The state of the union for Cruise Law News - is strong! We are having a lot of fun too!
Cruise Radio is the most popular cruise related radio show in the world.
Yesterday we were one of the guests on the radio show and discussed tips on how to stay safe on cruise ships.
I discuss some tips to keep in mind if you cruise. About keeping your kids safe. About child predators on cruises. About cruise crime. About the consequences of too much alcohol on cruises. About violence during Caribbean excursions. Some disturbing info, no doubt.
As the host mentioned, Walker "gave some brutal but honest facts. It's a great reminder" about cruise ship safety.
Take a listen here.
Two years ago, Cruise Law met Twitter. This was a major step for our little firm wading out into the new world of social media. Twitter is singularly the biggest step we have taken in developing new relationships in the area of our expertise by "meeting" cruise fans, cruise specialists, cruise travel agents, cruise experts, and cruise critics.
A year and one-half ago, Cruise Law met Lexblog. This was a big, big step. Rarely do I make the right choice right off of the bat in making a new relationship. Of all the companies which support law blogs for law firms, big and small, I made absolutely the right choice. Lexblog is the best. Lexblog introduced us us to blogging and the art of establishing a powerful on line presence. Due to Lexblog, we are now a top 10 law blog and a major influencer in the cruise and law worlds of social media.
Last week, Lexblog's CEO Kevin O'Keefe tweeted something about "Quora" being the new best thing in social media. I had never heard of "Quora" before last week. Another silly made-up-word, like who cares? But O'Keefe knows what he is talking about and knows what lies ahead.
So I checked it out. I followed a few categories (including cruises), and answered a single question - "How do cruise ships handle crimes on board?" I felt an instant connection to the question and I was attracted to Quora's friendly format. In ten minutes I finished the answer. Over the course of the day, twenty people "voted up" the answer. Soon thereafter I had forty people following me, suggesting new cruise questions to answer.
I like Quora. I am going to spend some time here educating the public about my passion, the safety and well being of passengers and cruise employees on cruise ships.
I hope that Twitter and Lexblog aren't too jealous . . .
It's that time of the year where the Shorty Awards honor the "best people and organizations on Twitter and social media." Throughout the month of January, people can nominate Tweeters in official categories and "crowd-sourced categories."
I am seeking votes for the #law category. For those of you who follow this blog or interact with me on Twitter, you know that I am a lawyer who believes in the power of communicating via the social media of blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
Last year I tied for first place in #law and then did the chivalrous thing and voted for my opponent, a lawyer in England, to break the tie.
To vote for me this year, click on this link and you will see a proposed tweet that says: "I nominate @CruiseLaw for a Shorty Award in #law because . . ." You have to give a reason after "because . . ." It can be a serious reason (if you have one) or a silly one (like because he asked me). But you have to give a reason or the vote will not count.
You can also vote simply by going to Twitter and tweeting "I nominate @CruiseLaw for a Shorty Award in #law because . . ." (and then give a reason).
Nominate James (Jim) Walker for in #law in the Shorty Awards
Yesterday, Travel Pulse published an "interview" of Christine Duffy, the incoming president of the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). CLIA is the cruise industry's trade organization responsible for promoting the cruise lines' interests and lobbying Congress.
We have written a few articles about CLIA and their Pravda-like view of the facts regarding the cruise industry. We were hoping the new leadership at CLIA would be a change from the past.
The "interview" was the usual PR piece, consisting of prearranged soft ball questions. But I fell out of my chair upon reading her comments about what she told Congressional leaders during a lobbying trip to Washington D.C.:
Part of the message we delivered in D.C. is that the travel industry employs more people than the auto industry, and we didn’t get a bailout. We employ a lot more people than anybody recognized, and our impact is in all 50 states. We’re not going to offshore our jobs . . .
Wow! What a whopper!
The fact of the matter is that all of the CLIA cruise lines are foreign corporations. Unlike Ford or Chevrolet which are U.S. corporations and employ U.S. employees, the CLIA cruise lines are 100% foreign corporations. Carnival was incorporated in Panama. Royal Caribbean was incorporated in Liberia (yes, Africa). And all of these cruise lines fly the flags of foreign countries like Panama, Liberia, Bermuda and the Bahamas. By registering their companies and cruise ships overseas to avoid U.S. labor, wage and safety laws, the foreign cruise lines also avoid U.S. income taxes. The $35,000,000,000 (billion) cruise industry pays no U.S. Federal income taxes.
If the cruise lines were required to pay U.S. taxes, they would pay over $10,000,000,000 a year. The cruise industry receives a $10 billion bailout each year, year after year.
But that's not all. All of the cruise ships are manufactured and constructed in foreign shipyards, in Italy, Norway or France. And 99.9% of the officers and crew members (except some of the U.S. dancers and singers) are from "overseas." No U.S. workers are going to work 360 hours a month for around $545 like the incredibly hard working utility cleaners from India, Central America and the Caribbean islands.
The cruise industry is the most outsourced, non-U.S. industry in America. The industry is built on the business model of tax-paying U.S. citizens paying their hard earned wages to the foreign corporation cruise lines who pay no taxes to the U.S. and exploit their foreign employeesby paying slave wages to the lower tier crew members.
"We’re not going to offshore our jobs" Ms. Duffy? Please, it's too early in 2011 to tell lies.
Photo credit: Travel Industry Today
Take a look at the "blawg 100" stream on Twitter and you see a hilarious spectacle. Lawyers desperately begging for votes to win one of the best "blawg" (law blog) categories hawked by the ABA Journal's Blawg 100 contest.
The ABA Journal has quite a scam going. The Journal is operated by one of the most obsolete and irrelevant legal groups around today, the American Bar Association. The game goes like this: self-appointed ABA Journal "judges," who are mostly former reporters or editors for rinky-dink newspapers and who have never represented a real life client in a courtroom, pick their 100 favorite "blawgs."
But that's just the beginning. The ABA Journal divides the top 100 "blawgs" into 12 arbitrary categories. There is a category for law professor blogs (what else are professors suppose to do but write?), one for labor law, one for "criminal justice" (what's that?), and even one "for fun." (Do we really need a category of lawyer jokes?)
Each category consists of anywhere from 5 to 12 law blogs, designed to compete against and simultaneously congratulate one another. Some obviously qualified blogs - like Overlawyered - are left out, to create controversy. The ABA Journal encourages the chosen bloggers to write something witty to promote the ABA Journal's contest. The bloggers and their shills solicit votes via a number of cute blog posts or solicitous tweets promoting themselves and the ABA Journal in the process. Kinda like trained seals, these lawyers are all-too-happy to balance a ball on their noses for the trainer.
Now here's the catch. To vote for one of the hand picked ABA Journal "blawgs," you must first register with the ABA journal. This requires the 100 wannabee winners to encourage their friends, family, staff and strangers to register with the ABA Journal which requires the submission of an email address. The ABA Journal also encourages the bloggers to use ABA badges and ABA press releases written by the ABA, promoting the ABA of course.
The ABA should have focused on law blogs which have championed the rights of victims, immigrants, or minorities, or the best new blogs written by law students or non-profits, or the most influential law blogs that have effectuated social changes. But instead we have a list which includes some bloggers with questionable relevance and little influence, compiled into silly categories by a group of disconnected editors with no real life experiences of practicing law. The ABA list is entirely subjective and has little reflection of influence or popularity. Some of the blogs selected by the ABA can't garner more than 20 votes from their own readers.
This is not the first time the ABA Journal's "blawg" contest has been criticized. In the past, it has been labeled as too elitist, too big-city, too big-firm, or too hostile to personal injury lawyers (like me).
But most of the criticism is from lawyers who were pissed that they were not selected - like New York personal injury lawyer Eric Turkewitz who complained bitterly several years ago that the ABA Journal ignored personal injury lawyers. But when the ABA listed his blog (and a good one at that), New York Personal Injury Blog, as one of the top 100, Turkewitz's rage was soothed over by the coveted ABA badge. This year he expressed that he was "flattered" by being selected - as if he won the Mother Teresa Humanitarian Award or the Nobel Peace Prize, for Christ's sake.
Now, this may all sound like sour grapes because my blog, a top ten most popular blog, and the most influential maritime personal injury law blog in the U.S. (no, I am not modest), didn't get the nod. (The "tort" blogs selected by the ABA Journal rank in popularity from 300,000 to over 4,000,000 blogs behind me). Perhaps like Turkewitz I don't like to be ignored, but unlike my New York colleague I am not making a fuss hoping to be picked in next year's ABA contest. Groucho Marx would never join a club which would have him as a member, and I don't want the ABA's ugly badges or ponderous press releases.
But don't get me wrong. Some of the law blogs picked by the ABA are outstanding, popular and influential. Bill Marler's blog about e-coli and contaminated food is the best personal injury / product liability blog out there. Probably the best law blog, period. And Dan Harris' China Law Blog is clearly superior as well. But these excellent lawyers and connected bloggers don't need a silly ABA Blawg 100 badge. They are already well respected by their legal peers and highly influential in the public arena in their areas of the law.
After a month of promotion, the ABA Journal voting finally ends today. Check out the ABA "Blawg 100" frenzy again on Twitter. Be sure to give the ABA your email address so you can receive solicitations to join the ABA and subscribe to the ABA Journal.
And don't forget to vote for your favorite trained seal.
As year 2010 comes to a close, it's time to look back at some of the highlights of Cruise Law News (CLN).
CLN also became a "top cruise vacation influencer," which consists of cruise lines, travel agents, and cruise fans who dominate social media affecting the cruise industry. I'm sure having a maritime personal injury lawyer in the top 10 drives the cruise industry bonkers.
Here are some of my favorite blog posts for the past year:
Most popular article: The Splendor Cruise Ship Fire - Three Reasons Why You Will Lose If You Sue Carnival The blog was picked up by the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, the ABA Journal, South Business Law Journal, Gadling, Slate, the U.K.'s Guardian and others. Everyone loves it when a personal injury lawyer tells the public not to sue following a cruise disaster . . .
Most ironic articles: Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire's Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas and Cruise Passengers Attacked & Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet
Best article with the word "sex" in the title: Marketing "Sex at Sea" on Cruise Ships (includes my favorite photo of a cruise line executive, in bed with booze surrounded by women with the Royal Caribbean logo across their bikini tops??)
Most comments to an article: Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas
Second most comments to an article: Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas
Most positive reaction to an article: Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers
Most negative reaction to an article: Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers
Happiest article: Three Happy Cruise Stories - Salvation, Generosity & Rebirth
Most inspiring article: The Compelling Story of Jamie Barnett - Living Through the Loss
Saddest article: More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas
Most disturbing article: Neither Dead Nor Alive - The Faliva Family Remains In Limbo
Most bitter article: What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common? Unfortunately you have to lose a loved one before you can figure the answer out.
Scariest articles: Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship, Carnival Cruise Ship Bartender Arrested On Charges Of Raping 14 Year Old Passenger and Most Wanted Rape Suspect Arrested On Carnival Cruise Ship - Worked As Manager Of Onboard Hair Salon
Best social media articles: The Cruise Industry's Reputation - A Sinking Image and Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News
Best series of articles: Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise
Best article the cruise lines don't want you to read: "Cruise Ship Sickness" - Is Norovirus In The Food and Water?
Most terrifying cruise video (over 296,000 views and counting!): The Clelia II Skirts Disaster Again in Antarctica
Best sports article: Oysters, Dixie Beer & My New Orleans Saints
Best personal article: Switching Sides And Finding Your Soul
Best article not read by the cruise industry: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?
Thanks to our readers for a great 2010! Do you have an idea for blog articles for 2011? Leave us a comment below.
Bottom photo credit: Clelia II Fiona Stewart/Garett McIntosh (via jonbowermaster.com)
Cruise Law News was featured in an article yesterday about the Carnival Splendor fire and the new Coast Guard marine bulletins criticizing the cruise line's fire suppression system which malfunctioned. The article is by Joel Siegfried in the National Examiner entitled "Coast Guard Blasts Carnival Splendor for Fire Negligence." The Examiner is one of the newer and very popular internet newspapers, with a readership of around 1,000,000.
The Examiner also has an interesting photo slideshow showing the defective fire suppression system on the Carnival cruise ship. Here is the article unedited:
Two just released reports by the United States Coast Guard are highly critical of the Carnival Splendor concerning a fire at sea which disabled the vessel on November 8, 2010. Upon learning of this report, many of the passengers who were aboard the Carnival Splendor "Cruise to Nowhere" were incensed about the ship's inability to properly manage an automated emergency fire suppression system, which was reported on a KGTV interview segment on Friday, December 24, 2010.
To gain insights into this incident, we contacted Miami Florida based maritime attorney James Walker, who also writes the Cruise Law News Blog. Mr. Walker previously advised passengers not to sue Carnival Cruise Lines over this latest incident, even though the Company has a long history of shipboard fires, cited in his comprehensive article "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"
For Carnival Cruise Line alone, these have included a fire on the Carnival Ecstasy, shortly after leaving leaving Miami on July 20, 1998, that was extinguished by fire boats, causing damages exceeding $17 million; the Carnival Tropicale in September 1999, which left the ship adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with 1,700 passengers and crew members for almost two days after the fire disabled the engines; and the June 18, 1995 fire aboard the Carnival Celebration which forced 1,700 passengers to evacuate.
We asked Mr. Walker to give us his views on the Carnival Splendor fire. He graciously responded with the following remarks on Christmas Day.
"In the 1999 fire on Carnival's Tropicale there where problems where the crew members didn't speak English well enough to provide safety instructions. So here we are over 10 years later with another breakdown in communication with the fire instruction manual on the Splendor written in broken English. Italian officers and Filipino crew scratching their heads trying to decipher an instruction book written in broken English as the cruise ship burns. What a frightening spectacle. No one realized the instruction manual didn't match the fire suppression system for two and one-half years? This certainly gives the public an insight into the consequences of flagging cruise ships in Panama. The marine safety bulletins reflects Carnival's negligence."
The U.S. Coast Guard has been investigating the fire which disabled the 113,300 gross register tons (GRT) Italian built Concordia-class cruise ship Carnival Splendor, and have released two marine safety alerts dated December 21, 2010, ominously titled "Wrong Directions: A Recipe for Failure" and "Simple Failures Render CO2 System Inoperative", about an unnamed vessel, but clearly about the Carnival Splendor. The Coast Guard has confirmed that fact to industry publication Professional Mariner.
According to the reports, the two alerts each "address critical concerns uncovered during an ongoing marine casualty investigation and should be of vital interest to Ship Builders, Classification Societies, Owner / Operators and others involved with vessel operations."
Their findings are unequivocal and damning of the Carnival Splendor, drawing conclusions that the fire itself could have easily been controlled and extinguished, if not for numerous flaws in the training, maintenance, and operation of the Splendor's emergency automated fire control system.
Everything possible that could have gone wrong, did in fact go terribly wrong, starting with the ship's Fire Instruction Manual (FIM) which had incorrect, outdated, or erroneous instructions, illustrations and diagrams, similar to giving the owner of a Mercedes-Benz a maintenance manual for a BMW, after it had been translated from German into English by someone fluent in Japanese.
But that was just for starters. Valves that released carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, which is commonly used on engine and electrical fires, did not open, and completely failed to release the gas, which would have deprived the fire of oxygen. In addition, pipes leaks, some elements of the distribution system were designed in such a way as to retain water at low points that were unable to be drained, and caused corrosion. Seals and pipe joints also had flaws.
The ship's Master, Captain Claudio Cupisti, made the decision to release CO2 from the fixed fire fighting system on Monday, November 8 at about 6:00 p.m. PST. It failed to operate as designed. Subsequently, crewmembers were unable to activate it manually, and CO2 was never directed into the machinery space.
There were also serious questions raised about the testing and maintenance of the Splendor's CO2 emergency fire extinguishing system, and the training of crew in its use.
Eventually, crew members manually extinguished the fire, but not before it had caused extensive electrical damage, which rendered the vessel dead in the water 55 miles off Punta San Jacinto on the northern Baja California coast, and 110 miles southwest of San Diego, requiring it to be towed back into port. The U.S. Navy had to airlift 70,000 pounds critical food and water, including cans of Spam, to it by Sikorsky MH-60 Seahawk helicopters and Gruman C-2A Greyhound logistics aircraft from the San Diego based aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).
All 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crew members ended their three day voyage to nowhere in San Diego on Thursday, November 11, when the massive 1,000 foot long ship was expertly guided into the B Street Embaradero Cruise Ship Terminal by six tug boats at 8:30 a.m. local time.
Before the Coast Guard pointed out these failures, we had contacted Carnival Cruise Line on November 18, 2010 with a list of nine specific questions relating to the ship's mechanical and electrical redundancy, asking why the fire was able to do such destructive damage. These questions were ignored by Ms. Aly Bello, a spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines.
A follow up request specifically asked for a conference call interview with a senior executive or naval engineer from Carnival Cruise Lines, or a written reply by such an expert authority to those questions. Once again, that request was ignored. Instead, we were provided with press releases about cancellations in sailing schedules and the financial impact on the company. We again contacted the Company, and pointed out that in parallel instances in the aviation industry, we were able to talk with company officials, even during times of stress and turmoil for that carrier. Once more, our requests for additional information and interviews were ignored.
Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect a cruise ship company, which is literally under fire, to be willing to discuss their own culpability, especially in light of the fact that the cruise industry has been reluctant in the past to discuss safety practices, or issues of Norovirus shipboard disease outbreaks, and as attorney Walker confirmed, has a long history of mishandling fires at sea.
Even in this instance, the U.S. Coast Guard seems to be walking on egg shells, by keeping the vessel's name, which is clearly shown in one of the photographs contained in their report, invisible in the report itself.
Finally, Carnival Cruise Lines declined offers by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate this incident, and instead turned the matter over to the Panama Maritime Authority, the country in which the vessel is registered. The U.S. Coast Guard requested to join the investigation, and Panama consented. The NTSB provided two experts to assist the Coast Guard, following its request for technical assistance. Information on the progress of the investigation will eventually be released by the Panama Maritime Authority.
Any air carrier in the United States which operated in a similar manner would have questions raised about its lack of transparency, and loss of public confidence in that company's crisis management abilities.
Top photo: Carnival Splendor towed back to port in San Diego (AP via National Examiner)
2nd photo: Broken CO2 valve (Coast Guard via National Examiner)
3rd photo: Wrong fire instruction manual (Coast Guard via National Examiner)
Bottom photo: Leaking CO2 piping / hose connections (Coast Guard via National Examiner)
There have been a number of articles about Royal Caribbean initial efforts to down-play the effects of the storm which rocked the Brilliance of the Seas off of the coast of Egypt last week. The cruise lines corporate office here in Miami are electronically linked to the cruise ships and instantly receive electronic images and video transmitted from the ships to the corporate offices at the port in Miami.
There undoubtedly are incredible closed circuit television (CCTV) video from the vessel's surveillance and security cameras showing the interior of the Brilliance as it violently rocked from side to side. But the company keeps CCTV tapes like this secret to avoid embarrassing images being shown around the world.
Just last September the internet was a buzz today with the release of CCTV films of the interior of the P&O Cruises' Pacific Sun, which ran into a bout of heavy weather in June 2008.
P&O also understated the effects of the storm on the cruise ship and passengers