Freemantle - Brisbane Cruise Canceled: Princess Cruises To Finally Fix Sea Princess Engines

The Sea Princess is back in the news.  Following widespread coverage of "cruise from hell" articles about a noro-infected  cruise from Freemantle where the ship was nicknamed "Pandemic Princess," Princess Cruises announced that the sailing to Brisbane was canceled in order to address "technical problems" causing the ship to lose speed. 

Perth Now reports that Carnival Australia spokesman, which is responsible for the Sea Princess, stated that “all guests will receive a full refund of their cruise fare plus a 100 per cent future cruise credit.”

Passengers had complained during earlier cruises that the Sea Princess had been suffering from Adonis Sea Princessreduced speeds which shortened times in certain ports of call and required changes in the ship's itineraries including dropping Bali and Broome.

A poster commented on the Cruise Critic boards: "this ship has been limping along slowly and arriving late to ports/missing ports for months. Princess handled this situation badly."

Another person commented: "Really disappointing. All summer long people have been saying that Princess should just bite the bullet and cancel a couple of cruises down the line and fix this ship. People would have had at least a couple months' notice. Instead, they now have 1900 passengers kicked off on the second day of a cruise that never left port. What a mess."

It's currently unknown how many cruises will be affected.

The Sea Princess is an old ship. It was built by Fincantieri, Italy and began sailing in 1998. It was transferred to P&O Cruises in 2003 and renamed the Adonia (photo above right). It was transferred back to Princess in 2005.  

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Cruiser1210 Creative Commons

NCL's No-Cruise-for-the-Cancer-Child Public Relations Disaster Continues: "Shocking What Norwegian Did"

NCL Norwegian Cruise Line Cancellation Policy The case of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) callously refusing to permit the family of a five year old boy with a cancerous tumor, "the size of a soda can," to reschedule their cruise is back in the news today.

A Long Island, New York news station PIX11 aired an interview with the mom and her son discussing the sad case. NCL refused to cooperate in rescheduling the cruise when the family discovered that their son had cancer.

You can read about our prior article here.

Sitting on the interview couch with the mom and her son was a formidable ally for the cancer-stricken child - Pauline Frommer.

Ms. Frommer is the daughter of the legendary travel expert Arthur Frommer. Ms. Frommer, an accomplished and highly respected travel expert in her own right, explained that NCL has the "most draconian" attitude toward cancellations in the cruise industry.  

She added that "most of the other lines would have shown more compassion."

Ms. Frommer concluded "I think it's pretty shocking what Norwegian did." 

Interested in this topic? Read Rigid Policies Can Sink Cruise Lines' Image.

 

Royal Caribbean to Charge Kids $10 To Have Breakfast With Shrek

An article by Cruise Critic titled No More Free Breakfasts caught my eye today.

Cruise Critic says that Royal Caribbean is adding a $10 surcharge for kids and parents to dine with the cruise line's DreamWorks characters at breakfast on the Oasis, Allure, Freedom, Liberty, Voyager, and Mariner of the Seas.

According to Cruise Critic, "character breakfasts" have been free since Royal Caribbean first launched them in 2010.

Dreamworks Character Royal CaribbeanHowever, starting September 1st, the cruise line will charge the fee to any passenger over 5 years old.

The first three comments on Cruise Critic summed up my thoughts perfectly:

"I'm glad my grandson was able to do the breakfast last year. RCCL is getting greedy."

"Disappointed with RCCL. More nickel and dimeing . . ." 

"Just another way to nickel and dime you . . ."

For a mom and dad and with 2 kids over  5 years old, the cruise line charge will come to $40 a day to have breakfast with Shrek (photographed with Adam Goldstein). 

It is particularly greedy for Royal Caribbean to nickel and dime their little guests considering that just last week we reported that cruise CEO's Fain and Goldstein have a combined net worth over $100,000,000 on their cruise line operations and are getting richer.

I'd be tempted to move up to Disney Cruise Line and have have my kids meet and greet Micky Mouse and Cinderella for free.

 

Note: The Royal Caribbean Blog first reported on the charge. 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Press Center 

Norwegian Cruise Line Wins Worst Cruise Line in the World Award

Nicolas-1It's been a while since I awarded my "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award. Quite frankly, I became tired of giving it to Carnival and Royal Caribbean every month.  But a reader of Cruise Law News just sent me a story of little Nicolas Colucci, age 5, who underwent emergency surgery after doctors found a "a large cancerous tumor growing inside his liver." He is now undergoing chemotherapy. 

The Lil' Mama website explains that the Colucci family bought a family cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) that was scheduled for June 1, 2014. The family asked NCL to reschedule their cruise to another date. NCL refused.  NCL wouldn't bend their corporate policies regarding medical emergencies - not even for a child battling cancer. You can read about the dreadful story here.

This is not the first time that NCL has acted in such a heartless manner. 

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a man from Key Largo who purchased a NCL cruise on the Norwegian Sky leaving from Miami. But his brother died, and the funeral was in Georgia on the day the cruise ship sailed. So he notified NCL, asking for a credit on a future cruise. NCL said no. He asked for his cruise to be donated to charity (Make-A-Wish). NCL said no.

Now comes the sick part. NCL then re-sold the cabin to someone else. Yep. NCL got a double profit due to the death of a guest's brother. Really sick. 

NCL is active on Twitter @CruiseNorwegian, so I tweeted a reference to the article.

No response.

NCL's "Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Passenger Services," Andy Stuart, is also active on Twitter @nclandy. So I tweeted him "Double cruise profit for death? Say it aint so Andy!"

No response.

Nicolas-2NCL should have permitted a child with cancer and parents go on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise. Or make a small donation in memory of their customer's brother. But to double sell the cabin under these circumstances?  It's cruel, greedy and outrageous.

Last year, I wrote again about NCL. A grandmother who drives disabled kids to school booked a cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel for her family and grandkids at the cost of over $4,000. Then Superstorm Sandy struck, submerging her home under four feet of water. The storm ravaged her home, leaving her with nothing. She asked NCL to reschedule or refund her cruise. NCL said no way.

She appealed to NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan but the cruise line and its CEO wouldn't make an exception. Absolutely no refund or rescheduling. Heartless.

Yesterday, I attended a hearing before Senator Jay Rockefeller entitled "Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers." Cruise passengers testified regarding all types of harsh conduct by cruise lines who hide behind the unreadable fine print in their one-sided, passenger tickets. At one point during the hearing, Senator Rockefeller exclaimed that he was "fed up" with the cruise lines and their "callousness."

NCL is all smiles when it sells a family a "cruise of a lifetime." But when death, disaster or a medical emergency strikes, it shows its true colors.

NCL may have a great marketing image, but it can be your worse enemy in a time of true need.

Have a thought? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. And let NCL know what you think by contacting them below:

Kevin Sheehan NCLNCL Corporation Ltd.
7665 Corporate Center Drive
Miami, Florida 33126

Corporate: (305) 436-4000

Andrew Stuart
Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Passenger Services
astuart@ncl.com
(305) 436-4000 

Andrew Stuart's twitter account: @nclandy

Kevin Sheehan (photo right)
Chief Executive Officer
ksheehan@ncl.com
(305) 436-4000

NCL Twitter: @CruiseNorwegian

July 26 2014 Update: According to a FOX NEWS station today, a "CEO of a popular cruise line reached out to the Colucci family to offer them a free cruise. The CEO asked that his cruise line not be named because he said he was genuinely touched by their story and didn't want any publicity for his gesture."

So who was the CEO?  Which cruise line did the right thing?

Here's a clue:

Last year, NCL abandoned a grandmother (and her grandchildren) after she bought a NCL cruise when her home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.  NCL CEO refused to reschedule his customer's cruise. But Royal Caribbean stepped up to the plate and gave the family a free cruise. Read the story: Norwegian Cruise Lines Abandons Sandy Victims, While Royal Caribbean Steps Up to the Plate!  

July 27 2014 Update: The story goes viral. First a  national Fox News station covers the story and then the U.K.'s Daily Mail (the largest online newspaper in the world) covers it. Bad Karma for NCL.

July 29 2014 Update:  The public relations fall-out continues.  Opposing Views ran a story. TravelPulse also covered the story.  Gawker wasn't too subtle with its headline Cruise Line Screws Over Family of 5-Year-Old With Cancer. PRNews wrote Norwegian Cruise Line Drowning in Bad PR. Huff Post Parents Parents Outraged Cruise Line Won't Reschedule Their Trip In Light Of Son's Cancer Diagnosis. Anti-Jared wrote a letter to the NCL CEO.  

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite sayings - "Karma is a bitch only when you are."

Continue Reading...

In Last Week Micky Arison Sells Over $78,000,000 of Carnival Stock - He's Sold Over $473,000,000 of Carnival Stock in 3 Months

In the last week, Carnival's Micky Arison sold over $78,000,000 of his cruise line's stock.

On June 6th, Arison sold 961,717 shares of the cruise company’s stock at an average price of $40.24, for a total value of $38,699,492.08.

On June 10th, Arison sold 992,369 shares at an average price of $40.35, for a total value of $40,042,089.15.

Micky ArisonHe also sold $395,000,000 in Carnival stock in early March.  By my calculations, Arison freed up over $473,000,000 in cash in 3 months. You can track Arison's Carnival stock transactions here.

It's an extraordinary amount of money. Yet Carnival continues to screw its crew members, left and right. Consider reading Greed On the High Seas: "Poop Cruise" & Concordia Cruise Executive Cashes $395,000,000 of Carnival Stock.

Speculation in publications like this and this suggest that he may be interested in buying the U.K. Aston Villa soccer club. 

Considering how badly Arison's Miami Heat have been playing basketball in the NBA finals (now down 3-1 to the San Antonio Spurs), perhaps Arison will be spending some time in the future in England watching soccer.

June 16 2014 Update: On June 12th Arison sold another 445,008 shares of Carnival stock at an average price of $40.15, for a total transaction of $17,867,071.20.  That means, by my calculations, Arison has unloaded over $490,000,000 in a little over 3 months. 

 

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports via 7500toholte.sbnation.com/

Independence of the Seas Arrested in Norway

A newspaper in Norway reports today that a pilot association seized the Independence of the Seas for non-payment of the association's fees. The association petitioned a court in Norway to detain the cruise ship. A local bailiff served the arrest papers today.

The Independence of the Seas was in Alesund, Norway at the time of the legal action.

In the U.S., vessels can be seized for non-payment of provisions and services such as pilotage fees, crew member wages, food and fuel. The vendors and service providers have a maritime lien for the goods and services. Norway has a similar legal provision permitting the courts to "arrest" a vessel when Independence of the Seasit refuses to meet its financial obligations to creditors and satisfy the maritime lien. If the lien is not satisfied, the vessel can be sold at auction.  

"Vessel arrest" is a  common legal remedy to collect money from fly-by-night maritime owners and operators which try to avoid paying their debts to third parties. You can read about one such case here. I have heard of only one modern cruise ship operated by a top cruise line being arrested, and that was the Carnival Triumph several years ago

In Norway, as well as many other countries, local pilots are required to be at the helm of a ship that enters the local waters of the country. The shipping companies are required to pay the pilots who are more familiar with the local waters. 

The pilot association, Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) (Kystverket in Norwegian), issued a press release, stating that the pilot and security fees incurred by Royal Caribbean during several cruises last year have been owed since at least last October.  

The newspaper says that the lien was for  around NOK 600,000 which is approximately $100,000 U.S.

NCA says that it is owed substantial other fees from other cruise line and will be stepping up its collection efforts as the cruise ships return to Norway.

NCA says in its press release that non-payment or delayed payment from some cruise lines have been a major problem and the the association has been unable to convince the cruise lines to pay punctually. The association has been unable to convince certain companies with the worst payment history to meet their obligations voluntarily.

A representative of the association was quoted saying that sometimes it's been many months, up to a year before the outstanding amounts have been paid. How can we operate?

The newspaper further states that once the arrest papers were served on the cruise ship, the captain contacted Royal Caribbean which paid the lien (as well as court costs and interest) within one hour. The cruise ship was then released by the local marshal and was free to sail. 

The Independence of the Seas was last in the news in April when its thrusters swamped a boat in St.Kitts involved in mooring operations, killing two local men handling the lines. 

May 23 2014 Update: The BBC is now covering the story.

San Marco Basin in Venice Re-Opens to Mega Cruise Ships, MSC Preziosa Smashes Passenger Corridor at Port

MSC Preziosa VeniceThe Italian publication Medi Telegraph reports that the MSC cruise ship, Preziosa, collided with a large passenger walkway at the port of Venice.

The newspapers in Italy, such as La Nuova, refer to the pedestrian corridors at the maritime station as "fingers" which provide access to the upper decks of the cruise ship..

Despite the presence of two tugs and a pilot on board the ship, the Preziosa, smashed into and destroyed one of the fingers. No one at the pier or on the cruise ship were injured.

The collision, which damaged the starboard bow of the ship, occurred on the day of the reopening of the San Marco Basin to the mega-ships. The incident will add to the debate whether gigantic cruise ship should be permitted to sail in the basin so close to the beautiful buildings of the old city.

You can see photos of the ship and the pedestrian "fingers" in the La Nuevo newspaper.

Shocking News: Carnival Incorporates in the U.S. & Subjects Itself to U.S. Tax, Labor, Wage, Safety & Environmental Regulations

In an exclusive story, Cruise Line News has learned that cruise industry giant Carnival Corporation recently incorporated its business in the United States (in the state of Delaware). Carnival intends to announce this historic development tomorrow, April 2nd, at Carnival's headquarters in Miami.

Since 1972, Carnival has incorporated its business and registered its cruise ships in the country of Panama. For over 40 years, Carnival cruise ships have flown the flag of Panama in order to avoid the onerous safety regulations, excessive labor laws, unreasonable environmental laws, and high taxes of the United States of America.

Cruise Law News' discovery of this historic event came about when prominent maritime lawyer Jim Walker bumped into Carnival's Chairman Micky Arison at court side when Arison's championship basketball team, the Miami Heat, won another game. Maritime ace lawyer Walker asked Arison: "Micky, if Dwayne Wade and LeBron James earn several hundred million dollars from Carnival and pay tens of Mickey Arison Miami Heat Carnival Cruisemillions of dollars in U.S. taxes, don't you think it is fair that Carnival - which earns over 15 billion dollars a year in cruise ticket sales - pays its fair share of U.S. taxes?"

Perhaps it was the euphoria of the Heat beating the Portland Trailblazers by two points in a close victory, but Micky was ecstatic. "Yes, let's do it!" he said handing maritime lawyer Walker a half-eaten hot dog and three-quarters of a warm Bud Light which a Miami cheerleader handed Micky in the first quarter of the previous game a few days earlier.

While quickly consuming the beer and hot dog in the excitement of the moment, expert cruise lawyer Walker happened to have U.S. articles of incorporation which he handed to Micky to sign as well as U.S. flags to fly on the Carnival fleet of cruise ships.

Arison has been under intense pressure lately following fires, collisions, sinkings, poop-cruises, pirate-attacks, flounderings, Concordia-disasters, norovirus outbreaks and a Jon Secada concert which have ruined the last 37 Carnival cruises.  Senator Jay Rockefeller recently called Arison a "scallywag" on national TV. Rockefeller challenged Arison to pay his fair share of U.S. taxes on the billion-dollar bounty his foreign-flagged cruise ships collect from the U.S. taxpaying citizens on the high seas.

Micky commented that he was embarrassed that his father Ted, the founder of Carnival Cruise Lines 40 years ago, denounced his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid paying some 10 billion dollars in U.S. taxes.

Arison admitted that he felt guilty selling 1% of his Carnival stock for a $395,000,000 profit while suspending the crew member's retirement benefits.

"I want to make certain that Carnival pays one hundred % of our U.S. tax obligations (estimated to be over $5,000,000,000 a year) plus be subjected to the most rigorous U.S. safety, wage,and labor laws and the most stringent U.S. environmental regulations, Micky announced over the arena's PA system! "I want Carnival Cruise Line to be synonymous with Old Betsy - the U.S. Stars and Stripes - what the U.S. stands for! Its time that indigent crew members from India and Nicaragua who earn $500 working 360 hours a month be entitled to the full benefit of U.S. employment laws, a 401(k) retirement fund, severance pay, and a college fund for their children!" 

While appreciative of Arison's change of heart, sources say Walker was miffed that Arison demanded that he pay $6 for the remains of the hot dog and $7.50 for the rest of the Bud Light.

Royal PR #FAIL: Royal Caribbean Keeps Adventure & Navigator Passengers in the Dark

This weekend saw the epic failure of Royal Caribbean's corporate communications department after two of its cruise ships, the Adventure of the Seas and the Navigator of the Seas, encountered difficulties returning to their respective ports. 

The Adventure of the Seas encountered propulsion problems last week and, eventually, a total failure on Saturday night, after the cruise ship's "fixipod" leaked oil and the ship lost propulsion. The ship limped back to San Juan on Sunday with great uncertainty whether it could possibly be repaired in time for it to sail. The ship is scheduled for a drydock at the end of the month, but it appears that Royal Caribbean decided to try and do a quick-fix of the damaged "fixipod" and squeeze in one more cruise to avoid having to refund their several thousands of passengers millions of dollars in refunds. Families Port of Galveston - Navigator of the Seas - Oil Spillwho had flown to San Juan to board the Adventure were not told of the propulsion issues and found themselves standing in a long line in the hot sun while the cruise line's public relations department said nothing. As of this morning (Monday), the ship has still not sailed.

While the Adventure of the Seas saga was unfolding, the Navigator of the Seas was delayed returning to port by an oil spill caused by a collision between a ship and a barge. Families who had driven and flown into Houston to make the cruise where not advised of the oil spill or the delay embarking the ship while the Royal Caribbean department remained quite. Meanwhile the Carnival PR department was routinely posting updates on Twitter and Facebook about the problem which its ship, the Magic, faced with the oil spill. Carnival maintained a centralized "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)" on its website.  It timely notified its guests that the cruise aboard the Carnival Magic would be delayed until Monday and that they should locate a hotel and get a good night's sleep. 

By early Sunday afternoon, the Royal Caribbean passengers began openly complaining on Twitter and Facebook about the cruise line's refusal to keep them up to date. A public relations nightmare was unfolding.

Numerous passengers and family members began bitterly complaining that Royal Caribbean was not notifying them via email, test messaging or telephone, and the cruise line was not utilizing its Twitter or Facebook feeds. Royal Caribbean has a public relations account of Twitter, called @RoyalCaribPR, San Juan Long Lines Adventure of the Seasbut it had remained silent for the psst 48 hours. People calling the cruise line were placed on hold, or the service representatives didn't know what was going on. It was as if the entire customer relations department has outsourced to a distant village in India. 

The passengers in San Juan were congregating in long lines in the hot son without water or food (photo left, via @_DanielnPearson). There was reportedly a single restroom with long lines. People were suffering, particularly the elderly. One passenger sent me a photo of the long lines via Twitter. 

One passenger commented on Cruise Critic that Royal Caribbean "is refusing water and people are leaving in ambulances." Some passengers reportedly collapsed due to the heat and lack of water. And @It'sYourWorld tweeted a photo (photo below right) of a San Juan ambulance which arrived at the port to attend to one of the passenger trying to board the ship.  

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean's Facebook page said nothing about either the Adventure or the Navigator. While people began demanding an update on Twitter, Royal Caribbean posted a photograph of a beautiful tropical port of call (photo bottom left). At a time of crisis with customers begging for information, Royal Caribbean was clueless. It was trying to sell cruises with images of paradise when people in the sun needed water. 

As the afternoon dragged on into the evening and night, the passenger attempting to board these Royal Caribbean ships were kept in the dark. When Royal Caribbean finally began to tweet, its tweets were meaningless. One tweet it made over and over said: " We will provide more information . . . as information is available." 

Hundreds of passengers and the usual "Loyal-to-Royal" cruise fans began tweeting every few seconds. Of the hundreds of tweets, here are a few.

A cruise social media expert said: 'Hey @CCLSupport any way you can help out @RoyalCaribbean on their updates? They don't seem to be taking your lead :)"  He added another tweet: "@RoyalCaribbean's last tweet was promo for Ibiza & @RoyalCaribPR's last tweet was Friday. #FAIL"

A woman concerned for her elderly parents tweeted: "@RoyalCaribbean when can incoming guests check luggage? Senior parents (one disabled) have been up since 4am. They are exhausted."

Another woman from Texas tweeted: "My mom received no email or call updates. Found all the update info on Twitter. Pathetic!"

A man from Ohio tweeted: "@RoyalCaribbean why are your offices closed when you have 1000s of passengers waiting for information about boarding the Navigator of Seas?"

A cruise fan from Denver tweeted: "@RoyalCaribbean I understand the oil spill is out of your control but do you know how to use technology to communicate with your passengers?"

He added: "@RoyalCaribbean = confusion."

A member of Cruise Critic left this comment:

" . . . I am appalled by the lack of communication. Problems happen, (like busted ships and oil spills) but this is a problem that they knew they would have today given that it started Wednesday. There absolutely should have been a corporate plan in place to communicate with extra staff at port (3 days to fly staff from MIA to SJ is plenty of time) even if the only thing they would be able to communicate was that they don't know anything yet. Despite what anyone thinks, in corporate America today if you are Ambulance Stressed and Exhausted Cruise Passengers - San Juannot ahead of the news cycle you are behind...tweets, FB etc are required, and certainly emails, phone calls, texts, to passengers sailing are required, not 'optional.'

If as reported, no water or accommodations for elderly and special needs passengers were made while waiting to board; that's another major failure given the huge amount of time the company had to prepare for what they knew would be a problem. A hotel ballroom and shuttle could have been arranged cheaply.

This is completely unacceptable and another huge black eye for the Royal and the cruise industry."

You can read the Cruise Critic comments here.

Throughout Sunday afternoon, we received emails and comments on our blog and Facebook page asking for basic information about these two Royal Caribbean cruises from passengers at the ports, travel agents and concerned family members at home. A cruise line has a major PR problem when guests and travel agents are ignored and have to seek information from a maritime lawyer rather than a cruise representative. We directed a number of people calling us to the Carnival updates about the Galveston situation and also sent the link to the webcam at the port of Galveston so that they could see when the Navigator finally arrived in port (photo top right).

It still remains uncertain whether the Adventure of the Seas will sail today. The Royal Caribbean PR Twitter feed @RoyalCaribPR remains silent. The Royal Caribbean main Twitter page @RoyalCaribbean has offered no updates for 14 hours. The page claims that it offers "inspiration and information from the official sponsor of WOW. Living the #cruiselife 24/7." Hardly.

The problem here is that cruise lines like Royal Caribbean try and squeeze their ships (and employees) to make every dime possible.  It could have decided to take its crippled Adventure of the Seas out of service a week early for dry-dock but instead loaded the new round of passengers aboard to avoid paying a hotel for the night or refunds for the missed cruise. 

This is not Royal Caribbean's first PR blunder in San Juan. In August 2011 as a hurricane headed to the island, Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas sailed 6 hours early. But Royal Caribbean did not contact its guests via the emergency contact information about the new itinerary.  It didn't provide the passengers, who arrived in San Juan to find that the ship had left, with hotel rooms. It abandoned its guests in the middle of a hurricane and didn't bother to tell them.

Super cruise fan Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of Cruise Critic, expressed outrage in her blog Bad Royal Caribbean Fantasy VacationsWeather Blunder: A Lesson in Cruise Crisis Control? "This takes my breath away. And it’s not about the fact that it didn’t offer to pay for hotels and flights . . . . It’s about dropping the ball in a risky situation. Clearly, I’m not the only one who is shocked at Royal Caribbean’s lack of responsibility to its customers. On Cruise Critic’s forums, its blog, and its Facebook page, travelers are incredulous." 

One of the continuing criticisms of the cruise industry is that it may be skilled at marketing fantasy images of idyllic cruise vacations but it is not prepared when disaster strikes one of its increasingly gigantic cruise ships. It's clear that Royal Caribbean has not invested into the infrastructure of its crisis management department and developed policies and procedures to effectively communicate meaningful information in real time. If Royal Caribbean can't handle a weekend when two cruise ships are delayed, one for an oil slick and another for a known propulsion issue, do you think that it can communicate effectively when a fire strands either the Oasis or the Allure on the high seas in rough weather or, God forbid, a huge ship sinks at sea? 

Greed On the High Seas: "Poop Cruise" & Concordia Cruise Executive Cashes $395,000,000 of Carnival Stock

Last week I wrote an article about Royal Caribbean CEO and President Adam Goldstein cashing in over $2,300,000 worth of Royal Caribbean stock, still leaving him with around $19,000,000 worth of his company's stock. 

It's difficult to justify the enormous wealth of the cruise executives given the fact that the cruise business is rigged to create gigantic profits free of U.S. taxes. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean (Liberia) and Carnival (Panama) incorporated in foreign countries in order to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and wage laws, and safety regulations. The cruise lines pay dirt cheap wages to laborers from India and the Caribbean islands. They provide no benefits at all to their loyal crew members.

Cruise executive compensation isn't tied to whether the line's ships sink or catch on fire. One of the Micky Arison Carnival CruiseRoyal Caribbean cruise ships, the Grandeur of the Seas, caught on fire for two hours last year yet cruise CEO Goldstein still raked in millions. Cruise executives are rewarded for squeezing blood out of the stone. 

Tax-fee Royal Caribbean pays a salary of only $50 a month to its waiters and cabin attendants who it works like dogs, relying on the tax-paying cruise passengers to pay tips so the employees can try and make a living.  Yet Royal Caribbean is stealing, some say, some of the passenger money intended for tips and using the "tips" to pay the salaries of the non-tip earning crew members. Last year Royal Caribbean fired over one-hundred employees in its corporate offices here in Miami because of "tough economic times." Yet the cruise line executives like CEO Goldstein and chairman Richard Fain still pocketed millions and millions and millions at the end of the year.

No doubt the cruise employees are getting the shaft. The crew is getting poorer while the fat cat executives are getting richer and richer.  

The greediest cruise executive in my opinion is, hands down, no doubt-about-it, by-far Micky Arison. He makes Goldstein look like chump change. Arison is the news this weekend after agreeing to sell up to 10 million shares of Carnival Corporation stock. At $39.50 per share, that's $395,000,000. 5 million shares were sold on Friday and the remaining shares will be sold over the next 15 months, After the sale is complete, the Arison family will still own 188,000,000 shares worth over $7,426,000,000.

What will multi-billionaire Arison do with the $395,000,000? Build medical clinics in Goa, India where most of his crew members come from? Fund the retirement benefits for his hard working Filipino crew members who have slaved away far-from-their-children for decades on his ships?  Create schools in Nicaragua where thousands of family members of Carnival crew members reside? No, no, no. The nearly $400 million in cash will be solely for his own tax and estate planning.

CEO Arison paid himself a $90,000,000 bonus in 2002 - the same year of the Costa Concordia disaster. In my assessment, he seems like a money hoarder without a social conscious. Here are some of the infamous incidents involving Carnival Corporation and its brands over the last few years:

It is an amazing spectacle to watch Arison enrich himself irrespective of the Concordia capsizing and the Triumph engine room fire. 

Just last week we commented on Carnival's press release, issued during the middle of the Triumph "poop cruise" trial here in Miami. Carnival characterized the cruise passengers, who endured four days in the Gulf of Mexico after the negligently maintained old ship caught fire, as greedy.

I suppose it's business as usual for Carnival to malign its Triumph cruise guests while chairman Arison is cashing in a fraction of his cruise stock during the middle of the Triumph trial for $395,000,000. 

 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on out Facebook page.

Concordia Two Years Later: Former Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi Retiring from Carnival with Bonus While Victims Remain Uncompensated

Its been nearly two years since the Concordia recklessly crashed into the rocks surrounding the little port of Giglio, killing 32 passengers and crew and terrorizing thousands.

The officers of the operator of the cruise line, Costa, and the owners of the owner, Carnival corporation, quickly dumped 100% of the blame on the now disgraced captain, Francesco Schettino, who remains on trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship. 

Although salvors have up-righted the cruise ship during the highly published "parbuckling" maneuver at a cost of nearly one billion dollars, the ship is still sitting in the water at the port. 

Pier Luigi Foschi Costa Cruises The big news this week has been Carnival's announcement yesterday that the former CEO of Costa Cruises is retiring.  

Pier Luigi Foschi was CEO at Costa Cruises at the time of the disaster. Many people believe that Foschi and other senior Costa officials knew that their captains were altering the cruise routes and performing dangerous "flybys" but diverted attention from themselves by foisting all of the attention and blame on Captain Schettino.

Carnival announced yesterday Foschi is retiring from the Carnival organization after 16 years. He had retired from Costa in the summer of 2012, six months after the Concordia capsized. Carnival Corporation then named him as the CEO of the Carnival-Asia operations. 

The Miami Herald says that Foschi is receiving a bonus of 1,250,000 euros ($1.7 million) as part of a separation agreement.

According to the Independent newspaper, Foschi was paid $3,970,000 in 2012, for the one year period after the Concordia debacle. He also reportedly has shares worth $4,700,000.

Carnival Chairman Micky Arison praised Foschi yesterday for his contribution to Carnival's business.

Meanwhile, those Concordia passengers who did not accept Costa's settlement offer of 11,000 euros are continuing to pursue lawsuits against Costa and Carnival. The Costa crew members affected by the Concordia disaster were essentially left out in the cold and were lucky if they ended up on another Costa ship.

Its a telling list of financial priorities. A billion dollars to salvage the Costa ship, millions of dollars for the Costa CEO, peanuts for the Costa passengers, and nothing for the Costa crew members.    

 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Russian Roulette: Did Carnival Sail Knowing that the Triumph was Unseaworthy?

Carnival Triumph Cruise ShipReeling from a CNN special report indicating that it delayed maintaining the diesel engines and fuel lines in the Triumph and other cruise ships, Carnival was hit last night with an article published by the Associated Press stating that the cruise line knew that the Triumph was a fire trap but it took chances with its passengers' lives.

In the article titled Suit: Fire Risk Known Before Carnival Ship Sailed, the AP cited deposition testimony from the Triumph's captain admitting that Carnival had known about the fuel leak problem since March of 2012, a year before the fire. The captain stated that spray guards, a makeshift measure to deal with leaky fuel lines, were partially installed on the cruise ship but not on the engine which caught fire.

The CNN program and the AP article paint a grim image of a ship with a neglected engine room, in violation of the International Maritime Organization's Safety of Life at Sea recommendations, which was ready to ignite with 4,000 souls aboard.

According to the AP, Houston lawyer Frank Spagnoletti characterized Carnival as reckless: "It was unbelievable to me that you would take 4,000 people and put them in a situation of basically Russian roulette. Basically every time that vessel went out they never knew whether they were going to have a fire or not."

Responding to these allegations yesterday, Carnival played dumb and denied everything. The AP quoted Carnival saying: "The leak in the flexible fuel hose was a completely unexpected accident that took place. What ignited the fuel is unknown." Carnival called the spray guards a "best practice."

Carnival may be trying to distance itself from the negative press surrounding the Triumph debacle (and the Concordia disaster before that), but denials and flimsy excuses like these demonstrate that the cruise line's reputation seems as poorly maintained as its cruise ships.

 

See photos of the Triumph inspection reports and disabled ship here.

Phto Credit: Telegraph.co.uk

Forced to Evacuate the Allure or Oasis of the Seas? Prepare to Become a Navy Seal!

Allure of the Seas - Enough Life Boats?When the executives at Royal Caribbean trotted out the Oasis of the Seas several years ago, they took special efforts to tout that the evacuation and life saving systems on this huge ship were the best in the world. After all, this was the largest, most technologically advanced, and most expensive cruise ship in the world.

Cruise CEO and President Adam Goldstein characterized the evacuation system for passengers as a "holistic" approach to saving lives. You can read about the "holistic" design here on an official Royal Caribbean press statement.

Royal Caribbean produced carefully crafted videos showing that its "revolutionary" huge state-of-the-art 370 person capacity life boats would safely rescue the passengers if anything wrong happened on the high seas requiring an evacuation. 

You can see the video below with William Wright, who captained the Oasis from Europe to Fort Lauderdale, promoting the life boats as marvels of the sea. The video says that the new life boats have double redundancy: double engines, double propellers, and double rudders, in addition to well-lighted and spacious boats, which according to Royal Caribbean would ensure that the 16 crew members assigned to each life boat could comfortably ferry the 354 passengers to safety. 

You could almost hear the thoughts of the cruise executives: we have to assure our customers that this money-making-beast-of-a-ship can safely evacuate 8,500 passengers and crew who are jam-packed together in this highly compressed space. As a result, the public was presented with the nonsensical "holistic" message from CEO Goldstein and the slick video production starring captain Wright (since unceremoniously fired from the company) stating that the passengers are even safer in the life boats!

Many maritime experts believe that the size of the new huge cruise ships make it harder to evacuate quickly and safely. Cruise lines are required to evacuate all passengers and crew in just 30 minutes, which seems like a tall order considering that there could be as many as 8,500 passengers and crew aboard these ships. But CEO Richard Fain promoted his giant ships by claiming that evacuation is in fact Oasis of the Seas Chute and Raft faster on larger ships because "they have more entrances and exits." He went as far as to claim that passengers are actually safer in gigantic cruise ships. 

But what Royal Caribbean was not telling the public was that the life boats were severely limited in number and were only for the passengers. Crew members have to jump down a 60' chute into a flimsy life raft - not a life boat.

The chutes and rafts are contained in canisters located on the ship which deploy and drop down into the water. I last mentioned these type of canisters following the fire aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas last May which burned many of the canisters located on the stern of the cruise ship.

Take a look at the bottom video which shows a Royal Caribbean crew member who gets stuck in the chute and then flies out and lands violently on his back.  We've also written about an incident where 20 crew members were injured in a drill using a similar chute and raft system.      

Recently, the issue arose whether there are an adequate number of lifeboats on the Allure and the Oasis, after the Allure left one of its lifeboats behind in Nassau because of a problem with a cable.

There are only 18 lifeboats to begin with on these ships. Each life boat has a capacity of 370 people, divided into 354 passengers and 16 crew members who are responsible for overseeing the passengers and maneuvering the life boat.  With only 17 life boats, there is room for only 6,018 passengers; whereas, the Allure has a capacity of 6,296.

The passengers who are not permitted into a life boat will be forced to use something Royal Caribbean and its executives never touted as either revolutionary or "holistic" - the dangerous chute and raft system used by crew members. 

When we broke this story, there was a blow back by the cruise line and many crew members. Royal Caribbean claimed that "we had enough safety crafts for everyone onboard the ship . . . Our ships carry extra lifesaving vessels at all times." Unfortunately, the cruise line use of the words life "crafts" and "vessels" did not distinguish whether it has enough newly designed life "boats" for the passengers versus the dangerous old-school life "rafts" used by the crew.

"Stop nitpicking and creating a controversy!" seemed to be the sentiment by the cruise line and most crew members. These supporters of Royal Caribbean pointed out that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires the ship to have 25% extra life craft capacity for the maximum capacity of the passengers and crew and there's no evidence that the Allure was in violation of that when it sailed.

My response is that the IMO requirements are a minimum. More importantly, what about the executives' promises of the revolutionary and holistic approach to saving human souls?  Are grandmothers and children and mothers with babies going to have to jump into the chutes into a lifeboat from deck four, commando style?

It seems so, and the cruise executives know it.  Take a look at the evacuation procedure diagrams on the Oasis. The schematics of the chute system depict passengers with children and mothers clinging onto their infants descending the chutes. These images are directly from Royal Caribbean's cruise ships

The last comment posted to my article said:

"Stop nitpicking, whether it's a craft, raft, or boat as long as there is something in case of an emergency i don't think most people would care. These rafts are the same one the US Navy uses, if it's safe for our troops it's safe for me."

When people leave comments on my blog like this, they automatically leave their internet provider (IP) address. The IP address of this person indicated that the person sent the message from Royal Caribbean's corporate headquarters here in Miami. Whether this macho man was a frustrated low level employee or someone in the operations or safety departments, I'll never know. But someone over at the cruise line thinks that it's okay (and a darn patriotic thing to do!) for passengers to jump down a 60 foot chute acting like Rambo.

I doubt that 75 year old grandmothers or little grand kids realize that they are signing up for this tour of duty when they embark on a luxury cruise of the Caribbean aboard the Allure or the Oasis.  

Perhaps the cruise line is right that it is in technical compliance with the minimal IMO requirements. But the cruise line should be transparent with its guests. It should tell its passengers that instead of a "holistic" rescue in "revolutionary" life boats, they should be prepared to act like a Navy Seal jumping into a raft in a combat zone.

 

  

  

P&O Ferries No-CCTV Camera Controversy: Expect a Long Fight

Following intense public pressure brought by Richard Fearnside's mother Marianne, P&O Ferries has posted comments on its Facebook page stating that it will be discussing the use of CCTV cameras with the "wider shipping community" and will be raising this issue with the "UK and European Maritime safety authorities."   

Don't believe it. This is a stall tactic.  P&O Ferries can install CCTV anytime it wants. It doesn't need to discuss this with rival ferry companies or obtain permission from any governmental authority.

I have attended over a half-dozen U.S. Congressional hearings over the past 8 years which have addressed over-board passengers from the U.S. based cruise lines. Cruise lines don't like to be told what to do. They resist man over-board systems at every turn. They drag their feet. They say anything and everything to delay. I've seen every cruise line trick in the book. The cruise lines first say "It's not practical."  When they lose that fight, they change their tune: "No new laws are necessary because we will voluntarily agree to install man over-board systems," but they don't. After the lies are revealed and legislation is passed, the cruise lines will try and change the law. When that doesn't work, the cruise lines don't comply with the law.

If the U.K. ferries are like the U.S. cruise lines, expect a long fight.

Today, I received a mocking tweet on Twitter from a self-proclaimed U.K. ferry executive, Paul D. Paul WoodburyWoodbury:

"A USA 'maritime lawyer' on P&O Ferries! CCTV throughout is not a practical proposal. They're ferries not TV studios."

To me, Mr. Woodbury demonstrates the U.K. ferry business interests at their worst. Disrespectful to the dead. Arrogant. Flippant. And more interested in bottom line corporate profits than human life.

Mr. Woodbury's resume indicates that he worked for P&O Ferries for four years and "played a key role in safety management."   

This is the ferry lines' mind set. Be prepared for it. They don't care about you or your family.  Your pain and sorrow have no place on their profit & loss statements. They want it done as cheaply as possible. They are shameless. And they won't do the right thing until you force them to.

 

Leave a comment on our Facebook page if you have a thought to share.

Is this of interest? Read our other articles about the P&O Ferries - Richard Fearnside CCTV debacle:

Have you signed the petition yet? I did, so should you.

 

Photo Credit: P&O Ferries (top); LinkedIn (bottom).

Celebrity Cruises Kicks Elderly Couple Off Millennium Cruise Ship

A Cruise Law News reader from Australia alerted me of a newspaper article published on Thursday discussing how Miami-based Celebrity sent an elderly couple packing from the Millennium cruise ship a month ago. 

The Cairns Post reports on the disturbing story of Celebrity kicking 78 year old cruise passenger Adry Arnold and her husband off the cruise ship while it was docked at Yorkeys Knob, Queensland, Australia. 

The Arnolds were enjoying their vacation cruise. Mr. Arnold went to visit nearby Cairns. While alone on the ship, Ms. Arnold apparently had difficulty locating her her cabin. She became upset and began to Celebrity Millinnium Cruise Shipcry.  

The newspaper states that when Mr. Arnold returned to the cruise ship, he was not allowed back on the ship. Celebrity allegedly told them that their cruise was over "because the doctor did not think they were the kind of people who should be on the cruise ... if she was left alone." The article suggests that Ms. Arnold may have had dementia and that's why Celebrity sent them involuntarily from the ship.

The Arnolds are pensioners and paid over $12,000 for the cruise. 

The couple's nephew told the newspaper "this is a disgusting way to treat anybody, let alone an elderly couple, without even trying to resolve the issue at hand."

The Celebrity passenger ticket drafted by the cruise line's defense lawyers states that the cruise line can disembark passengers for any reason. However, from a public relations point of view, I would think that the couple should have been provided with a full refund rather than left behind at a port with no transportation back home.

Celebrity said that it would provide a "pro-rata refund" for the remaining nine days of their sailing. But as of the time of the newspaper article, Celebrity had not issued the refund.

A mean corporation versus a nice, elderly couple? Should the husband have stayed with his wife? Should the cruise line have treated the retirees nicer including getting them safely home?

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

December 7 2013 Update: The popular cruise on line community Cruise Critic has comments about the story on its board under the topic "Bad Publicity for Celebrity."  As usual, the Cruise Critic cruise line supporters defend Celebrity's callous conduct and blame the passengers.  Cruise Critic is best known for being exposed as a paid cruise line cheerleader shilling for Royal Caribbean on its reviews and message boards.

December 9 2013 Update:  Watch the video below: 

 

 

Photo Credit: Millinnium cruise ship - Wikipedia / Captain Tucker

Carnival Joins Plane & Train Companies in Refusing to Permit Obese Passenger Aboard

Kevin ChenaisThe international media is abuzz over the plight of a young man suffering from obesity who has been refused transportation by planes, trains and even a cruise ship in his efforts to return from the United States to his home country of France. His family claims that he was discriminated against because of his weight (500 lbs) and deemed "too fat to travel."

In an article entitled "Too Fat to Travel? Man Rejected by Plane, Train and Cruise Ship," the Associated Press writes about Kevin Chenais, age 22, who is under medical treatment due to a hormonal imbalance.

He was in the U.S. undergoing medical treatment, and ran into a wall of resistance when he tried to return home. 

British Airways first considered him too heavy to fly. Then Carnival Corporation, the owner of the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship, refused to transport him across the Atlantic. 

Virgin Atlantic stepped up to the plate and flew the young man to the United Kingdom. But the Eurostar under-sea train service refused to transport him to France, according to press reports

The train company said that Mr. Chenais posed a safety risk "to himself, our crew and all of the other passengers on board."

With the involvement of French consular staff, Mr. Chenais was transported by ambulance to Dover where he caught a ferry with the P&O Ferries company. A ferry representative said: "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."

According to Mr. Chenais, Carnival, which rejected his request for a cabin on the trans-Atlantic voyage from the U.S., "declined to comment."

Should cruise lines, air carriers and trains be required to accommodate obese passengers under these circumstances?  

Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Carnival Abandons Norfolk

Norfolk Virginia Port - Carnival CruiseThe Carnival Glory made its last home port stop today in Norfolk. It's now heading here to Miami.

According to the Washington Post, Carnival said this summer that it would not deploy the Glory (or any other Carnival cruise ship) from Norfolk in 2014.

According to ABC-13, Carnival cited new environmental regulations on emissions (requiring more expensive but far less toxic fuel) as a factor behind the decision: "The 2015 North America Emission Control Area (ECA) requirements would significantly impact our fuel costs for operating cruises from Norfolk and many other ports around North America."

Only Carnival could justify abandoning a cruise port by explaining that it wants to avoid compliance with an environmental law. 

The Glory has been seasonally based in Norfolk since 2001.

Easy come, easy go. Here today, gone tomorrow.

But don't be sad Norfolk.  Carnival is one fickle lover.

Carnival talked Mobile, Alabama, among other broken hearts, into building a new cruise terminal for tens and tens of millions of dollars. After the new terminal was built, Carnival left Mobile high and dry. The city officials were shocked and the city was saddled with debt. Even today, Mobile is still lighting a candle like a spurned lover hoping that Carnival will return. 

And Carnival dropped Antigua like a hot potato; read how Carnival broke up with its "business partner" with a "Dear John" letter sent via e-mail.  

Norfolk, it's time to move on. It's time to look for sustainable industries and responsible maritime corporate citizens to fill your port.

Photo Credit: NorfolkVisitors.com

Cruise CEO Arnold Donald's First Blunder: Carnival Guts Crew Retirement Benefits

Last month, the Sun Sentinel reported that Carnival's earnings "continue to be hurt by a series of embarrassing mishaps and softened demand for certain cruises that has kept fares low." The world's largest cruise operator reported a 30 percent drop in third-quarter profits.

Critics have attributed Carnival's woes to damage to its namesake cruise line's "Fun Ship" image after several cruise ships caught fire and/or lost power at sea. The most serious incidents involved loss of propulsion and power to the Carnival Splendor and the Carnival Triumph, stranding many thousands of passengers under unsanitary and unpleasant conditions.

Carnival Donald Arnold - Micky ArisonThis summer Micky Arison stepped down as Carnival CEO and a businessman, Arnold Donald, formerly of chemical giant Monsanto, stepped in as the new cruise CEO to try and right the ship. In June, Forbes magazine published an article about Mr. Arnold. The magazine quoted him saying the following about Carnival: "Here’s what success looks like. Our employees feel very confident in the future of the company. They legitimately feel like winners . . .

But Forbes didn't share the CEO's gushing enthusiasm. In order to be successful, Forbes cautioned, "Donald has to cut costs." 

Yesterday I wrote that Carnival embarked on a major cost-cutting campaign by freezing all of the retirement benefits for the crew members working for Carnival Cruise Lines. There are some 24 Carnival Cruise Line cruise ships with over 20,000 crew members working aboard the ships.  Cutting an average of just $5,000 per crew member may result in a savings of $100,000,000 over the next few years.

But at what cost in loss of morale? I doubt that the affected crew members "feel very confident in the future of the company" now, considering the comments to our article yesterday:

A comment from a crew member:  ". . . This is terribly disadvantageous and unfair if not outright discriminatory to the more than 6,000 Filipino crew members who have been working hard for Carnival Cruise Lines all these years. This retirement benefit is so important and is the very reason crew members chose to stay with Carnival for at least 10 years . . ." 

A comment from a former crew member:  "I retired from Carnival 4 years ago in order to pursue a university education. At that point I was at cross roads whether to stay or go. I am glad I choose go."

A tweet by a cruise fan: "This will trickle down 2 to me the passenger & not in a good way. Carnival could become the Self Serve Cruise Ships."

You can read other comments here or on our Facebook page.

As of publishing this article, Carnival still describes its "Fun Ship Retirement Plan" as providing a "lump-sum benefit upon team members’ retirement from Carnival, provided they have at least 10 years of continuous service . . . The longer a team member is employed beyond the initial 10-year period, the faster the benefits increase. Simply put, the longer you stay with Carnival, the larger your benefit payment will be upon your retirement."

But that's no longer true. 

Carnival announced over the last two years that it is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in its ships in technology, equipment and safety systems to avoid a repeat of the Splendor and Triumph mishaps and the Concordia disaster.  But it is taking money out of its loyal crew members to do so. It's no different that robbing Peter to pay Paul.      

There's not much the crew can do. The last time Carnival crew members went on strike for protesting low wages and the cruise line's withholding of their tips, they were all terminated, sent back to India, and blackballed from ever working on the cruise industry.

Do Carnival crew members feel like the "winners" Mr. Arnold described this summer? Should the crew feel confident in their future with Carnival?  

I suspect right now that the crew members feel like losers, cheated by the company which still promises on its website that ship employees will benefit by staying longer at Carnival.   

 

Photo Credit: Local10.com

Dead Filipinos, Dead Children & Other Cruise Line Madness

This week several people died during cruises on ships owned by Carnival Corporation.  A young seafarer died on the Carnival-owned Cunard Queen Victoria cruise ship.  A crew member from the Carnival Conquest was crushed to death at the port of New Orleans. And most tragically, a 6 year-old boy needlessly drown on the Carnival Victory in a swimming pool which, incredibly, did not have a life-guard.     

What do all of these seemingly unrelated incidents have in common?  

Because of antiquated laws and recent legal developments advanced by the cruise industry, the cruise Qwentyn Hunter - Carnival Cruise Shipline will escape virtually all legal accountability for the deaths.

Let's look first at the sad case of little 6 year old Qwentyn Hunter who died on the Carnival Victory last week. He died underwater in a swimming pool that Carnival decided not to supervise with a lifeguard for, what I believe to be, purely financial reasons.

A child on vacation dead at age 6.

Is it foreseeable that a child may drown in a pool?  Of course. We have written recently about a 4 year old boy who is severely brain injured after slipping under the water on a cruise ship Disney which also didn't bother to assign a lifeguard to the pool.    

Put aside the debate whether the boy's death was a lack of personal responsibility of the parents or a lack of corporate responsibility due to the the malfeasance of the cruise line (or both), what is the maximum exposure presented to Carnival?

The answer, sadly, is just the child's burial and burial expenses. How is that possible?

There is a law in the U.S. called The Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  

DOHSA is an archaic law enacted in 1920 which provides only "pecuniary" losses to the survivors of someone who dies on the high seas. "Pecuniary" damages means only those financial losses, such as lost wages or medical expenses, suffered by those who are dependent on the dead person. In cases of a dead child or a dead retiree, there are no lost wages and no one dependent on the child or retiree for support. In Qwentyn's situation, there are obviously no lost wages or medical expenses.  So all that the family could possibly receive in compensation after an expensive, long-drawn-out lawsuit is whatever it costs to bury a child these days.      

If the cruise line is negligent for a child's death in an unattended pool, it will pay a maximum of $10,000 or so if liability is proven. Big deal. From a financial perspective, the cruise line is ahead of the game by not paying millions to employ lifeguards on over a hundred Carnival cruise ships to keep the kids safe. Carnival's Micky Arison, worth over 5 billion dollars, gets to keep his bounty.    

Cruise lines love DOHSA. It exculpates the cruise lines when they act irresponsibly.  The cruise industry has lobbied hard against amending the law.  Read about that here and here. Don't miss reading: What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common?  

Crew members who die due to the negligence of the cruise lines face the same hardship of DOHSA. 

But that's not all. The cruise lines have also fought tooth & nail to keep the claims of "foreign" crew members outside of the U.S. legal system and deprive injured crew members from having their cases heard by U.S. juries by insisting that they resolve their cases through "arbitration."  

Read about this injustice here. The Filipinos face a "schedule" of compensation depending on the Filipino Crew Member - Cruise - Burn Unitinjury. A lost finger, or hand, or an arm may result in an award of only $7,500 or $25,000 or $35,000. A death? $50,000, plus only $7,000 per child with a limit of 4 children. 

One of the worst cases involved a Filipino crew member who received 35% burns on his body in a clear case of the vessel operator's negligence. At the ship owner's request, the disabled and disfigured crew member's case was dismissed from the U.S. legal system and sent to Manila where a Kangaroo Court awarded the burned Filipino just $1,870.00 (US).

The cruise lines don't want you to understand what happens when the nice, smiling Filipino waiters or bartenders who serve your family subsequently are seriously injured or die on cruise ships. It is fundamentally different and absolutely unfair compared to when people are injured or die on land. 

And this is exactly how the multi-billion dollar cruise industry wants it.  

Have a thought about this article?  Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Silver Shadow Sanitation Scandal: Silversea Cruises Finally Speaks, But is It the Truth?

The cover up is always worse than the crime, the saying goes.

When we first contacted SilverSea Cruises earlier this month, we asked the cruise line for an explanation regarding the Silver Shadow's failed CDC sanitation inspection. This was before the CDC report was issued and before the CNN story aired. We specifically asked for a comment about the tactic of hiding food and pot & pans in the crew quarters, which we learned from a number of different Silversea crew members.

We received no response, of course, just like crew members who had directly notified senior Silversea management ashore of the unsanitary ship practices long before contacting the CDC in frustration.    

Silversea's first public response was rather tepid, indicating only that that the cruise line was Silver Shadow - Silver Shadow CDC"disappointed" in the failed score. But Silversea offered neither an apology nor an explanation regarding who ordered the food and galley equipment to be hidden in the cabins or what steps it took in respond to the serious violations of the USPH standards and the public's trust. 

It was not until CNN aired a special program about the mess aboard the Silver Shadow (watch video here), did Silversea finally release more detailed statements on its Facebook page about what happened.  

Are these statements truthful? Was this really just an isolated event, or part of an ongoing systemic scheme to trick the USPH inspectors?   

Let's consider a couple of Silversea's claims:

The cruise lines says:

"Silversea Cruises has fully investigated this matter and the accusations of a previous crew member."

Is the public to believe that only one single former crew made the accusation which resulted in the verification by the CDC that food and galley equipment from fifteen trolleys were hidden in several cabins shared by 10 crew members?

Before we first broke the story two weeks ago, we had communicated with several crew members who informed us that the "hide & seek' games were widespread, not only on the Silver Shadow but other Silversea cruise ships as well. Some crew members showed us emails sent to the upper management complaining abut the situation long before the CDC inspection. After the CNN took the story to an international audience, additional crew members contacted us and verified the complaints. And remember, the Silversea crew member interviewed by CNN is not one of the crew members who first contacted us or reported the disgusting circumstances to the CDC in the first place.    

The cruise line also says: 

"The unannounced inspection on June 17 occurred at the end of the breakfast period where pots, pans and utensils were on working stations and items to return to the galleys were on Shilver Shadow Cruise Ship CDCtrolleys as were stores from the fridges ready for use. It is clear that when the galley staff heard that inspectors were on board, instead of continuing their work in the understanding that they were in the middle of a meal service, they tried to quickly remove all trolleys and any items not in the fridges and place them in cabins out of the way."

This is an absolutely fantastic claim. Silversea blames the galley cooks for deciding to hide the food without any instructions from their supervisors?  We know this to be untrue based upon what both low level crew members and managers tell us.

Silversea's tactic of throwing the lowest level ship employee under the bus reveals that instead of being transparent, the cruise line chose to bamboozle the public.  Isn't this exactly what got Slversea in trouble in the first place?

One other thing to keep in mind is that the photographs which CNN aired (and which are on our Facebook page) were taken by several different Silversea crew members on various occasions in 2012 and early 2013. They are not photos of the failed inspection in June 2013.  

After the crew members sent the photos to the CDC this year, a CDC epidemiologist thanked the crew members and wrote:

"The pictures and information you provided were very accurate and reflected what was seen and experienced by the inspectors yesterday on the ship . . ."    

If photographs taken in 2012 accurately reflect what the CDC inspectors discovered 6 to 12 months later, the unsanitary practices clearly date back at least a year.

Silversea wants you to believe that just a few panicked cooks took it on themselves to push fifteen large trolleys out of the galley, through the hallways, down the elevator, and hid food under bunk beds in the bowels of the ship without any order to so so. Do you believe that this was just a secret, spontaneous, isolated event?

Other crew members obviously witnessed this circus parade of food and cutlery and pots & pans clanking on trolleys which rumbled through the hallways.  And security officers and guards could not help but to observe this Silversea Cruises Silver Shadow CDCspectacle which was captured on closed circuit television cameras throughout the ship. This was no aberration; this was business as usual.   

I just returned from Washington D.C. where I attended the eighth Congressional hearing about the cruise industry since 2005. This hearing was called for by Senator Rockefeller who has studied the industry and judged it not to be trustworthy of cruise passenger safety.  

For the first seven hearings, I watched and listened to the cruise lines executives say that crime is rare and the lines transparently report all crimes committed against passengers. But Senator Rockefeller is no fool. He issued a report at this latest hearing which revealed that only 3% of crimes on cruise ships are reported to the public. 97% of cruise ship crimes are hidden. 

Hiding food and galley items in crew member cabins may seem unbelievable to the American public, but as many crew members may tell you, it's a part of "ship life."  And lying when caught is another part of a cruise line culture which has never been broken.    

 

Photo Credit:

Top - Wikimedia / Petey21

Middle and bottom - Silversea crew members 

Did Disney Cruise Line Really Sail a Crime Scene from the U.S. to Nassau? International Press Focuses on Disney Child Molestation Case

In a case likely to have long term ramifications for the image of Disney Cruise Line (Magical Cruise Company), the story of Disney-flying-a-child-molester-back-to-India which was broken by a local news station in Orlando last night has already reached a national and international audience.  

The case is essentially no different that an airline learning that one of its flight attendants, age 33, molested an eleven year old child on an airplane and then flying the crime scene, the assailant, and the victim to a foreign country where it knows that criminal prosecution is impossible. Then, to top it off, paying for the crew member to fly home to the other side of the world rather than returning him to the U.S. for prosecution.

Disney Dream Cruise Ship Sexual Crime Cover UpDisney's outrageous conduct is not lost on reporters from around the world. 

Daily Bhaskar (India) reports Caught on camera: Disney Cruise Line employee molests 11-year-old in ship elevator.

The U.K.'s Daily Mail published The Shocking Moment Disney Cruise Line Dining Room Server, 33, Molested Girl, 11, in Ship Elevator.

The International Business Times reported: Did Disney Cruise Line Let A Child Molester Go Free?

News Beat (Greece) reports Ship worker sexually harassed 11 year old girl

The New York Daily News published Disney Cruise Line Failed to Promptly Notify Police that Crew Member Molested an 11-Year-Old Girl.

The highly respected travel writer Peter Greenberg wrote: Cruise Scandal: Did Disney Cover up Employee Sexual Misconduct?

The Stir (a popular blog catering to moms) got it right in the article Disney Cruise Employee Caught on Camera Molesting 11-Year-Old But Goes Free Anyway

There are other news articles on line from China, Romania, Turkey, and Germany about the case.

Expect others in the news media to cover the disturbing story of how the family-friendly Disney Cruise Line responds to crimes against kids on its cruise ships.  

 

Read our other articles on the case:

Images of a Disney Nightmare: Are Your Kids Safe Sailing With Disney?

Did Disney Cruise Lines Cover Up Sexual Molestation of 11 Year Old Girl on Disney Dream? 

Image credit to WKMG Channel 6 in Orlando.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Abandons Sandy Victims, While Royal Caribbean Steps Up to the Plate!

WABC New York TV reports on a story tonight which may explain why many cruise lines have a major problem with their reputation. 

The story involves a grandmother, whose home was destroyed last year after being submerged under four feet of the surging Superstorm Sandy, who had booked a cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel for her family and grand kids at the cost of over $4,000.

Joanne Keating was set to sail on November 4th, just days after the storm. She was left with nothing NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line after the storm ravaged her home. Her home and life savings were all gone.  

Ms. Keating appealed to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for help. She even wrote the CEO Kevin Sheehan (right) asking to refund the cruise or reschedule it, but the cruise line and its CEO wouldn't make an exception. Absolutely no refund or rescheduling. 

The pitiful thing is that Ms. Keating and her daughter make a living driving special needs kids to school. This trip was going to be her first vacation ever, in 70 years! But NCL could care less. It refused to help the family and took their money.

The news station says that NCL acted cruelly and when approached about the terrible situation, erected a "stone wall of silence." 

Its not the first time that NCL has acted so selfishly.

Read And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem if you want to know about some really bad customer abuse by the people at NCL.

The local news station in New York was resourceful and asked another cruise line to help the stricken family out.  Royal Caribbean, of all cruise lines, offered the family a free cruise. Watch the video below.     

 

Photo Credit:  prhub.com

More Toilet Problems for Carnival: Crown Princess Poop Ship!

Princess Cruises Crown Princess Toilet Problems"Poop ships" and Carnival have become synonymous this year following the public relations debacle as thousands of passengers aboard the Triumph cruise had to endure several days without working sanitation as they were towed to Mobile Alabama.

This evening, a news station in Houston is reporting that the Carnival-owned Princess Cruises' Crown Princess is experiencing grand problems with its toilet system as well.

KPRC-Houston reports that the Crown Princess experienced a blockage within the vacuum toilet system which affected some 410 staterooms in the aft part of the cruise ship. The news station quoted a passenger saying "by the bathroom, it was flooded, it was wet in the carpet." Another passenger said the ship "smelled of backed-up sewer." Many passengers couldn't use the toilets in their cabins. Passengers had to get up in the night and take elevators to use the public restrooms.  One passenger told the Houston news station: "I will never, ever, ever, ever cruise with Princess again, ever."

Our last articles about the Crown Princess included a passenger going overboard last month and a dreaded norovirus outbreak on the Crown Princess during its transatlantic voyage from Venice Italy.   

Hat tip to Professor Ross Klein's website CruiseJunkie where I first read about the story.

Photo Credit Wikipedia / CB2379  Watch the video below:

 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

Carnival Triumph Breaks Mooring in Mobile

Multiple news outlets are reporting that the infamous Carnival Triumph cruise ship has broken loose from its lines at a port facility in Mobile Alabama where it has been moored since February 14th and drifted from the dock.

The cruise ship sustained some damage, with one news outlet reporting that the ship sustained a hole on the starboard side of the stern.  You can see the damage to the vessel in a photo here and below via WKRG. Some news stations are reporting that dock workers may have fallen into the water.

We will update this once we receive additional information. 

April 3 2013 Update: An employee of BAE Systems that operates the shipyard fell into the water and remains missing.  

Photo Credit: Top - Melvin Evins / Twitter @mle724; Bottom - WKRG

Carnival Triumph Breaks Loose

 Carnival Triumph Breaks Loose

Carnival CEO Arison's Letter to Senator Rockefeller: Screw You!

Tonight Seatrade Insider published an article about Carnival CEO Micky Arison's letter to Senator Rockefeller who has been critical of Carnival cruise line's avoidance of taxes and non-payment of services to federal agencies like the U.S. Coast Guard.

You will recall that Senator Rockefeller, who convened a hearing last year after the Carnival-owned Costa Concordia cruise ship killed 32 passengers and crew members and injured or terrorized thousands of others, sent a letter to cruise tycoon Arison last week. Rockefeller asked Arison whether Panama-incorporated Carnival though it was fair that it paid a pittance in taxes. Rockefeller asked Carnival Cruise Line Tax AvoidanceArison to pay for the considerable services incurred by US federal agencies when Carnival cruise ships caught on fire or were disabled on the high seas.    

You will not find a copy of the letter from Arison to Rockefeller anywhere on line. The only one talking about the letter is Seatrade Insider, because Carnival sent an advance copy of the letter to its friends at that cruise publication. 

Why did Seatrade Insider receive an advance copy? Because that publication is an associate member of the cruise industry trade organization Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) whose goal is to advance the interests of the cruise lines. Seatrade Insider did not bother to publish the letter but obviously supports everything the billionaire cruise CEO said and it summarily dismissed all of Senator Rockefeller's well-founded points.

Arison's letter enclosed responses signed by Carnival vice president for corporate maritime policy James Hunn. Carnival says that is has no intention of reimbursing the U.S for anything. Carnival also does not contest the fact, brought out by a NBC special last week, that over the last 5 years it paid only 0.6% in local, state, national and international taxes on the many billions of dollars in revenues collected each year.  Last year, Carnival collected over $15 billion in revenues.

Earlier today, Carnival lost one of its greatest supporters when the editor of the Cruise Critic cruise fan site, Carolyn Spencer Brorwn, stated that she would not cruise on Carnival and she recommended that the Cruise Critic readers "book elsewhere."

We'll comment further on Arison's letter after it is received by the Senator and released to others outside of the cruise line's cheerleaders like Seatrade Insider.  

April 3 2013 Update: You can read the letter here.   It seems to dodge some of the requests for information and documents. It's argumentative.  And it down-plays the seriousness of most of the 90 incidents involving Carnival over the past several years.   

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

Tonight on NBC: Carnival CEO Micky Arison Comes Under Congressional Scrutiny

Tonight NBC will take a hard look at Carnival CEO Micky Arison who I have written about on this blog. 

Micky Arison is well liked here in Miami, mostly for bringing a couple of NBA basketball championships to South Florida - first with Shaq and later with D-Wade and Lebron James who he has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on. He is extraordinarily wealthy with somewhere between 5 and 6 billion dollars.

Arison is also extraordinary in his ability to exploit crew members from impoverished countries like India and the Caribbean islands who work over 350 hours a month for as little as $550.

Carnival Cruise CEO Micky Arison - Tax Cruise ShipsAt 10:00 PM EST tonight, NBC's Rock Center television program will air its investigation into Carnival's cruise line business and how Arison has profited greatly from it. 

Carnival's CEO Micky Arison has incurred the wrath of Senator Jay Rockefeller who expressed his outrage to NBC over Carnival’s abuse of the loopholes in the tax system. Rockefller recently sent a letter to Arison which you can read about here.

Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, told Rock Center's Harry Smith that he regards Carnival “very poorly” as a corporate citizen. Rockefeller says Carnival's extremely low tax rate is "disgusting" particularly  because of the cruise line's extensive use of federal agencies like the US Coast Guard.

NBC points out that the cost of US assistance to the fire-disabled Triumph cruise ship was $779,914.26. And another Carnival ship, the Splendor, suffered an engine fire two years ago that required assistance from the US Coast Guard and the Navy. That cost each service more than $1,500,000 which Carnival did not pay.

During the program tonight, you will see veteran newsman Harry Smith interview me as well. You can watch the video here or wattch the video below.

Will CEO Arison be on the program? No. He's a no-show, just like he has never appeared at the scene of a cruise fire, collision, or catasrophe involving his cruise line guests.

 

 

Interested in this issue?  Here are some other articles I wrote on Micky Arison:

Carnival CEO Micky Arison's Net Worth Increases from $4,700,000,000 to $5,700,000,000, Notwithstanding Costa Concordia Disaster

Hard Times For Carnival? Hardly.

Profits Over People: Carnival's Exploitation of Crew Members is Standard Industry Practice

Cruise Crisis Management FAIL - How Carnival is Ruining its Reputation Following the Costa Concordia Disaster

Is Carnival's Micky Arison a Greedy Corporate Pig?

 

Art Credit: Nickolay Lamm from MyVoucherCodes.co.uk

Latest Bad News For Carnival As Legend Experiences Mechanical Difficulties: Is Carnival Facing Management & Maintenance Problems?

Carnival Legend Cruise Ship - Propulsion ProblemsCNN reports that  the Carnival cruise ship Legend is experiencing mechanical problems that are affecting its sailing speed, the latest in a growing list of woes for the cruise line.

The Legend was on the last part of a seven-day Caribbean cruise that departed Tampa on Sunday. 

The cruise ship had to be escorted by a tugboat because of a malfunction in its steering system. 

A problem with one of the Azipod units on the Legend has caused Carnival to cancel a scheduled stop in Grand Cayman in order to try and return back to Tampa, Florida on time on Sunday.  One passengers is quoted saying: "Passengers are now really pissed off. Mood on the ship is getting worse among passengers, captain is giving limited information."

Cruise expert Ross Klein first reported the problems with the Legend in his blog earlier this week.

CNN aired an interview with an analyst stating that in light of the problems with the Triumph, the Dream and now the Legend, problems "run deep" at Carnival. There are problems with a lack of preventative maintenance and management issues. 

 

 

Carnival's CEO Micky Arison: "Unfortunately We Have to Pay for Fuel, Food & Players"

Carnival CEO Micky Arison joined Twitter in 2010. I was curious to see how such a big shot cruise executive would interact with the common man on such a popular social media platform like Twitter.

After the Costa Concordia disaster killed 32 of his cruise guests and crew members, cruise CEO Arison made no public appearances. When he was first seen in public it was at the Miami basketball arena here in Miami to watch his Miami Heat play. His first tweet after Concordia sank was "Let's Go Heat." Even when the world press focused on his insensitive and selfish antics, Arison could have cared less it seems. He tweeted away about his celebrity friends and his star studded Micky Arison Carnival Cruise Twitterbasketball team as if Concordia never sank.     

Yesterday Forbes published an article how Arison's cruise empire avoids U.S. income tax - "Ship Isn't The Only Thing That Stinks At Carnival: Low Tax Rate Stirs Ire".  

Forbes explains that Carnival collects billions of dollars every year, but pays about a 1% tax rate because the Arison family incorporated the cruise line in Panama. Even though the cruise line benefits from being located here in Miami and uses the services of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and many other agencies, it essentially gets a free ride. 

As Forbes states: "While the U.S. Coast Guard patrols the seas for Carnival’s ships – and, in the case of the Triumph, towed them back to safety – Carnival ducks out on most U.S. taxes."

Carnival's CEO Arison is a shrewd businessman. He know how to work the system.  His cruise ships use the ports in the U.S. and foreign countries for free.  Local citizens like you or me pay for the port terminals. If there is a port fee or head tax, the passengers pay it. When it comes to his basketball team, the local citizens pay for that too.

The Arison family have been gaming the system for 45 years. They will say that they are taking advantage of legitimate tax loopholes in the I.R.S. Code.  But that begs the question of why the federal tax code is drafted as if it were written by Carnival's tax lawyers and why it has not been amended to result in Carnival paying a reasonable and fair shore of its share.  The truth is that Carnival and other cruise lines spend many millions of dollars lobbying Congress while hiring high ranking federal directors of federal agencies to keep the cozy status quo exactly like it is.

But how much is enough for Arison? Fifteen years ago a local journalist asked "Is Micky Arison a Micky Arison Carnival Cruise Triumph Tent CityGreedy Pig?"  I repeated the question here a few years ago.

Arison is the richest person in Florida, worth over $5,000,000,000. Two months ago, he paid himself a end-of-the-year bonus of $90,000,000 - in the same year where his Concordia killed 32 people. The stricken cruise ship still lies on its side in the waters of Giglio, and the victims of that terrible ordeal were offered only $15,000 by Carnival, but Arison pays himself a $90,000,000 year end bonus.

After the Carnival Triumph ignited off the coast of Mexico last weekend, Arison made no public statements.  Later that Sunday afternoon, there Micky sat at half-court at the Miami Arena watching his Heat beat the Lakers. His last tweet today was an instagram photo of him and Beyonce'.

Just how out-of-touch is this cruise CEO with the reality of the world around him?  Over 4,000 of his guests and ship employees endured a week-long-cruise-from-hell aboard the urine and fecal stained Carnival Triumph but Arison tweets a photo of him hanging with Beyonce'.

The question arises again. Is Micky Arison a greedy pig? In answering the question, consider Arison's bio on his twitter page:

"CEO of Carnival. Owner of your @MiamiHEAT I do not respond to requests for free cruises or Micky Arison Carnival Cruise Beyoncetix. Unfortunately we have to pay for fuel, food & players."  

"Unfortunately we have to pay for fuel, food and players?" What a cynical mantra for his luxurious life.

How much greed does it take to turn Arison's enormous prosperity into petty bitterness over having to pay for food for his cruise guests and pay for the salaries of basketball players who bring him so much wealth, power and prestige?

So if you are just arriving home today from Arison's disgusting & disabled cruise ship after another cruise-from-hell, whatever you do, don't ask Micky for a free Heat ticket or a free cruise. He's too busy hanging with Beyonce' to even consider such a request.        

Royal Caribbean Reports $392,800,000 Loss for Last Quarter

The Associated Press reports that cruise giant Royal Caribbean lost $392.8 million in the fourth quarter because of losses associated with its Spanish cruise line, Pullmantur.

The AP states that Royal Caribbean wrote down $413,900,000 due to a substantial drop in bookings and prices in Spain following the Spanish government’s austerity measures. Royal Caribbean also blamed its losses on the Costa Concordia disaster a year ago.

Royal Caribbean had a profit of $36.6 million during the same quarter a year ago. 

In December we reported that Royal Caribbean's top executive Richard Fain bailed on out on a large block of cruise line stock.

In December 2012, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Fain sold 143,140 shares of RCL stock for $4,964,095.  

Fain followed up by exercising options and selling 188,443 shares for $6,535,203, for a total of around $11,500,000.  

$11,500,000 in cash in your pocket and 6 weeks later your cruise line posts a loss of over $392,000,000. Goes to show you that cruise line executives have fun making millions hand over fist regardless of how the company performs.

Video below is of CEO Fain on one of the Royal Caribbean FlowRiders (via RCCL YouTube).

 

Are Crew Members Receving the Tips You Pay? Watch Royal Caribbean's "Screw the Crew" Scheme

Cruise lines have mastered various way to steal the tips which are intended by passengers to compensate waiters and stateroom attendants.  Carnival's P&O Cruises implemented a policy this year to withhold forwarding the tips paid by cruise passengers if the crew member's performance falls below a 92% rating as determined by management. Read Profits Over People: Carnival's Exploitation of Crew Members is Standard Industry Practice.

This is a real hardship because waiters and cabin attendants are paid a salary of only $50 a month and depend on tips to send money home to their families.

As you can see in the video below, a Royal Caribbean crew member alleges that the cruise line has devised a scheme to systematically divert money intended for the crew into the cruise line's coffers. 

Leave a comment below or leave a comment on our Facebook pageRoyal Caribbean Tipping Policy

February 20, 2013 Update: Royal Caribbean objected to the video, threatened the crew member who posted it, and was successful in taking the video down. So much for freedom of speech.  Read our updated article: "Screw the Crew" Video: Banned By Royal Caribbean & YouTube!

 

Third Oasis-Class Cruise Ship: Bad for Environment, Bad for U.S., Great for Lawyers & Cruise CEO's

Allure of the Seas - Oasis of the Seas FlowRider Royal Caribbean Cruises just announced a third Oasis-class cruise ship will be built at the South Korea-owned shipyard STX France after the financing fell through with the STX Finland shipyard.  

The as-of-yet unnamed gigantic ship will follow fellow behemoths the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas which are ported in Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

CEO Richard Fain, who just sold $11,500,000 worth of RCL stock, proclaimed that "these ships have consistently generated outstanding guest satisfaction ratings and continue to produce superior financial results . . . "

The new billion-dollar-plus cruise ship is expected to come on line sometime in mid to late 2016. STX France provided Royal Caribbean with a one-year option to build a fourth Oasis-class ship with a 2018 delivery date. 

There is speculation where the new ship will be ported, with the South Florida Business Journal proposing Miami where Royal Caribbean is based and U.K. travel blogger Captain Greybeard raising the possibility of deploying the ship to the Mediterranean or the Far East.

What's my take on another "Giant of the Seas" arriving on the scene? First, its a continuing disaster for the environment. The supposedly most technologically advanced cruise ships in the world still burn highly toxic high-sulfur-content bunker fuel. And small Caribbean islands are forced to destroy ancient coral Allure of the Seas - Oasis of the Seas - Royal Caribbeanreefs as a price to pay from the privilege of hosting these enormous floating cities into their small ports.

The multi-billion dollar deal enormously benefits South Korea and France. The off-shore building project represents another drain of money and jobs from the U.S. to the South Korean conglomerate which owns the shipyard in France. 

The arrival of one or two additional Oasis-class ships will carry 5,000 to 10,000 additional cruise passengers. They will be trying to stay safe on the ship's various attractions like the rock-climbing wall, the zip-line and the incredibly dangerous FlowRiders which have caused serious injury and even death over the years.   

One would hope that the cruise line takes greater care in designing these amusement-park-like attractions to avoid the risk of serious injury.  Because as matters now stand, Royal Caribbean's gigantic sized cruise ships are good news only for the cruise line's executives and the personal injury lawyers representing the injured passengers.  

Hard Times For Carnival? Hardly.

The financial cruise news today is all doom and gloom with cruise giant Carnival reporting another major drop in profits which everyone is attributing to the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster last January. 

Carnival announced today that it made a net profit of $93,000,000 in the three months leading up to November 30th. Now, is 93 million dollars in profits a bad deal?  Well apparently so compared to the $217,000,000 in profits in the same quarter last year.  Carnival's stock dropped 5.4%. 

Carnival honcho Micky Arison lamented that "as a result of the Costa Concordia tragedy in January, Miami Hear Beer Micky Arison Carnival Cruisethe past year has been the most challenging in our company's history."

Sorry, Micky. I don't feel your pain.  

You seemed to be smiling on the front row at your AA basketball arena the other night as the Miami Heat trounced the Minnesota Timberwolves. Yes it was a great game. But $20 to park the car, $14 for a 16 ounce beer, another $14 for a hot dog, and $11 for two tacos seems a bit steep; I'm not going to even mention the ticket prices.   

Didn't you just pay yourself a $90,000,000 bonus a couple of weeks ago?  

$90,000,000 to you.  $93,000,000 to the stockholders.  Seems fair to me.  After all, I'm drinking your $14 beers.

Carnival Cruise CEO Arison Pockets $90,000,000

Miami's Daily Business Review reports today that Micky Arison paid himself a "special year-end dividend" of $90,000,000. Yes, that's 90 million dollars.

Cruise CEO Arison is not the only executive in Florida lining his pockets, as the Review states that other executives in Florida are paying themselves dividends in the range of $250,000 to around $20,000,000. The newspaper states that the whopper of a dividend was probably paid due to expectations that federal tax rates will jump next year. I suppose that's called the "Romney-didn't-win-dividend."

Arison is already by far the richest person in Florida with a net worth of many billions of dollars. The last time I checked it was over $4,000,000,000, or maybe it was $7,000,000,000. I forget. What's an extra billion or two?

Costa Concordia - Micky ArisonI was thinking of entitling this blog "Micky Arison is a fat greedy pig" but at least one journalist already called him that over a decade ago. So I'll keep what I'm thinking to myself.

But, I have to add that it must be something to be the CEO of a foreign corporation that pays no U.S. federal taxes and owns a $600,000,000 cruise ship which sank (the Concordia operated by subsidiary Costa) and killed 32 people and at the end of the year you pay yourself an additional $90,000,000. Yes, the disaster caused some lost revenue for Carnival for a few months. But by the end of the year, Carnival profits are higher than ever. 32 dead customers and crew are not a problem if you keep them from filing suit in the U.S. 

While Arison pays himself a dividend of $90,000,000, he offered the families of the dead and traumatized Concordia passengers $15,000 each. 

When I think of Arison paying himself an extra $90,000.000, I also think of the 150 waiters from India who worked for P&O Cruises (another Carnival subsidiary) who were fired earlier this year at the instructions of Carnival's executives after they went on strike for about an hour in Seattle over low pay and the non-payment of tips. There are now 150 families struggling in India because Carnival made an example of them to show what happens if crew members in Carnival's fleet of 100 cruise ships complain about low pay.

Earlier this week, Arison's cruise line ignited controversy by issuing a last minute edict that passengers who bought tickets on Carnival's drag queen cruise would not be permitted to dress in drag in order to avoid offending "family values." When a boycott was threatened that might result in Carnival losing millions from the offended LGBT community, Carnival reconsidered and lifted the ban on dressing drag.

Always following the money, Arison obviously thought that paying himself a $90,000,000 dividend was not a drag either.   

I wonder what Arison will do with the extra $90,000,000?  Raise wages for his loyal employees on his cruise ships? Invest in a health clinic in India for Carnival crew? Donate the money to a charity for sick seafarers?  Ha. That's something Bill Gates or Warren Buffett would do.  

Read some of our other articles about CEO Arison and judge for yourself. 

Cruise Line Fat Cat Billionaires    

Breaking News: Carnival Cruise Lines Incorporates in the U.S. and Subjects Itself to U.S. Labor, Wage, Safety and Environmental Regulations

Is Carnival's Mickey Arison a Greedy Corporate Pig?

Consider leaving a comment below or on our facebook page.

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas: "Profits Over Passenger Safety?"

Today the Barbados Free Press takes a look at the failure of the captain of the world's largest cruise ship to timely notify the U.S. Coast Guard that a passenger had been spotted going overboard.

Notwithstanding an eyewitness account, the cruise ship intentionally did not follow its own man overboard protocols and delayed 2 hours before finally contacting the Coast Guard in Miami.  Royal Caribbean's conduct is particularly egregious considering that the cruise ship was not in the middle of the Atlantic when the incident.  It had left Fort Lauderdale a few hours earlier and was heading to Nassau, within quick striking range of Coast Guard aircraft, helicopters and cutters.  Here's what the Barbados Free Press (BFP) has to say:

"A few days ago on Sunday September 16, 2012 at about 9:30pm a passenger was seen falling overboard from the world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.

Allure of the Seas - Passenger Overboard - DelayThe Allure of the Seas never called the Coast Guard for assistance in searching until two hours later. By that time it was far too late for the lost passenger.

When BFP’s own pilot Robert heard about the incident, his first comment was surprise that Royal Caribbean built the world’s biggest and most expensive cruise ship – at a cost of some US$1.2 billion dollars – and didn’t include an onboard helicopter and alert flight crew to handle rescue situations and medical emergencies. The initial cost and ongoing expenditure would be nothing in relation to the overall operation, but Royal Caribbean made a decision to exclude the helicopter and instead build more cabins. Similarly Royal Caribbean does not maintain a quick launch rescue boat with a standby ready crew on alert. “Profits over passenger safety” seems to be the Royal Caribbean motto even at the design stage.

The outrageous failure of the Allure of the Seas captain to call for help for a passenger overboard and the failure of planning, design and operations in dealing with passengers overboard is just the latest in an ongoing series of cruise disaster stories."     

Read more here.

 

Image Credit:  Barbados Free Press

Continuing Negative Cruise News Beats Royal Caribbean Down

The 2012 second quarter earnings results are in for Royal Caribbean Cruises and its not good news.  

The cruise line reported a net loss for the second quarter of this year of $3,600,000 - compared to net income in the second quarter of last year of $93,500,000.

Slightly fewer passengers sailed on Royal Caribbean cruise ships during this last quarter compared to 2011.

The CEO of the cruise line, Richard Fain, tied the decline in passengers and net income to the Costa Concordia disaster in Italy in January, where 32 passengers and crew died. "The steady drumbeat of negative news emanating out of Europe is certainly having an effect," Fain announced at the conference call to analysts.

Did the Liberty of the Seas Buzz Cape Ampelio in Italy?

The Italian newspaper Il Secolo XIX published an interesting article L’inchino della Liberty of the Seas which raised the question whether the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship sailed too close to Cape Ampelio near the little Italian town of Bordighera.

Bordighera is a small, beautiful coastal town near Italy's border with France.  It has a small marina but certainly nothing that could accommodate a mega cruise ship like Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.  

The Italian newspaper writes that citizens of Bordighera became alarmed when the Liberty of the Seas sailed close (apparently less than a mile) to the shore. Dozens telephoned the Italian Coast Guard in Bordighera Italy - Cruise Ship anger to demand that the cruise ship stay away from its waters. Others began a facebook page complaining about the situation and posting photographs of the Liberty of the Seas sailing nearby Cape Ampelio.

The local residents felt that the cruise ship was performing a "bow" or a "salute" to the city, not unlike the reckless maneuver performed by the infamous Captain Schettino aboard the Costa Concordia near the island of Giglio which caused 32 people to die.     

There are Italian regulations which prohibit ships over 500 tons to sail within 2 nautical miles from the outer perimeters of national parks and protected areas, marine and coastal ecosystems. In other areas, there apparently is not a specified distance where large vessels are prohibited, and it is the authority of the Italian Coast Guard or harbor masters to determine how close large cargo ships and cruise ships may sail.

The newspaper writes that the Italian Coast Guard was monitoring the passage of the Liberty of the Seas and had concluded that although the cruise ship was near the coast, it was "not excessively" close. The incident occurred two months ago.

The question remains whether this was an authorized departure from the cruise ship's planned route, or a "thought" of the ship's captain to salute the town or provide interesting viewing for the passengers.

Bordighera Italy - Liberty of the Seas Salute?

Motley Fool Slams Carnival But Cruise CEO Micky Arison Laughs All The Way To The Bank

Daily Finance published a debate today by the Motley Fool analysts about whether Carnival is a sound investment following the Costa Concordia disaster and the fire aboard the Costa Allegra cruise ship. 

The result?  Three thumbs down.

Here are the analysts' thoughts:

"I'll keep my flag planted on dry land."

"My primary beef with Mr. Arison was his delayed response (more than one week, according to The Wall Street Journal) to the Costa Concordia tragedy and his lack of response just six weeks later regarding the fire on the Costa Allegra. He seemed concerned more with the Miami Heat, which he owns, than Carnival Cruise Line - Motley Fool AnalystCarnival Cruise Lines, leaving shareholders as an afterthought."

"I see troubled seas ahead for Carnival."

The analysts didn't even mention other recent troubles facing Carnival: the desperate move to steal tips from waiters on Carnival's subsidiary cruise line P&O Cruises, or the widespread sexual abuse scandal on cruise ships managed by its subsidiary Cunard, or the alleged criminal conduct of the Captain of the Star Princess cruise ship operated by another one of its subsidiaries, Princess Cruises.

My take?  Most Carnival cruise passengers are indifferent to the exploitation of crewmembers,  They don't want to hear about the sexual molestation of children during cruises. And they are going to give the captain of the Love Boat the benefit of the doubt, especially over some Panamanians floating 100 miles from nowhere.

Carnival is largely disaster proof. CEO Arison has 100 cruise ships at sea, actually 99 ships cruising and one lying on its side off the coast of Giglio.  Last year, $15,000,000,000 (billion) rolled in. Carnival pays virtually no U.S. taxes. Short of al Qaeda seizing a cruise ship, forcing U.S. passengers into orange Guantanamo jump suits and cutting their heads off, an occasional capsizing, collision or fire will not spook the Carnival faithful.  

Carnival fans want cheap cruises on their fun ships, lots of food & booze, and an escape from reality. As long as Carnival can provide that, fat cat cruise CEO Arison will continue to laugh all the way to the bank.

Sewage Spews From Sinks & Erupts From Drains Aboard Bahamas Celebration Cruise Ship

The Palm Beach Post News / WPTV reports that ten passengers aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship  experienced a cruise they will never forget.

Raw sewage was coming out of sinks and overflowing from the shower drains. The mess leached out into the bathroom floors and into the hallway.  One young woman said: "It was brown and disgusting, and the smell was unmistakable."

Another passenger took photographs showing "brown sludge oozing out of each drain, including the sink and the shower."

E-coli with your water anyone?  

 

 

The last time the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship was in the news was when a woman from Canada disappeared while cruising with her boyfriend.   

Oy Vey! Royal Caribbean's Deep Throat Returns to the News

Yesterday the Third District Court of Appeal of Florida issued an opinion which revisited the infamous "deep throat" case involving a corrupt claim supervisor at Royal Caribbean and a crooked Miami maritime lawyer.

The case is entitled Wingate v. Celebrity Cruises, Ltd. and is available online here

You will recall that the case involved a local Miami lawyer, Jerrold Wingate, now disbarred, whose "investigator" was paying bribes to the former crew claims supervisor at Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises who the crooked law firm called "deep throat."  Mr. Wingate had a thriving business representing some 77 crew members against Royal and Celebrity.   For a $500 bribe, the cruise line supervisor would tell  the lawyer the amount of the settlement authority on a Royal Caribbean Cruises - Deep Throatcase and then the lawyer would not settle for a penny less.

Your can read my article: Royal Caribbean's Deep Throat

Everyone got caught.  A local judge ruled that the lawyer involved in the scheme would not receive any fees or costs spent on the cases.  But Wingate went behind the judge's back and entered into a secret agreement with new lawyers for the crewmembers to obtain fees and costs.  Wingate got caught again.  The judge found him in criminal contempt and reported him to the Florida Bar which eventually disbarred him. 

Wingate filed an appeal of the denial of his efforts to obtain fees and costs after the judge said "I am not going to give him a nickel."  He lost the appeal. 

Undaunted, Wingate filed yet another motion to try and obtain costs he advanced on some of the cases.

Yesterday, the appellate put its foot down and said enough is enough.  In denying the appeal, the appellate court held:

"Mr. Wingate was evidently unfazed by the order of criminal contempt, undaunted by the Chutzpahunsuccessful appeal of that order, and undeterred by the disciplinary proceedings and his ultimate disbarment. Four days after this Court issued the mandate in the first appeal, and in what appears to be a textbook example of legal chutzpah, Wingate filed a motion with the trial court for disbursement of costs .  .  . (emphasis added)

In a footnote, the court explained exactly what it meant by "chutzpah:"

"[T]his expressive Yiddish word appears in modern English dictionaries as meaning `colossal effrontery' or `brazen gall' but as stated in The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten, "The classic definition of `chutzpah' is that quality enshrined in a man, who having killed his mother and father, throws himself upon the mercy of the court because he is an orphan."

Dirty Dishes & Fruit Flies Flourish on Royal Caribbean's Oldest Cruise Ship

Cruise Ship - Centers for Disease Control - CDCIn a story widely reported in the national media, the Centers for Disease Control failed Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas after conducting a surprise vessel sanitation inspection last month. 

On November 18, 2011, CDC inspectors boarded the Monarch of the Seas, which is the cruise line's oldest vessel, and found numerous public health risks and violations if the CDC's sanitary standards.

The popular online cruise community, Cruise Critic, first reported on the nasty situation, followed by the USA Today cruise blog, CruiseLog.  

The CDC found a whopping 43 unsanitary conditions and "deficiencies" in the cruise ship's procedures which were in violation of the CDC's Vessel Safety Program (VSP) manual.  Included in the report were the following:

  • Dish-washing equipment in poor condition;
  • Improper cooling temperatures for stored provisions;
  • Improper cooking temperatures for cooked food;
  • Accumulations of food debris in wash and rinse areas;
  • "Clean" plates soiled with food residue;
  • Soiled plates stacked with clean plates;
  • Waiter stations, food preparation counters, slicers, and strainers soiled with dirt and food particles;
  • Live and dead fruit flies on food preperation surfaces throughout the galley; and 
  • Improper procedures for public toilets, shower-head disinfection, and disease outbreak and prevention.   

You can read the complete inspection report here

Cruise Ship Fruit FliesIt is rare for a cruise ship based in the U.S. to fail a CDC inspection.

For a cruise line which spent billions on its gigantic new Genesis class cruise ships the Oasis and the Allure of the Seas, it looks like its oldest cruise the Monarch is showing significant signs of neglect which risk sickening its passengers. 

Anyone who sailed recently on the Monarch care to leave a comment?  

Photo credit: amNY Photo Illustration

 

Will the Juggernauts of the Seas Ruin Venice?

The Telegraph in the U.K. has an interesting article this weekend - "Cruise Ships Could Be Shut Out of Venice Over Erosion Fears."

The article points out that environmentalists and heritage groups have long complained that mammoth cruise ships plow through the shallow Venetian lagoon and damage the fragile canal banks, wooden piles and mud banks on which the city rests.

The article shows a photograph of Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas looming over the beautiful canals and bridges of Venice.

Venice Italy - Cruise Ships

 

The mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, plans to meet the head of the city's port authority, Paolo Costa, this week to discuss the problem.  He is quoted stating that "the problem of these juggernauts of the sea needs to be confronted." 

There has been a significant increase in the number of cruise ships visiting Venice, from 200 in 2000 to 510 in 2007.   The newspaper reports that last year 1,600,000 tourists arrived in Venice by cruise ship

Mayor Orsoni suggested that cruise ships could be transferred to Porto Marghera, on the mainland, in order to minimize the environmental and aesthetic impact on Venice.

This is not the first time that a major newspaper has addressed this issue.  In May, the New York Times ran across an interesting article "Venice Tourist Ships Rattle Windows and Nerves" by Elisabetta Povoledo.

I visited Venice by backpack when I was in college and commented on my impression of the effects of the cruise industry on Venice over the past 35 year in my article Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth?  You can see a couple of photos I took when I was in college and stayed in Venice for a few days. 

The photo below is from the New York Times article.

Venice - Cruise Ships   

 

Photo credit:

Top:  Alamy via the  Telegraph

Bottom:  Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

Royal Caribbean to Sell Booze to Teenagers

An online news sources today published an article entitled "Drinks for Teens on Royal," which states that Royal Caribbean has lowered the drinking age for passengers onboard sailings operated outside of North America.

The article states that "while the minimum age of consumption for sailings in North America remains at 21, the limit for passengers onboard sailings originating in South America, Europe, Asia and Australia has been lowered from 21 to 18."

According to the article, Royal Caribbean said the move would “eliminate the competitive disadvantage” when young adults compare the line’s alcohol policy to other cruise lines and other Royal Caribbean Alcohol Policy - Teenagersinternational vacation venues.   This new policy eliminates the waiver policy, currently in place for passengers aged 18, 19 or 20 traveling with a parent or guardian.

Based on my experiences with this cruise line over the last decade, there is a direct correlation between alcohol consumption and physical altercations and sexual assault, as well as accidental passenger overboards due to intoxication.  Selling booze to 18 and 19 year olds on a cruise ship increases the chances that the booze will lead to a fight, or teenagers sharing alcohol with even younger teenagers including 14 - 15 year old girls, or predictably foolish behavior that may lead to a young man going over the rails.

You can read about a young man leaning over the rail to vomit and fall overboard here.   

You can read about the connection between alcohol and rape in an article I wrote earlier this year:  Latest Royal Caribbean Rape Allegation Reveals Problem of Underage Drinking on Cruises

This dangerous new policy is profit driven.  Last week, Business Week reported on this cruise line's third quarter results and alcohol was a major money-maker.  Royal Caribbean announced that "that in North America, it saw increased spending by passengers in its 'onboard and other' category, which includes alcohol purchased on the ship . . . "  

Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain touted the unlimited booze package as "hugely successful," stating "it's very dramatic how much people like buying the drinks package."  

The cruise CEO is right.  The amount of beer an 18 year old will try and drink is very dramatic.  Unfortunately, I don't hear this cruise line stating that it will pour its alcohol profits into greater security for its passengers.

In August, a non-profit cruise safety organization, the International Cruise Victims, issued a press statement criticizing this cruise line's new "unlimited drink package for one price" program. The ICV press release states:

"ICV strongly condemns Royal Caribbean for promoting the consumption of alcohol on their ships by offering unlimited drinks for one price. Compounding this issue and making the situation even more dangerous is the fact that there are no independent police on any of these ships."

I wonder if teenagers can also buy unlimited booze packages on Royal Caribbean? 

 

What do you think travel agents and cruise fans?  Do you want your 18 year old sons and daughters sailing with one of the few cruise lines where teenagers can drink, in an environment where other passengers have purchased unlimited drink packages?

November 11, 2011 Update:

USA Today's CruiseLog has a poll whether the drinking age on cruises should be reduced to 18.  You can read about the poll here.  

Photo credit:  cruisecritic.com

NCL Abandons Elderly Woman with Sick Husband in Columbia, Proclaims Its Their Fault

NCL Cruise Horror StoryA local news station in Tampa, WTSP 20 News, has a story about an elderly couple's cruise horror story. 

Betty and Ronald Coleman from Port Ritchie Florida were sailing on a Panama Canal cruise aboard the Norwegian Pearl when Mr. Coleman contracted what is described as norovirus.  NCL put the Colemans ashore in Cartegena Columbia without contacting the couple's son Mark, even though they listed him as the emergency contact on paperwork the cruise line required them to fill out. 

Ms. Coleman, who was obviously overwhelmed by trying to take care of her sick husband, complains: "My son is on the paper you sign, for next of kin to be called in case of an emergency. I would have thought they would have notified him if they are leaving me in a foreign country."  

The couple's son first learned of his parent's plight after receiving a frantic call from his mother.  She did not know where she was.  NCL subsequently told him that that she was still on the cruise ship.  Finally, Mark had to contact the State Department to find his parents.

NCL claims that it provided the couple with an opportunity to call home, but the Colemans allegedly "chose not to."   How and why this allegedly occurred is not explained.  But a cruise line should never disembark an elderly couple like this in a foreign country without first making sure that it contacted the emergency contact.  It's far fetched to believe that the couple instructed NCL not to call the emergency contact.  It's inexcusable for NCL not to have done so.  Ms. Coleman seemed stressed out and Mr. Coleman, described in the video as " . . . so sick that he could not sit up to even sign a paper," was obviously so ill NCL didn't want him on its cruise ship.  

NCL issued a completely unrepentant press release.  NCL side stepped the norovirus issue, denied responsibility for not telling the family of the emergency, and claimed that the Colemans were, in fact, "appreciative" of the cruise line agent's assistance ashore in Columbia.

  

 

The guest relations team on a cruise ship should always contact the emergency contact number whenever it forces a family off of a cruise ship in a medical emergency.

Blaming the sick elderly guest in a case like this reflects poorly on the cruise lines' manners.

For other similar stories, read:

And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . . (continued)

The Royal Attitude

Over the years I have learned that the single most critical factor that drives clients to our office is not when a cruise passenger has been injured or inconvenienced.  Stuff happens, and most people understand that.  But when a cruise line treats passengers poorly after injuring or inconveniencing them, that's when our law firm's telephone begins to ring.

Over 75% of the cases in our office are against Royal Caribbean.  If a crew member from India or Trinidad calls us and complains that he or she were injured on a cruise ship and then dumped back home with no or poor medical care, nine times out of ten its a Royal Caribbean employee. 

Why do so many RCCL passengers and crew members sue Royal Caribbean?

The answer is what I call the Royal attitude.

Last month, the Royal attitude was on public display following the stranding of 145 passengers in San Juan when hurricane Irene was approaching. 

Unlike Carnival which contacted or at least tried to contact guests ahead of time to tell them the port authorities were requiring cruise ships to leave the port early, Royal Caribbean didn't do anything.  Carnival paid for over 300 guest's hotels and offered to fly them to the next port to meet the cruise ship.  But Royal Caribbean did not bother to have a representative at the airport or port to explain what was happening.

Its dismissive press release then added salt into the wound.

Even cruise fans were outraged.   The popular on line cruise community Cruise Critic posted hundreds of unflattering comments about Royal Caribbean's attitude.  Its editor even wrote an scathing editorial "Bad Weather Blunder: A Lesson in Cruise Crisis Control?"

The other popular cruise community Cruisemates wrote a blog criticizing Royal Caribbean entitled "Carnival 1 - Royal Caribbean 0."

Cruise blogger John Honeywell a/k/a Captain Greybeard, who writes cruise friendly pieces for the U.K.'s Mirror, added an article "How Hurricanes and Art Led to a Series of Right Royal Blunders."  Captain GreyBeard not only joined in the criticism of Royal Caribbean for stranding it guests but mocked cruise line president Adam Goldstein's decision to avoid the issue in his Nation of Why Not blog and instead write about employees delivering the "Wow factor" by finding a guest's passport on an airplane and driving it over to the port.  He also blasted Royal Caribbean for Obfuscation the delay and lack of transparency in responding to an inquiry about problems with the art vendors on the cruise ships. 

Greybeard characterized the cruise line's non-response to his inquiries as a "masterpiece of obfuscation." 

I feel your pain too Captain Greybeard.  I wrote about Royal Caribbean's skill at obfuscation last year in a blog: Royal Caribbean Press Statements And Other Gobbledygook.

Even when the cruise line changed course in response to the universal criticism and decided to offer a future cruise credit (only 30%) to the abandoned guests, it was unable to issue a clear or genuine apology - calling the incident just an out of norm fluke.   The cruise line then arranged for president Goldstein to be interviewed in the Miami Herald about his passion for running and playing ping pong.  I'm not kidding.  145 passengers stranded in a foreign port with a hurricane approaching and the cruise president is now talking about ping pong.

You can dismiss my criticisms as coming from a lawyer who sues this cruise line every week.  But when cruise fans like Cruise Critic, Cruisemates and even the affable Captain Greybeard start talkin smack about your cruise brand, Royal Caribbean may want to consider changing its attitude toward its customers.  

And the Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . . (continued)

Last year I published a series of articles about how cruise lines mishandle customer complaints and ruin their reputations in the process.

Part I of "And the Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem" series focused on the ways that Carnival and Royal Caribbean managed to botch customer problems and tarnish their images.  

Part II took a look at Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), which usually avoids the pitfalls of its larger competitors.  But in this case, 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 Cruise Wedding Disasterwith 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.

Most of the time the right thing for your corporate image is exactly the right thing to do for your customer.  But some cruise lines can't seem to get it right, which brings us to part III of the series.

Last week the Connecticut Watchdog newspaper published an article "Stranded By Princess Cruise Line."  The story involves a newlywed couple from Connecticut, Diana Benne and Adam Gompper.  Both seems like hard working conscientious types.  Diana owns a popular hair salon and Adam is a police dispatcher. 

They purchased a Caribbean honeymoon cruise with Princess Cruises.  Things started out just fine with the couple enjoying the cruise and a stopover in San Juan (photo below).  But it seems like Princess Cruises didn't inform them of a last minute itinerary change resulting in the Caribbean Princess cruise ship leaving St. Thomas early.  Even though the cruise ship was still tied to the dock, the captain would not let the couple aboard and abandoned them in St. Thomas.  It must be a sick feeling to stand on the dock with only the clothes on your back and watch your cruise ship heading out to sea.  What a way to start your marriage. 

When the couple tried to discuss a resolution to the problem, Princess blew them off.

When I read about problems like this, I think of how easy a happy resolution would be.  Refund the couple their money or give them a free cruise.  In return, you will have dedicated fans of Princess Cruises for the rest of their lives.  The proverbial "win-win" situation.  But ignore or engage in a petty quarrel with a honeymoon couple you left in a port outside of the continental U.S.?  You have earned an enemy for life.

Princess Cruises left the couple in St. Thomas of all places.  St. Thomas has one of the highest murder rates in the world.  You can read about the sad story of a 14 year old girl who was killed last year during a cruise stop-over in St. Thomas here.  

Princess Cruise Honeymoon DisasterPrincess Cruises spends tens of millions of dollars a year marketing itself as the ultimate in romantic cruise getaways.  It is known for its wedding packages and the famous "wedding cams" which you can watch online.  It is, after all, best known for the "Love Boat" television series.  

But when things go wrong on the Love Boat, issues like this are not resolved by the smiling faces in the marketing department.  They are shuffled down to the customer relations and risk management departments whose job is to deny, delay and defend.

Last week, I emailed Princess and asked for its side of the story.  I hoped that I would hear good news, like it decided to reimburse the honeymoon couple their cruise fare.  Then I could write a story with a happy ending.  Instead, I have heard nothing, which seems to be the problem in the first place.

July 16, 2011 Update:

Princess Cruises is receiving alot of bad press about situations like this.  Read: "Eunice Gayle Needed a Blood Transfusion, So Why Wouldn't Princess Cruise Lines Let Her Off the Boat?

Here are a couple other articles about Princess Cruises' approach to dealing with customer complaints:

Is a Nuclear Radiation Leak a Valid Basis to Cancel a Cruise? Not According to Princess Cruises.

British Passenger Stuck In Mexican Hospital Following Heart Attack on Princess Cruise Ship

 

Photo credit: Courtesy of Diana Beene

Royal Caribbean Demonstrated "Gross Indifference" to Passengers' Lives

NBC Los Angeles reports today that Royal Caribbean Cruises demonstrated "a gross indifference to the life and health" of passengers by continuing to cruise with a ship that "that allowed poison gas exposure to its passengers," according to Miami Dade County Judge Marc Schumacher.

The ruling today involved a leak of hydrogen sulfide that killed three Royal Caribbean crew members and injured 19 others in September 2005.

Bjoern EidissenOver the 2005 Labor Day weekend, the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas cruise ship had just returned to San Pedro, California after a cruise to Mexico.

More than three thousand, four hundred people were on board the cruise ship.  

Crewmembers were attempting to replace a leaking section of pipe connected to the ship's food waste system.  The pipe burst and hydrogen sulfide gas escaped into the engine room.  The poisonous gas killed three crewmembers.  Nineteen other crewmembers were rushed to the hospital. 

Passengers on the cruise ships complained at the beginning of the cruise that they smelled the noxious gas the first night of the cruise, raising the issue whether the cruise should have been canceled.

Staff Captain Bjørn Eidissen was injured when he responded to the crisis. 

He alleges that Royal Caribbean provided inadequate and delayed medical treatment and then terminated his employment. 

According to the news report, when county health investigators measured the levels of hydrogen sulfide gas in the engine room five hours after the incident the levels were at 100 parts per million -well above OSHA’s limit of 20 ppm. 

Photos taken during a Coast Guard investigation of the incident document the "extensive corrosion" they say they found in engine room pipes where the leak originated.  The Coast Guard report concludes: "early signs… of hazardous H2S gas …were missed."

Staff Captain Eidissen reportedly observed the holes in the engine room pipes.  Despite patches that were applied over the holes, he felt the ship was unsafe and warned his superiors.  "It was totally crazy," Eidiseen said in an interview from his home in Norway. "We should never have sailed . . . the cruise line knew about it and they ignored the danger."

Judge Schumacher's order states: "Royal Caribbean’s actions demonstrated a gross indifference to the life and health of not only the plaintiff but other passengers onboard the Monarch of the Seas when it continued to cruise with measures that allowed poison gas exposure to its passengers."

In addition to compensatory damages, the Court held that Eidissen could seek punitive damages for the cruise lines' egregious conduct.

A copy of the order can be viewed here.  The order indicates that there was a prior gas leak on the Monarch in March 2005, which the cruise line was aware of yet it failed to take reasonable steps to fix the problem and protect the crew and passengers.

 

 

The case is handled by our friend, Miami lawyer Jack Hickey.  He issued a press release last year, stating in part that when the cruise ship was drifting, at anchor, or at dock, the noxious gas was sucked back into the vessel and into the passenger areas including cabins, through the air conditioning intakes. This reportedly allowed the methane and hydrogen sulfide gas to leak into habitable areas on the ship including the areas in which Mr. Eidissen worked. The Monarch of the Seas received numerous passenger complaints about a foul smelling gas, in addition to several complaints from a stevedore company, dockside businesses, and the workers who eventually fixed the pipe while the ship was in dry dock.

Although the cruise line initially denied liability, it subsequently filed a stipulation that it is legally responsible for releasing the gas.

Royal Caribbean is being defended by Curtis Mase

We have found over the last 10 years, Royal Caribbean has consistently exhibited the worst corporate malfeasance of any of the Miami based cruise lines.  Last year, we reported on an incident when 6 crew members were taken to the hospital in Baltimore for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a welding operation in the engine room as the Celebrity / Royal Caribbean cruise ship was returning to port.  Read: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Reported Aboard Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship

 

Photo credits:

Top:  Bjørn Eidissen (via facebook)

Bottom:  NBC Los Angeles

Did MSC Cruises Try To Cover Up Major Coast Guard Safety Violations On The Opera?

Last week I was away from my computer traveling in Jamaica to visit crewmembers while the story broke about the U.K.'s Maritime and Coastguard Agency detaining the MSC Cruises' Opera cruise ship for safety violations.   

The incident was the type of event which I would normally and quickly write about.  But by the time I returned to Miami the cruise ship had already been detained, released and back to sea.    

A story today in the USA Today entitled "UK Coast Guard: Issue with Detained MSC Cruises Ship was Major" renewed my interest in the story.  The article was written by Gene Sloan who hosts an  excellent and very popular cruise blog called "CruiseLog," which caters to the cruise community.   MSC Cruises Opera Cruise Ship - Detention - Major Safety ViolationsHe reported today on the fact that the detention of the MSC Opera was no small matter.  In fact, the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency informed USA Today that there were multiple issues that together "led to the conclusion of a major non-conformity."

In the UK, cruise ships may be detained under UK Merchant Shipping Act 1995 only when it “appears to a relevant inspector to be a dangerously unsafe ship."

USA Today reported that the MSC Opera arrived in Southampton "overladen" with concerns by safety inspectors about the cruise ship's stability and safety emergency preparedness which were in violation of the International Safety Maritime Code (an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships).

USA Today further reported that the Opera was detained after it arrived in Southampton on May 25th coming from a shipyard where it had undergone repairs after losing power in the Baltic Sea, which left it adrift for several days until it was towed back to port.  "Passengers described uncomfortable conditions during the incident that included blackouts, a lack of hot food and running water, and backed-up toilets."

What is remarkable about the USA Today article is that it reported that when news of the detention first broke last week, MSC Cruises falsely told news outlets (including USA Today) that it was just "a rumor."  Later in the day, after the ship had been cleared to sail, MSC "issued a short statement that appeared carefully crafted to leave the impression that there had been no issues with the vessel. The statement made no mention of the detention."

Of the over 500 blogs I have written about the cruise industry in the last year and a half, a major Richard Sasso - President MSc Cruises - Opera Cruise Ship - Cruise Line International Association  focus of my articles is not about the bad things that happen on cruise ships - but the extraordinary steps that the cruise industry takes to cover them up.

The fact that CruiseLog, a friend to the cruise industry by all accounts, would publish an article about this cruise ship's safety deficiencies as well as the cruise line's lack of candor is encouraging.  It reflects objectivity and a clear concern for the public's safety and welfare which are often lacking in most pro-cruise publications. 

It will only be when cruise fans and CLIA travel agents demand greater transparency and accountability from the cruise lines will there be improvements in the safe operation of cruise ships.    

It also cannot be overlooked that the CEO and president of MSC Cruises, Richard Sasso, has been the chairman of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Marketing Committee.  CLIA is the trade organization for the cruise industry which promotes the U.S. cruise lines and has the motto that it "promotes all measures that foster a safe and secure cruise environment."

Needless to say, it's disappointing that a cruise ship deemed by UK safety inspectors to be "dangerously unsafe," and whose leader is the head of marketing CLIA cruise ships, would exhibit such a lack of candor to international news outlets and to the American public. 

This type of conduct perpetuates the image of the cruise industry as slick and dishonest marketers.  
     

 

Additional info:  What is a Cruise Ship Detention? 

The MSC Opera is flagged in Panama which is suppose to make certain that the ships carrying its flag meet safety standards.  But like many "flag of convenience" countries, Panama does not have a reputation of vigorously overseeing the safe operation of cruise ships and other vessels flying the flag of Panama.   

Responsibility for overseeing the safety and security of cruise ships often falls, by default, to the "port states" where the cruise ship are based or countries where they call on port.  Caribbean countries are largely either incompetent or indifferent to safety issues or hesitant to incur the wrath of a major cruise line. 

But countries like the U.K. or the U.S., from time to time, will intervene.  Agencies in port states can intervene for safety or health reasons, like was threatened in this norovirus case aboard the Balmoral cruise ship once it reached the U.K. 

The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. public health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") can shut cruise ships down, like when the CDC issued a "no sail' order for the noro-virus plagued Celebrity Mercury cruise ship which infected passengers for four sailings until it was finally shut down for health reasons.

 

Photo credits: 

Top:  Solent Shipping News 

Bottom:  Travel Agent Central

Royal Caribbean: $6,800,000,000 in Tax-Free Income, But No Lunch Money for the Kindergarten Students in Haiti?

The New York times published an excellent article about a small school which Royal Caribbean built in Haiti.  Entitled "In Haiti, Class Comes With a Peek at Lush Life," the article was written by Sarah Maslin Nir and contains some interesting photographs by Piotr Redlinski.  

The little school is called "École Nouvelle Royal Caribbean," which translated literally is the "New Royal Caribbean School."  Naming a school for disadvanged kindergarten and grade school Haitian students after a Fortune 200 corporation seems to be somewhere between arrogant and clueless, but this is a cruise line struggling for self-promotion. 

Ecole Nouvelle Royal Caribbean - Cruise School LabadeeThe cruise line built the school last year, following the public ridicule and loathing it received after it continued to sail to Haiti after the earthquake in January of 2010 which killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians and left millions more homeless and in a state of shock.  The breadth and depth of the Haitian suffering appeared lost on the cruise line executives as Royal Caribbean cruise ship after cruise ship unloaded thousands of passengers in Labadee to graze at the oversized buffets and sip margaritas in lounge chairs on the cruise line's private beach while hungry Haitians on the other size of a ten foot barb wire fence begged for food. 

I commented on this gross spectacle in an article Royal Caribbean Sails  to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers.

When the school opened last October, I asked the rhetorical question whether it was a genuine commitment or a publicity stunt?   Royal Caribbean said it spent some $425,000 to build the school.  Not much, particularly considering that Royal Caribbean collected around $6,800,000,000 (billion) last year and pays no U.S. Federal income tax because it incorporated itself in Liberia and registered its cruise ships in places like Liberia and the Bahamas.

The NY Times article takes a critical look at school today, some six months after the school opened to great fanfare and cruise line CEO Richard Fain then flew back to his mansion in Miami.  Although the residents seemed to appreciate the school, many of those interviewed by Ms. Nir asked why hasn't the cruise line done more?

The article points out that the cruise line fails to provide any meals to the children, "leaving many children hungry .  .  .  the vast majority of the 200 or so students do not eat anything from early morning until they get home after school, teachers said.  Some students fall asleep at their desks from fatigue."

The Times also explains that many students commute for an hour and are often piled dangerously in the back of pickup trucks.   

Cruise CEO Fain defended the cruise line's modest project, telling the Times "we are a business. We're not a charitable organization."   

Richard Fain - Adam Goldstein - Cruise Executives There can be no debate about that, considering last year CEO Fain and cruise president Adam Goldstein (photo right) together pocketed over $12,500,000 in income.  

How can any executive justify not feeding kids lunch, particularly in a school which bears the corporation's own name, not to mention the destitute circumstances surrounding the cruise line's private beach? The cruise line didn't even bother to install a stove, cook top or refrigerator for juice for the children.  Inexcusable, considering the orgy of food at the buffets on the mega-ships which sail from Miami into Labadee.  And consider this cruise review a couple of years ago about Labadee:

One of the best Private Island experiences you could ever wish for!  Labadee has four beaches and facilities for lots of people!  Labadee is owned and operated by Royal Caribbean for the exclusive use of it's own passengers only . . .  Royal Caribbean maintains a nice lunch area on the island.  Here you can graze at your heart's content,  The cuisine was hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, various salads, and deserts.  No charge.  It's all included in the cost of your cruise!

If Royal Caribbean can charge passengers thousands of dollars to cruise on its ships like the Oasis of the Seas and around $100 to ride jet skis for just an hour, certainly it can figure out how to buy a few buses to safely transport the children to school and install a few grills to feed the kids some left over hotdogs from the other side of the barb wire fence? 

 

To learn about a responsible corporation's approach to education and improving communities, consider reading: What the Cruise Industry Has to Learn From My Cousins Back in Arkansas - my cousins' company pledged to pay $50,000,000 over the next 20 years in tuition to students graduating from high school in our home town in South Arkansas.

 

Royal Caribbean Cruises - Haiti - LabadeeMay 10th Update:

Luke Renner has a different view of this issue in Luke's blog "The Royal Treatment."  Check out his non-profit organization - Fireside International.

 

 

Image credits:

Top:  prodevhaiti.org

Middle:  Royal Caribbean International Flickr photostream

Bottom:  Luke Reamer

Royal Caribbean Executives Get Richer While Crew Members Get Poorer

In a proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Royal Caribbean Cruises disclosed that its 2010 compensation paid to CEO Richard Fain (photo left) increased almost 60% to $8,600,000.  Royal Caribbean increased the compensation paid to the company's four other named executives from 18.5% to almost 50%.  The largest compensation increase of the four executives  went to Adam Goldstein (photo right), the president of Royal Caribbean International, whose total compensation increased to over $4,000,000. 

These increases were primarily incentive based, meaning that the executives met or exceeded Royal Caribbean Executives - Richard Fain - Adam Goldsteincertain financial goals for the corporation.

One of the company's goal we have been concerned with has been to reduce payments to ill and injured crew members.  In 2008, Royal Caribbean had over over 1,200 open medical files for ill and injured crew members around the world.  Due to certain cost cutting measures, by 2010 Royal Caribbean slashed the number of open crew medical files to around 400. 

In the process, the cruise line culled over 800 ill crew members from its medical department's responsibility.  In many instances, there was no legal basis to terminate the medical care.  In cases where the medical care was not arbitrarily terminated, the cruise line reduced the daily stipend for sick crew employees from $25 to $12 a day.  Needless to say, it is impossible for anyone to live on $12 for food and lodging a day.

These harsh cost cutting measures "saved" Royal Caribbean millions.  Given the fact that cruise executives Fain and Goldstein collected over $12,500,000 together last year, it looks like the money formerly spent on crew member medical benefits ended up in the executives' pockets.   

 

Photo credit:  Royal Caribbean International Flickr photostream

Is a Nuclear Radiation Leak a Valid Basis to Cancel a Cruise? Not According to Princess Cruises.

news station in Bradenton Florida is reporting on an interesting story of a Princess Cruises customer, Mr. Welt, who booked a 12-day cruise called the "China and Japan Explorer."  The cruise ship was scheduled to sail from Shanghai with three stops in Japan.

But then the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.  Mr. Welt was initially undeterred, but he became greatly concerned as the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant leaked radiation and he read a warning by the State Department against travel to Japan.

Mr. Welt reportedly expressed his concerns to Princess, but was told that the cruise was proceeding as Princess Cruises - Japan - Chinascheduled.  A few days later, he canceled the cruise because he didn't want to risk exposure to radiation.  Two days later, Princess canceled all three stops in Japan, and added ports in China.

Mr. Welt thought that he could obtain a refund or get a voucher for another Princess cruise.  Instead, Princess charged him a $2,398 cancellation fee which was 100% price for the cruise. 

A company spokesperson, Karen Candy, claims that there are no records indicating that Mr. Welt ever called the cruise line.  Ms. Candy told the news station that Princess would have tried to re-book Mr. Welt but because he did not purchase trip insurance he was out of luck.

I looked at the terms and conditions of Princess' "Passage Contract," and it does not mention the issue of what happens when radiation poses a health risk in a particular port.  The contract states that the cruise line may "change, cancel or terminate" the cruise because of “trouble spots” in the world in terms of "war, terrorism, crime, Act of God, civil commotions, labor trouble, and/or other potential sources of harm. Local conditions and infrastructure may also create hazards to passengers while off the ship."  However, this pertains to the cruise lines' right to change or cancel the cruise - not the right of the passenger to do so. 

A passenger's best argument appears to be found the latter part of paragraph three (Notice Concerning Safety and Security).  The cruise line states:

"Carrier reminds all Passengers that they must ultimately assume responsibility for their actions while ashore. The United States Department of State and other similar government agencies regularly issue advisories and warnings to travelers giving details of local conditions in specified cities and countries according to such agency’s perception of risks to travelers. Carrier strongly recommends that Passengers and their travel agents obtain and consider such information when making travel decisions."

Of course, this is exactly what Mr. Welt did.  He assumed responsibility for his health posed by the damaged nuclear reactor and prudently considered the warning issued by the State Department in making his travel decision.  He did what the contract drafted by Princess' lawyers told him to do.  Yet, the cruise line penalized him with the entire cruise fare?  

Fukushima Nuclear Radiation - Cruise How would a judge or arbitrator rule?  Who knows.  I'm sure that Princess will be pleased to pay one of its defense firms $10,000 to $20,000 to argue that Mr. Welt should have purchased insurance (what we recommend for all passengers) and fight Mr. Welt tooth and nail to keep him from recovering his $2,398.

But what about the larger issue of customer service and the cruise line's reputation?

The article indicates that Princess has a "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau ("BBB").  Yes, its true.  The BBB indeed rated Princess a "F," finding that out of the 134 complaints lodged against the cruise line, on 80 occasions the cruise line refused to make any adjustments or simply never responded to the customer's complaint.    

Unlike the uncertainty of a legal decision any particular judge may make whether a customer can or cannot cancel a cruise because of a radiation leak, Princess Cruises' reputation is completely within the cruise line's control.  The airline and hotels were pleased to accommodate Mr. Welt, but not Princess.

We have seen Princess and other cruise lines take this penny-wise-and-pound-foolish approach before.  Yes, they can take a hard line approach and keep their customer's money most of the time.  But they risk trashing their reputations in an industry which suffers from a poor reputation in the first place.  Take a minute and read:  And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . . (involving Princess, Carnival and Royal Caribbean) as well as And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . . (continued) (NCL).

The bottom line here is that the customer did what his cruise contract required him to do.  He made his travel decision based on the State Department warning.  In return, Princess Cruises kept all of a customer's money who didn't go on a cruise scheduled to stop at a country with a nuclear reactor emitting dangerous levels of radiation. 

Princess should have at least donated the money to a relief organization in Japan.

I'd say Princess' BBB grade of "F" is well deserved.

Deaths, Drugs, Child Porn & Noro Virus Earn Royal Caribbean the Worst Cruise Line in the World Award (Again)

Its been a while since I awarded my monthly "Worst Cruise Line in  the World" award.

But for one cruise line - Royal Caribbean - this year has been a such nightmare that it wins the first worst cruise line award for 2011 hands down.  

Last week started off with the disappearance of a 32 year old musician employed by Royal Caribbean on its newest mega cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas.  Ms. Monika Markiewicz disembarked the Allure in Cozumel but did not return to the ship last Friday.  The Allure sailed Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Royal Caribbean Cruise without her back to South Florida.  On Saturday, her body was found floating face down in the water off of Cozumel with wounds to her head.  The police in Mexico arrested a 24 year old employee from a local bar in Cozumel, Nelson Perez Torres, (photo left), whose parents of course swear he is a fine young man and didn't do it.  

Ms. Markiewicz was not the only young woman who died in Cozumel from the Allure of the Seas.  A 24 year old passenger, later identified as Samantha Paige Thomas, died in a Mexican hospital after allegedly swallowing a broach.  It is less than clear how Ms. Thomas ended up in the Mexican hospital.  Some people have suggested that she was initially seen in the ship infirmary which either could not or refused to treat her, leaving her in the hands of the General Hospital in Mexico.

A Mexican prosecutor convened a number of press conferences about the two deaths.  He  released medical information about Ms. Thomas and gruesome postmortem photographs of both Ms. Markiewicz and Ms. Thomas.   The international press covered these stories closely, and the Mexican press published photos and videos which undoubtedly traumatized the grieving families.   The articles inevitably contained photos of the Allure of the Seas juxtaposed with images like this of the alleged murderer or victim. 

Some newspapers in Europe (like this and this) were linking to Cruise Law News.  Not exactly the type of marketing the cruise line executives like to see.  Royal Caribbean took the unusual step of issuing a statement via PR Newswire, gratuitously adding that that the alleged killer and Ms. Markiewicz were "casually acquainted for several months."  (What a nasty PR department this cruise line has).  Royal Caribbean also made a point of characterizing the crime as "isolated and Allure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Cruise Ship Crimeuncharacteristic" for Cozumel, attempting to salvage Mexico's already dubious reputation as a safe place for cruisers to visit, in the hopes of keeping its mega cruise ships sailing to Mexico racked and stacked with passengers. 

The Allure's sister ship, the Oasis of the Seas, had a serious accident when a valve on a cylinder failed during a fire drill.  The cylinder struck one crew member from the Philippines in the head, killing him, and breaking the leg of one of the officers.  Royal Caribbean did not release a PR statement because the incident received little attention.  But someone identifying himself as an officer and part of the fire team left a comment on our blog that the incident was a risk which is one of the "perils of the sea."  Getting hit in the head by a defective cylinder is a peril of the sea??

Adding to these three deaths was the disappearance and death of a young man from a Royal Caribbean's cruise ship.  Last Wednesday the Spanish TV station Univision aired an "exclusive" story about the disappearance of 21-year-old Jose Miguel Pietri Tello from Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas cruise ship.  The "Primer Impacto" program showed two videos which contained interviews with his surviving family members as well as closed circuit television (CCTV) images of the young man on the cruise ship right before he went overboard.  

We covered this sad story last month Another Passenger Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship, where you can watch the Primer Impacto video including clips from the onboard CCTV images. 

lawsuit was filed against Royal Caribbean over the death of a 56 year old passenger who was Drug Smuggling - Royal Caribbean Crew Member - Cocaine"tossed around like a ragdoll and was seriously hurt" during the violent storm which rocked the Brilliance of the Seas.  Three days later the passenger lapsed into a coma and subsequently died.  Doctors apparently diagnosed a "brain ­hemorrhage" as the cause of death.  But Royal Caribbean chose not only to refute the allegations but to release confidential medical information about its guest in an attempt to sully the waters.  Anyone at the cruise line hear of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which protects patient's medical records?   

If stories about five deaths in the last month was not enough, three Royal Caribbean crew members (cooks) who smuggled heroin and cocaine from the Dominican Republic aboard the Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas were arrested.  $100,000 worth of cocaine and heroin were later found in a crew only area on the same cruise ship which has been sailing from Baltimore to the Caribbean islands. 

Then several Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested smuggling a large quantity of cocaine into Bermuda aboard the Explorer of the Seas. The ring leader was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

But bringing drugs onto Royal Caribbean cruise ships is not limited to crew members.  A drug dealing passenger was arrested on the Allure of the Seas after it returned from the disastrous cruise to Cozumel and then departed on what is described as the "largest gay cruise in the world."  The Atlantis Events charters have brought lots of drug overdoses and two deaths to Royal Caribbean cruise ships in the past; however, the cruise line invited the gay rave Atlantis crowd back to yet another cruise, this time aboard the Allure of the Seas.  Before the cruise, we asked whether Royal Caribbean was prepared to deal with the drug overdoses associated with the Atlantis group.  Predictably, there were multiple overdoses and one of the passengers who was friendly with the Atlantis organizers was arrested for allegedly selling over $50,000 of ecstasy, "Special K" and methamphetamine.

Royal Caribbean's PR people issued a statement that it has a "strict zero tolerance" of drugs.  Yeah right.  Last year, we reported on a drug related death on a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis cruise Atlantis Events - Royal Caribbean - Drugs involving Spencer Yu, an attorney for Warner Brothers.  The truth is that the cruise line is all too happy to invite the Atlantis partiers aboard because they spend a ton of money on the cruise ships even if they are well known to suffer through a dozen drug overdoses and a death or so each cruise.

Zero tolerance of drugs?  Royal Caribbean has already made plans to charter the Allure to Atlantis in 2012.  

Isn't this enough to win the worst cruise line in the world award?  But there's more.

The FBI arrested a crew member aboard the Constellation operated by Royal Caribbean's sister company Celebrity Cruises on child-pornography charges after the cruise ship arrived at the Port of San Diego.  His computer reportedly contained 450 photographs and about 250 video files of child pornography portraying a total of 44 different victims.  He chatted on line about wanting to have sex with children in Mexico, which was on the cruise ship's itinerary.  The crew member was employed as the audiovisual manager on the cruise ship and provided onboard guest-entertainment services. 

And to cap things off, Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas was the first cruise ship to suffer a nasty noro virus outbreak this year.    

Most cruise lines have not this much bad press in a couple of years.  But for Royal Caribbean, it comes naturally.

 

Royal Caribbean has won the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award before:

"Titanic Dreams" - Royal Caribbean Wins "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award

 

More Cruise Line PR Games: Royal Caribbean Releases Private Medical Information About Dead Passenger

This weekend we reported on a lawsuit which had been filed against Royal Caribbean over the death of a 56 year old passenger, Barbara Davey (photo below left).  The deceased passenger's husband, John Davey, stated to the Scottish and U.K. media that "Barbara was tossed around like a ragdoll and was seriously hurt" during the violent storm which rocked the Brilliance of the Seas as the cruise ship approached Alexandria Egypt.  Three days later Ms. Davey lapsed into a coma and subsequently died.  Doctors apparently diagnosed a "brain ­hemorrhage" as the cause of death.

Barbara Davey - John Davey - Brilliance of the Seas - DeathThis morning USA Today's CruiseLog picked up on the story in an article "Passenger on Storm-Tossed Cruise Says Event Led to Wife's Death."

Royal Caribbean responded to the USA Today article with a rather remarkable spin:

"Royal Caribbean is disputing the notion that the stormy weather encountered by Brilliance of the Seas had a role in Davey's death, telling USA TODAY that her illness was the result of a pre-existing medical condition.  Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Michelle Nadeem says the ship's doctor was called to Davey's cabin on the second day the vessel was in Malta, three days after the ship hit rough seas, and the doctor quickly determined she had an acute medical emergency and called an ambulance.

'She was taken to the hospital where she remained in critical condition,' Nadeem says, adding that Davey never lost consciousness while on the ship. "The Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Medical Department has determined that Mrs. Davey's acute medical emergency was caused by a preexisting medical condition unrelated to the listing of the ship.' "

I have seen some pretty nasty cruise line PR statements over the years, but this one takes the cake. 

Medical information divulged by a patient to a doctor is strictly confidential in most civilized countries.  In the U.S., patients have privacy rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Michelle Nadeem Cruise Line PR - Royal CaribbeanAccountability Act ("HIPAA") which prohibits medical providers (including cruise doctors) from releasing any information about patients to anyone (including newspaper reporters to say the least!) unless there has been HIPAA-compliant medical releases executed.

But this is the anything-goes world of cruising where privacy rights be damned.  And this is Royal Caribbean which has the worst cruise reputation in the world.  Only the "Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Medical Department" could justify disclosing to the world that Ms. Davey not only had a "pre-existing" medical condition but definitively state that the alleged "pre-existing" condition killed her.

The USA Today article quotes Royal Caribbean spokesperson Michelle Nadeem (photo above right) as the source of the leaked medical information.  The cruise line's PR release when it hired Ms. Nadeem indicates that she is experienced in crisis management, reputation management, social responsibility, and healthcare issues.  She reports directly to the cruise line's CEO,  Richard Fain.   

Now that the death of Ms. Davey has reached the national media, Royal Caribbean wants to set the record straight  -  it's Ms. Davey's fault that she is dead, not the violent rocking of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship which threw her around her cabin like a rag doll.   And the cruise line was prepared to reveal the confidential medical history of a dead woman to prove its point. 

January 31, 2011 Update:  Ms. Nadeem again released Ms. Davey's medical history and information from her medical records to the popular on line cruise community, Cruise Critic.    

 

For additional information about Royal Caribbean's unique style of manging its reputation, consider reading: The Cruise Industry's Reputation - A Sinking Image

Photo credits:

Top      The Courier UK

Bottom        Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Royal Caribbean and Disney Try to Cover Up Near Collision Between Monarch of the Seas and Disney Dream

A video has been circulating on the internet which shows the new Disney Dream cruise ship coming perilously close to colliding with Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, just days before the Dream was christened in Port Canaveral. 

A passenger's YouTube video shows the Dream drifting very close to the Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  

The Orlando Sentinel reports that before the video was uploaded to YouTube, officials with Disney Cruise Lines, Port Canaveral and the U.S. Coast Guard said they were unaware of any such incident.   Disney's PR people are now claiming that the ship was never in danger of a collision. 

"The ship was under the control of our captain the entire time," spokeswoman Christi Donnan said. "There was never a safety concern."

Yeah, right.

The interesting thing is that a Royal Caribbean crewmember stopped the passengers from filming or taking photos of the incident.  You can see the Royal Caribbean employee blocking the passenger's video camera: 

 

 

The passenger left the following comment on his YouTube page:  

THIS WAS NOT REPORTED ON THE NEWS AND THE CREW TRIED TO KEEP PASSENGERS FROM FILMING!!  Standing on RCI Monarch of the Seas during the mandatory Muster drill when Disney Dream began to turn around.  Mickey got closer .... and Closer.... AND CLOSER!!!!!  The crew tried to keep us from video taping so this is in parts.  We were all certainly bracing for the BUMP!!!!  An officer ran by us, gesturing to the Dream and taking on a radio - Muster came to a STOP until the Disney Dream missed us.  The officer said it was less than one foot - JUST BARELY!!!!  This happened in Port Canaveral as the Monarch of the Seas was leaving.  The Harbor Master was aboard the Monarch and the Disney Dream did not have the authorization to move the ship.  The Disney Dream was set to have the christening on the 19th for the maiden voyage, but it almost didn't happen!!!

 

Video credit:  Floridagalrb's YouTube page

Soaked at Sea - Royal Caribbean Refuses Refund After Flooding Couple's Cabin

Consider this massive public relations failure by this cruise line: 

After this couple's cabin was flooded by a busted water pipe, Royal Caribbean Cruises refused to refund any portion of the cruise fare - instead offering only a 50% on a future cruise. This was the couple's first vacation after the husband served in the Iraqi War.  Royal Caribbean, which has the most obnoxious PR department in the world, issued the understatement of the year: "We . . . sincerely regret if we did not satisfy their expectations."  

We have heard gobbledygook like this from Royal Caribbean before.

The Army vet responded: "You guys promise a vacation of a lifetime . . . but you've given up on us and not tried to help us out."

WHDH Channel 7 in Boston reported that the couple described the flood as a "torrential downpour" from the ceiling. 

Do you ever wonder why cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have bad reputations?

 


 

Update: It turns out that this is on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas two weeks ago. Here is a video on Facebook from one of the passengers on the cruise ship. The couple was apparently upgraded to another cabin, but no refund.  Just the 50% off in the future.

 

If you like this article, consider reading other articles about the various ways that the cruise industry has ruined its reputation with its counter-productive crisis management philosophy:

Royal Caribbean Press Statements And Other Gobbledygook

And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . .

And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . . (continued)

The Cruise Industry's Reputation - A Sinking Image

 

(Video courtesy WHDH Channel 7 Boston)

What the Cruise Industry Has to Learn From My Cousins Back in Arkansas

This past month, I have spent a lot of time back home in Arkansas tending to some family matters.  Being in a down-to-earth location like El Dorado, Arkansas makes it exceedingly clear just how greedy the Miami-based cruise lines truly are.

My home town of El Dorado has a Fortune 200 company called Murphy Oil Corporation.  The oil company was founded by my uncle, Charles Murphy Jr., who took charge of the family timber, oil, and banking interests in south Arkansas in the early 1940's.  He single handedly created a Charles H. Murphy Jr. - El Dorado Arkansas - Murphy Oil  diversified, international exploration, drilling, refining and marketing energy company.  Rather than relocating his business to Houston, Dallas or New Orleans, he kept the company's headquarters in the little downtown of El Dorado (photo below), just a few blocks from the house where he was born.  

Uncle Charles was a firm believer in the power of education. 

When I was a kid, he handed me a copy of 101 Sonnets, a collection of sonnets from a hundred and one different poets.  I studied the poems religiously, mostly out of fear that he would ask me to recite his favorite sonnet in front of our family and cousins.  When he learned that I was taking French in junior high school, he would speak to me only in French and ask that I say grace before dinner, in French of course.

My uncle passed in 2002.  He left an incredible legacy.  And I am not talking about the billions in taxes his company and family paid to the U.S.  He made donations to colleges in Arkansas and Louisiana. He served  on the Arkansas Board of Higher Education.  He served as a director of the Smithsonian Institution and as a trustee of the Ochsner Medical Institution.  He created and funded the Murphy Institute at Tulane University in New Orleans which studies the interdisciplinary field involving economists, historians, moral philosophers, and political scientists. 

Murphy Oil carried on his tradition of education and giving in 2007 when it created The El Dorado Promise.  His company pledged to pay $50,000,000 over the next 20 years in tuition to students graduating from high school in our home town.   In just the second year of the program, 312 students are attending college on $2.1 million of Murphy Oil funds.  The remarkable generosity of the Murphy family has been covered in People Magazine, Time MagazineWashington Post and many other national newspapers and television stations, including the Today Show (video below).  

The cruise industry, on the other hand, is a different beast.  It has an uniquely selfish business model. 

Cruise lines incorporate their businesses and register their cruise ships in foreign countries like Panama (Carnival) and Liberia (Royal Caribbean) in order to avoid U.S. labor and safety laws and, Downtown El Dorado Arkansasmost importantly, U.S. taxes. 

Of the $35,000,000,000 (billion) the cruise industry collects from tax paying U.S. citizens a year, the cruise industry pays $0 in U.S. taxes.  That's right.  Zero.   

To divert attention from this spectacle, every so often one of the foreign flagged cruise lines will issue a media release about a token "charitable" cause, usually involving a modest sum.  Royal Caribbean recently did this, boasting about a school it helped fund in impoverished Haiti for the sum of some $425,000.  This is a pitiful figure given the fact that this cruise line alone collects over $6,000,000,000 (billion) a year in cruise fare, alcohol sales and shore excursions - and does not pay a penny in U.S. taxes.

I was very vocal in my criticism of this particular cruise line's highly publicized marketing stunt in Haiti, a country it has exploited for nearly three decades.  The spectacle of the Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain prancing around in front of cameras at the new school, which he named after his cruise line while requiring the Haitian school children to wear royal blue shirts emblazened with the Royal Caribbean logo, is nauseating - particularly considering that CEO Fain alone pocketed $6,000,000 selling some of his cruise line stock last month.  This is emblematic of the cruise industry, paying no U.S. taxes, investing nothing in the U.S., exploiting foreign workers, and conducting highly publicized yet unimpressive marketing stunts as its standard operating procedure.  

The cruise industry has a lot to learn.  Perhaps the cruise line executives in Miami can take a trip to El Dorado and learn a thing or two about real generosity and investment into people. 

I will be pleased to introduce them to my cousins in Arkansas.               

  

Royal Caribbean: In A Better Place?

CCN Travel has an interesting article this morning "Cruise Line Chief:  We're in a Better Place."  The cruise line's President Adam Goldstein talks about the "enormous excitement" generated by its two new mega cruise ships, the Oasis of the Seas which debuted last December and the Allure of the Seas which is now sailing from Europe to Fort Lauderdale and will arrive in South Florida later this week.

Royal Caribbean's Goldstein claims that the cruising experience on Oasis of the Seas has been so "universally positive" that he no longer hears criticism that the ship is "ugly," "obnoxious" and a "monstrosity."   But it is always interesting to contrast happy talk like this to the comments from Allure of the Seas - Adam Goldsteinreaders who complained about the mega ship as a "giant floating shopping mall with a captive audience," as well as "long lines, rude employees, and indifferent customer service." 

Although Royal Caribbean experienced a strong third quarter, its financial improvement came at a price to its own employees and crew members.  Over the past two years, the cruise line slashed employees from the company's payroll and terminated medical benefits for hundreds of injured and ill crew members. Royal Caribbean has also reduced the daily stipend for most ill and injured crew members from $25 a day to $12 - an amount that no one in the world can live on.  

In the process, the company's stock rose from a low of just under $6 a share to around $40. 

Not coincidentally, last week President Goldstein unloaded 30,899 shares of RCL stock for $1,200,000.  Not to be outdone, the cruise line's CEO, Richard Fain, pocketed $6,000,000 by selling 150,000 shares. 

Yes, Royal Caribbean's President Goldstein and CEO Fain are in a "better place." 

But their crew members certainly are not.  

 

Photo credit:   nationofwhynot? blog

No Cruises In Placencia: Royal Caribbean Refuses to Discuss its Environmental Record

Last month I ran across an interesting blog called No Cruises In Placencia which focuses  on the plight of the tranquil fishing village of Placencia, Belize which Royal Caribbean has targeted as a future site for a new port for its cruise ships.

Placencia is located in southern Belize, and is described as one of the most beautiful locations in Central America where it is known for its beaches and first rate diving and fishing.

No Cruises In PlacenciaBut a portion of the tranquil town may be transformed into a private "tourist village" if the Miami-based cruise line giant Royal Caribbean Cruises has its way.   The cruise line and a group of secret investors already purchased land in the little fishing town with big plans to build a port and a cruise tourist village.

Royal Caribbean has been working behind the scenes for a long time to establish a foot-hole in Placencia.  Most citizens of Placencia did not know that the cruise line had already bought land in the town and was moving forward with their plans to build a port to accommodate their cruise ships.

When word got out the majority of the residents in Placencia were upset that a behind the scene deal deal seemed to be struck.  The No Cruises website explains the issues in a rather straight forward manner - the downside of mass tourism via cruise ship are real and substantial - crime, social and cultural disruption, the loss of character of the town, and the loss of control of your John Tercek - Royal Caribbean Cruises Commercial Developmenthomeland to a multi-national corporation with a felony record of widespread pollution. 

The locals in Placencia raised their legitimate concerns of what a Royal Caribbean designed tourist village would do to their town and lifestyle. 

If history is any lesson, one has to look no further than Royal Caribbean's track record in places like Labadee, Haiti and Falmouth, Jamaica to see what's in store for the people of Placencia.      

The Belize Tourism Board ("BTB") scheduled a public forum where several hundred local citizens spoke out about the project, but they first had to endure a 45 minute lecture by a vice president of Royal Caribbean, John Tercek, who oversees the cruise line's commercial development plans.   

A local newspaper in Belize, the Reporter, wrote about the meeting in an appropriately entitled article "Placencia, A Done Deal?" by Niall Gillett. 

Mr. Gillett commented on some interesting developments at the meeting. Many people questioned the fact that the CEO of the BTB, Mike Singh, had previously worked at Century 21 which brokered the land deal with the cruise line, thus raising the uncomfortable issue of whether individuals on No Cruise In Placencia Belizethe local tourism board profited from the sale of the cruise ship village land. 

The newspaper also wrote that the crowd at the meeting asked Royal Caribbean representative Tercek about issues of pollution, a key concern given this cruise line's deplorable environmental crimes:

“Can you comment on your company’s environmental record?”  VP Tercek refused the microphone.  No comment."

Royal Caribbean is one of the least  transparent corporations in the world, and the worst environmental cruise polluter in the history of the cruise industry.  Its interests are its own corporate bottom line profits - not the welfare, environment or culture of a special place like Placencia.

My Opinion?   Something smells very fishy about these behind the scene deals which are now coming to light.  But the smell is not from the beautiful fishing village of Placencia   .  .  its coming from the corporate office of Royal Caribbean in Miami.

 

Join the Facebook Group:  Keep Cruise Ships Away from Placencia

 

 

Credits:

Top photo:   nocruises.org

Middle photo:  FCCA website

Bottom photo:  Keep Cruise Ships Away from Placencia facebook page  

Video: YouTube via LeslieTech  Placencia, Paradise At The Crossroads- Cruise Tourism Problems & Possibilities (via Marty)

Its Not Personal . . . Its Strictly Business.

The Daily Business Review published an interesting article today about a local cruise line's efforts to disqualify our firm and our co-counsel, Jonathan Aronson.  The article is entitled "Cruise Line Case Highlights Ethics of Switching Sides."

The dispute arises out of the fact that Aronson used to be one of the cruise line's defense lawyers, until it stopped sending him cases on a regular basis over the course of the last several years.  Curtis Mase - Its Not Personal - Its Business After Royal Caribbean assigned him only one case in 2009, Aronson informed the cruise line that he could not support his family and would no longer represent the cruise line.  Now a year later, Aronson has appeared as co-counsel with us in a number of cases against Royal Caribbean. The cruise line's response was to hire two law firms - Holland & Knight and Mase, Lara & Eversole, with instructions to disqualify Aronson and this firm at all costs. 

The Business Review's article contains some interesting quotes, one from Aronson and another from defense attorney Mase who is now tasked with taking Aronson down.

Aronson:  “I think they’re being vindictive.  They’re just going after me for blood. They’re trying to grind me down, no question .   .   .  I have a wife and two children in graduate school, and I have to make a living,”

Mase:  "This is not remotely personal.  We’ve all been friends for a long time, and we’ll still be friends when this is over."

The disconnect between these two thoughts reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from The Godfather.  The Corleone family lawyer, Tom Hagen, tries to calm Sonny down after Sollozzo tried to kill his father.  But Sonny would not listen to the lawyer's advice:

Sonny:  No, no, no, not this time, Consigliere.  No more meetin's, no more discussions, no more Sollozzo tricks. You give them a message.  I want Sollozzo.  If not, its all out war.  We go to the mattresses.

Jonathan Aronson - Its PersonalTom Hagen:  Some of the other families won't sit still for an all out war.

Sonny:  Then you tell them to hand over Sollozzo!

Tom Hagen:  Your father wouldn't want to hear this, Sonny.  This is business not personal.

Sonny:  They shoot my father and it's business, my ass!

Tom Hagen:  Even shooting your father was business not personal, Sonny!

Sonny:  Well then, business is going to have to suffer.  And please, do me a favor, Tom.  No more advice on how to patch things up.  Just help me win, please?

 

Mase and Aronson are probably both right. 

Its strictly business, and business as usual, for this $15 billion dollar corporation to try and knock out an attorney who switches sides.  But being abandoned by a former client who then tries to put you out of business when you are supporting your wife and two children is about as personal as it gets.    

   

 

 

If you liked this article, consider reading:

Royal Caribbean Forces Defense Lawyer to Switch Sides

Switching Sides And Finding Your Soul

Does Royal Caribbean Destroy Evidence of Passenger Accidents?

Yesterday, I boarded Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas cruise ship at the Port of Miami for what maritime lawyers call a "vessel inspection."  I boarded the cruise ship with my co-counsel on the case, Jonathan Aronson, and a top engineering expert.  

Our client, a passenger, had been seriously injured when she fell on a wet deck around the FlowRider water attraction on the cruise ship.  Shortly before we boarded the ship for the inspection, Royal Caribbean finally provided us, only after a Court order was entered, with one video clip taken from an aft / starboard CCTV - Cruise Ship - Surveillance Cameraclosed circuit television (CCTV) camera. But it didn't show what happened to our client.  The cruise line claimed that there were no videos of our client's "alleged" accident as they put it.  

When we boarded the cruise ship yesterday, we immediately realized that the camera of the video they provided us was not pointed at the accident scene and, in any event, the video was taken over three hours after our client's accident occurred.  We also realized that there were a dozen video cameras and CCTV cameras pointing to the FlowRider and the surrounding decks, including the area where our client's accident occurred.  None of these videos have been produced.  

Cruise lines control the scene of the accident and access to witnesses.  Passengers who are injured on cruise ships should not inspect cooperation from the cruise line.  Our client promptly reported her accident and was taken from the scene because she was seriously injured.  If the cruise line's security officers wanted to document what happened, they would have looked at the dozen cameras and quickly determined which cameras captured the accident and preserved the video. 

Instead, we now have a game of hide and seek.  Cruise lines have a reputation of keeping evidence only when it tends to help the ship's legal interests and destroying evidence which supports the passenger's claim.  

Passengers who are injured on cruise ships need to document the location of CCTV cameras (they are usually numbered) and request that the cruise ship retain the evidence.

Otherwise they may find that after they make a claim, there is no evidence left and the cruise line will deny that the accident even occcurred.

        

CCTV - Cruise Ship - Cameras - Surveillance - Destructionof Evidence?

Royal Caribbean's Deep Throat

In 2008, a scandal broke out in the Miami legal community.  Royal Caribbean Cruises discovered that one of its employees in its risk management department had been bribed by a local law firm  - the Wingate Law Firm - to divulge the settlement authority authorized by the cruise line' s underwriters to settle crew member cases.

The bribery allegations involved a long term member of the cruise line's risk management department employed as the supervisor of crew claims.  For just $500, the Royal Caribbean employee would tell the crew members' lawyers the amount of money that had been reserved with the insurance carrier to resolve the case.  According to an article in Law.com entitled "Royal Caribbean Sues for Attorney Fees," the claims supervisor admitted accepting the $500 payments from the law firm's paralegal and an "investigator" in exchange for the cruise line's confidential Deep Throat - Cruise Line Bribery settlement information on 20 crew members. 

She also received a $2,000 Christmas bonus from the law firm.  Merry Christmas!

"Deep Throat" 

In the lawsuit, which Royal Caribbean filed against the Wingate firm, the cruise line identified its employee as "Deep Throat" - a reference to the notorious pornographic movie from the early 1970's as well as the pseudonym given to the secret informant who provided information to the Washington Post about President Richard Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal.

But the lawsuit revealed more about the corrupt cruise line than the evil lawyers.  The "Deep Throat" claims supervisor was just another story in the the history of deep seeded corruption at Royal Caribbean.  This cruise line is a Liberian company which the U.S. Governmental fined $27,000,000 and placed on probation for lying and environmental crimes years and which earned it a top 25 corporate felon recognition for the 1990's.

In a nutshell, the "Deep Throat" lawsuit involved a Liberian corporate felon (Royal Caribbean) suing some corrupt lawyers who made a deal with a corrupt employee.  It is hard to feel sorry for anyone involved in this sordid affair, except for the injured, indigent crew members from countires like Jamaica, St. Vincent and Trinidad who had no clue what was happening. 

Miami's Daily Business Review ran a series of articles about the mess. 

At the end of the day, one of the lawyers at the law firm "retired" and moved to South Africa.  His associate and the "investigator" are still involved in bringing cases against Royal Caribbean, which does not seem to care a bit.  The 77 foreign crew members previously represented by the law firm were transferred lock, stock and barrel to another firm.  (Why does the 1857 Dred Scott decision come to mind?)  

No jail time for the corrupt cruise line employee or any of the dishonest lawyers. 

An obscene ending to a dirty affair.    

Royal Caribbean Forces Defense Lawyer to Switch Sides

Throughout the last decade, Royal Caribbean's reputation would embarrass most executives.  Compared to other cruise lines, the cruise line was served with the most lawsuits, paid the highest settlements, and incurred the highest defense attorney fees.    

In 2008, Royal Caribbean tried to reign in its out-of-control risk management department by what can only be described as cut throat measures.  It terminated its vice president of risk management, an associate general counsel, the manager of its passenger claims department and many other long term employees.  It hired two top lawyers away from its competitor, Carnival, and created a new team of five in-house lawyers to oversee the defense of passenger and crew Jonathan Aronson - Maritime Lawyermember cases.  

In the process, the cruise line lowered its settlement payments and defense expenses but it earned the reputation of being a cut throat organization.  Many of the defense lawyers who had been loyal and dedicated advocates for Royal Caribbean for the past decade found themselves abandoned by the cruise line.  

One of the best defense lawyers for Royal Caribbean, Jonathan Aronson (photo, right), decided to stop handling the defense of cruise line cases last year when his case load dropped from 65 cases a year to only one case in 2009.  In the last few months, Mr. Aronson appeared as co-counsel with our firm in a few cases against this cruise line. 

But Royal Caribbean didn't like the idea that one of its lawyers would "switch sides."  Particularly one of its most experienced and talented lawyers, and especially as co-counsel with our firm.  So it appears that the decision makers at Royal Caribbean decided to make an example out of Mr. Aronson and send a message to the maritime lawyers in Miami not to switch sides.  

President Goldstein elected to hire Holland & Knight, the largest law firm in the state of Florida with over 1,100 lawyers, as well as a second firm Mase, Lara & Eversole, to litigate against Mr. Aronson and our firm. 

Between these two firms, eight defense lawyers filed over twenty motions, memoranda, affidavits, declarations and depositions in a scorch-the-earth attempt to kick Aronson and our firm off of the cases.  The cruise line spent a small fortune with this army of lawyers. 

But the cruise line was destined to lose.    

You see, the law is not on the cruise line's side.  In Florida, disqualification is considered to be a "drastic remedy" and is granted only in very limited circumstances.  Courts are also skeptical of motions to disqualify attorneys because a party like Royal Caribbean can use a motion for tactical reasons to harass the other side.

In the last two weeks, the cruise line lost its first two disqualification motions. As we expected, the courts ruled that there was no basis to disqualify Mr. Aronson.  

The cruise line has now filed an appeal - an expensive, time consuming and ultimately losing proposition which the cruise line is committed to pay in order to try and make a point.   

But the point the cruise line is missing is that loyalty between an attorney and client runs both ways.  A large $15 billion corporation like Royal Caribbean has to learn that it cannot abandon talented lawyers without consequence.  And until it learns this, this cruise line will find more and more of its better lawyers switching to the right side. 

 

Photo credits:

Top -  Jonathan Aronson, outside the Miami-Dade County Courthouse - by Jim Walker.

The Cruise Industry's Reputation - A Sinking Image

Labadee - Haiti - Royal Caribbean - PR - public relationsThe cruise industry has an image problem.  Royal Caribbean is the main reason.

This year began with Royal Caribbean's business-as-usual approach to ferrying passengers back and forth to its "private destination" in Labadee (actually sovereign Haitian land leased from Baby Doc Duvalier).  While Haitians tried to dig out of the rubble and bury their dead following the devastating earthquake, Royal Caribbean passengers zip lined, jet skied, or sat drinking margaritas on the cruise line's private beach.

Royal Caribbean received widespread condemnation from advertising and PR experts nationwide. 

Newsweek magazine joined the ranks of those questioning Royal Caribbean's corporate morality in an article "Setting Sail on a Haitian Pleasure Cruise - the Moral and Economic Dilemmas of Royal Caribbean's Labadee Port."  On the same day, the widely respected non-profit organization, Center for Responsible Travel, issued a press release chastising Royal Caribbean for not doing enough. The non-profit group characterized the cruise line's move as "unsound" and a "colossal public relations faux pas."

This sentiment echoes the criticism by PR experts in Advertising Age's "Royal Caribbean Blasted for Continuing Stops in Haiti" where the consensus is that this was a "massive debacle" which may have long term damage to the Royal Caribbean "brand." 

The Feministing Blog admonished Royal Caribbean for taking advantage of the incredibly poor country of Haiti and urged its readers to consider going on a cruise line other than RoyalRoyal Caribbean - Labadee Debacle - Caribbean "or tell them that these practices are unacceptable."

Royal Caribbean's President Adam Goldstein told National Public Radio that the decision to continue to sail to Labadee was a "no-brainer," a flippant and indifferent remark reflecting, perhaps, the core values of the "Nation of Why Not?"  

But this nothing new for Royal Caribbean. It's just the latest debacle in a series of public relations blunders dating back over a decade.

In mid 1990's, the cruise industry's arrogance had reached a zenith.  The industry thought itself to be above the law.  Cruise ships routinely dumped everything overboard - from plastic garbage bags to crime scene evidence.  The cruise industry treated the sea like a garbage dump.  It treated crime victims like criminals.   

In the late 1990's, the U.S. Coast Guard caught Royal Caribbean engaged in the widespread Save the Waves - Bogus PR - Royal Caribbean Cruisesdumping of oil and chemicals.  The Justice Department responded by fining the cruise line $1,000,000.  In response, the cruise line went to its PR people who dreamed up a campaign of "Save the Waves."  The PR experts posed the cruise line as a leader in protecting the environment.  Royal Caribbean posted this mantra on signs all over its cruise ships.  All of the waiters, bar tenders, and cabin attendants had to wear "Save the Waves" badges touting the cruise line's commitment to protecting the seas on which it sailed. 

The problem, however, is that the cruise line didn't change its ways.  Royal Caribbean continued to illegally discharge oil, waste and fecal matter everywhere from the Caribbean to the pristine waters of Alaska.

The Feds caught Royal Caribbean dumping again.  And the U.S. government fined the cruise line again - this time $8,000,000 - and placed it on probation.  Did Royal Caribbean learn its lesson?  No, the illegal discharges increased.  While the crew members wore their "save the waves" buttons above deck while serving passengers cocktails, Royal Caribbean engineers below the decks fabricated secret by-pass values to dump everything from raw sewage to chemicals used in the photography labs directly into the ocean. Royal Caribbean cruise ship even dumped oil and sewage into the waters right outside of the executives' windows overlooking Biscayne Bay.

The U.S. Attorney General, Janet Reno, a Miami resident herself and an environmentalist as well, Royal Caribbean - Crime Scene? - Cover Up? - PRwas not amused. The discrepancy between how the cruise held itself out to the public as a green company versus its actual criminal conduct was not lost on the Attorney General.  By the time she was through, Royal Caribbean pled guilty to multiple felonies, received another whopping fine of $18,000,000, and agreed to a five year probation.

While Royal Caribbean was forced to clean up its act on the environmental front, it found itself embroiled in multiple lawsuits after women and children were sexually assaulted during cruises.  Its own guests accused it of hiding evidence and tampering with crimes scenes on the cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean went back to its PR consultants for a quick fix of the problem.  The result was a much publicized "zero tolerance" slogan where the cruise line promised to report all crimes to the FBI and to preserve evidence to be used against the perpetrators, who too often were crew members.  But like the "save the waves" marketing gimmick, the "zero tolerance" motto was just Cruise Industry Reputation - Mr. Clean - Sanitized Crime Scenes?another PR scheme.    

All too often, by the time the FBI arrived on the scene following a shipboard rape, all evidence was gone.  The cruise industry was often accused of sanitizing the cabins and steam cleaning the carpets. The destruction of evidence on cruise ships seemed so thorough that it appeared like a scene out of Pulp Fiction where hit men Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) call upon Mr. Wolf (Harvey Keitel) to oversee the meticulous clean up of their bloody car. 

In 2005, I was retained to represent the newlywed bride of George Smith IV, who disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas under mysterious circumstances.  At this time, Royal Caribbean was an admitted corporate felon which had just come of probation for its environmental crimes and lies to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

The cruise line quickly labeled Mr. Smith's death to be an "accident."  But there was blood all over the awning below his cabin.  And when photographs of what many thought was a crime scene began appearing on cable news every night, the American public had doubts about what Royal Royal Caribbean - PR - Public Relations - Cover Up?Caribbean was saying.  For the next year, the cruise line fought a highly public PR battle in the press, pandering to their base of travel agents and cruise fans while attacking the grieving families. 

In the process, the cruise line's history of shipboard crimes came into focus.  The U.S. Congress convened five hearings from 2005 through 2009 into the issue of whether cruise ships were safe.  The debate focused almost exclusively on Royal Caribbean's history of sexual assaults, shipboard crimes and unexplained disappearances of passengers.

While Royal Caribbean decided to fight a very public battle in the press, behind the scenes other cruise lines cringed as the cruise industry's image sank further and further.  When things could not get any worse, the President of Royal Caribbean's main competitor, Carnival, entered the public relations nightmare.  President Dickinson publicly proclaimed that the death of young George Smith was a "non-event."  Not only did Carnival's President decide to state this publicly, he chose to do so at the cruise industry's annual "Sea Trade" convention in Miami Beach in front of hundreds of reporters - while sitting next to Royal Caribbean's President Adam Goldstein. 

Rather than distancing himself from such disrespectful comments, Mr. Goldstein sat smiling and was later photographed openly chuckling with Mr. Dickinson in front of the cruise delegates.  Royal Caribbean - PR - RCCL's Adam Goldstein - Public Relations - Carnival's Dickinson About what?  Who knows.  But the damage was done. The cruise industry's indifference and arrogance came through loud and clear. 

Over the past five years, if something outrageous happened on a cruise ship, chances are the ship carried a Royal Caribbean flag.  Child molestation, sexual assault, norovirus, employee theft, passenger and crew member over-boards - you name it, Royal Caribbean has it covered.  As I pointed out in Royal Caribbean Press Statements And Other Gobbledygook, the mantra of other Miami cruise lines is "only at Royal Caribbean could this happen."

In the next couple of weeks, we will report on some of the recent PR blunders by the cruise industry.  And chances are they will involve our friends at Royal Caribbean. 

 

Credits:

Haiti - earthquake     AP (via Mail OnLine)

Royal Caribbean cruise ship        The Consumerist    Don't miss reading "Royal Caribbean Caught Infiltrating Review Sites With Viral Marketing Team."

Cabin        MSNBC

Awning     CBS News

Caribbean Cruise Line Lies and Steals?

A television station in Louisville, Kentucky reported on an interesting story today entitled "Woman Claims Cruise Company Promising Free Cruise Lied, Stole."

Amy Zetina, a hard working mother of three in Kentucky, responded to an ad which offered a "free cruise."

Ms. Zetina was taken for a ride, but it wasn't on a cruise ship. 

It turns out that "Caribbean Cruise Line" offers “free” Caribbean cruise package, with some ads featuring Carmen Electra promoting a "free" cruise.

Ms. Zetina received a packet in the mail telling her that she was the lucky winner of a "free" cruise, including a $1,300 voucher.  She agreed to pay only for port taxes and then gave her credit card number over the telephone.  The cruise company then began sucking money out of her account.

Ms. Zetina did not know that 458 customers had lodged complaints against Caribbean Cruise Line.  Nor did she know about it's "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau.  An investigation by the television station revealed that the company made unauthorized charges against customers' credit cards. 

After Ms. Zetina contacted the television station, she called the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General's office and the local police.  Only then did she get her money back.

You can find complaints about this company on the Complaints Board and Ripoff Report and throughout the internet. 

Moral of the story?  There are no free cruises in life.  And when someone rips you off, fight back.

Enjoy the official ad of Caribbean Cruise Line with Carmen Electra (in Spanish - Cruceros Gratis!

 

 

PS:  There have been criticism of marketing scams by "Caribbean Cruise Line" which is not a cruise line at all but a marketing company which also sells time shares in the Bahamas.  We last mentioned this company two weeks ago in a story about an affiliated company, Celebration Cruise Line -  Report of Rape on Bahamas Celebration Cruise Ship.    

April 26, 2012 Update: The fun & games continue.  A "free cruise?"  I don't think so.  Hanging Up On A Free Cruise: The Emotional Toll Of Doing The Right Thing

 

Photo Credit:  Celebration Cruise Line website

Avoid Depression and Heart Disease - Take A Royal Caribbean Cruise?

Two months ago I commented on the absurd press releases issued by Royal Caribbean Cruises in an article "Royal Caribbean Press Statements And Other Gobbledygook."

Heart Attack?  Take a Royal Caribbea Cruise! Well here we go again!

Yesterday Royal Caribbean released a PR statement entitled "Over-Worked Americans Give Up an Average of 459 Million Vacation Days Each Year."  Royal Caribbean points out that most Americans are "over-worked, over-tired and stressed-out."  I agree, this sound like my law office. 

In response, Royal Caribbean suggests that a cruise will solve everything.  The cruise line tries to relate to the average Joe by reminding him " . . . if the President of the United States, who just returned from a respite on Martha's Vineyard, can still find time, then shouldn't everyone?"

Yikes.  I can just see an employee, struggling to pay the house mortgage and car note, telling his boss - I'm  going spend a few thousands of dollars and chill out on a cruise with my family.  See ya later!     

The cruise line's marketing people even came up with a catchy phrase - "Cruise Them Or Lose Them."

The cruise line claims that vacations reduce the chances that a woman will suffer depression by 50% and reduce a man's risk of suffering a heart attack by 32%.  Maybe the marketing slogan should have been even more straight forward: "Cruise Or Lose Your Life!" 

Now, this strikes me as some pretty desperate marketing.  Take a cruise or you are going to have a stroke?  How exactly is a week long drinking binge and all-you-can-eat buffets on a cruise ship going to avoid a coronary? 

But this is the "Nation of Why Not?"  So ladies throw away your Paxil and gentlemen flush your Lipitor down the drain.  All you need is a Royal Caribbean cruise. 

You can have your heart attack when you get back to work.

Most Wanted Rape Suspect Arrested On Carnival Cruise Ship - Worked As Manager Of Onboard Hair Salon

A frequent topic on Cruise Law News is the danger of sexual assault on cruise ships.  One of the problems we write about frequently is that the cruise lines do not conduct adequate background checks on their employees.  The cruise lines deny this, of course, and claim that they subject their crew members to rigorous pre-employment screening.

Kaloyan Kaloyanov - Carnival Cruise Line - Sexual AssaultWell, Carnival has a lot of explaining to do considering an article published today in the Oakland Tribune entitled "Man Sought Longest on Fremont's "Most Wanted" List Finally Caught."

It turns out that a rape suspect on the "Most Wanted" list of the city of Fremont, California was arrested last week in Mexico aboard a Carnival cruise ship where he worked as the manager of the onboard hair salon. Kaloyan Kaloyanov (photo left), age 36, was a former star athlete from Bulgaria who was wanted by the police for raping a 15 year old child who he coached in gymnastics.  

The article indicates that the former international gymnastics star was placed on Fremont's Most Wanted list in 2002 after he abandoned his wife and daughter and fled the country after the girl informed police that Kaloyanov sexually assaulted her.

The article indicates that Kaloyanov competed in the 1997 and 1998 Aerobic Gymnastics World Championships, and he also participated in several events with his wife (photo below).

The article also indicates that the police interviewed Kaloyanov in 2002, and he admitted to "having sex" with the girl. It is less than clear why the police did not arrest him at that time. After the interview, Kaloyanov fled and has been on the run for eight years. 

The police finally caught up with him when they Googled his name and they found photographs of Kaloyan Kaloyanovhim in front of a cruise ship.  The police then determined that Kaloyanov had worked for Carnival Cruise Lines for four years, as a fitness instructor and the manager of a hair salon on a Carnival ship.

Congratulations to the police in Fremont for arresting the bad guy.

Its a shame that Carnival's "rigorous" pre-employment screening does not even include Googling the applicant's name.  The cruise line would have learned that Kaloyanov's photograph is posted on an on line "Most Wanted" criminal database.   

Carnival has issued a statement indicating that Kaloyanov, although a Carnival crew member, was actually hired by Steiner which operates the spa on the cruise ship.  Carnival also stated that Kaloyanov worked with other cruise lines before ending up on a Carnival cruise ship.

Kaloyanov was working on the Carnival Spendour which was sailing from Long Beach, Caifornia.

This means that the U.S. Customs and Immigration officials in California, who are suppose to check the crew and passenger roster everytime a ship enters a U.S. port, failed to realize that Kaloyanov was a criminal suspect - even though he was on a "Most Wanted" database of a city in California. 

August 20, 2010 Update:

According to the Oakland Tribune, Kaloyanov was scheduled to appear before an Alameda County judge today to possibly enter a plea and try to persuade a judge to reduce his bail from $500,000, the amount at which it was set earlier this week when he was formally arraigned on two counts of having sex with a minor.

 

Story credit:  Oakland Tribune / Ben Aguirre Jr.  twitter.com/benaguirrejr  

Photo one:  Fremont "Most Wanted" page

Photo two:  San Fransisco Chronicle / Kurt Rogers "Gym-dandies / Sportaerobics champions put Fremont on the map"

Royal Caribbean Cruises Treats Rockland Maine Like a $1 Store

Rockland Maine - Royal CaribbeanIn an article last month, we reported that Royal Caribbean is threatening Rockland Maine after the quaint town increased its port call fee to $6 per passenger.

Rockland is proposing a modest $2 port development fee and a dockage fee of $4 which reflect the actual costs to the city associated with accommodating large cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean wants the fee to stay at $1. The cruise line complains that increase was "excessive;" however, there is no port town or city anywhere in the world which has a fee of only $1. There are a few impoverished countries in the Caribbean and Central America, like Honduras, which collect a fee of only $4. But this is more of a reflection of the cruise line's historical exploitation of third world governments rather than a fair assessment of the actual impact of the cruise industry on the port's infrastructure.

Ports in the U.S. charge passenger fees ranging between $6 to $34.50 (Alaska).

Portland Maine, for example, charges $9 per passenger.

Royal Caribbean complains that it did not have adequate notice of the fee increase, but in truth it was notified earlier this year of the tax increase. It waited months before complaining and then sent an undated letter to the city manager of Rockland in June. 

Good relationships are based on mutual respect. What is good for you is good for me. But when strong arm tactics dominate the debate, the result is one sided and unfair. A $1 fee is unreasonable. It is unfair.  Royal Caribbean collects over $6 billion a year and pays no federal income tax by incorporating its business in Liberia and flagging its cruise ships in the Bahamas. Royal Caribbean - Jewel of the Seas - Rockland MaineThe threats by the cruise line reflect an insight into Royal Caribbean's view of  tiny Rockland.  It is a signal of threats to come in the future.

Why would Rockland want to spend the money from its tax paying citizens to subsidize a non-tax paying billion dollar foreign corporation? 

The cruise line has assembled a lobby group and has taken its scare tactics to Rockland's city council.  Royal Caribbean is threatening to pull its huge cruise ship, Jewel of the Seas, from a stop in Rockland unless the $5 increase is repealed. But there is nowhere in the U.S. with a lower head tax than Rockland even at the proposed $6.  Will Royal Caribbean really go to a port with a more expensive tax to prove a point to Rockland? 

I don't think so.  This is a cruise line which acts based on the bottom line dollar, not principles. 

There will be a vote today in Rockland at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The decision that the people of Rockland will make today will be a reflection of the town's self respect.  Will it stand up for a fair tax that reflects the reality of how a huge cruise ship like the Jewel of the Seas impacts its infrastructure?  Or will Rockland let the cruise line treat it like a $1 store? 

 

Rockland Maine - Royal Caribbean 

July 20, 2010 Update:

The Rockland City Council voted 3 -2 last night to provide a waiver to Royal Caribbean from the $6 fee.  The fee will be just $1 this October when the Jewel of the Seas arrives. "Rockland Reverses Cruise Ship Fee Increase

For a similar story, consider reading Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato.

Credits:

Rockland Maine harbor         Peter Greenberg The Historic Inns of Rockand Maine

Cruise Rape - Is Royal Caribbean Up To Its Old Tricks?

A beauty therapist employed by Royal Caribbean reports that she was raped by another crew member, according to the Times Live newspaper in South Africa.   

The crew member, who is known by her first name, "Taryn," states that she was forced to leave the cruise industry after her ordeal aboard a cruise ship owned by Royal Caribbean International.

Royal Caribbean Cruise - Rape - Cruise Ship - Sexual AssaultThe newspaper indicates that she was raped by a fellow South African, a fitness instructor, and sent home after reporting the incident. 

"I believe they sent me home to hide the case and protect their reputation - they didn't care about my wellbeing  .  .  .  the easy part was to get over the physical rape, the hard part was, and still is, trying to convince myself that I did the right thing by reporting the incident, despite being made to feel like I was in the wrong, despite still feeling like no justice was done and despite having no one but my family and friends to support me emotionally."

After she reported the matter, the cruise captain told her: "There are two stories, his and yours, but his sounds more believable, because you had been drinking."

She said she was advised to drop the matter or face an FBI investigation.  After she decided to drop the matter, "I was given two hours to pack my bags and say goodbye."

Her case is being handled by another maritime lawyer in Miami who states that  " . . . some crew members, especially the captains and other senior officials, have been blackmailing female cadets and crew members to have sex with them or face a miserable life at sea."

The report of the rape is made on the eve of President Obama signing the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act which will require cruise lines to finally report all crimes which occur on cruise ships in international waters.  

We have reported many times about the high rate of rapes on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.  In 2006, Royal Caribbean hired a former high ranking FBI official, Gary Bald, to head up what the Gary Bald - Royal Caribbean - Rape - Friend or Foe?cruise line now calls its "Global Security Department."  The question is whether Mr. Bald and his new team of ex-FBI agents are genuinely trying to protect the passengers and crew and help build a case against the rapists which have targeted Royal Caribbean passengers and crew members.  

Or is this business as usual, with the cruise line intimidating the victim and the cruise line taking the rapist's side of the story?

You will many similar stories like this coming from a cruise line like Royal Caribbean.

Stay tuned. 

 

Consider some of our other articles:

What To Do If You Are Sexually Harassed or Assaulted on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruise: No. 1 - Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

Strong Arm Tactics: Royal Caribbean Threatens Rockland Maine Over $6 Head Tax

Royal Caribbean is threatening the tiny town of Rockland, Maine after it decided to increase its cruise ship fee to $6 per passenger.  Royal Caribbean wants the fee to stay at $1.

The AP is reporting that Rockland (population 7,000) increased its head tax to help reasonsbly compensate the community for the substantial costs imposed on town's infrastructure by cruise ship visits.

Royal Caribbean Cruise - Tax - Rockland MaineRoyal Caribbean told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network that the fee increase "is excessive and ill timed given current economic conditions."

The giant cruise line is threatening that the higher fee will jeopardize a port of call by the Jewel of the Seas, which is scheduled to arrive in October. 

Other ports in Maine charge higher fees, such as Portland, Maine which charges $9 per passenger.  Alaska charges $34.50 per person, down from $50.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean pay zero federal taxes on the $6,000,000,000 (billion) in cruise fares from mostly U.S. tax-paying citizens - by flagging their cruise ships in foreign countries.  And there is no doubt that the cruise lines are making money hand over fist.  Forbes announced three cruise tycoons as some of the richest people in the world - "Cruise Line Fat Cat Billionaires."

So just $1 a person?  Or Royal Caribbean will pull its Jewel of the Seas out of Rockland?  

Rockland should call the city managers in Norwich, England whose facilities have been inundated with sick passengers returning from the norovirus contaminated Jewel of the Seas for the past month, and ask them about the real costs associated with entertaining such huge cruise ships. 

Scare tactics.  What a basis for a meaningful relationship.

Cruise Crooks Update: Royal Caribbean Drops the Ball with the Diaz and Lopez Families

Royal Caribbean Cruise Burglary - In Side Job  - Vacation Planner Bethsaida Sandoval The Diaz and Lopez families in Miami have found their lives upside down after they purchased a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas.

The story begins with Maidal Diaz calling the 1 - 800 number on the cruise line's web page.  She selects a cruise for her family and completes the on line booking information which requires her to disclose her family's address, telephone number and private financial information.

When the nine family members return from the three day cruise, they were shocked to find that their homes had been broken into and burglarized.  The crooks stole thousands of dollars of personal belongings, jewelry, electronics and sentimental items.  Even more importantly, the brazen burglary violated the families' sense of security and peace of mind.   Both families have small children.  Ms. Diaz's daughter was so traumatized that she could not sleep in the home and had to stay with her grandparents for a week.  She now sleeps with her parents.

The shock and fear turned to anger when the families learned that they were not victims of a random crime.  Instead, they had been targeted by career criminals based on information released to Royal Caribbean when they booked their cruises. 

As we discussed two weeks ago in Royal Caribbean Vacation Planner and Husband Arrested For Burglarizing 24 Homes While Residents Were On Cruises, a cruise line employee is behind the burglaries.  Bethsaida Sandoval, repeatedly entered the Royal Caribbean offices, logged onto the computers at odd hours of the night, and canvassed the database to find addresses in South Bethsaida Sandoval - Royal Caribbean - Burglary Florida of families who were going on cruises.  She then shared  the information with her husband, John Lopez, who broke into the homes with accomplices while the families were on Royal Caribbean cruises.

What is particularly disturbing to the Diaz and Lopez families is that these criminals staked out their homes.   When the Palm Beach Sheriffs' office finally arrested Sandoval and her husband, they found evidence that the crooks had observed the families' activities over the course of several days and taken notes about the family and even the children. 

Both families have taken steps to install extra security to try and regain a sense of privacy and protection.  But this has come at a financial and emotional price.  The family members remain shaken by the thought of being targeted by crooks who walked around their homes and picked and chose what to steal - just because the families bought a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Perhaps even more upsetting is that the cruise line never bothered to contact them.  Frustrated after two weeks of trying to determine the extent of their losses, the families contacted our office and explained what happened and the toil this has taken on them.

We quickly agreed to help them free of charge.

Cruise Burglary - Royal Caribbean - Bethsaida SandovalAfter we wrote to the cruise line security and legal departments, Royal Caribbean responded by claiming that it had no knowledge that the families had been on a Royal Caribbean cruise or that they had been burglarized. 

This is hard to believe.  If it's true, it reveals that the cruise line's security and legal departments remain sound asleep at the wheel.  

Both families were interviewed on television by local CBS-4 in Miami.  The video remains posted on the CBS-4 website.  The report from the Palm Beach Sheriff's office, which identifies their residences, is also posted on line. And Ms. Lopez even used to work for Royal Caribbean!

The cruise line also denied any legal responsibility - stating:

"Royal Caribbean denies the allegations in your letter concerning any alleged legal liability. The employee involved in this scheme was subjected to a criminal background check, and she received training on company policies related to confidentiality and ethical use of information she had access to as an employee."

A background check?  Newspapers report that Royal Caribbean employee Sandoval has a criminal record - including theft and forgery - and she was married to a career criminal.  So what type of background check did the cruise line conduct?

And how does an employer train a criminal like this?  Does Royal Caribbean have any safeguards in place to protect its customer’s personal information from criminals?

The cruise line won't say, but we will be following the story.  Have other cruise passengers burglarized while on Royal Caribbean cruises been treated like this?

Leave a comment below with you thoughts . . .               

 

 

Credits:

Video and photographs    MY 33 /  CBS-4 Miami

Royal Caribbean Vacation Planner and Husband Arrested For Burglarizing 24 Homes While Residents Were On Cruises

Bethsaida Sandoval - Royal Caribbean Cruise Robbery The Palm Beach Post reports today that the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office arrested a Royal Caribbean "vacation planer" who broke into cruise passenger's homes with her husband while the families were away on Royal Caribbean cruise vacations.

Bethsaida Sandoval, described by the newspaper as a 38-year-old vacation planner for Royal Caribbean cruise lines, used her work database to find her victims' addresses. 

Police arrested Sandoval and her husband, John Lopez, on charges of armed burglary and burglary after the police determined that they were involved in breaking into 24 houses throughout South Florida.

The Palm Beach Post reports that  Sandoval "gathered her  victims' addresses from other vacation planner's files. She looked in the Royal Caribbean computer system for potential victims by entering the ship's departure date, city name and phone number.  She took that information and shared it with her husband and accomplices."

According to CBS 4's article "Cruise Worker Sent Crooks to Cruiser's Homes," an arrest affidavit filed by investigators said Sandoval was seen on surveillance entering Royal Caribbean offices at about 1 a.m. several times in the past month, using her employee ID to get access to a computer where she would log in.

Bethsaida Sandoval - John Lopez - Royal Caribbean Robbery Royal Caribbean has won our "Worst Cruise Line In The World" award several times.  This one takes the cake.

Royal Caribbean PR department is trying to distance itself from this embarrassment by stating that the cruise line fired Sandoval. USA Today published the cruise line's PR statement, claiming that Ms. Sandoval was a "former employee." Some news stations like WSVN TV-7 are already referring to her as an "ex-employee" who committed the burglaries, which is not true.  

If Sandoval was an "ex-employee" this makes the situation worse. She had unfettered access to the complete passenger manifest at the cruise line's headquarters late at night.  She would have used her vendor badge to enter the parking lot and the cruise line's offices!  This situation demonstrates a very lax security situation at this cruise line.

As usual, Royal Caribbean did not respond to a request for a comment from Cruise Law News (CLN).  This is one of the most evasive cruise lines in the world. 

Congratulations to fine work by the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office. 

Watch the video below:

 

 

For additional information, consider reading: CNN's "Woman Accused Of Using Cruise Line Job For Burglaries."

Do you have information about this crime?  Leave a comment below.

June 25, 2010 Update:

Royal Caribbean denies liability. Read:  Cruise Crooks Update: Royal Caribbean Drops the Ball with the Diaz and Lopez Families

 

Credits:

Photographs    Palm Beach Post News

Video             WPTV Channel 5

And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . . (continued)

My article on Wednesday "And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . ." contained the "usual suspects" - Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Carnival subsidiary Princess Cruises - whose shenanigans have been featured in Cruise Law News over the past year.

But right after publishing the article, I read a story in the Miami Herald's "Action Line" - "Funeral Disrupts Cruise Plans" - which involved another Miami cruise line, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).

The story is straight forward.  A couple from Key Largo, Ms. Boland and Mr. Samuel, purchased a NCL - Norwegian Cruise LineNCL cruise on the Sky leaving from Miami with three other couples.  But Mr. Samuel's brother died, and his funeral was in Georgia on the day the ship sailed.  So the couple notified NCL, asking for a credit on a future cruise.  NCL said no. They then asked for their cruise to be donated to charity (Make-A-Wish).  NCL said no.

Then comes the sick part.  NCL then re-sold the cabin to another couple.  Yep.  NCL got a double profit due to the death of Mr. Samuel's brother.  Really sick.

NCL is active on Twitter @NCLFreestyle, so I tweeted a reference to the Miami Herald article. 

NCL - Andy Stuart - Norwegian Cruise Line No response. 

NCL's "Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Passenger Services," Andy Stuart, is also active on Twitter @nclandy .  So I tweeted him "Double cruise profit for death? Say it aint so Andy!" 

No response. 

NCL should have permitted a child with cancer and his or her parent go on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise.  Or make a small donation in memory of Mr. Samuel's brother.  But to double sell the cabin under these circumstances?

And cruise lines wonder why they have an image problem .  .  . 

 

Credits:

Photographs     Twitter

And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . .

A handful of recent stories have shed light unwanted light on the image-conscious cruise industry.  Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to paint pictures of care free vacations.  But here are some stories published in the last few days which make you realize that the fun-filled family cruise may a bit different than advertised.

Wedding Disaster on Carnival's Sensation - WKMG, a local television station from Orlando, Cruise PR - Cruise Public Relations reports on the disastrous wedding of a young couple on Carnival's Sensation cruise ship.  Initially delayed by a bomb scare, the wedding party was promised that the ceremony would go forward as planned.  But after arriving three hours late to the cruise ship, they find other passengers wandering into their pre-wedding buffet.  The ship's Captain then wanted them off the ship in thirty minutes.  So they quickly exchanged vows and headed to the reception buffet, which was interrupted by a muster station drill where other passengers arrived wearing life jackets and helped themselves to the buffet.  When the bride wanted to call Carnival's headquarters, the ship told her a per minute telephone charge would apply.  Watch the video, its a disaster.

The Death of Carnival Cruise Passenger Carol Olson - The Baltimore Sun covered the tragic death of a cruise passenger during a snorkeling excursion sold by Carnival which by all accounts was haphazard and disorganized.  Reporter Frank Roylance's wrote a blockbuster article entitled "Pleasure Cruises Bring Risks, Too - Families Say Tragedies Expose Cruise Lines' Limited Liability."  He touches upon an issue which the cruise lines like to keep secret - namely that cruise lines have insulated themselves from liability when the negligence of "independent contractors" like excursion companies and ship doctors ends up killing passengers. Roylance discusses cruise fires, drownings, disappearances, and crime.  

Date Rape Drugs on Princess Cruises -  The International Cruise Victims website just published a story "Cruise From Hell" where parents recount the terror of their daughter who goes to a teen center on Princess Cruises' Grand Princess only to end up missing.  According to the article, the daughter is eventually found semi-conscious by a stairwell.  The family reports that they endured the indignity of a security guard telling their daughter "where have you been, you little slut?"  Although the ship initially confirmed the involvement of a date rape drug, the cruise line later wrote the family a letter, saying that nothing happened.  Princess denied that any of the surveillance tapes showed anything - a tale we have heard before.

Royal Caribbean No Help To Passengers From the Tar Heel State - In a story we touched upon yesterday,  ABC affiliate WTVD News11 in North Carolina aired a story yesterday about a number of families who traveled to Miami only to find that Royal Caribbean's policies regarding the use of birth certificates as identification were inconsistent and confusing. The cruise line refused to permit passengers to board who had their original certificates from the hospitals where they were born, but let others aboard who had  facsimile copies from the clerk's office.  The $15,000,000,000 Cruise PR - Cruise Industry Reputationcorporation would not let any of the frantic passengers use their machines at the port.  Many frustrated customers spent $1,5000 each for a family vacation, only to be turned away from the ship.  Watch the video.

Carnival Terrorizes Passengers, Then Calls Their Stories "Ridiculous" -  Two weeks ago, the Carnival Ecstasy cruise ship was sailing across the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico when it suddenly and unexpectedly made a 90 degree turn which emptied the pool, ripped tables bolted to the deck loose, injured 60 passengers, and terrorized hundreds more.  Carnival claimed that the ship turned to port and listed around 12 degrees to avoid what Carnival called a "loose" buoy. 40 passengers left comments on our blog, stating that the ship actually turned to starboard, listed as much as 30 degrees, and may have been trying to avoid a fixed buoy marking small islands later documented on a maritime chart.  Carnival's PR spokesperson mocked the passengers, called their claims "ridiculous," and refused to apologize.       

The cruise industry's dubious reputation has never recovered after the Department of Justice caught Carnival and Royal Caribbean engaging in wide spread dumping, falsification of log books, and lying and fined them a total of $45,000,000 ten years ago.   

Stories like these suggest that cruise lines still have a hard time telling the truth or treating their customers fairly and squarely.  And the cruise industry wonders why it has an image problem . . .    

 

Like this article?  Then we suggest reading:

Cruise Lines and Social Media - P & O Cruises Hits A Home Run

Advertising Age - Royal Caribbean Blasted for Continuing Stops in Haiti - Despite Generous Efforts, PR Pros Say Cruise Line Has Damaged Reputation With Its Response

Or read a puff piece by a traveler writer regarding the cruise industry's reputation: Bad Rap: Why the News Media's Cruise Reporting Goes Negative

Have you subscribed to Cruise Law News (CLN)?  Just enter your email in the box at the left or sign up for a RSS feed. 

Have a suggestion for an article?  Let us hear from you in the contact box, above left. 

 

Credits:

Cruise ship and waiters               Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Injured Carnival Ecstasy passenger          Brandy and Ashley Vickery (via ABC13 "Sixty Passengers Hurt on Galveston-Based Cruise Ship")  

Royal Caribbean No Help For Passengers With Hospital Birth Certificates

Local ABC affiliate WTVD News11 Raleigh / Durham, North Carolina aired a story yesterday about a number of families who traveled to Miami only to find that they could not use their birth certificates to board the cruise ship.

It turns out that Royal Caribbean recognizes only certain types of birth certificates as proper identification. 

Some passengers arrived in Miami after driving all night were told they could not board the cruise ship. A few people, who scrambled at the last minute and found a helpful clerk at their country courthouse back home to fax them a copy of their birth certificate, were permitted to board.  It turns out that a facsimile copy of a certificate from a courthouse is okay, but an original certificate from a hospital is not okay.

Some passengers, who were denied boarding, received partial discounts for a future cruise.  Others received nothing.

There is no rhyme or reason to prohibit original hospital certificates but accept facsimile copies of clerk records. But Royal Caribbean explains that this policy is spelled out on page 4 of its 19 pages of terms and conditions. 

Royal Caribbean also refused to cooperate with some families, and would not let them use the company's fax machines.  Unlike Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines which are located near the airport, Royal Caribbean's corporate offices are located right in the port. 

Conduct like this by a corporation worth 15 billion dollars may seem perplexing to many people, particularly nice people from North Carolina who have driven a long way to make the cruise.

Lessons learned?  Don't expect a billion dollar corporation you just paid $1,500 for a vacation cruise to help you out. 

And don't forget to bring your passport.

 

 

 

Credits:             

Video:                  Local ABC affiliate WTVD News11 Raleigh / Durham, North Carolina

Cruise Passengers "Revolt" After Artemis Cruise Ship Misses Ports

The U.K.'s Mail Online reports that cruise passengers on the P&O Cruises cruise ship Artemis in the Mediterranean are "in revolt" after engine problems caused them to miss out on several ports (Valencia, Naples and Gibraltar) during the 20 day cruise. 

Artemis Cruise ShipThe newspaper writes that "angry holidaymakers have now set up a committee to represent the 1,200 passengers in urgent talks over the disruption of the holiday cruise."  In response, a P&O Cruises' customer service team has flown out from the company's headquarters in England to join the cruise ship in Istanbul.

This situation seems like déjà vu

In March 2009, angry passengers on P&O Cruises' Aurora cruise ship staged a "mutiny" when the ship visited just two ports in 22 days due to engine problems. Holidaymakers compared the round-the-world voyage to being in prison after engine problems forced the cruise ship to cut five ports.

The Mail Online reported that "more than 600 passengers on the 93-night cruise attended an emergency meeting and formed a protest committee."

Unlike more docile U.S. passengers, English vacationers in our experience are not going to let cruise lines get away with missed ports and lame excuses.

 

Credits:

P&O Cruises cruise ship Artemis       SOLENT (via Mail Online)

What's Up With The Water on Carnival's Liberty Cruise Ship?

Obtaining accurate information from the cruise industry is difficult.  Whenever passengers have a complaint, the cruise lines either ignore them or the cruise lines' customer relations departments send them a nonsensical letter several weeks later dismissing their complaints or offering a 25% on a future cruise.  This often infuriates the passengers who have no intention of ever sailing on a particular cruise line again and are seeking specific information to their legitimate inquiries. 

There are websites which provide an excellent source of information that the cruise lines don't want you to know.  One is CruiseJunkie, run by Professor Ross Klein in Canada.  Dr. Klein tracks safety issues, environmental concerns, and passenger and crew complaints. He has testified several times regarding cruise ship crime before our U.S. Congress.

Carnival Cruise Ship Liberty - WaterThis morning I read an interesting article on CruiseJunkie regarding a passenger's complaint that the water in the sink and toilet was brown and disgusting looking.  The passenger was a cancer survivor and was concerned whether the water may have been toxic.  Photos of the sink and toilet are courtesy of CruiseJunkie.  Take a look. 

Gross!

But the purpose of writing about this is not just to gross you out.  It is to demonstrate how cruise lines respond to concerns like this.

The shipboard officers and crew offered no assistance or explanation, and would not even send a few complimentary bottles of water to the cabin.  And when the passenger returned home and wrote to Carnival, the cruise line's "Guest Care" team sent what the passenger accurately characterized as a "nonsensical letter" stating "Designing memorable trips is the heart of our business . . . Great food and service . . . will create wonderful memories . . ."  The letter ended with no explanation regarding the source of the contaminated water but regretted that the passenger "felt let down."

The passenger contacted the Florida Division of Consumer Services, the US Public Health Service, and the Federal Maritime Commission - all of whom informed him that they have no regulatory authority over the cruise line industry.

This is what happens when the cruise industry is unregulated and is not obligated to report incidents to health or safety regulators.  Cruise lines like Carnival are not forthcoming with truthful information.  Whether it's the senior PR spokesperson or a low level clerk in the customer services' department, they will write a letter or issue a press statement treating the U.S. public like idiots.  

So the mystery of the disgusting water on Carnival's Liberty will remain, like many disturbing incidents on cruise ships, a mystery.    

Carnival Cruise Ship - Liberty - Water

Photographs courtesy CruiseJunkie.com

May 3, 2010 Update:

This is not the first time passengers have complained about the water on Carnival's Liberty cruise ship.  A reader brought the following YouTube video to our attention.  Take a look: 

 

 

 

Have you subscribed to Cruise Law News (CLN)?  Interested in receiving CLN afticles via email?  Then type your email address in at the box at the upper left.  Or sign up for a RSS feed.   Thanks! 

Swinger Sex Cruise Lawsuit

Just when you think you have seen everything, a story like this comes along.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a lawsuit against a brokerage firm, alleging that it stole $120 million from clients in a series of fraudulent schemes.  The money would be diverted into the pockets of some of the principals of the firm to buy luxury cars and golf and country club memberships.  But what makes the story unique from the usual Bernie Madoff rip-off is that the brokerage firm reportedly used the ill-gotten money to help operate a “sexually themed” cruise called YOLO Cruises ("You Only Live Once").   

The Times Union newspaper reports that the Albany, New York firm of McGinn, Smith & Company engaged in an elaborate scheme where investors were told only that they were investing into a business which chartered ships and then sold cabins to different organizations. 

The SEC lawsuit alleges that investors were not told that the business involved YOLO Cruises which sold sexually explicit cruises which involved "legally and morally questionable activities," including hiring "strippers and go-go dancers" to entertain passengers.

The lawsuit further alleges that one of the principals of the brokerage firm, Timothy McGinn, was "romantically involved" with an unnamed woman who ran YOLO Cruises. Last month, USA TODAY's Gene Sloan covered the story of YOLO "swinger cruises" in an article "Swingers Cruise Founder: It's Not All About Sex At Sea."

The YOLO website advertises a swingers' cruise aboard Carnival's Imagination on October 29, 2010, which includes a  "Carnal Cravings Halloween Ball" followed by a "Naked and Recuperating At Sea Day." 

Earlier this year, Carnival decided to abandon the popular "Cougar Cruises," which were quickly picked up by Royal Caribbean which dominates the "sexually charged" Atlantis gay parties and swinger cruises.  TheSwingerCruise.com lists two upcoming swinger cruises on Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas and another on its subsidiary Azamara's Journey cruise ship. 

Today, I'm sure that Carnival is trying to figure out how to distance itself from this mess.

 

If you liked this article, don't miss reading:  Marketing "Sex at Sea" on Cruise Ships

 

Credits:

Story             Times Union newspaper

Photograph            YOLO Cruises

Reason No. 3 Not To Cruise: Carnival, Royal Caribbean And NCL Are Corporate Felons

This is reason no. 3 in the series: Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise

In law school, I learned that evidence of a felony or a crime involving dishonesty can be introduced at trial to be considered by the jury to assess a person's credibility.  The same rule of evidence applies equally to corporations, like cruise lines.

Would you do business with someone who committed repeated crimes involving dishonesty?   If you have taken a cruise, chances are that you have already done business with a corporate felon.

In 1999, Royal Caribbean pled guilty in six jurisdictions to charges of wide-spread fleet-wide practices of routinely discharging oil-contaminated wastes and pollutants (including in Alaska's Inside Passage), and repeatedly making false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard.  The illegal discharges and falsification of log books took place on Royal Caribbean cruise ships entering ports in Miami, New York City, Los Angeles, Anchorage, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Save The Waves - Royal Caribbean - Corporate FelonThe U.S. leveled the felony charges not just because of the repeated and massive scale of the dumping of pollutants but because the cruise line continued to lie. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno stated at a press conference: 

.  .  . at the same time that their ships were sailing into the inland passage of Alaska, one of the most sensitive and beautiful eco-systems in our nation, their crew members were wearing buttons that said, 'Save the Waves.'  That's what they were wearing above deck.  Below deck, business as usual was going on and oily contaminated bilge water was being dumped overboard . . .

Attorney General Reno was rightfully pissed: " .  .  . if people flim-flam us, they should expect the consequences .  .  ."  When the sentencing was over, the U.S. Government fined Royal Caribbean a total of $27,000,000 and placed the cruise line on probation for five years.

When this occurred, the "inside word" in Miami was that all of the other cruise lines were dumping pollutants and lying about it, but only Royal Caribbean got caught.

In 2002, the U.S. Government caught up with Carnival as well.

By the time the investigation was over, Carnival pled guilty to numerous felonies for discharging oily waste into the sea.  Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival routinely falsified its oil record books in order to conceal its illegal practices.  The U.S. Government leveled a $18,000,000 fine and placed Carnival on probation.

A few months later, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) - feeling the heat - stepped forward and pled guilty to a felony of routinely circumventing the oily water separator, dumping oily bilge directly into Cruise Line Corporate Felons - Pollution - Lyingthe ocean on a regular basis, and falsifying its record keeping.  NCL admitted that it engaged in a practice of "systematically lying to the United States Coast Guard over a period of years." 

The Department of Justice issued a fine of only $1,500,000, primarily because NCL admitted its wrongdoing rather than lying and scheming like Royal Caribbean and Carnival.

Since these incidents, all of these cruise lines and their subsidiaries have been caught dumping illegal levels of pollutants in violation of state laws or memorandum of understandings with states like California.  Carnival's subsidiary Princess Cruises is the most prolific violator of Alaska's wastewater regulations over the course of the last year.

The U.S. public has a choice where to go on vacation.  For example, the United States has an incredible number of beautiful National Parks to visit.  The parks are staffed by environmentalists dedicated to protecting the park's animals, birds, waters and land.  Why not give a National Park a try this summer?

But cruising?  Do you really want to hand your hard earned income over to admitted corporate felons, which are registered in foreign countries in order to avoid U.S. taxes, and which are continuing to pollute our waters?      

 

Tomorrow: Reason No. 4 Not to Cruise: If You Are A Victim On A Cruise Ship, The Cruise Line Will Treat You Like A Criminal

Do you have a comment?  Let us hear from you in the comment section below.

Royal Caribbean's Tea Party Cruise To Labadee, "Hispaniola"

Barbados Free Press reports that in September, Royal Caribbean is hosting a "Tea Party At Sea" aboard the Liberty of the Seas.

In an article entitled "Anti-Obama Tea Party Cruise Conceals Haiti Destination As “Hispaniola,” the Barbados Free Press explains that Royal Caribbean is teaming up with the right-wing conservative website World Net Daily to sail a ship full of tea party fanatics around the Caribbean.  The "Tea Party At Sea" cruise will be full of anti-Obama speakers and their like minded "patriots." 

Tea Party At Sea - Tea Party Cruise - LabadeeKinda like the S.S. Fox News captained by Glenn Beck on steroids.  

As the Barbados Free Press points out, the promotional materials for the cruise omit the fact that the cruise ship will be sailing to, among other locations, HAITI.  The organizers have instead listed the Haitian port of Labadee as being in "Hispaniola" - which consists of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  For decades, Royal Caribbean marketed its "private resort" of Labadee as being in "Hispaniola" in order to keep the image of starving and impoverished Haitians away from the American public.

We have written many articles about Royal Caribbean's boondoggle in Labadee and its exploitation of the people of Haiti.

"Labadee®" is a name that Royal Caribbean trademarked  as a variation of the French slave owner Marquis de La'Badie who settled in Haiti in the 1600's.

What a spectacle this will be!  Tea Party cruisers criticizing our first black President as they sail aboard a foreign flagged cruise ship operated by a tax avoiding Liberian company into the cruise line's private resort named after a slave owner, while millions of impoverished, injured, and homeless Haitians suffer on the other side of Royal Caribbean's 12 foot high barbed wire security fence. 

Tea Party At Sea - Tea Party Cruise - Labadee

Credits:          World Net Daily (via Barbados Free Press)

 

Princess Cruises Hires European Students Over Alaskans?

KTUU News in Alaska reports on the practices of a cruise line hiring European students, over local citizens, to staff its excursion company in Alaska.

Princess Tours, a subsidiary of Princess Cruises, hires many students from places like Bulgaria because it pays the foreign workers virtually nothing.  According to cruise industry watchdog Chip Thoma of Responsible Cruising in Alaska, cruise lines like Princess pay the students "cheap" wages and hire overseas workers because they can be "disciplined."

"The cruise industry is coming here, trying to sell this cruise tax reduction and saying it's for more Alaska jobs," Thoma said. "When at the same time, they have thousands of these Bulgarian kids working at their resorts. I think it's very offensive -- it's been going on for decades."

Princess says that's untrue, and about 1/2 of its employee in Alaska are from that state. 

The article is talking about land based employees in Alaska. It does not address the fact that over 95 percent of crew members are from outside of the U.S.  The basic business model of all cruise lines is to incorporate in a foreign country and register the cruise ships in places like Panama, Liberia or Bermuda in order to avoid all U.S. taxes.  Cruise lines like Princess hire virtually all foreign crew members who will work for wages much lower than U.S. employees will accept.    

 

Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise

The popular on line cruise community CruiseCritic.com recently ran an article "Top 10 Reasons To Cruise."  By the time I read reason number 3 - "Cruise Ships are Family Friendly" - I was repulsed enough that I felt compelled to explain why the Cruise Critic article was dangerously inaccurate.

Cruise Critic published the photo (below) of the "family friendly' environment touted on cruise ships, with the photograph courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruises.  Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean has by Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruisefar the worst problem with sexual predators of any line we have ever seen. Children have been targeted by sexual predators in child centers and raped after leaving the centers and trying to get back to the cabins.    

No parent would ever send their kids to a teen center or leave them alone in a cabin if they knew what this cruise line knows - that sexual assaults occur frequently on cruise ships.    

So here's the other side of the story - 10 Reasons Not to Cruise:

No. 1: Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

No. 2: Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It!

No. 3: Carnival, Royal Caribbean And NCL Are Corporate Felons

No. 4: If You Are A Victim On A Cruise Ship, The Cruise Line Will Treat You Like A Criminal

No. 5: If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless

No. 6:  If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

No. 7:  Cruise Lines Exploit Foreign Crew Members, Like You'd Never Believe

No. 8:  Blackwater, Blackwater, Blackwater

No. 9:  Bunker Fuel - Nasty Tar Sludge!      

No. 10:  Cruise Lines Avoid All U.S. Taxes By Registering in Places Like Panama and Liberia.

If travel agents are going to hawk cruises by advertising all of 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. 

Make your own informed decision how to spend your vacation with your family.   

Tomorrow, we will discuss "Why Cruise Lines Are a Perfect Place to Sexually Abuse Children."

 

Credits:

Photograph          Royal Caribbean Cruises (via CruiseCritic.com)

100 MPH Wind / Listing Incident - What Happened to the Explorer of the Seas?

We have been contacted by a number of passengers from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas about a frightening experience when the cruise ship suddenly listed around four a.m. on February 28th.  All of those individuals who contacted us simply wanted an explanation regarding what happened, and they were frustrated regarding the lack of factual information from the cruise line.

What is curious about this incident is that the Explorer has sophisticated atmospheric and oceanographic equipment aboard the vessel monitored by the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Explorer of the Seas - ListingThe Explorer of the Seas left Port Liberty New Jersey on February 26th for the Caribbean.  What happened is less than clear given the conflicting accounts posted on line.  

Ross Klein's Cruise Junkie web site contains a description of the the incident from a passenger:

".  .  .  guest lodging on level 3 were under water, the Promenade was a titanic disaster, crew quickly left stations to report to lifeboat stations, tvs crashing, objects in cabins flying around."  

The on line Cruise Critic site also had a number of similar comments by concerned passengers.

Just returned from the 2/26 Explorer of the Seas.  NOT sure of how much danger we were in or how close we came to capsizing . . RCI is covering up and Stonewalling the release of any details. But we do know the Captain's 4am announcement that stated an unforeseen 100 mile per hour wind caused the pilot "to lose control" of the ship causing it to list, causing all the loose items in the cabin to go flying about the cabin, cause enough breakage in the liquor store to force it not to open did not instill any confidence in us.  Cruisers on the 6th deck reported their balconies almost touching the water.  We suspect the list was greater than the 10 degrees reported.  What was wrong with the meteorological and navigational equipment that the weather conditions were unknown?  We heard but could not confirm that two people were reportedly thrown from the hot tub resulting in a broken knee and a broken toe ..

Most accounts by passengers estimate the list between 10 and 15 degrees.

Perhaps the most straight forward comments about this most recent incident came from another Cruise Critic reader

"I was on the cruise on explorer 2/26 and the ship did list at 14 degrees not 10 and it took almost 4 minutes to get it back to normal. I was awake the whole time and left my cabin on deck 6 when all the books on my table fell to the ground and the mini bar door opened and slid half way out. I got up went to deck 11 and the were two people in the the hot tubs.
 
They did not get thrown out but all their clothes were blown over board by the powerful wind gusts that hit the back of the ship. The water in the tubs all emptied and some came in the ship by Portofinos an soaked the rugs there. I talked to an officer in the promenade just after the ship was righted and he was extremely concerned with what transpired. The auto pilot software should have compensated for the wind switch and the ballast tanks should also have been controlled by the auto pilot. which did not happen. They have a serious problem with the auto pilot software from where I stand. This all should have been compensated for in the software that controls the ships steering systems .  .  .  More serious than you think."
 
Explorer of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Wind - ListingAs is usual in the Cruise Critic community, anyone with negative comments about the experience was ridiculed by the other readers and accused of exaggerating the incident.
 
But the reality is that unless consumers step forward and provide information like this, the cruise line will be more than happy for such incidents to remain unreported.  The Explorer was involved in another severe listing incident back in 2005.  Like this incident, there was little factual information released by the cruise line.  The on line discussion at Cruise Critic  unraveled with the readers mocking one another. 
 

Royal Caribbean has suffered through the past many years with a reputation of being less than transparent with environmental infractions and crimes on its fleet of cruise ships.  In instances like this, the cruise line needs to issue a detailed statement of the facts of the incident so that U.S. passengers can understand what happened.  There are detailed reports of the wind and wave conditions, and the cruising public needs to know what happened and whether there is a glitch in the automatic piloting system on the cruise ship.  This will avoid all of the speculation and may assist Royal Caribbean finally taking some much needed steps to improve its corporate image. 

This cruise line's PR spokesperson is Cynthia Martinez.  Her LinkedIn profile lists her as the "Manager of Corporate Communications (Crisis) at Royal Caribbean."  Her duties include providing  "communications guidance and counsel during crisis situations involving issues such as: environmental, litigations, health & medical, weather, marine and hotel operations, onboard accidents and alleged crimes."

Why hasn't the public heard from Ms. Martinez regarding this incident? 

Ms. Martinez does not respond to inquiries for information from our firm.  Perhaps if a passenger makes an inquiry directly, some factual information will be forthcoming - although I would not hold my breath.

Her email is CynthiaMartinez@rccl.com

We will be looking into this matter further.  If you were a passenger on this cruise ship, we would like to hear your comments about the experience and how the incident was handled by the cruise line, good or bad.

March 15 Update:

One reader who was on the cruise made the folowing assessment: "The entire incident made me question who the cruise ship reports it to, if anyone. I didn't see a thing about it in the press. The whole system seems very lax and a disaster waiting to happen. I have a background in insurance and it seems that the cruise line takes risks everywhere."

 

Credits:

Explorer of the Seas                           Wickipedia

Wind Sea & Swell Charts                    Ocean Wave Systems

Princess Cruises Uses Surveillance Film to Kick Kids Off Cruise Ship for Throwing Food Overboard

While reading cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein's most excellent cruise site - Cruise Junkie - I found an excerpt of a letter written by a grandmother who was upset that her two grandchildren were booted from the Sapphire Princess cruise ship.  As it turns out, security personnel reviewing the Princess Cruises - Wedding Cam - Sapphire Princesssurveillance cameras spotted the kids throwing some food overboard

Dr. Klein found the conduct of the cruise line "outrageous" for no other reason than the cruise ship itself regularly discharges liquefied food waste as part of normal discharge operations. 

Indeed, as I have written about in prior blogs, this is more than a little bit ironic because  Princess Cruises has repeatedly violated waste water regulations:    

In September, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific  PrincessSapphire Princess and Sea Princess were cited for violating the Alaska waste water quality standards.  Again, in October, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific Princess, Sapphire Princess and Sea Princess - together with the Golden Princess - were cited for water discharge violations.  In November, the same culprits - the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Sea Princess, Golden Princess and Diamond Princess were busted for pollution.

Princess Cruises ruined a family's vacation for some kids throwing a couple of chicken wings overboard while the cruise lines routinely discharges copper, ammonia, zinc, bacteria and nasty fecal matter into Alaska's pristine waters?

Nuts!

While I agree that Princess Cruises' conduct is ridiculous, my perspective is a little bit different.

As we have written about in prior articles, a Princess Cruises' crewmember Angelo Faliva "disappeared" from one of the Princess cruise ships last November.  There are hundreds of surveillance cameras throughout the cruise ship.  Yet the cruise line claims that it has no idea what happened to this young man?

Princess Cruises - Bridge Cam - Caribbean Princess Nuts! 

Now let me ask you this:  How can the Princess security kick some teenagers off a cruise ship after seeing them throwing some food overboard based on their surveillance cameras - and then claim that its surveillance cameras could not detect a 6 foot tall man going overboard?

Like the Coral Princess where Mr. Faliva "disappeared," the Sapphire Princess has lots of surveillance cameras, as well as wedding cams and bridge cams which you can see detailed images 5,000 miles away from the comfort of your home.  But the Coral Princess doesn't have a single surveillance cam of an adult man going overboard? 

Nuts!  

Does this cruise line destroy surveillance films when its crewmembers go overboard but arbitrarily use surveillance films to kick children off of its cruise ships?   

You decide.  Read some of the articles about the plight of the Faliva family, and then consider how this family on the Sapphire Princess was abused by Princess' selective use of the cruise ship's surveillance cameras: 

For Christmas, my husband and I gave our two grown sons and their families a cruise to Mexico on the Sapphire Princess departing and returning to Los Angeles. We were spending Christmas on the ship. It would have been the first time I had managed to get both families together in 20 years for the holiday. On Dec. 23, at sea between Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, my two grandsons, age 13 ands 15, were in a cabin of another boy they had met on the ship and they had thrown some Princess Cruises - Wedding Cam - Emerald Princessarticles of food overboard including a fork. Apparently, they were spotted on camera by security.

The next day in Cabo San Lucas (Christmas Eve day), my son, his wife and the two boys were ordered off the ship by Captain Tony Herriott and had to pay their own way back to Los Angeles. Three other families whose sons were also involved were ordered off the ship. The Captain's actions devastated us all. Needless to say, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were very depressing days for the seven of us that remained on board.

There is now a new Christmas Grinch out there and he is the Captain of a Princess cruise ship!

 

Credits:    Wedding and Bridge Cams             Princess Cruises

 

Cruise to Labadee® - More Champagne Darling?

There are lots of interesting blogs out there, one of them being Kenneth Cole's Awareness Blog, which contains an article "Cruise Boat Docks in Haiti."  It has the following political cartoon by Mikhaela Reid at her Flickr page, which pretty much sums up my view of spending several thousands of dollars to sail on a monstrosity like the Oasis of the Seas into an impoverished place like Haiti.

Labadee - Haiti - Colonialism

I have written a number of articles about Royal Caribbean's Labadee® boondoggle. It nauseates me to read the cruise line's description of sovereign Haitian land at its website:

On the north coast of Hispaniola, surrounded by beautiful mountain slopes and exotic foliage, sits Labadee®, Royal Caribbean's private paradise. This exclusive destination offers pristine beaches, breathtaking scenery and spectacular water activities . . .

Royal Caribbean's relationship with Haiti seems predatory to me, although the cruise line's PR people are working overtime. The cruise line just announced a charity cruise with Reality TV star Amy Roloff - advertised as "little people . . . Big Ship!"  I am a big fan of Amy and her family, but this one of the weirdest things I have ever seen.  

If you buy a cruise on the Oasis of the Seas with a balcony, its $2,000 a person.  It's hard to imagine a couple handing over $4,000 to Royal Caribbean to sail to Haiti, just to spend hundreds more for a zip line and a wave runner to tool around in the cruise line's "private paradise."

That money could do so much good for the Haitians suffering on the other side of Labadee's barbed wire security fence.  

Labadee Security Fence

 

Credits:

Cartoon      Mikhaela Reid Flickr page 

Labadee security fence            Rudbeckia Flickr Photostream  "A Haitian view of Labadee"

Labadee - Royal Caribbean's Deal with the Devil

In 1986, Royal Caribbean shook hands with the tyrant Baby Doc Duvalier (middle photo) to seal a deal where it obtained exclusive control of 260 acres of sovereign waterfront land from Haiti.  Dead Albatross - Curse- Voodoo - Labadee - Royal CaribbeanRoyal Caribbean trademarked it's new "private island" - "Labadee®" - derived from the name of the 1600's French plantation baron and slave owner Marquis de La'Badie. It then erected a 12 foot high security fence around its "island" and hired armed security guards to keep the impoverished Haitians out.  

For the past twenty years Royal Caribbean exploited Haiti. Labadee became a private resort where its mostly U.S. cruise passengers pay hundreds of dollars each to buy alcohol, pay for a private cabana, rent jet skis, para-sail or, more recently, zip line.  All of this money leaves Haiti and goes straight to the cruise line's coffers in Miami. 

Royal Caribbean does not pay Haiti anything.  Instead, the deal it struck with the despot Baby Doc requires only that the U.S. tax-paying passengers pay $6 each to have the privilege to lounge around Royal Caribbean's "private destination."  Royal Caribbean has perfected its business of avoiding paying its fair share. The cruise line incorporated itself in Africa and registered its cruise ships in Africa and the Bahamas in order to avoid U.S. taxes, safety regulations, labor and wage laws.   

Royal Caribbean claims that Haiti benefits from this arrangement. Yes, there are minimally paid Haitians working as cocktail waiters and cooks who are appreciative of having a job.  But many critics point out that most of the Royal Caribbean employees in Labadee come from countries other than Haiti.  In an article entitled "Haiti, Cruise Ships, and Colonialism in the 21st Century," the popular blog Feministing reveals that the Royal Caribbean employees in Labadee are not Haitians but come from: 

". . .  Indonesia, the Philippines, Romania, Turkey, etc. There was one, maybe two RC employees on Labadee from Haiti."

This criticism is not new.

On "Fantasy Island:  Royal Carribean Parcels Off a Piece of Haiti, Catherine Orenstein described Royal Caribbean temporarily suspending its cruises to Labadee when Haitians protested the few number of Haitians employed there. Cruises resumed only when Royal Caribbean agreed to increase the number of Haitian employees and to let a local band perform at their site.

Criticism of Royal Caribbean continues. Yesterday was a particularly brutal day for the cruise line Baby Doc Dulavier - Dictator - Haiti PR people.  Newsweek magazine joined the ranks of those questioning Royal Caribbean's corporate morality in an article "Setting Sail on a Haitian Pleasure Cruise - the Moral and Economic Dilemmas of Royal Caribbean's Labadee Port."

On the same day, the widely respected non-profit organization, Center for Responsible Travel, issued a press release chastising Royal Caribbean for not doing enough. The non-profit group characterized the cruise line's move as "unsound" and a "colossal public relations faux pas."

This sentiment echoes the criticism by PR experts in Advertising Age's "Royal Caribbean Blasted for Continuing Stops in Haiti" where the consensus is that this was a "massive debacle" which may have long term damage to the Royal Caribbean "brand." 

The Feministing blog admonished Royal Caribbean for taking advantage of the incredibly poor country of Haiti and urged its readers to consider going on a cruise line other than Royal Caribbean "or tell them that these practices are unacceptable."

And hip Daily Kos bloggers pointed out the dis-connect between Royal Caribbean supplying extra lounge chairs to a hospital when surgeons desperately needed hack saws and medicine.  Meanwhile cruise tourists continue to enjoy Royal Caribbean's zip line, (YouTube video below), one of the cruise line's much touted "investments" in Haiti.

Deal with the Devil - Royal Caribbean -Baby Doc Dulavalier - Labadee - HaitiSeveral weeks ago, TV evangelist Pat Robertson claimed that the Haitians are cursed because they "made a deal with the devil" to free themselves from slavery 200 years ago. Although preacher Robertson was openly ridiculed for such a preposterous notion, I for one believe in curses. Not that Haiti is cursed at all, mind you, (and no doubt that Reverend Robertson is becoming increasingly delusional).  But, yes there are curses. Whether you call them bad karma, voodoo, superstition, what goes-around-come-around, don't tempt fate, don't tug on Superman's cape, an eye-for-an-eye, or there-goes-I-but-for-the-grace-of-God.

Twenty three years ago, Royal Caribbean shook the bloody hand of dictator Baby Doc Duvalier. A deal with the devil, no doubt.  Since then, Royal Caribbean sucked hundreds of millions of dollars out of Haiti while the destitute country languished. But what goes around comes around. Royal Caribbean released its 2009 fourth quarter results yesterday, earning only 3.4 million dollars on gross revenues of 1.4 billion dollars.  If it had to pay U.S. taxes, it would file for bankruptcy.

This cruise line's economic future is questionable. Many tourists will shy away from the zip lines in Labadee while Haitians languish on the other side of the security fence.  Royal Caribbean's plans to unload over 6,000 passengers from its ostentatious Oasis of the Seas and, later, the extravagant Allure of the Seas seem increasingly fanciful and frivolous at this time of death and destruction.  

Perhaps Pat Robertson was half-right.  It's Royal Caribbean - not Haiti - which is cursed for making a deal with the devil . . .  

 

 

 

 

Read our other articles on Ladabee:

Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

An Open Letter to Royal Caribbean Passengers Cruising to Labadee, Haiti

Royal Caribbean Tries to Muzzle Press as Controversy Over Labadee Continues.

 

 

Credits:

Rime of the Ancient Mariner Artwork      Iron Maiden Wallpaper

Baby Doc Duvalier photograph               Guardian U.K.

Deal with the Devil                                  Side Line Forum

YouTube zipline video                             FlaggerBoy

Microsoft Offered A "Sex and Drugs" Cruise to Distributors?

An Israeli business newspaper Globes Online reports on an unusual defense asserted by a Microsoft distributor in litigation pending against it by Microsoft in a business lawsuit pending in Israel. 

Microsoft - 1978 - Party Animals?Microsoft sued one of its distributors, EIM Computerized Technologies Ltd. (EIM), in Tel Aviv after its business relationship with EIM soured.  Microsoft claimed that EIM's refusal to participate in certain unnamed "activities" during a cruise resulted in "displeasure by Microsoft."

EIM recently clarified matters by alleging that its relationship with Microsoft broke down because EIM's employees refused to participate in "sex and drug orgies" on a cruise organized by Microsoft for its Israeli and Turkish distributors.  

And I always underestimated these nerds!

The online IT magazine Channel and Register also covered the story, characterizing the offer of "women for sex on a cruise ship" as an extreme "sales incentive."

We previously wrote about the combination of selling sex and cruises in a prior article "Marketing "Sex at Sea" on Cruise Ships."

The question everyone is wondering: which cruise line was involved?  If you know, please let us know!

 

Credits:

Microsoft photograph   laughingsquid.com

 

Royal Caribbean Tries to Muzzle Press as Controversy Over Labadee Continues

Royal Caribbean's crisis management team remains in over-drive as the international press continues to focus on the incongruity of tens of thousands of affluent U.S. citizens sailing to Royal Caribbean's "private destination" in Labadee, as Haiti remains in turmoil.

Labadee - Haiti - Royal Caribbean - Zip Line Over the weekend even the Arab news station Al Jazerra sent a film crew to Labadee to document the story (video below).  Al Jazerra reported that Royal Caribbean forbid the reporters from interviewing any passengers at what is often erroneously referred to as the cruise line's "private island."  The video shows a Royal Caribbean security boat trying to waive the reporters away from the resort.  

Other news sources report that the cruise line tried to restrict reporters from interviewing the passengers at the beach resort.  In an article entitled "People Still Vacationing in Haiti Despite Devastation Miles Away," Fox News indicates that "Royal Caribbean allowed a team of journalists from the Associated Press to visit Labadee on Friday, but the cruise company's spokeswoman . . . would not allow them to interview or photograph cruise passengers."

It looks like Royal Caribbean's attempt to control the media did not work.  There are hundreds of stories, photographs and videos popping up on the internet regarding Labadee. 

On one side of the debate are those outraged that vacationers are drinking beer and jet-skiing with over Haitians 100,000 dead and devastated survivors are desperate for food and medicine. An editorial in the U.K.'s Mirror characterized the spectacle of Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Labadee - Haiti - Royal CaribbeanSeas docking at the "heavily guarded Labadee resort to allow its residents to jet-ski, parasail or have rum punches brought to their hammocks," as "rampant self-interest and insensitivity."

The other side of the debate, most often voiced by travel agents and the cruise industry itself, is that the cruise ships are bringing some supplies as well much needed income to the Haitians who work at Labadee.  This sentiment is reflected in the ABC News article "Haiti Cruise Stops: Without This, We Don't Eat."  The article mentions that about 200 Haitians work at Ladabee and are wholly dependent on the cruise passengers. 

But even the ABC article states that Royal Caribbean would not allow reporters to interview or photograph cruise passengers.

Notwithstanding the cruise line's attempt at censorship, the images and video from Labadee continue to appear - showing what ABC News describes as the uneasy image of "vacationers stretched out on beach chairs in the sun, sipp[ing] cold beer and pina coladas with pineapple slices on the rim . . . "

 

 

 

 

Credits: 

Photographs   Lynne Sladky/AP (via Huffington Post  "Reading the Pictures: Haiti Cruises - The Fun is Just Beginning")

Video        Al Jazerra 

Marketing "Sex at Sea" on Cruise Ships

Marketing sex on cruise ships has been around ever since the Love Boat television program which I watched in the 1970's. OK I admit it.  I had a crush on Julie McCoy - "Your Cruise Director" - as she introduced herself.  Her line in every show "Hi!  I'm your cruise director" - was too much for most young boys to handle.   

Selling the Sea - Carnival - Sex on Cruise ShipsThe show revolved around Princess Cruises' Pacific Princess cruise ship, whose passengers and crew had romantic interludes every week.  The show starred the ship's captain (Captain Stubing) who encouraged his passengers and crew members to hook up and, well, it was the 1970's and people didn't talk in public about such things - do whatever people do behind closed doors. 

But somewhere over the course of the last 30 years, marketing sex on cruises changed from the innocence of the Love Boat  to something a little less conventional - swinger parties, cougar parties, and who knows what.  

Selling sex became a fundamental part of the business of selling cruise tickets.  Former Carnival President Bob Dickinson wrote a book called "Selling the Sea." I bought a hard back copy on eBay for $2.75. Consider his view of the role of the Captain of the cruise ship, always on the prowl:

" .  .  .  we have observed that some captains, because of their social and sexual prowess, have contributed meaningfully to the revenue occupancy of the vessel.  Clearly, there are passengers who are drawn to the Captain's insignia and crisp white uniform.  Imagine being entertained in the Captain's quarters (often a two or three room spacious suite with leather sofas, a library, and a  stereo) with a polite wait staff pouring Dom Perignon and serving Beluga caviar!"

Cosmopolitan magazine and Royal Caribbean conducted a survey which was published in an article entitled "Sex at Sea."   58% of passengers were unable to wait more than 10 hours after embarkation "before dropping anchor in the sea of love."  With their traveling companions?  Or crew members?   

P & O Cruises - Sex - Marketing - Dianne BrimbleSeveral years ago P & O Cruises ran a sexually charged campaign showing bikini clad women oiled up and lying oh-so-promiscuously on their backs with the caption "Seamen Wanted." 

Now, I work in an office with only women, who find this type of advertising totally offensive. 

The cruise line is advertising sex to sell tickets, pure and simple.  The P & O Cruises marketing was particularly offensive, considering that  just a year earlier P & O passenger Dianne Brimble died after being given Ecstasy by a pack of men.  After it was over, she ended up naked, and dead, on the floor of the cruise ship.  

This is the problem with the come-aboard-and-have-sex approach to marketing.  Date rape drugs have entered the equation (I don't remember GHB or roofies on the Love Boat).  Crew members try and get involved. They have key cards and can get into the cabins at will.  After all, the Captain is doing it.  And when a rape occurs, cruise lines are notorious for covering up the crimes and destroying evidence.

Just today the popular blog CruiseLog on USA TODAY blasted the headline: Royal Caribbean Says Yes to Sexually-Charged Cougar Cruise.  The article began with the question: Is Royal Caribbean the new bad boy of the cruise industry?

The article commented on Carnival having second thoughts about associating itself with hosting "cougar cruises."  So Royal Caribbean decided to fill the marketing void by announcing that it will happily host what is being called the "Second International Cougar Cruise" to take place in May on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas.  Royal Caribbean's PR team even issued a press statement to USA Today to promote the sex charged cruise. 

Marketing a cougar sex cruise?  You bet, Royal Caribbean - Sex on Cruise Ships - Adam Goldsteinthis is right up RoyalCaribbean's alley.  

A couple of years ago, I remember seeing a publicity photo of Royal Caribbean advertising its new mattresses on its cruise ships.  There before my eyes was Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein.  He was wearing a Hugh Hefner robe, holding a martini in his hand, lying in bed in front of two sexy, skimpily clad women wearing the Royal Caribbean logo on their bikini tops.  Take a look to the left.  What do you see? 

Booze ... beds ... women ... sex  ...  welcome aboard!   

We have come a long way from Julie McCoy, the innocent cruise director of the Love Boat.  

Carnival's President marketed his product by touting how many women the Captain can conquer in his bachelor pad suite on the cruise ship.  And Royal Caribbean's President might as well as be in the Playboy Mansion surrounded by bunnies selling tickets.  

Royal Caribbean - Rolls Royce Settlement - For $65 Million I'll Say I Love You

Rolls Royce - Pod Propulsion - Royal CaribbeanToday the Internet is a buzz regarding Royal Caribbean's much touted $65 million dollar settlement with Rolls Royce - the manufacturer of the "Mermaid pod-propulsion system" on Celebrity Cruises' Millennium-class ships.  The pods were installed on four Celebrity ships - Millennium, Summit, Infinity and Constellation.

Royal Caribbean sent out a new release today on PR NewsWire regarding the settlement on the eve of a trial scheduled in Miami. 

Royal Caribbean's lawsuit against Rolls Royce started in 2003. 

The allegations were ugly.

Royal Caribbean asserted that Rolls Royce engaged in fraud, misrepresentations, negligence, and unfair trade practices. Royal Caribbean’s lawsuit sought $300 million, but then inflated the damages to beyond $700 million.

Then Carnival got into the fun.  In 2008, it filed a 45-page lawsuit against Rolls-Royce and other defendants, leveling 11 charges including fraudulent misrepresentation, deceptive and unfair trade practices, breach of warranty, false advertising and negligence.

Rolls Royce counterclaimed, alleging that there was a conspiracy to interfere with its business.  

But today, Royal Caribbean announced a "suitable and amicable resolution." 

Celebrity Cruises' CEO Daniel Hanrahan says: "we look forward to continuing our alliance with Royal Caribbean Settlement - Cruise Money - Rolls-Royce for many years to come . . . Rolls-Royce has one of the best reputations for reliability, and guests and travel agents should feel confident in Rolls-Royce's assurances of the reliability of the Mermaid pods."

Rolls-Royce's President of Marine Business John Paterson says: "we are not only satisfied to have reached a solution with Celebrity Cruises, but that we have been able to improve and enhance the Mermaid pod's reliability  . . .  we look forward to the opportunity to continue contributing to Celebrity's high operating standards now, and in the future."

A love fest.

Its amazing what $65 million can buy . . .

 

Credits:

Pod propulsion diagram                Rolls Royce

Cruise Inc.                                         CNBC

Cruise Ships, Papy Plouf & Other Absurdities

Absurd World of Cruise Line - Papy PloufI come from a family of prolific readers.  My Dad has read every Louis L'Amour book ever written.  My Mom started my brother, sister and me out on the Hobbitt when we were little kids.  She bought me J.R.R. Tolkin's Lord of the Rings Trilogy when I was 9 years old (its still sitting in my home office, mostly unread). 

My Mom, no doubt, has read more books than anyone alive.  She stills perfectly quotes Shakespeare lines she learned in college in the early 1950's (not bad for a girl born in Calion - population 600 - Arkansas). 

But me?  I loved comic books.  Still do.

One of my favorite comic books is Papy Plouf (a/k/a Grampa Splash).  I have read it cover-to cover, over-and-over.

This is an absurd comic book, en francais, written and drawn by Martin Veyron.

What's it about you ask?

Older passengers on a cruise ship begin dying mysteriously.  The ship doctor has to try and determine why this is happening - while keeping the cruise line's executives happy by secreting disposing of the mounting dead bodies.

But before he can do so, a mutiny breaks out on the cruise ship.  The staff captain tries to depose the Captain.  Pirates try to board the cruise ship. Then a tsunami heads to destroy the sick and Papy Plouf - Sick Passengers, Mutiny, Pirate Attack, Cover Up. mutinous ship! 

Is this just fictional writing by a creative writer? 

No. It actually sounds a lot like the recent travails of the "Cursed Cruise Ship of the High Seas" - The Balmoral - the focus of my last article.  Hundreds of puking passengers, pirates trying to board, a cruise ship bouncing around in extreme weather . . . all the while acting like everything is just fine.

This is why I am intrigued by cruise lines.  They try to live in a world unto themselves. 

Everyday I walk into my office and learn of the latest cruise debacle, I feel like I am entering a world more absurd than any Papy Plouf comic book I have ever read.  

 

Credit:    Martin Veyron

Royal Caribbean's "Debt of the Seas" - Ready to Sail - But Safety and Security Questions Remain Unanswered

TIME magazine's not-yet-published December 14th edition contains a story about Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas called "Floating Island."

I thought that the title of the article was rather weak.  "Floating Foreclosure" might be more accurate . . . 

The best line in the article - to cruise lines, every passenger is a potential ATM - accurately reflects the cruise line's necessity to try and suck every dime out of their customers to pay for Royal Caribbean's $1,500,000,000 heavily-financed-floating-city which might as well be called Debt of the Seas. There are many beautiful photographs of the cruise ship. 

But the Oasis looks frightening like an over-developed, largely empty, and soon-to-be-repossessed-condominium, the likes of which plague the Miami skyline.

The last time that TIME devoted a couple of pages to the cruise industry was back in March of 2006 when it discussed crime aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships in an article entitled "Crime Rocks the Boats."  That article is framed and hangs on my office wall, but not just because it mentions two of my clients.  TIME's insightful article by Julie Rawe was the first time a major periodical took a hard look at the cruise industry's nasty practice of covering up shipboard crimes. 

Janet Kelly - Jennifer Hagel - Royal Caribbean - Cruise CrimeBoth clients featured in the TIME article - Janet Kelly who was a victim of a violent shipboard crime and Jennifer Hagel who lost her husband under mysterious circumstances during a Royal Caribbean cruise - overcame their personal tragedies to help change the cruise industry.  Both ladies appeared before our U.S. Congress in 2006 and went on television to get the message out that changes needed to be made to protect American traveling on foreign flagged cruise ships, particularly Royal Caribbean's ships.     

So here we are almost four years later.  In the hysteria and hype surrounding the arrival of the Oasis of the Seas in South Florida, the media has lost all thought of the issue of passenger safety. The seemingly endless articles focus almost exclusively on the size, cost, and how-on-earth-are-we-going-to-pay-for what TIME calls a "sea monster" like the Oasis.     

Several weeks ago, I prepared "Seven Questions to Ask Royal Caribbean Executives Regarding Oasis of the Seas."  CEO Fain and President Goldstein were aboard the Oasis with microphone in hand and supposedly open for all questions.  But they refused to provide any information about the safety and  security of the passengers. Certainly U.S. passengers who pay thousands of dollars each to sail on this mega-target of a ship deserve straight forward answers whether their families will be safe from crime and terrorists. 

So here are some of the questions again, and easy ones at that:

Q:  The LA Times reported that for a period of 32 months, there were over 250 incidents of sexual assault, battery, and sexual harassment against guests and crew members on Royal Caribbean Royal Caribbean - Cruise Line - Executives - Richard Fain - Adam Goldsteincruise ships.  In light of these problems, how many security guards are employed on the Oasis of the Seas?

Q:  How many security guards are assigned to the seven "neighborhoods" on the cruise ship?  Are there security "sub-stations" in each of the neighborhoods?

Q:  How many security guards patrol the neighborhoods from 10:00 p.m. to 4 a.m., a time period we have found  when female passengers are at a higher risk of being assaulted?

Q:  Saturday Night Live joked about the Oasis of the Seas being being bounty for pirates. Whereas the thought of a pirate attack in the Caribbean may be silly, a large cruise ship like this could be a target of a terrorist group.  Does the ship have a sufficient number of security personnel to not only protect the passengers from shipboard crime, but deter and fight off a terrorist attack?

The Oasis of the Seas will make its inaugural sailing tomorrow - Saturday, December 5, 2009.  Because Royal Caribbean won't answer any questions, ask yourself - has Royal Caribbean invested adequately into safety and security technologies and personnel to protect you and your family?

The cruise line executives will never tell, but we shall soon find out.  

 

Credits

Janet Kelly and Jennifer Hagel     ABC News 

Royal Caribbean executives    Royal Caribbean via Cruise Critic

Shopping Mall of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas - A Floating Mall?Tim Adams of the U.K.'s Observer is one of hundreds of travel writers invited aboard Royal Caribbean's new mega-liner Oasis of the Seas

Unlike the majority of cruise groupies who have gushed praise for the mega-ship, Mr Adams' article is not exactly what the executives of Royal Caribbean were hoping for.  

The article is entitled "Oasis of the Seas: the Ship that Mistook Itself for a City State."

Mr. Adams' first sentence sets the tone for his critique: "It carries more than 8,000 people, has an on-board park and themed bars from all over the globe. But one experience you don't get on board Oasis of the Seas is that of being at sea."

This is a criticism which many reporters have made, including the most famous travel writer in the world Arthur Frommer who writes in his blog that Royal Caribbean is "dumbing down" the travel experience while taking aim at the passenger's wallets .  The Gadling travel site echoes a familiar Oasis of the Seas - Designer Stores at Seasentiment in the article "The Oasis of the Seas: Designed to Keep Your Dollars Captive (and "Dumb Down" the Travel Experience)."  

Royal Caribbean's conceptual drawings of the ship - showing women with designer bags briskly walking to the next store - reinforces my conclusion that the cruise ship was designed more like a floating high-rise Dadeland Mall (Miami's mega shopping center) than anything resembling an ocean liner.  Like a cavernous mall, the Oasis is huge, busy, noisy and designed to take your money by selling you things that you absolutely don't need and probably don't really want. 

Here are some of Mr. Adam's observations:

"The Oasis . . . is partly a tribute to XXXL, the American god of girth . . .

The ship is an oasis within the sea, a sort of inward-looking gated community of the waves, moving its passengers restlessly from experience to experience, spending money.

I have a sense that in years to come the Oasis of the Seas . . . may be seen as something of a symbol of the end of an American empire based on vast consumption . . ."

There are others who share Mr. Adams' views.  Take a moment and read:

"Royal Caribbean's "Monster of the Seas" - a Cruise Ship Only Gordon Gekko Could Love"

"Oasis of the Seas - A Vision of All Consuming Hell"

 

Photo credits     Royal Caribbean

Oasis of the Seas - A Vision of All Consuming Hell

The San Francisco Chronicle is a great newspaper.  Like the L.A. Times, it has an endless staff of intellectually curious, bright journalists instilled with an ethic of investigative journalism of the likes Miami Herald - Cruise Line Fanof super-journalist Douglas Franz.  All qualities which our newspapers here in South Florida are  sorely missing.

Miami Herald - An Enabler of the "Greed of the Seas" 

I have commented before on how the Miami Herald is basically the cruise line's bitch, if you excuse my French.  

Which brings me to today's blog.  The Miami Herald is attending a press frenzy today in Port Everglades on Royal Caribbean's mega-monster Oasis of the Seas. Tomorrow, the increasingly few Miami residents who subscribe to the Miami Herald can expect the usual puff piece with its usual "wow! look-at-how-big-it-is" stories. 

Where are the free thinkers questioning the madness of this monster?  The "journalists" surrounding this beast of a ship more resemble groupies thronging for attention around a 1980's metal band.  

So I felt redeemed today when I read a column from talented journalist Mark Moford of the San Francisco Chronicle about Royal Caribbean's monster of the seas.  I have attempted a couple of similar insights such as Royal Caribbean's "Monster of the Seas" - a Cruise Ship Only Gordon Gekko Could Love but my article falls well short of Mr. Moford's straight-to-the-jugular writing. 

Oasis of the Seas - Monster of the SeasHis feelings today about monster cruise ships are so spot on that I will just repeat them verbatim:

Mark Moford and Dante's Inferno

"If you're anything like me, you can't help but be completely overwhelmed by one devastating, all-encompassing thought whenever you see any of those insane floating nightmares known as monster cruise ships.

You think of sewage. 

Right? Don't you? It's all I can do not to imagine the mountains of waste these ungodly leviathans produce on your average oceanic journey: The heaps of garbage, sewage, toilet paper, plastic, chemicals and leftover food from the gluttonous buffets, all that clammy shrimp, rotting lettuce and industrial prime rib uneaten by 6,000 largely unhealthy people agreeing to be trapped aboard a floating ring of Dante's inferno for two solid weeks.

A Terrifically Ugly Floating Vomitorium

I fully believe cruise ships are one of man's most nefarious inventions, an extremely sad, low-vibrating form of evil, cleverly disguised as desirable luxury but which, if you spend more than a few hours wandering the decks by yourself, will subtly and calmly urge you to jump overboard and end it all. Which is exactly why they're all based in Florida.

Mark MofordHence, it was utterly impossible for me to stifle a bone-deep shudder when fresh images of the world's largest cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas, upwards of 225,000 gross tons and several times larger than the Titanic, recently lumbered across my jaded retina. This nefarious colossus is not merely terrifically ugly, not merely a bizarre testament to man's voracious desire to build the absolutely silliest, most ginormous things he can possibly imagine, not merely greed and PR and unchecked capitalism run amok. Oh wait, that's exactly what it is. And I'm not afraid to admit: It frightens me deeply.

I suppose the good news is, whenever tacky cruise ships make the news - usually because of a nasty flu outbreak on board that turns the entire vessel into a floating vomitorium - I'm wont to recall the late David Foster Wallace's pitch-perfect, all-time classic piece from Harper's (PDF here) years back that set the standard for brilliant literary takedowns. Far as I'm concerned, anything that re-ignites an appreciation for DFW can't be all bad."

 

Credits:

Miami Herald's Business Monday   Miami Herald

Oasis of the Seas    Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., a Liberian Corporation

Mark Moford   SFGate / San Francisco Chronicle 

 

"Royally Grounded' - Royal Caribbean's Earnings Fall 44%

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Royal Caribbean Cruises' third-quarter earnings fell 44% as ticket prices remained soft and the travel industry continued to slump.  Royal Caribbean reported a third-quarter profit of a little over $230 million, down from around $412 million a year earlier.

Royal Caribbean - Cruise LawIn an article entitled "Royally Grounded," the Motley Fool put things in simpler terms, reporting that the cruise line's third quarter "was a dud."  Revenue fell 15% to $1.8 billion, as "the crummy economy and (swine flu) fears kept bookings low and cheap."

And things will only get worse for Royal Caribbean. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that Royal Caribbean also projected a loss for the current quarter, notwithstanding the arrival of its mega cruise ship Oasis of the Seas.  The Motley Fool warns that when "Royal Caribbean is telling investors to expect a loss during the quarter in which Oasis of the Seas makes its debut, it's time to worry."

Royal Caribbean will be an interesting stock to watch as they try and sell tickets for the Oasis of the Seas and, next year, the Allure of the Seas.

"Titanic Dreams" - Royal Caribbean Wins "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award

A popular part of Cruise Law News is the monthly "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award.  This is a special award, reserved only for the cruise line which demonstrates the worst treatment of passengers, crew members, and the environment.  

And the Winner for October Is  . . .  Royal Caribbean Cruises.

A Little Background Info on Royal Caribbean Cruises

Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises is the second largest cruise line in the world, consisting of four brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and its luxury line - Azamara Royal Caribbean - Worst Cruise Line in the WorldCruises.  It also operates its Spanish Subsidiary - Pullmantour Cruises, where it sends its old cruise ships like the Zenith and the Sovereign of the Seas.  

Like other U.S. based cruise lines, Royal Caribbean registered its business overseas (Liberia) and flagged its cruise ships in foreign countries (Liberia, Bahamas) in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes.  Although it collects between $5 and $6 billion a year from U.S. tax-paying citizens, Royal Caribbean does not pay U.S. taxes by virtue of its foreign corporate citizenship.  Its crew members are 99% non-U.S. citizens.

A Multi-Billion Dollar Corporation Which Pays Its Crew Members Peanuts 

Royal Caribbean crew members who toil behind the scenes, like galley cleaners, earn around $550 while working 360 hours a month - that's about $1.50 an hour.  Yes, that's right - $1.50 an hour.  Royal Caribbean has a net worth of around $15 billion dollars, but pays its hardest working crew members $1.50 an hour. 

Royal Caribbean waiters, bartenders, and cabin attendants earn a salary of only $50 a month. That's $1.67 a day. The cruise line depends on its passengers to tip the crew members so that they can make a living.    

Royal Caribbean invests virtually nothing into its crew members by way of medical treatment or employment benefits.  It is always looking for ways to save money at the expense of its crew.  Royal Caribbean is struggling to finance its + $1,500,000,000 (yes that's 1.5 $billion) cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas.  Its inaugural cruise is in just two weeks but it cannot even sell enough tickets to make its first voyage profitable.  And Royal Caribbean is sweating bullets figuring out how it will finance the even more expensive cruise ship Allure of the Seas, which will be arriving next year.  

So how does Royal Caribbean plan to pay for its two + $3,000,000,000 "Monsters of the Seas?"

Lets-Screw-The-Crew-Members-First

Royal Caribbean started pinching pennies with its crew members when it realized that the economy was tanking.  Its stock fell from $45 a share to under $6 a share, and it became obvious that it could not meet its financial obligations for its new mega cruise ships it ordered several years earlier.  Long before Royal Caribbean turned its back on its most loyal passengers - its Diamond and Diamond Plus passengers - the cruise line targeted its crew members to try and suck money back into its business.

As I mentioned in a prior article "Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft,' Royal Caribbean has been giving the screws to its foreign crew members, particularly the men and women from the Caribbean islands. The cruise line slashed Crew Member Medical Treatmentthe daily amount it pays to its sick or injured crew members from $25 a day to only $12 a day.  Obviously, no one in the world can eat and pay rent and other living expenses - which is the cruise line's legal obligation - on a pittance of only $12 a day.  But this is what Royal Caribbean is doing, scrimping on every penny, to try and finance its new cruise ships. 

Another tactic Royal Caribbean used to save money was to adopt a strict policy of keeping its crew members out of the U.S. whenever they are injured or become sick.  Under the General Maritime Law, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are obligated to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment to their ill crew members.  This is called the doctrine of "maintenance and cure," the oldest legal doctrine in the U.S. 

Royal Caribbean is based here in Miami, which is a good place to manage its crew members' medical needs.  But the cruise line adopted a policy of keeping the ship employees out of the U.S.  Royal Caribbean is the poster child of corporate malfeasance when it comes to abandoning its sick crew members in third world countries around the world.      

"Ms. Jones" - Royal Caribbean Sees What It Can Get Away With        

We have a crew member client, lets call her "Ms. Jones."  She is from Jamaica.  She is a twenty-five year old, hard working woman who, like many young people from Jamaica, sought a career and better life working on a cruise ship.  In April of this year she felt sick and went to the ship doctor on Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas while the ship was in Europe.  The ship doctor did not take Ms. Jones seriously.  She continued to work.  April turned to May and May turned into June.  Finally she was referred from the cruise ships to a doctor ashore who eventually mis-diagnosed her condition as a neurological condition.    

Royal Caribbean - Crew Member Medical Care When medical conditions cannot be managed on the cruise ships, Royal Caribbean sends its ill crew members to, of all places, the Dominican Republic for treatment.  Why?  It's cheap.  No other reason.  To save money.  The Dominican Republic is an impoverished country, next to Haiti. It is certainly one of the last places you would think of for state-of-the-art medical treatment.  

Dumped in the Dominican Republic

The odds were stacked against Ms. Jones when she arrived in the capital, Santo Domingo. But the good news, initially, is that the doctors finally ordered blood tests and diagnosed that Ms. Smith did not have an orthopedic problem.

She had leukemia. 

This is not a good diagnosis and the diagnosis had been unreasonably delayed.  But the doctors at least had finally figured out what was ailing Ms. Jones.  They had a plan as of early July.  The doctors notified Royal Caribbean and requested permission to start Ms. Jones on the preferred drug for this type of leukemia, "Gleevac," and to consider her for bone marrow transplantation.

Neglected In Jamaica

So what did Royal Caribbean do?  Did they fly her quickly to Miami which has excellent board certified oncologists?  No. They sent Ms. Jones back to her village in Jamaica, a location which makes Santo Domingo look like a thriving metropolis. Royal Caribbean provided no medicine to treat her leukemia and no plans for bone marrow transplantation.  They did this to save money.  Ms. Jones found herself in Jamaica in a weakened and immunosuppressed condition with a malignancy.  Yet no "Gleevac."  No money.  No "sick" wages.    

Ms. Jones languished in Jamaica.  July turned into August.  And then August turned into Leukemia - Crew Member Medical TreatmentSeptember. No Gleevac.  No bone marrow transplantation.  No living expenses.  Her calls and emails to Royal Caribbean begging for assistance were ignored.    

Ms. Jones contacted us.  We immediately notified Royal Caribbean and demanded that Ms. Jones receive her Gleevac, her living expenses, and wages.  We insisted that she sent to Miami for evaluation.  In response, Royal Caribbean called our client directly, behind our back. We have seen Royal Caribbean do this before. They were caught, and they began scrambling. 

Royal Caribbean then wrote to us, claiming that Ms. Jones had received her medicine.  This was a big lie.  We pressed the issue and Royal Caribbean instructed us not to contact its "medical department."  We were left to deal with a low level "claims adjuster" whose only job is to deny claims -  like the insolent claims representative for the "Great Benefit" insurance company in John Grisham's Rainmaker who writes denial letter after denial letter to the mother of a child dying of leukemia. 

Crew Member Medical Treatment - Cancer We quickly by-passed the claims handler and wrote to and called the lawyers at the cruise line.  They informed us that because a lawsuit had not been filed, they would not talk with us.  So within one hour, I prepared a lawsuit and had a process server run over to the port to serve their General Counsel.  Still, they refused to discuss the situation. They continued to stall, lie and obfuscate.

Not a Single Gleevac Pill in the Entire Country

Finally, the truth became evident - not only had they failed to provide Ms. Jones with the life saving "Gleevac" but there was no such medicine in the entire country of Jamaica.  Finally, Royal Caribbean arranged for the medicine to be flown to Jamaica - over 5 months after Ms. Jones first went to the Royal Caribbean ship doctor.

Like most cancers, leukemia left untreated can advance to the "blast" stage, where the prognosis is not good.  And the chances of death increase exponentially. 

As of this late date, Ms. Jones remains in Jamaica.  She is still taking her Gleevac, as long as it Royal Caribbean Cruises - Worst Cruise lIne in the World lasts.  She is receiving only $12 a day to live on, always paid late. On Friday evening, Royal Caribbean finally agreed to permit Ms. Jones to come to the U.S. but it took her hiring a lawyer and filing a lawsuit first.  We are trying to obtain a visa for her from the U.S. Embassy so she can come to Miami to be properly evaluated and treated by board certified U.S. oncologists. 

Her life depends on it.

For anyone reading this article who like me has lost a loved one to cancer, you know that life is too precious to play games like this. Particularly by a $15 billion dollar corporation.  Life is far too precious for such arrogance. 

Royal Caribbean's Priorities - Profits Not People

Meanwhile the hype and fanfare surrounding the arrival of Royal Caribbean's billion dollar cruise ship Oasis of the Seas continue.  You can read what I think of this boondoggle and environmental disaster in "Royal Caribbean's "Monster of the Seas" - a Cruise Ship Only Gordon Gekko Could Love.  There are lots of empty cabins which Royal Caribbean needs to fill for the Oasis of the Seas to make money. 

Titanic dreams occupy the minds of Royal Caribbean executives, CEO Richard Fain and President Adam Goldstein.  Their egos and the fate of Royal Caribbean are hopelessly intertwined with these floating monstrosities.  

They have never heard of Ms. Jones or other crew members like her, living on $12 a day, fighting to stay alive.

 

Photo Credits

Oasis of the Seas      DailyMail.co.uk  "Inside the world's biggest and most expensive ever cruise ship, the £810million Oasis of the Seas"

Photo of Royal Caribbean crew member, Mr. Doran McDonald    Jonathon Postal, Miami New Times 

Leukemia blood film    Euthman's Flickr Photostream

Existentialism and An Alaskan Voyage Aboard Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess

I'll admit it.  David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" is one of the funniest, albeit most cynical, books ever written about the cruise industry.  So when I read Benjamin Errett's recent article in Canada's National Post entitled "The Indignity of Weak Coffee - A Deeply Cynical Account of an Alaskan Cruise," I knew that I had found a kindred spirit.   

Mr. Errett spends a week aboard Princess' Sapphire Princess celebrating his Dad's 60th birthday. Realizing that he is not Princess' "target market" because he is 30 years too young and as many pounds too light, he creates his '10 Wonderful Things About An Alaskan Cruise."  A couple of highlights:

#3  "The portly fellow who walked into the gym with an olive-clogged martini in hand, surveyed the sweaty treadmillers and laughed aloud." 

#4  "Watching fellow passengers pile their plates high with rashes of congealed bacon." He warns "don't look at them.  Grab a banana and get out . . . "

#8  "Lax smuggling policies . . .  leading to the half-sad, half-funny sight of well-to-do Americans pouring Kahlua into empty 2-litre Pepsi bottles behind the port liquor store."

Some people like cruising. Others, like Mr. Errett, feel more like a "tourist herded into shops, sold piles of junk and ultimately having a Disney-like experience."

If Sartre is correct that "hell is other people," then a week aboard the Sapphire Princess sounds to me like a scene from "No Exit." 

 

Photo credit:

Photo of Sapphire Princess    Barbara Bagnell (via National Post)

Photo of Sartre's "No Exit"     Lungstruck's  Flickr photostream

Princess Cruises and its General Counsel, Mona Ehrenreich, Win First "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award

When I started this blog, I announced that I would be awarding what I am calling the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award. 

This is a special award, reserved only for the cruise line or cruise line executive which demonstrates the worst in corporate malfeasance towards cruise passenger safety and crew member rights.  The award, like MSNBC's "Worst Person in the World" award, goes to that cruise line or cruise person engaging in underhanded conduct. 

And the Winner Is  . . .

Without question, September's award goes to the Princess Cruises and its General Counsel, Mona Ehrenreich. 

Princess Cruises operates 17 cruise ships and is headquartered in Santa Clarita, California.  It also has a substantial base of operations here in South Florida. Like other cruise lines, it incorporated itself in a foreign country and its cruise ships fly foreign flags of convenience in order to avoid U.S. taxes, laws and regulations.

Ms. Ehrenreich joined Princess in 1993 after working at a law firm defending cruise ships. Ironically, she credits attending a college course in U.S. "constitutional law" as a motivating reason to become a lawyer.  One of her responsibilities is to oversee the company's interests when Princess crew members sexually assault passengers or other crew members.

The Love Boat

Princess Cruises was popularized by the television series "The Love Boat" which ran in the 1970's. The TV Love Boat theme is so interwoven with this cruise line that it marketed the slogan "it's more than a cruise - it's the Love Boat!" through the 1990s. Princess built on the "Love Boat" slogan with its current high powered marketing theme "Department of Romance" which caters to young couples with illusions of romantic getaways and honeymoon cruises.  

PR - Perception and Reality

The unique thing about cruise lines is that there is often a disconnect between the slick image created through advertisements and what really goes on behind the scenes.

Date rape drugs. Rape. Malpractice by the Princess ship doctor.  Destruction of evidence.  Lying.  Unauthorized release of confidential information of its employees. Princess Cruises has touched all of the bases. Let me start with just one example.

Crew Members and Cruise Crime Victims Have Privacy Rights

I have represented over 60 women and children who have been sexually assaulted on cruise ships. Not a pretty topic.  Many of our clients have appeared before our U.S. Congress at hearings on cruise ship crime.  This is something the cruise lines like to keep secret.  Not good for ticket sales.

One of our cases involved a young woman from Mexico who had been sexually harassed while working on a cruise ship operated by a Miami based company.  While investigating the case, I learned that my client previously worked for Princess Cruises.  I sent an email to Princess Cruises' General Counsel, Mona Ehrenreich. I explained that I was pursuing a case against a cruise line here in Miami and needed to obtain my client's personnel and medical records from Princess. 

Records of this type are confidential and cannot be released without a signed and notarized authorization or a lawfully issued and served subpoena. California, where Princess is headquartered, has the strongest constitutional privacy rights in the U. S.  Ms. Ehrenreich obviously knows this after living in California her whole life, and being a student of "constitutional law."  

I requested that Ms. Ehrenreich  provide me with the particular type of authorization Princess required to release these confidential records.  My client would execute the authorization and, in turn, I could obtain the records.  I wanted to be certain that I was in full compliance with the Federal and State laws and regulations which govern records of this type.

Double Crossed

Ms. Ehrenreich quickly emailed me back and - to my surprise - claimed that there were no records reflecting that my client ever worked for Princess.  I knew this was not true, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I double checked the spelling of my client's name and I also sent her my client's Princess crew member identification number!  This would easily permit the records to be identified and retrieved. 

Ms. Ehrenreich then refused to respond to my requests. 

I continued on with the case against the cruise line in Miami. But it soon became apparent by the type of questions asked by the defense lawyer that his law firm had somehow obtained my client's confidential records from Princess in California. How could this be possible? Princess absolutely needed a signed and notarized authorization. To release medical records, the cruise line needed a HIPAA compliant release. Or Princess needed to be served with a subpoena.  But the cruise line never obtained an authorization nor received a subpoena.    

The Truth Comes Out

I asked the cruise line defense lawyer if Princess secretly sent him the records.  He refused to respond.  I served him with requests for my own client's records from Princess and any emails or letters from Princess.  He objected.  I pressed the issue further and threatened a Court hearing and sanctions.  He caved in, admitting that Princess surreptitiously sent him the records behind my back. 

I subsequently obtained evidence that when Ms. Ehrenreich received my email and told me that my client never worked at Princess, she sent an email to the defense lawyers in Miami and began communicating with them about my client. Then Princess sent all of my client's records to these lawyers, without a signed authorization or receipt of a subpoena!              

A Cruise Line Without A Moral Rudder

If the top lawyer for a large corporation will flaunt ethical rules and Federal and State privacy rights, what does that say about the culture of that corporation?  Who will protect the rights of cruise line employees, particularly crew members from foreign countries who can be easily exploited?  Who will enforce a code of honesty and ethics?    

Things are not as they seem on the Love Boat.  Cruise lines like this develop an arrogance over the years.  They don't pay U. S. taxes.  They abuse their foreign crew members. They usually get away with things. 

Duplicity and a lack of transparency characterize  Princess Cruises.  What can be expected from a cruise line whose General Counsel acts like this?

You will hear about this cruise line and Ms. Ehrenreich in the future, no doubt. 

This month's award was won in a landslide.  Princess Cruises and its General Counsel, Mona Ehrenreich, have more than earned their place as the first recipients of the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award.     

 

Photo credits:

Worst Person Logo MSNBC, Countdown with Keith Olbermann

Photo of Star Princess Cruise Ship   Jim Walker, Seattle WA July 4, 2009

Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft

In 2004, The Miami New Times interviewed me as part of an investigation into how cruise lines treat their crew members once they become ill or injured. The article was entitled "Screwed If By Sea - Cruise Lines Throw Workers Overboard When It Comes to Providing Urgent Medical Care."

The article focused on the two largest cruise lines, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Around 75% of U.S. passengers sail on cruise ships owned or operated by these giants. Virtually all crew members are non - U.S. employees, from countries like Jamaica, Trinidad, or Honduras where medical care is either non-existent or spotty at best.  

Maintenance and Cure - the Oldest Legal Doctrine in the United States

Cruise lines are legally obligated to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment to their crew members whenever they become ill or injured on the cruise ships. The doctrine is called "maintenance and cure," and has existed in the U.S. for almost 200 years. It is one of the few absolute legal doctrines in the world. Traced back to the Medieval Sea Codes, the doctrine evolved over the centuries out of a concern that hard working crew members should not be abandoned in distant ports. Shipowners are required to provide medical treatment and sustenance so that the crew members will recover from their illnesses. In a nutshell, the maintenance and cure doctrine requires the cruise lines to treat crew members as if they were their own children.

Neglectful Parents in 2004

The "Screwed If By Sea" article revealed that Carnival and Royal Caribbean were very neglectful parents.

The article hit the cruise industry like a bomb. The public learned that the cruise lines were acting outrageously. The New Times revealed that Royal Caribbean kept a seriously burned crew member in his cabin with nothing but Ibuprofen, and then tried to ship him back to the Caribbean from Alaska with no arrangements for medical care. In another case, Royal Caribbean sent a crew member with cancer home to die with no medical treatment. Although the cruise lines were based here in Miami and their cruise ships regularly called on ports in Florida where appropriate medical care is readily available, the companies schemed to send the ship employees to the far corners of the earth where the crew members would languish and their medical conditions would undoubtedly worsen.

How Are Carnival and Royal Caribbean Behaving Today?

The article was published in 2004, five years ago. How are these companies treating their crew members today?

Carnival is doing better. Although some maritime lawyers may disagree, I have found that Carnival is making an effort to more or less provide appropriate care to their sick crew members. For example, we represent a crew member from India who suffered a serious knee injury. He developed osteomyelitis. Once we became involved, Carnival authorized and paid for treatment at the Mayo Clinic where the crew member received outstanding medical care by a team of orthopedic and infectious disease specialists. Carnival efficiently arranged for transportation, food and living accommodations. Our client improved. Carnival did what it was legally required to do. Our client benefited.  A win-win situation.

Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, has gotten worse. In 2004, Royal Caribbean paid $25 a day toward the living expenses of its crew members - a figure which could provide a meager sustenance for some but not all employees. But now, Royal Caribbean provides only $12 a day. No one in the world can eat, cover their rent and utilities, and pay for transportation on such a pittance. Royal Caribbean knows it, but does not care.

Royal Caribbean has also adopted a strict keep-them-out-of-the-U.S. policy. The company saves money by sending its employee to places like Nicaragua and St. Vincent. But these places lack basic medical facilities and basic medicines. The crew member’s heath and life are compromised in the process.

A Royal Money Game

Unlike Carnival, Royal Caribbean is saddled with huge debts. It is struggling financially to bring the $1,000,000,000 Oasis of the Seas, an unnecessary extravagance, into service.  But it is nickeling its crew members, literally, to death. We lost one client to cancer because Royal Caribbean refused to schedule a follow up appointment over the course of five months. Royal Caribbean is neglecting other crew members with serious medical problems, like debilitating neurological injuries and leukemia.

Royal Caribbean is one cruise line which continues to demonstrate that it cares more about money than its crew members.

 

Photo credits

Photo of cruise ship and Royal Caribbean crew member, Mr. Doran McDonald - Jonathon Postal, Miami New Times      

Cruise Inc. - Big Money On the High Seas - CNBC      

Voting for "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award Ends Soon!

Earlier this month, I announced that I will be awarding the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award to the cruise line demonstrating the worst in gross negligence and indifference towards passenger and crew member health and safety. This will be a monthly award. 

Over the past month, we have received many e-mails nominating a variety of cruise lines and a couple of cruise line tycoons. Mostly passengers have emailed us with a variety of stories, many are just plain sad.  Some of the stories demonstrate such callousness by the cruise lines that your blood will boil.

A few crew members contacted us  Without except they were afraid to reveal their real names in fear of retaliation.

A couple of environmental groups contacted us as well.

So far two cruise lines are vying neck to neck for the award.  After 26 years of being a maritime lawyer I thought that I had seen it all. These two companies have treated their crew members like garbage. At this point, I don't know who is most deserving of the first month's award. 

The voting for this month ends on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. EST. I will be announcing the winner, er loser, in October.

Feel free to tweet your nominee to me at my Twitter page @CruiseLaw

 

Photo credit:

Cruise Ship Tycoon         Activisim

Carnival Announces Quarterly Profits of $1,100,000,000 - But Pushes Lawsuit Against Alaska Over $50 Tax

Today Carnival issued a press release which reported profits of $1,100,000,000 for the third quarter ending August 31, 2009. The cruise line collected revenues from passengers of over $4,000,000,000 in the last three months.

This announcement of Carnival's over-a-billion-dollars-in-profits comes two days after the Carnival dominated "Alaska" Cruise Association filed a lawsuit against Alaska over the $50-a-passenger tax.

Four days ago, the environmental group "Friends of the Earth" gave Carnival a "D-" on the cruise line environmental scorecard.

What a week for Carnival!  A failing pollution grade, over $1,000,000,000 in quarterly profits, and a lawsuit initiated in Alaska over a $50 tax.

What is wrong with this picture?      

 

 

CruiseLaw Announces "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award

Over the course of 26 years practicing maritime law, I have seen some remarkably bad conduct by cruise lines. Covering up crimes, abandoning injured passengers in foreign ports, or quickly concluding that "missing passengers" committed "suicide" are just a few examples.  I have kept a list of what I consider the most outrageous moments in cruise line history.  The lying and scheming I have witnessed over the years is pretty impressive.

Much of the trouble lies with the foundation of the cruise industry.  All of the cruise lines incorporate their businesses in foreign countries, like Liberia - a lawless and unstable African country where a civil war rages every few years and the rebels take their AK-47's to the streets. They also register their vessels in places like the Bahamas or Panama where the "regulatory" authorities are more than willing to look the other way as long as the cruise lines fill their coffers with U.S. dollars. The cruise line mentality of avoiding U.S. taxes, U.S labor and wage laws, and U.S. safety regulations often leads to reckless and inexcusable behavior.

I have always thought that some cruise line shenanigans were so outrageous that they should earn a trophy.

One evening while watching MSNBC TV personality Keith Olbermann announce the "Worst Person in the World," an idea popped into my head. Why not recognize the cruise line demonstrating the worst in gross negligence and indifference towards passenger and crew member health and safety?

So with apologies to Mr. Olbermann and the MSNBC show "Countdown," CruiseLaw announces the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award. There are 24 cruise lines who are members of the Cruise Line International Association. Several companies in this group are consistently strong contenders for the award. I will include some of the smaller lines who have done some terrible things as well.

The award is not limited just to the cruise lines, but will include cruise trade groups, cruise executives, cruise communities, and other individuals in the cruise industry.  We will consider nominations from passengers, crew members and the general public.  If you suffered a bad experience on a cruise ship which deserves special mention, send us your cruise line nominee. We will announce the winner once a month. 

Hopefully, some months we won't have a reason to award anyone.