Royal Caribbean Premiers Google Street View of Allure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is using Google Maps Business View (the commercial version of Google’s Street View) to advertise the Allure of the Seas. 

The Telegraph newspaper writes that "visitors to the website select from a series of options to enable them to 'tour' the ship’s restaurants, cabins and pools as well as the ship's 'unique activities,' which include a surfing machine, rock-climbing wall and zip wire."

Take a tour here. It's pretty cool.

Its too bad that Royal Caribbean hasn't invested the same time and effort into implementing automatic man overboard video camera technology required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act. Read: Royal Caribbean's Misplaced Priorities: Fast Internet, Virtual Balconies But No Automatic Man-Overboard Systems.

Royal Caribbean Google Tour

Quadcopter Buzzes the Allure of the Seas in Fort Lauderdale

This week I ran across a video of a "quadcopter" (also called a quadrotor helicopter or a quadrocopter) flying over the beach in Fort Lauderdale.

What's interesting is that the quadcopter quickly catches up with Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. It flies behind and far over the giant cruise ship for a few minutes. 

It seems rather amazing that a little copter like that can fly so far and high and fast, and it can be safely controlled from so far away.

The video was shot and edited by Carlo Vaccari.  You can see his Facebook page RC Copters here.  

It was disappointing, however, to see an incredible amount of diesel / bunker fuel smoke billowing out of the ship. It's particularly nasty around the 5:00 minute mark. 

A year ago we blogged about a quadcopter buzzing the Costa Concordia - QuadroCopter Operators Arrested in Giglio for Filming Costa Concordia.

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.

 

  

  

Allure of the Seas Leaves Lifeboat in Nassau

Allure of the Seas LifeboatThere's an interesting comment on the popular on line cruise community Cruise Critic that the Allure of the Seas left Nassau 2 hours late yesterday because of an issue with the lift cable of lifeboat number 1. According to this passenger, the cable to the lifeboat apparently snapped and needs repair.

The issue arises whether there are sufficient lifeboats for all of the passengers and, if not, whether the cruise line has obtained a waiver from the flag state (the Bahamas).

There seems to be some suggestion floated out there that the Allure has more lifeboats than necessary.

I have written about  the lifesaving systems on the Allure and the Oasis before: Titanic Redux? Can Royal Caribbean Safely Evacuate 8,500 Passengers & Crew from the Oasis of the Seas? 

Royal Caribbean says that it normally has 18 lifeboats which each carry 370 people for a total of 6,660 passengers. (Crew members have to slide down chutes into liferafts). So with only 17 lifeboats aboard, the cruise ship has a capacity of 6,290.  How many passengers are on board now? Wikipedia says that the Allure has a maximum capacity of 6,296. 

One person commented on Cruise Critic that the capacity of 370 includes 16 crew assigned to each boat, so it actually carries 354 passengers. With only 17 lifeboats, there is room for only 6,018 passengers.

I'd hate to see an emergency and a problem develop with another lifeboat.

Has Royal Caribbean issued a statement about this?

Have a thought? Please join the discussion on Facebook.

December 11 2013 Update: Cruise Critic just published an article pointing out that Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas was sailing without one of its lifeboats after a pulley malfunctioned in Cabo. Cruise Critic obtained a quote from a Royal Caribbean spokesperson claiming that the Allure of the Seas is permitted to sail with a lifeboat missing because ""we had enough safety crafts for everyone onboard the ship . . . Our ships carry extra lifesaving vessels at all times."  Unfortunately, the cruise line's comments are vague. It refers to life "crafts" but does not specify whether it has enough life "boats" for the passengers versus life "rafts" which are used for the crew and which you have to enter by jumping down a 60 foot chute, which is dangerous.  What exactly is the number of passengers currently aboard the Allure?

A number of people have left comments on our Facebook page saying "no big deal" because the passengers can just jump down a chute into a raft if a lifeboat or two are missing. Take a look below and ask yourself whether you or your family want to do this.  We have also reported on 20 crew members being seriously injured jumping down one of these type of chutes.

   

Photo Credit: anglofiles.com

Allure of the Seas Finally Scheduled for Dry Dock

Allure of the SeasRoyal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, will enter dry dock in the Bahamas in February 2014 to undergo repairs to its propulsion system.

The decision was finally announced after the cruise line had been under criticism for not disclosing the Allure was unable to cruise any faster than around 17 knots rather than its top of over 22 knots. 

Several newspapers are saying that the cruise ship had a problem with one of its three propulsion "pods." The ship has been arriving late and leaving early from its ports of call and cancelling some excursions.

The Allure will undergo repairs during the week of Feb. 24, 2014. The cruise scheduled for that week will be cancelled and the cruise fare refunded. 

 

Dry Dock Cure for Allure of the Seas?

Tom Stieghorst of Travel Weekly reports that Royal Caribbean may send the Allure of the Seas, which has been plagued by problems with its propulsion system, to an early drydock in order to fix the problem.

The article says the scheduled drydock is not until in 2015, but the cruise line may take the giant ship out of service earlier.

Travel Weekly quotes cruise chairman Richard Rain as the source of the information. 

Allure of the SeasRoyal Caribbean has been criticized for not being transparent in telling the public of the problem before cruising. Passengers aboard the Allure began noticing that the cruise ship was shortening its stay in Nassau and then arriving late in St. Thomas. Some excursions have been cancelled.

USA TODAY also weighs in on the issue with its article "World's Largest Cruise Ship May Need Repairs." The newspaper explains that the Allure is just the latest in a series of ships that have experienced problems with pod propulsion systems. Three months ago, sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises' Millennium suffered a pod problem resulting in the cancellation of several cruises. 

We have been contacted by cruisers who are booked on the Allure over the next several months, wondering whether the propulsion problems will be fixed by the time of their cruise.  

This news will create only more speculation and worry, as it now seems probable that the Allure will be taken out of service for a week or two sometime in the next few months. Exactly when is anyone's guess.   

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia (Daniel Christensen)

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas: "Full Speed Ahead?"

A reader of Cruise Law News sent us a humorous tweet from Royal Caribbean. The problem is that the cruise line didn't intend it to be funny.

Royal Caribbean tweeted a photograph of the Allure of the Seas (below left) with the caption "Full speed ahead."

Of course everyone following cruise news knows that the Allure of the Seas is experiencing a problem with its propulsion system which we have written about a couple of times. Read here and here.

Allure of the Seas Propulsion ProblemsThere is currently a debate in the cruise community between those die-hard cruise supporters who think the propulsion problems are a lot to do about nothing and those cruisers who are annoyed that their expensive cruise vacations involve leaving some cruise ports early and arriving late at others and missing some excursions in the process.  

I won't jump into that argument except to say that the cruise line is not helping its reputation by keeping its usually loyal-to-Royal customers in the dark.

I'm not the first to comment on the "full speed ahead" caption showing the Allure tearing up the waves.

Others on Twitter have had their fun.

@MartinosCafe tweeted: "@Royal Caribbean Is that your way of telling us the ship is fixed?"

And @linerlovers tweeted: "I wish they WERE at full speed!"

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

Comment from a Reader: Allure of the Seas Propulsion Problem - What is Royal Caribbean Hiding?

Every so often we will publish a comment from a reader of Cruise Law News about an issue we are discussing on this blog.  This morning we received the comment below from a reader about the propulsion problem on the Allure of the Seas.

Quite often, the problems with the cruise industry's poor image is not so much that things go wrong on the high seas, but that the cruise lines are not transparent when go amiss. When a major newspaper like USA TODAY or a major online cruise site like Cruise Critic breaks a story about a problem, it creates a perception that the cruise lines are being sneaky and are more interested in covering up a Allure of the Seasproblem than fixing it.

Our reader's comments are below:

"What really bothers me about this is that Royal Caribbean is keeping silent on this issue instead of informing it's passengers about the problem. Haven't they learned anything from the problems that Carnival faced by not keeping their passengers informed?

I thought it was interesting that I called my travel agent and she was not aware of the problem but said that she would call the company. While I waited for her to call me back I called RCCL's customer service line to ask about the propulsion problem. The operator hemmed and hawed but wouldn't give me a straight answer. She even tried to tell me that there was a small problem and it had been fixed. When I told her that I knew about the problem and that it hadn't been fixed she said she needed to call her supervisor. I never did get a straight answer out of either of them. I, as a customer think that I have a right to know what is RCCL hiding? I think the media should be asking this of Adam. And is the ship actually safe to be sailing?"

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Daniel Christensen)

Propulsion Problems Plague Allure of the Seas

Over the past six weeks, we have received emails from Royal Caribbean crew members saying that the Allure of the Seas has suffered propulsion problems. The crew members have been told by their supervisors to tell the cruise passengers that nothing is wrong.

Well this evening the story broke on Cruise Critic that Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Suffers Propulsion Issues.

According to Cruise Critic, Royal Caribbean has admitted that it has experienced a significant reduction in the cruise ship's speed which has caused delays and shortened calls during its cruises. A Royal Allure of the Seas Cruise ShipCaribbean spokesperson said:

"Allure of the Seas currently has a small restriction on her top speed. All equipment is fully operational, and there is no impact on the maneuverability of the ship or on the safety of our guests and crew."

A Cruise Critic member said: "When we were checking in the day before, they handed us a sheet of paper indicating that the Nassau short stay will now be shorter by one hour, on top of a delayed arrival in St. Thomas two days later. The reason stated was technical issues with the ship's top speed. I was also told while on board that they want to slow down a bit to save fuel."

The cruise line changed recent itineraries by shortening stays in Nassau by one hour and St. Thomas  by three hours. The Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Cruise Critic:

"I won't be able to provide you with additional details. But yes, the plan is to get Allure back up to top speed."

Can you imagine owning the world's largest and most expensive cruise ship that already has problems maintaining the speed advertised when sold? 

Are you a crew member or have you sailed recently on the Allure of the Seas? Do you have information about the propulsion issues?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia (Zache)

Is Royal Caribbean Committing Fraud by Requiring Cruise Passengers to Sign Legally Unenforceable FlowRider Waivers?

If you want to participate in the FlowRider attraction on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the cruise line requires its passengers to sign an electronic waiver. The waiver purports to relieve the cruise line of any and all liability arising out of use of the FlowRider. However, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled last year that the waiver violates U.S. Maritime Law and is legally unenforceable.

In a  case our firm handled, the appellate court held that the Royal Caribbean waiver violated 46 U.S.C. § 30509 which prohibits contractual provisions which attempt to limit the liability of the owner of ships for "personal injury or death caused by the negligence or fault of the owner or the owner's employees or agents." The court held that the statute was clear and unambiguous, and there was no exception for recreational, inherently dangerous, or ultra hazardous activities. Although waivers of this FlowRider Wipe Out - Royal Caribbean Cruisetype may be enforceable on land under certain circumstances, such waivers are illegal and unenforceable on the high seas.

The legal decision is significant because there has been at least one death and many serious injuries to cruise passengers on the Royal Caribbean FlowRiders.

Below you can see an example how the cruise line electronic waiver works.  The participants usually are in a long line near the "Wipeout Bar!" with music blaring when they have to sign the waiver. Quite often, the passengers don't read anything and are led through the waiver by a cruise line employee very quickly. The waivers are not only legally unenforceable, but it seems like no one reads them anyway.

Ever since the Eleventh Circuit struck the waiver down, the cruise's line's requirement to force passengers to sign the waiver appears fraudulent to me.  The waiver is unenforceable. Period. Executing an unenforceable waiver is meaningless. There is a danger that a passenger may not assert their legal rights after they were seriously injured on the FlowRider because the cruise line tricked them into believing that they waived their rights. This constitutes fraud.

If you were injured on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and you didn't file suit timely (one year) because you believed that you waived your rights, you may still have a basis for a lawsuit against the cruise line.

If you have a question about the Royal Caribbean Flowrider waiver, please contact our office.

 

What's Happening to the FlowRiders on the Allure of the Seas?

For those of you who cruise regularly, you know that Royal Caribbean has two FlowRider attractions on both the Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas. The FlowRider is a surfing simulation where a thin wave of water is shot across a rubber surface and the passengers tries to surf or boogie board. 

Today I posted an image of what looks like repairs or major maintenance to one of the FlowRiders on the Allure.  You can see another image of the FlowRider below as the work continues.

Anyone know what's going on with the FlowRiders on the Allure?

If you know, join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Allure of the Seas - FlowRider - Oasis of the Seas

Titanic Redux? Can Royal Caribbean Safely Evacuate 8,500 Passengers & Crew from the Oasis of the Seas?

Oasis of the Seas - Viking Dual Evacuation Chute SystemA retired U.S. Coast Guard official called me last week about issues of cruise ship safety. We had an interesting hour and one-half discussion about whether modern cruise ships are designed to safely evacuate passengers and crew members in times of emergencies like fires or sinkings.   

Our conversation began with Royal Caribbean's biggest cruise ships in the world, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas.  

Royal Caribbean touts these news ships as technological marvels of the world. But the evacuation procedures are strictly old-school.

Some aspects of the emergency abandon ship systems are flat-out dangerous. 

The cruise line's press releases mentions that the cruise ship has 18 lifeboats each with a 370 passenger capacity. It says that "lifeboats on Oasis of the Seas have been entirely redesigned and approved as part of a holistic evacuation concept."

But the truth of the matter is that Royal Caribbean had a major problem when it designed the largest cruise ships on the planet. There is a regulation stating that the maximum number of people permitted aboard a lifeboat is 150. There is no way that the cruise line could build a ship with over 55 lifeboats carrying 150 people each. So in order to cram enough people into lifeboats, the cruise line obtained a waiver to increase the maximum lifeboat capacity up to 370 people. 

Oasis of the Seas Canister Chute SystemRoyal Caribbean not only has the largest cruise ships in the world, but it has the largest lifeboats in the world.

But does it have enough?

18 lifeboats with a capacity of 370 equals only 6,660 people. Oasis has a total maximum population of around 8,500 when you count its capacity of around 6,300 passengers and 2,200 crew members. That means that there are around 1,850 people without the lifeboats which Royal Caribbean raves about.  

Royal Caribbean's press statement makes no mention of it, but those who are not assigned or cannot fit into the limited number of lifeboats must use "emergency evacuation chutes."  The term used on the Royal Caribbean ships is "Viking Dual Evacuation Chute."  What is this you may ask?  You won't find Royal Caribbean talking much about the chute system.   

If you look at photographs of the Oasis (or the Allure), along the side of the ship at deck 4 you will see three large lifeboats in-a-line leading from the stern. Then you will see a row of canisters (others may call then cylinders), looking like old depth charges, positioned one on top of the other on deck 4.    

Oasis of the Seas Emergency Evacuation Chute SystemWhen these canisters are opened (see video bottom), a life-raft inflates in the water below. (We are talking about life-rafts - not lifeboats). These life-rafts are connected to a series of chutes running up to deck 4. The passengers and/or crew evacuate the cruise ships by jumping into the entrance to this emergency evacuation apparatus on deck 4. They then rapidly slide / fall down a steep, vertical drop into the inflated life-raft below.

These type of devices are dangerous. There have been a significant number of people killed or seriously injured while trying to evacuate 4 or 5 stories down steep chutes like this. 

In November, I wrote an article about 20 crew members seriously injured in a drill using this type of system who suffered broken bones, sprained ankles, and friction burns during the steep descent. Further injuries were avoided only when other crew members refused to jump. A union representative characterized the evacuation system as "unsuitable and dangerous."      

PBS aired a documentary on behalf of "Inside Nova" which looked at the Oasis of the Seas' evacuation procedures. PBS videotaped the operation of the chutes. In the video below you can see crew members tugging on the chute when suddenly a crew member comes flying out - landing violently on Oasis of the Seas Chute Evacuation Systemhis buttocks. After catching his breath, he exclaims "I got stuck!"

Now the first reaction to the video may be that it seems funny. But if you think about it for a second, it is actually terrifying. The placard on the cruise ship shows families with little kids and infants who are lining up to jump. The drawing on the ship actually show a mother clinging to her infant sailing down the chute a few feet above another passenger while a large man is jumping into the chute above her. I cannot imagine a more dangerous scenario.

Can you imagine what would happen if a 235 lb man lands on a 130 lb woman holding on to her 25 lb infant at the bottom of the chute?  Serious injury would occur.  Serious head injuries are likely if multiple people and children are in the chute at the same time. Far fetched?  Hardly. This scenario is actually depicted in the instructional drawings on the Oasis itself.

Royal Caribbean may say that only crew members are suppose to use this system. That's mentioned on the PBS video where you can see photographs of the chute system. That does not say much for the cruise line's consideration of the safety of its own crew.  

But why do the drawings of the chute system depict passengers with children and mothers clinging onto their infants descending the chutes?  These images are directly from Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. And if in fact only crew members are assigned to the chutes, why should they be subject to such dangers on a cruise ship which its owners tout as the safest ship in the world?

The other issue to consider, of course, is what happens if the Oasis suffers a Costa Concordia type of accident where the cruise ship lifts heavily to one side?  As we know from the Concordia, the lifeboats could not be deployed once the ship listed to 22 degrees.  Half of the Concordia lifeboats, on the port side of the vessel, were useless once the ship listed to the starboard side.  If anything like this happens on the Oasis, there will be a riot where passengers and crew fight to get into the remaining Abandon Ship Oasis of the Seaslifeboats and the rest will be left to take their chances jumping down the chutes hoping to land in a raft many stories below. 

Then there are the wind and sea conditions. All of the drills for the Oasis or Allure take place on sunny days in the calm waters of the Caribbean. Take a look here for an example.  Around and around the lifeboats drive in the protected waters of a beautiful lagoon in the Caribbean. What fun.

But what happens when these ships are re-positioned to Europe, Indonesia or Australia where there are high seas and unpredictable weather?  After all, Royal Caribbean is ordering more Oasis class monster ships right now. Trying to evacuate thousands of people down chutes into life-rafts in high waves and winds could be a disaster. There is also the risk of the tether ropes breaking, the chutes twisting, or the life-rafts ripping away from the chutes.

I for one would hate to think of anyone's spouse, or kids, or parents, whether they are crew or passengers, having to jump into an evacuation chute and fall 50 feet into a raft in rough seas.  

A chute and a raft are hardly a "holistic" approach to survival.  It's a disappointing and antiquated way of trying to save lives on the supposedly most sophisticated cruise ship in the world.

Don't forget to watch the video of the chute system below:       

        

 

What are your thoughts on this evacuation system?  If you are a crew member, have you ever been down a chute like this? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

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.  

Allure of the Seas Crew Members Busted for Cocaine: Alleged Drug Smugglers Included Former and Present Royal Caribbean Cruise Employees

The Sun Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale reports that two Royal Caribbean arrested in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday as they were disembarking from the Allure of the Seas cruise ship.

The crew members, both age  25, were identified as Winston Hyman and Jimmel Thom (photo below). The cruise ship had returned to Port Everglades from a cruise to Labadee, Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico.

A sniffer dog alerted to a backpack the men had been carrying. More than one kilo of cocaine was discovered inside.

Jimmel Thom - Allure of the SeasOne of the men stated that they were handed backpack from a man in Falmouth, Jamaica.  This man reportedly had previously worked aboard the Allure of the Seas.  One of the crew members, Thom, had worked with this former crew member to smuggle narcotics on and off the Allure before.  He was reportedly paid $2,000 upfront and was then to receive $1,000 once he delivered the cocaine in Fort Lauderdale. 

We have reported on drug smuggling on Royal Caribbean cruise ships before. It's hardly a rare event; you can read the accounts of crew member drug smuggling below:

Another Royal Caribbean Crew Member Busted for Drug Smuggling (Explorer of the Seas)

Million Dollar Drug Bust on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship in Montego Bay (Grandeur of the Seas)

Three Crew Drug Arrests (Enchantment of the Seas)

High Times on the High Seas - Cruise Industry Struggles with "Reefer Madness (Royal Caribbean crew members smuggling drugs into Bermuda)

The Allure of the Seas was also the cruise ships where a travel agent was arrested for dealing large amounts of drugs during a cruise. He was caught with 142 ecstasy pills, 3 grams of methamphetamine, ketamine and $51,000 cash. 

 

Photo credit: Broward County Sheriff's Office via Sun Sentinel

Video: Royal Caribbean Delayed Reporting Overboard Passenger

A'riel Marion - Overboard Cruise Passenger - Allure of the SeasLocal NBC 6 reports that Royal Caribbean delayed reporting the disappearance of Allure of the Seas cruise passenger, A'riel Marion, for two hours, even though another passenger on a lower balcony was literally hit on the arm as Ms. Marion fell to the water.

Based on the official report from the United States Coast Guard, the cruise line did not report the incident to the Coast Guard until 11:30 PM even though a passenger immediately reported the overboard to the ship around 9:27 PM.

Royal Caribbean's initial press release falsely claimed that the cruise line "immediately" reported the overboard. 

Our articles about this case are here:

Passenger Missing From The Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Why Didn't Royal Caribbean Immediately Notify the Coast Guard that a Passenger Went Overboard from Allure of the Seas? 

Delay, Deny, Deceive & Defend: Royal Caribbean Shows How Not to Respond to an Overboard Passenger  

 

View more videos at: http://nbcmiami.com.

Delay, Deny, Deceive & Defend: Royal Caribbean Shows How Not to Respond to an Overboard Passenger

Overboard passengers are hardly unexpected.  

All cruise lines have man overboard (MOB) procedures required by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).  The procedures are fundamentally no different that what is taught to the public in United States Coast Guard (USCG) powerboat courses.  

My family took such a USCG course many years ago.

One of the operational courses involves simulating a man overboard by throwing a life-vest overboard. We all practiced performing a "Williamson Turn" where the person operating the powerboat turned the wheel to the side of the overboard and then, at around 60 degrees, turned the wheel back to the opposite side to come around and position the boat to speed back to the location of the man overboard. As one person handled the helm, others stayed focused on the overboard or obtained the equipment necessary to bring the overboard back on the boat as soon as possible.

By the end of the course, even my youngest, 5th grade son understood the importance of promptly powering the boat back to initiate the rescue.  We learned that every second was important.

Cruise ships are obviously not as maneuverable as a small powerboat. But the rescue protocols are fundamentally the same and equally important to passengers whether they went overboard from a small pleasure craft or a giant cruise ship.. 

A'riel Marion - Overboard Allure of the Seas Cruise ShipWe also learned that if the person overboard cannot be "immediately" located, we were required to notify the Coast Guard right away. All of the cruise lines are required to do so as well. 

So when I learned that Royal Caribbean waited over two hours after a passenger observed another passenger go overboard from the Allure of the Seas to contact the USCG, I was absolutely shocked.

Not only did Royal Caribbean delay, it delayed outrageously so.

But it gets worst.

It not only delayed but it denied it delayed. It deceived the public by claiming that the captain of the Allure of the Seas "immediately" turned the ship around and notified the Coast Guard. Its corporate communication department set out to deceive the public by releasing a false and misleading PR statement claiming "immediate" action when, in truth, it delayed for hours.

Delay, deny, and deceive.  We now have a dead passenger.

The young woman who went overboard has now been identified as A'riel Marion, a pretty young model with the rest of her life ahead of her.  Her mother, Vera Marion, has hired a maritime lawyer in Miami, Brett Rivkind, to try and find out what happened and why Royal Caribbean didn't do at least what my young son would have done - turn the damn ship around and, if the young woman was not "immediately" located, notify the Coast Guard?

WMC-TV, a television station in the small Tennessee town of Bartlett where A'riel is from, interviewed A'riel's mother. Another passenger reportedly notified the cruise ship that she observed a passenger go overboard around 9:25 PM.  Ms. Marion is quoted saying:          

"They knew she had gone overboard. The woman called and said something from the deck fell and hit her arm. They immediately cleared off that side of the ship, but they never started the search." 

Her attorney Rivkind added: "This is a very specific 911 call that a passenger from the cabin below was actually struck on the arm by the person who fell from the cabin above." 

At 9:30 PM, the ship's staff brought Ms. Marion to private room. 

Ms. Marion states: "They started asking me, could she swim?  And that's when I panicked and knew that they knew that she had gone overboard."

Two hours later, at 11:30 PM the U.S. Coast Guard was called. 

At 1:30 AM, the search for A'riel began.

"I believe they could save my daughter if they had began the search immediately," Ms. Marion told the news station.

Royal Caribbean has a lot of explaining to so.

But if history is any lesson, this cruise line will engage in more delay, denial and deception as it defends the lawsuit Ms. Marion will be forced to file to try and find out what happened to her daughter.

 

Read our other articles about this case:

Passenger Missing From The Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Why Didn't Royal Caribbean Immediately Notify the Coast Guard that a Passenger Went Overboard from Allure of the Seas?

 

Photo credit:  WMC-TV 

"Lord Keep Us Safe On This Gigantic Cruise Ship"

Allure of the SeasA news station in Memphis has identified the 21 year old woman who went overboard from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship on September 16, 2012.

There has been speculation about what happened. This was the overboard where the cruise ship delayed reporting the incident to the Coast Guard for two hours. Some people have speculated that the young lady may have committed suicide, although there is no evidence of that.

That scenario seems highly unlikely given the comments that she was posting on Twitter leading up to the cruise, including many tweets expressing her excitement about the trip.  Consider one of her last tweets upon boarding the cruise ship:   

"Lord keep up safe on this gigantic cruise ship! Let the festivities begin!! See you suckers in a week . . ."

After the delayed Coast Guard search ended, the matter was turned over to the FBI for investigation.

Here's our initial article about this case: Passenger Missing From The Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship.

 

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

Why Didn't Royal Caribbean Immediately Notify the Coast Guard that a Passenger Went Overboard from Allure of the Seas?

Yesterday the first media source which reported that a cruise passenger went overboard from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was Cruise Critic.  Notwithstanding its name, Cruise Critic is not remotely a critic of the cruise industry.  It's one of the cruise lines greatest fans and supporters. It will publish cruise line PR statements without question or hesitation.

When Cruise Critic broke the story, Royal Caribbean's PR department had already fed Cruise Critic a statement claiming that another passenger witnessed the 21-year-old American go overboard at about 9:25 p.m. EDT. "The ship's Captain immediately stopped the ship, turned around, and alerted the U.S. and Bahamian Coast Guard," read the cruise line statement.

The next time entry mentioned by Cruise Critic was 3:30 a.m., when the U.S. Coast Guard assumed control of the search and released the Allure of the Seas as well as Carnival's Fascination and Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas cruise ships which had joined in the search for the missing woman. 

Allure of the Seas The impression created by Royal Caribbean and its friends at Cruise Critic was that Royal Caribbean "immediately" notified the proper authorities and "immediately" searched the waters for the young woman and that the search lasted six hours from 9:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. until the Coast Guard released the cruise ship to continue with itinerary. 

What Cruise Critic didn't mention was that, based on an article in the Sun Sentinel newspaper, Royal Caribbean was notified of the 9:25 p.m.overboard at 9:30 a.m. but the cruise line delayed two hours until 11:30 p.m. before notifying the U.S. Coast Guard. The Sun Sentinel article was based on comments directly from the U.S. Coast Guard.  

But no other news sources mentioned the two hour delay; instead, CNN, Miami Herald, CBS FOX News, and others published the false and misleading cruise line statement that Royal Caribbean "immediately" stopped the cruise ship and notified both the U.S. and Bahamian Coast Guards following the 9:25 p.m. incident. 

Coast Guard regulations and the requirements of most cruise ship safety management systems (SMS) required by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) state that the vessel must notify the Coast Guard and other vessels in the vicinity if the overboard person is not "immediately" located in the water. Once a man overboard is reported, most SMS cruise line policies require a prompt reduction of speed of the ship, a "Williams Turn" to head the ship back to the location of the overboard person, the deployment of extra look-outs, the use of spotlights, and preparation to deploy life craft. While this is happening the captain can order a muster and head count if there is any doubt about whether a passenger went overboard.

It is inexplicable that the cruise ship would sail on if an eye witness reported the overboard to the cruise line at 9:30 p.m. Two hours later, the ship would be 30 - 40 miles away not even considering the effect of the current on the person overboard.  The chances of drowning would increase substantially and the search area would increase dramatically due to the delay. 

The Allure is the world's largest cruise ship with 5,400 passengers and 2,300 crew members aboard. A search of this huge ship would take many hours. Did the cruise line really ignore the man overboard report and sail away? Why search the ship or order a muster and head count if an eye witness saw the woman go overboard as initially reported?  It is against basic maritime protocols.

In cases like this, wild speculation follows a delayed rescue attempt. Was this a suicide, foul play or the results of excessive serving of alcohol?  

I don't believe that people wanting to commit suicide take the time and incur the expense of booking a cruise, buying an airplane ticket, packing a big suitcase, and then flying across the U.S. to South Florida for a week long cruise to the Caribbean with the thought of killing themselves.  

But readers commenting on the cruise message boards at cruise fan sites like Cruise Critic have already labeled the case a suicide or 100% her fault for partying.  Sites like Cruise Critic perpetuate the cruise line's misleading PR campaign by ignoring the cruise line's two hour delay and then letting its readers assassinate the woman's character.

Unfortunately, there is no independent police authorities onboard cruise ships to gather the true facts and conduct an objective and timely investigation. Cruise lines investigations are often conducted with the cruise line's reputation and legal interests in mind.

This is a real disservice to families of missing passengers who need transparency in such a time of despair. 

 

September 19, 2012 Update: Royal Caribbean tries to justify why it delayed stopping the ship and notifying the Coast Guard. Coast Guard ends its delayed search. FBI now involved.

Passenger Missing From The Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Last night a young woman from Bartlett, Tennessee disappeared from the world's largest cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas.

According to experts who track cruise ship disappearances, she was the 186th person to go overboard from a cruise ship in the last ten years.

At the time of the overboard last night, the Allure was sailing to Nassau after leaving Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades).

Royal Caribbean Cruises issued a press release that the 21 year old U.S. passenger went overboard Allure of the Seas OverBoard Passengerat 9:25 PM Eastern Standard Time last night.  The incident was apparently captured on the cruise ship's CCTV cameras. 

Royal Caribbean Delays Notifying the Coast Guard

The Sun Sentinel reports that the incident was reported to the cruise line around 9:30 PM, but the cruise line delayed reporting the incident to the Coast Guard for 2 hours until 11:30 PM. According to the Sun Sentinel. the cruise line apparently searched the ship for two hours to look for the young woman.

Only after the shipboard search was unsuccessful did the ship contact the Coast Guard.

Royal Caribbean Denies Delay

According to Cruise Critic, Royal Caribbean says that there was no delay.  It released a statement claiming that after another passenger observed the overboard and reported it, "the ship's Captain immediately stopped the ship, turned around, and alerted the U.S. and Bahamian Coast Guard."  This is inconsistent with the Coast Guard statement that Royal Caribbean waited until 11:30 PM to notify it and then search in the water for the passenger.

The Allure is a huge ship with some 8,000 passengers and crew members. As the cruise line likes to advertise, the massive ship comprises some seven neighborhoods.  Why would the cruise line waste valuable time searching such a big ship while sailing for two hours away from where the overboard was observed? 

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein reports that 186 people (passengers and crew members) have gone overboard in the last decade or so.

The last overboard from the Allure of the Seas was in early February of this year when an Irish passenger in his 20's went overboard.  

In instances where suicide is suspected, the cruise lines usually allude to that in their initial public statement. There is no mention of that so far.

Alcohol is often involved in cruise ship overboards, but there is no mention of that factor one way or the other.

Please leave a comment below if you have information about what happened, or click on our facebook page to see what other people are saying about this case.

 

September 18, 2012 Update: Cruise line's 2 hour delay in inconsistent with Coast Guard regulations, International Maritime Organization (IMO) recommendations and cruise line safety management system (SMS) procedures - read here..

September 19, 2012 Update:  Royal Caribbean tries to justify why it delayed stopping the ship and notifying the Coast Guard.  Coast Guard ends its delayed search.  FBI now involved. 

September 20, 2012 Update: Royal Caribbean Struggles to Justify Delayed Notification to Coast Guard.

September 22, 2012 Update:  Allure of the Seas: "Profits Over Passenger Safety?

September 27, 2012 Update: Passenger identified.  One of her last comments on Twitter: 'Lord Keep Us Safe On This Gigantic Cruise Ship." 

October 3, 2012 Updates: Delay, Deny, Deceive & Defend: Royal Caribbean Shows How Not to Respond to an Overboard Passenger 

Video: Royal Caribbean Delayed Reporting Overboard Passenger

Royal Caribbean's New Port in Falmouth, Jamaica - At What Cost to the Environment?

I have written about Royal Caribbean's new port development in the town of Falmouth Jamaica before. It seems to me that the new development for the cruise line perpetuates the historical master (cruise line) - servant (Jamaica) relationship which continues to exploit the Jamaican people.

My tour of Falmouth reinforced those beliefs.  Most of the profits from goods sold behind the walled gates to the port leave with the cruise ship and return to the cruise line's coffers in Miami.  And most of the cruise passengers who left the Allure of the Seas when it was in port quickly headed out of Falmouth on cruise line excursions to Ocho Rio and Montego Bay.

But this article is not about the economic exploitation of Falmouth. It addresses the environmental consequences to the island caused by trying to accommodate Royal Caribbean's two monster Falmouth Jamaica - Royal Caribbean Port - Reef and Mangrove Destruction (Genesis) class cruise ships, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas - the two biggest cruise ships in the world.

The motivation for this article came from reading an article Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? in OnEarth magazine ("A Survival Guide for the Planet.")    

I learned a couple of things from this article.  First, the Oasis and the Allure, even though Royal Caribbean touts them as environmentally friendly ships, are burning the dirtiest and most dangerous fuel in the world - bunker fuel - which is essentially a tar-like refinery by-product.  The non-combustible particles blacken the sky and pose a major health hazard to the health of people in a hundred mile radius.

Secondly, the presence of Royal Caribbean's new mega-ships in the little port required the destruction of some 35,000,000 cubic feet of coral reef and the destruction of two square miles of mangroves which are now buried under the now pulverized reef material.   Quite frankly when I visited Falmouth last year, I was taken back by the destruction I could see. But now I appreciate just how widespread and complete Royal Caribbean's plans were to destroy the reef and mangroves.   OnEarth magazine explains:

"In Falmouth, to accommodate Allure and Oasis, wrecking crews had to smash a quarter-mile-wide opening in an offshore barrier reef. They dredged coral, both living and dead, as well as the rock substrate, and trucked it inland to a two-square-mile dump site -- a clear-cut area on the outskirts of town that was once a thriving red mangrove swamp. Now all that’s left is 35 million cubic feet of pulverized coral and rubble. When I visit the site with Roland Haye, a Jamaican environmental activist, he tells me, "As a boy, I used to play Tarzan here and see crocodile. It was a winter home for great heron and swan." He points out broken conch shells, dismembered starfish, bits of sea sponge, and severed lobes of brain coral."

Port of Falmouth - Reef and Mangrove Damage - Royal CaribbeanAnother problem is that the removal of the natural reef exposes the shore to pounding of the waves. When I visited, I observed that the road from Ocho Rios to Falmouth, previously protected by the reef, was literally covered with water from the encroaching waves. The road was already eroding.  

While reading the OnEarth magazine article, I learned about Esther Figueroa, a Jamaican filmmaker who documented the destruction of the reef and mangroves in order to dig a giant water hole for Royal Caribbean to park its monstrosities of the seas. (Why does Joni Mitchell's song Big Yellow Taxi - "they paved paradise" - come to mind?).

Ms. Figuero's short video is below, at the bottom.

But first take a look at the top video. While looking on YouTube for Ms. Figueroa's video, I also ran across a short promotional video for the Royal Caribbean port by "CruiseGuy," a cruise enthusiast and local cruise celebrity, who was interviewed on a local South Florida TV station. He raves about how wonderful Royal Caribbean's new facility in Falmouth will be. The video shows a beautiful color drawing of a tree filled port nestled between the Oasis and the Allure.    

Compare this cruise dream with the reality revealed by Ms. Figueroa's video on the bottom.  

"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot"
 

  

 

 

Why Are Royal Caribbean's "Most Technologically Advanced" Cruise Ships Burning Nasty Bunker Fuel?

A couple of years ago I blogged about the nastiest fuel on the planet - bunker fuel.  It's the dredge at the bottom of oil refineries, a nasty tar like substance which is impossible to be completely burned.  It leaves non-combustible particles that blacken the sky and, if inhaled, cause lung disease, cancer, asthma, emphysema.  Cruise ships burn it because it's cheap.  But it presents long term and costly health issues to people around the world who are forced to breathe the cruise ship emissions.

No one in their right mind would burn this stuff in their house or car and you would call the police if your neighbor did.  But this is the cornerstone of the cruise industry.   

When Royal Caribbean brought the new Genesis class cruise ships on line, the cruise line touted the Oasis of the Seas and its sister ship Allure of the Seas as technological marvels. But this weekend while reading an article Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? in OnEarth magazine ("A Survival Guide for the Planet.") I learned something new.

Although Royal Caribbean touts the Oasis and Allure as "green" cruise ships, they still burn the world's dirtiest fuel - bunker fuel.  The article states that Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas:

" . . . still burns bunker oil, also known as bunker fuel, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. Today, virtually every cruise ship is powered by this cheap, gelatinous sludge, which presents the single biggest hurdle to an industry that wants to call itself sustainable. As long as Allure guzzles this stuff, she will leave a colossal environmental footprint . . . "  

The article goes on to state that every dollar spent to reduce pollution from ships will create as much as $34 in health benefits. "Cleaner ships will translate into fewer asthma emergencies, heart attacks, and lung ailments, especially among children and the elderly."  But don't expect Royal Caribbean to invest a penny into such health concerns. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are neither the stewards of the air nor the protectors of your family's lungs.  

As long as the Oasis and the Allure burn bunker fuel, they are no more technologically advanced than a 1960's tanker.  

Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship - Pollution - Bunker Fuel

 For additional information about cruise ship pollution, read an editorial in the Seattle Times Cruise Industry Should Comply With New Air-Quality Regulation

Suspect Pleads Guilty of Raping Minor on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Rape - Sexual Assault A 20 year old Brazilian man pled guilty this week to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in the rape of a 15 year old girl on the last night day of a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Destry sentenced Luiz Scavone to one year in jail and declared him a sexual offender.

Federal officials will then deport Scavone back to Brazil after he serves his jail sentence.  If Scavone returns to the United States, he will be required to notify corrections officials and be supervised as a sex offender. 

During the cruise, Scavone and a 15 year Brazilian teenager lured the young girl from a teen center back to their cabin where they took turns sexually assaulting her.

The crime took place on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship. 

We previously reported on this sexual assault on the Allure of the Seas in our articles Two Rapes Alleged on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship and International Media Focuses on Royal Caribbean Cruise Rape Case

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Intercepts Cuban Rafters (Again, Again & Again)

WSVN News 7 in Miami reports tonight that Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship sent a lifeboat to pick up five Cuban refugees who were floating in a raft after escaping Cuba. 

A cruise passenger sent Channel 7 a video of the "rescue" operation.  A cruise passenger was quoted saying  "I was kinda hoping that if they were brave enough to make it out to see from Cuba that they'd have a chance to stay here but who knows?"

I have a love / hate feeling about these situations.

Yes, its great that the cruise lines "rescued" Cubans on the high seas in rafts.  No one wants to see another situation where a Princess cruise ship callously sailed by three Panamanian young men in a disabled little fishing boat 100 miles out to sea, causing two men to die.

But on the other hand, there is no question that the Cubans will be sent back to Cuba, where they will meet whatever fate Castro's regime decides to impose.

I have written a dozen articles like this.  It seems like Royal Caribbean cruise ships for some odd reason are usually involved. Take a look here, hereherehere and here. The Allure and its sister ship, Oasis, have had multiple "rescues."

But there is no "rescue."  It is in essence an interception.  Current U.S. immigration policy is that if Cubans make it ashore they get to stay here. Good for them I say.  But if they are caught on the high seas, they go back to Cuba. Period. 

These brave Cubans will not die at sea, but they may now die in a Cuban jail for seeking freedom.  

    

Fire Breaks Out Aboard Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Tonight I began to receive text messages from passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas stating that a fire broke out in the engine room.  Heavy black smoke billowed out of the stacks. There was initial panic by some passengers. The cruise ship made emergency announcement and altered its course so that the prevailing winds would not blow smoke into the ship.  

There are no reports of injuries to passengers at this time.  The Allure is continuing its cruise and there apparently remains propulsion, electricity, lights, and air conditioning.  The ship is heading from St. Maarten back to Fort Lauderdale, and is somewhere east of Turks and Caicos.  

We do not have a statement from the cruise line at this time.

Allure of the Seas - Cruise Ship FiresIt has not been a good year for the cruise industry, as everyone knows. Just last month there was a disabling fire in the engine room of Royal Caribbean's Quest cruise ship operated by its subsidiary Azamara.   In February, there was a disabling fire aboard the Costa Allegra.

Cruise ship fires are not uncommon. There have been 79 fires on cruise ships since 1990.  This one makes 80 in 22 years.  Almost 4 a year. Read our article "Ten Years of Cruise ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"

If you are on the cruise and have info, photos or video, please leave a message.

Update April 20, 2012:  Several readers pointed out that my reference to and photos on the webcam were dated April 19, 2012 (yesterday).  The webcam is not active now. I deleted the image.  Sorry for the misleading reference to normal events yesterday - but why is the webcam not showing what's going on tonight?  I suspect the cruise line shuts the web cams down during emergencies.

Update April 21, 2012:  Here is the official cruise line PR statement:

"At approximately 7:45 pm (ET) Royal Caribbean International's Allure of the Seas experienced a small and short lived engine fire. The ship's high fog system was immediately activated, which contained and extinguished the fire. There were no injuries to guest or crew. The ship is sailing towards Port Everglades, Florida, where it will arrive on Sunday, April 22 as scheduled."

Royal Caribbean wrote a masterful PR statement.  "Small" fire which lasted "short" time and was "immediately" extinguished.  But let's have some real information?   What caused the fire?  Why did a new ship touted as having new generation technology catch on fire in the first place?   All fires start out "small."  A small fire on a huge ship in the middle of the sea is not a good thing. The 2006 fire aboard the Star Princess started out with a single cigarette smoldering in a towel and then barely erupting, yet it led to 100 cabins being destroyed, one death and multiple injuries.

Did An Explosion Occur Before the Fire on the Allure of the Seas?

We have received some inquiries asking whether an explosion took place in the engine room before the fire broke out.  Does anyone have any information about this claim?  It was mentioned that: "This morning it was reported on the Swedish shipping forum Landgangen that Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship Fire - Explosion - Ship FireALLURE OF THE SEAS experienced an engine explosion/failure last night. According to a Swede who is currently on board, first a loud bang was heard, followed a few minutes later by a tremendous shaking sensation throughout the ship."  Can anyone aboard verify this?  

The Vessel Tracker web site contains a comment that there was a "bang" that preceded the fire and that the vcruise ship drifted between one and two hours before continuing back to South Florida: 

"Passengers of the 'Allure of the Seas' were alerted by a bang on 7.45 p.m. on Apr 20, 2012, followed by development of smoke. Soon afterwards fire instructions were given to the crew. Shortly thereafter the captain informed the passengers that there had been an incident in the engine and that all watertight bulkheads had been closed. The entire section 6, apparently the section that includes Viking Crown Lounge, was evacuated. Some passengers on board were shocked, however, no one was injured. The ship drifted between one and two hours before continuing with the only one functioning machine left after the small and short-lived engine fire was extinguished by using the ship's high fog system which had been immediately activated to contain the fire."

Did the cruise ship really drift for this long?  This could have been very serious if the explosion and fire occurred during a storm.   

Update April 22, 2012:  Some passengers disembarking the Allure today (see comments below) state that there certainly was an explosion in the engine room, initial panic and less than optimal communications.  One passenger commented that Royal Caribbean was down-playing what happened. I am sure that other passengers will leave comments as they are now off of the cruise ship and will be describing what they observed from their home computers.  

A reader brought to my attention that there is an interesting thread of comments on the cruise critic message board by passengers who disembarked, including this one:

"Just got off the Allure and I have to disagree that there was NO panic. The crew were visibly scared as we're many of the passengers. Our cabin steward told us that our hallway had many families in tears and begging for life jackets. We were in the main dining room for our lobster dinner and when you feel a 225000 ton ship shake like that you know something big just happened. The crew were trying very hard to appear in control and they did a good job, but you could seem them passing notes to each other and the concern on their faces. We were finished our dinner, but skipped out on desert because I really couldn't eat much after hearing Bravo bravo bravo and water tight doors closing. We saw many in tears and I felt the need to get my kids away from that and the ridiculous people that laughingly and loudly started talking about the titanic and going down with the ship. We strolled the the Royal Promenade and tried to appear normal for the kids. Communication was good and they did a great job of handling things quickly, but there were lots feeling very unsettled. Very glad it ended quickly."

Another passenger said there were "nervous" people but no panic.  The passenger also commented: " . . . no power from the engines as it appeared we were drifting - this occurred for at least an hour maybe two . . . "  

It will be interesting to hear what other passengers observed . . . anyone have photos or videos of initial reaction of passengers and crew? . . . Please leave a comment below:    

Family of Overboard Passenger From Allure of the Seas Asks Public For Information

A blogger of international news at the Examiner, Edward Owens, published an interesting article today regarding the disappearance of a passenger from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship.  

You will recall that last week, Irish cruise passenger Kenneth John Gemmell went overboard from the balcony of his cabin on the eleventh deck of the Allure cruise ship.  The initial reports stated that he "fell," although the cruise line was quick to issue a statement that a review of the ship's closed circuit television cameras eventually indicated that the passenger "intentionally" went over the railing.

We reported on the incident on February 3rd and have been updating the story since then.

Did Royal Caribbean Send A Crewmember Home After The Incident?

Kenneth John Gemmell - Allure of the Seas - MissingMr. Owen's article contains a new twist, perhaps, to the incident.   Mr. Gemmell may have argued with a Royal Caribbean crewmember at some point before he went overboard.  The crewmember then allegedly left the vessel in Cozumel.  Mr. Owens writes:    

The family says that some information has already come their way. One party told them that Kenneth may have been arguing with a ship's crew member (perhaps a bartender) in one of the bars late Thursday night or early Friday morning. They were also told that the crew member, a man they understood was sharing a room with a Canadian citizen, left the ship in Cozumel. 

Is this gossip or accurate information?  If this is true, then the crewmember would have been removed from the cruise ship before the law enforcement authorities or representative of the flag state (Bahamas) boarded the cruise ship when it returned to port in Fort Lauderdale two days later.   If you know anything about this, please leave a comment below and contact the family.

Family Seeks Information

Mr. Gemmell's family is seeking answers to the circumstances surrounding their son's death.  The article states that they are issuing an appeal to anyone on board the ship who might have met their son during the cruise.  They especially wish to hear from the passenger who witnessed him going overboard. 

Anyone who has information about this tragedy is asked to email the family spokesperson at the following email address: michael@mhynes.com 

 

Story credit:  Examiner

Photo credit:  Kenneth John Gemmell - Anglo Celt newspaper

Passenger Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas OverboardThe AP is reporting that a Irish cruise ship passenger went overboard from the Allure of the Seas, which is the world's largest cruise ship cruise ship.

(Update: If you are searching for the overboard involving a twenty-one (21) year old woman from Bartlett Tennessee who disappeared on September 16, 2012 from the Allure, click here.)

Royal Caribbean states that another passenger allegedly saw the British passenger, age 30, go over the railing from his stateroom on the Allure.  The cruise line then apparently verified the overboard by viewing images from closed circuit television.  

The incident occurred as the cruise ship was heading to Cozumel.  Announcements were made around 6:45 AM.  The cruise ship then stopped off the coast of Mexico near Cozumel. and participated in a brief search.  The ship was to depart tonight at 8:00 PM tonight and was scheduled to be at sea tomorrow, with a return to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

There are rumors that the passenger may have left a suicide note and then stepped on a table and went overboard.

The last British citizen who disappeared in international waters near Mexico is Rebecca Coriam, a Disney cruise member employed as a youth counselor aboard the Disney Wonder.    

The last reported incident aboard the Allure of the Seas involved multiple rapes earlier last month

The cruise ship was under charter by Atlantis, which hosts parties for the gay and lesbian community.  The Allure had sailed from South Florida on January 29, 2012 to Labadee Haiti, Costa Maya Mexico, and then to Cozumel. 

In the past, the Atlantis - Royal Caribbean cruises have been marred by controversy, with drug overdoses, suicide, and a travel agent busted for selling drugs (arrested with 142 ecstasy pills, 3 grams of methamphetamine, ketamine and about $51,000 in cash).  You can read about these incidents below.

One year ago:  Passenger Busted for Selling Drugs on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas

Two years ago:  Another Death on a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis Cruise

Three years ago: GLAAD Board Member Dies Aboard Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

And don't forget to read:  Is Royal Caribbean Ready for Medical Emergencies During the World's Largest Gay Cruise?

Does anyone know what happened on this latest Atlantis cruise party?

 

Allure of the Seas Atlantis Cruise

 

Photo credit:  Atlantis Events

International Media Focuses on Royal Caribbean Cruise Rape Case

Over the past week there has been a steady stream of articles in the international press regarding the sexual assault of a 15 year old girl by two Brazilian passengers aboard the Allure of the Seas.

The Mail Online newspaper in the U.K. published an article Vacation Nightmare As Daughter, 15, On A Family Christmas Cruise 'Is Lured From A Teen Dance And Raped By Two Men In A Private Room'

Antonio Luiz Scavone Neto - Luiz ScavoneNumerous newspapers in Brazil are covering the story as well.   Today Cominidade News in Brazil was the latest Brazilian newspaper to report on the alleged cruise crime case.

This is an incident which is likely to remain in the news for a long time.  It involves the world's largest cruise ship which Royal Caribbean launched with great fanfare.  The question is whether the one billion dollar cruise ship, packed with multiple Flow-riders, rock climbing walls, skating rink and zip line attractions, has adequate security to protect its 6,500 guests from crimes like this.

The case also will highlight jurisdictional issues involved when foreign nationals from a country with no extradition treaty with the U.S. commit a crime against an U.S. citizen on a foreign flagged cruise ship.

Tomorrow morning a criminal state court judge in Fort Lauderdale will take evidence and entertain argument whether defendant Luiz Scavone (full name Antonio Luiz Scavone Neto) presents a flight risk.  If defendant Scavone is able to flee the U.S. and return to Brazil, there is a certainty that the U.S. will never be able to compel his return to face trial.    

 

Read our prior articles:

Two Rapes Alleged on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Alleged Cruise Ship Rapists From Brazil Seek Low Bond

Alleged Cruise Ship Rapists From Brazil Seek Low Bond

Luiz Antônio Scavone Neto - Alleged Cruise Rapist - Luis Scavonne The Sun-Sentinel reports that at a hearing this morning the defense lawyer for alleged cruise rapist, Brazilian citizen Luis Scavone (full name Luiz Antônio Scavone Neto) requested a Broward judge to set "little or no bail."   However, prosecutors for the state argue that defendant Scavone is a flight risk. 

Judge Matthew Destry scheduled a hearing for this Friday to take testimony and hear argument whether defendant Scavone, who allegedly committed "lewd and lascivious" acts against a 15 year old girl on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, is a fight risk.

Scavone is photographed above left, in happier times.  

The Broward County Sheriff's Office arrested Scavone together with a 15 year old boy, described as an  "alleged accomplice," who lured the 15 year old girl from an on-board nightclub into a passenger cabin on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship, according to state prosecutors.

The incident was investigated by the FBI and the Broward County Sheriff's Office which also asserted jurisdiction after the cruise ship returned to port in Fort Lauderdale.

Luiz Antônio Scavone Neto - Cruise Rape Suspect - Allure of the SeasA previous judge who presided over the preliminary hearing,  John "Jay" Hurley, expressed concern that Scavone would flee to Brazil if given the opportunity.  The Sun-Sentinel quotes the judge saying "People who are from Brazil can go to Brazil, and there's very little chance that they'll be brought back to the United States."  The judge called Brazil a "loophole."  The judge was referring to the fact that Brazil recently amended its constitution to prohibit the extradition of criminals from Brazil.  Judge Hurley ordered that Scavone be fitted with a GPS monitor if he is released from custody while the case is pending.

It will be interesting to learn whether the two defendants hid after the alleged crime on the ship ship to avoid responsibility.  That would be a good indication whether they would try and flee the U.S. if released on a low bond. 

The press in Brazil are showing interest in this alleged cruise ship crime.  Several newspapers are publishing stories.  The 15 year old defendant's uncle is apparently a lawyer in Brazil.  The SRZD newspaper in Brazil quotes the family lawyer in Brazil denying everything and making nasty comments about the victim and her family.

Read Our Prior Article:  Two Rapes Alleged on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship 

Photo credits:

Top:  Brazil Voice

Bottom:  Joe Cavaretta via Sun-Sentinel

Sun-Sentinel article credit: Rafael A. Olmeda

Two Rapes Alleged on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

The world's largest cruise ship was the location for two shipboard rapes during a 10 day Christmas and New Year cruise which returned to South Florida yesterday.

The first reported incident occurred on the last night of the cruise and has been reported by several local news stations.  It involved a 15 year old girl who was lured from a cruise line teen club under false pretenses back to a passenger cabin and then sexually assaulted by a 20 year old man and another 15 year old boy.

Allure of the Seas Passenger - Luiz Scavone - Brazil - Rape - Sexual AssaultThe alleged assailants are two Brazilian passengers who were sailing aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, which is based on Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

According to the Broward County's Sheriff's Office, the 15 year old girl was at the cruise ship's teen club called "Fuel" when a 15 year old boy told her he was having a party in his room.  The young girl, who was vacationing with her family, was led to believe that she would meet friends there.  However, after entering entering the cabin, she was confronted by an older passenger, Luiz Scavone, age 20. His full name is Luiz Antônio Scavone Neto.

The Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) said that Scavone and the 15 year old boy prevented her from leaving, removed her clothing, forced oral sex, and then both raped her. "The victim told them 'no' several times and tried to leave but was not able to," according to the  BSO.

Scavone and the 15-year-old boy have been charged with "lewd and lascivious battery."  Scavone is in jail in Fort Lauderdale.  His Broward County Sheriff's mugshot is to the left. 

A judge in Broward County ordered Scavone to relinquish his Brazilian passport.  According to CBS Channel 4, the judge stated that if the immigration hold is lifted, and Scavone is released on bond, he must be fitted with a GPS monitor and is barred from applying for a replacement passport.  The judge cited the case of a Boynton Beach police officer who fled to Brazil last July using a replacement passport after he was indicted on a drug charge.  The U.S. used to have an extradition treaty with Brazil for decades, however Brazil now prohibits its citizens from being extradited to other other countries to face criminal charges.

The second incident occurred in the early morning hours of January 1, 2012.  It also involved a Brazilian passenger, believed to be in his 40's, who sexually harassed and then sexually assaulted and battered an U.S. college student.  The young woman was treated in the ship infirmary and underwent a rape examination.  Unlike the incident involving the 15 year old victim where the assailants were arrested, the Brazilian man was released by the FBI and the Broward Sheriff's Office.  He returned to Brazil and cannot be extradited.

This incident has not been reported in the media.  Royal Caribbean has not issued a statement regarding the second allegation of sexual assault.

 

 

Issues to consider:

These incidents raise questions regarding the adequacy of the security aboard the world's largest cruise ship.  The Allure and its sister cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas, can carry 6,500 passengers.  Both ships are essentially small cities with no police force.  We have been critical of Royal Caribbean's refusal to employ a sufficient number of security guards on its cruise ships and its refusal to monitor closed circuit television cameras to respond to potential criminal activities.    

A year ago, the Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain and President Adam Goldstein were aboard the Allure's sister ship 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.  Here are the questions which I posted on my blog which remain unanswered:

"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 cruise ships. In light of these problems, how many security guards are employed on the Genesis class of cruise ships? 

Q:   How many security guards are assigned to the seven "neighborhoods" on the cruise ships?  Allure of the Seas - Security - Sexual AssaultsAre 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?  (Both of the alleged rapes this week occurred in the early morning hours when Royal Caribbean has virtually no guard patrolling). 

Over a year ago, I also asked the  question: 

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."

January 10, 2012 Update:  Alleged Cruise Ship Rapists From Brazil Seek Low Bond

 

Photo credit:

Top: Broward Sheriff's Office via Mugshots Online

Bottom:  Royal Caribbean Cruises via Cruise Critic

Allure of the Seas "Rescues" Migrants Fleeing Cuba

The Miami Herald reports that  Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas stopped to pick up nine Cubans (eight men and one woman) as the cruise ship sailed back to Fort Lauderdale around 2 p.m. today.   

The newspaper indicates that the migrants had been at sea for eight days. The cruise ship personnel provided food, water and medical attention to the Cubans.  The narration to the video mentions that the immigrants were using "brooms" to paddle, but you can clearly see from photos posted on the Cruise Critic site that they were using long paddles. 

Although you can hear the cheers on the video when the migrants were rescued, the story does not end happily for the Cubans.  The U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security will undoubtedly deport then back to Cuba where they run the risk of ending up in one of Castro's jails.

In this video, you can see the rescue vessel taking the Cubans out to a Coast Guard cutter which arrives on the scene.

This is not the first time a Royal Caribbean cruise ship "rescued" Cuban immigrants.  On May 1st, the Navigator of the Seas picked up eight Cubans 40 miles north of Cuba.  You can see the dramatic photos here.

Last December, the Monarch of the Seas picked up six Cubans who had been at sea for 15 days in a raft consisting of a bunch of tires tied together with a makeshift sail.  If they made it ashore to the U.S. they could remain here; however, if they are "caught" in the water by the U.S. Coast Guard, they will be deported.  You can read about that ordeal in Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Immigrants.

 

 

Video credit:  Hinch family via Miami Herald / CBS Channel 4 (Miami) 

Passenger Busted for Selling Drugs on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas

Earlier this week, we blogged about the prevalence of drugs on the Atlantis gay parties on Royal Caribbean cruise ships and asked whether the cruise line was prepared to deal with problems as the Allure of the Seas sailed this week - Is Royal Caribbean Ready for Medical Emergencies During the World's Largest Gay Cruise?

Steven Barry KrumholzWe received a comment to our article from a cruiser: "I've been on 13 Atlantis cruises. Friends of mine on ship are reporting one death by falling, multiple people removed at first port for drugs and a several minutes long announcement by the captain about drugs. Amazed RCCL puts up with this."

Well today the AP is reporting that a passenger from California was arrested in the U.S. Virgin Islands on suspicion of selling drugs to fellow passengers on the Allure of the Seas. According to the AP:

"Steven Barry Krumholz, 51, of West Hollywood, was arrested on board the Allure of the Seas in St. Thomas, said Jeffrey Quinones, a spokesman in Puerto Rico for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The ship had just come from the Bahamas on a charter billed as the "world's largest gay cruise."

Customs and Border Protection agents boarded the ship Wednesday and found drugs on another passenger, who said he had placed an order with Krumholz before the trip and picked them up while on board, according to an affidavit submitted by one of the investigating agents.

Agents searched Krumholz's cabin and allegedly found more than 142 ecstasy pills, nearly 3 grams of methamphetamine, a small quantity of ketamine and about $51,000 in cash, the agent said.

While waiting for the suspect to return to his cabin, two more passengers came to buy drugs, according to the affidavit."

$51,000 in cash.  Wow.  That's alot of drugs sold to passengers on the Allure.

Sounds like high times on the high seas.

 

Allure of the Seas - Atlantis Events - Largest Gay Cruise - Drugs

 

Credit:  "high time on the high seas" is a quote I first heard from friend Chris Owen

Photo credit:  top - Steven Krumholz facebook; bottom - Atlantis Events facebook page

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico

Numerous news sources are reporting that the body of crew member from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was recovered from the ocean near Cozumel. 

Allure of the Sea - Cruise Ship - Crew DeathPolish national Ms. Monika Markiewicz, age 32, was employed by Royal Caribbean as a musician.  She disembarked from the Allure on Friday and did not return to the cruise ship.  The cruise ship then left Cozumel and sailed back to Miami.   

Her body was recovered on Saturday.   

An autopsy determined the cause of Ms. Markiewicz's death was "drowning" but noted that she suffered a blow to the head.  According to the Canadian Press, Royal Caribbean spokesman Cynthia Martinez said the information the company had received indicated "she was the victim of a violent crime, and did not drown accidentally."  "Tragically, we recently became aware that the crew member was a victim of a violent crime while ashore in a remote area in Cozumel," the statement said.

Royal Caribbean has had many deaths in the last two months.  Last week, a crew member was killed and the safety officer injured during a fire drill aboard the Allure's sister ship Oasis of the Seas.  A passenger's husband filed suit over his wife's death on the Brilliance of the Seas.  Three Monika Markiewicz - Cozumel Mexicoweeks ago, a passenger fell to his death from the Liberty of the Seas.  Two months ago a young cook was found dead on the Oasis of the Seas.  

This most recent death comes at a time when some cruise ships have pulled out of some of the ports in Mexico, citing concerns with crime.

Are you a crew member aboard the Allure?  If you have information about this incident, please leave a comment below. 

February 8, 2011 UpdateMexico, Cruise Ships & Crime Against Women

February 9, 2011 Update:  There are a number of articles which are confusing the names of the Royal Caribbean crew member, Ms. Markiewitz, with a cruise line passenger who also died in Mexico after leaving the cruise ship last Friday.  The Latin America Herald Tribune identifies the cruise passenger as Ms. Samantha Page Thomas.  This newspaper also indicates that Monika Markiewicz was also known as "Monica Warshal." 

February 10, 2011 Update:  A newspaper in Mexico also identifies the passenger and contains a strange explanation of events.  A press conference of the Mexican prosecutor is available on line.  Warning, the video contains graphic post mortem images of Ms. Thomas as well as a photograph of Ms. Markiewicz  face down in the water when she was found.  The prosecutor is quoted as saying that they were also reviewing the cruise ship's surveillance camera imges to see who the crew member was seen leaving the ship with or whether she may have gone overboard. 

A Mexican man was arrested today in Ms. Markiewitcz's death. Nelson Perez Torres, 24, who worked in a restuarant in Cozumel, reportedly confessed to hitting Monika Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean.

Read our updated article:  Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

Resources:

Mexican Vacation Awareness

 

Photo credits:  

Top - Runekrem Flickr page

Bottom - AP Photo/Angel Castellanos

 

Is Royal Caribbean Ready for Medical Emergencies During the World's Largest Gay Cruise?

Today, Royal Caribbean's newest mega-ship, the Allure of the Seas, sails from Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale on its first charter with 5,400 gay and lesbian passengers.  The cruise is sponsored by Atlantis Events which is billing the event as the "world's largest gay cruise."

The Allure will port in Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten during the one week cruise.  This is the  20th anniversary for the Atlantis travel company which specializes in all-gay vacations.

Atlantis Gay Cruise - Allure of the Seas The Atlantis cruises have not been without controversy.  One year ago, a 37 year old passenger aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas died during an Atlantis sponsored cruise.

In October 2009, we reported on the death of another passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis cruise.  Spencer Yu, an attorney for Warner Brothers and a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ("GLAAD"), died on the Mariner of the Seas. There is speculation that Mr. Yu, also a young man of  only 46 years, may have died of a drug overdose during the cruise.  After this ill fated cruise, passengers contacted our office complaining about the inexperience and confusion of the Royal Caribbean medical staff in responding to Mr. Yu's medical emergency.

Commenters on the gay community blogs Queerty and JoeMyGod bickered about the use of drugs during Atlantis sponsored events. 

Cruise ships are not the place to have a medical emergency, whether you are gay, lesbian, transgendered, or straight.  Cruise ships are often characterized by the questionable experience and training of the shipboard doctors and staff and the limited nature of the cruise ship's medical facilities. 

Is the Allure of the Seas, the largest and most technologically advanced cruise ship in the world, equipped to handle medical emergencies which occur during Atlantis parties?  Does Atlantis discuss the use of drugs and the foreseeable risk of a drug overdose with the cruise line to make certain that there are properly trained medical personnel to respond to emergencies?

January 11, 2011 Update:  Passenger Busted for Selling Drugs on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas - plus a half dozen drug overdoses.

A Mysterious Passenger Death, Another Royal Caribbean Crew Death, Country Music in Mexico, and a Cruise Ship Named After an Ogress

The month of November ends with the mystery of a dead Carnival passenger, another dead Royal Caribbean crew member, a drunk HAL passenger, and the usual weird cruise news. 

Murder Cover Up on the Carnival Liberty?  According to Carnival's PR spokesperson Vance Gulliksen, the death of a passenger on the Carnival Liberty had nothing to so with a crime or FBI - Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship - Passenger Deathviolence, it was just "medical related."  But passengers who were aboard the cruise ship commented on our blog articles Passenger Death On Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship and Death on a Fun Ship: What Really Happened on the Carnival Liberty? that the 36 years old female passenger met a violent if not gruesome death.  We posted a video (left) from one of the passengers showing the FBI leaving the cruise ship with what appears to be bags of evidence.  Is Carnival trying to hide the truth?  It would not be the first time.  We have made a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request and will stay on top of the story.   

Why Did a 33 Year Old RCCL Cook from Jamaica Die on the Oasis of the Seas?  Following the death of a young Jamaican cook on the mega ship Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean took a different PR approach than Carnival and simply said that it is standard protocol to call the FBI following a crew member death.  Actually, there is no protocol to notify the FBI every time a crew employee or passenger dies during a cruise.  The FBI suggests that they be notified when there are suspicious circumstances surrounding a shipboard death.  Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival do a notoriously terrible job handling crime cases and are about the least transparent corporations in revealing information when things go wrong at seas.      

How Could A Single Drunk Passenger Almost "Destroy, Disable, or Wreck" a HAL Cruise Tatlor Swift - Kanye West - Allure of the SeasShip?  An intoxicated passenger dropped an anchor early one morning while cruising on the Holland America Line Ryndam cruise ship.  The FBI arrested the drunk passenger with great fanfare.  The media followed up with the usual throw-the-stupid-drunk overboard stories.  But if there really is a criminal case to be made against the passenger for attempting to “damage, destroy, disable, or wreck a vessel” (a felony pursuant to the United States Code), then what does that say about this cruise line's security protocols?  If a stupid, drunk can single handedly wreck a cruise ship, what do you think a group of smart determined terrorists can do? 

Lesson learned?  There is way too much alcohol and far too few experienced security personnel on these foreign flagged cruise ships.    

Aqua Concert in Cozumel:  On the bright side, country artist Taylor Swift will be singing her hits to a captive audience aboard Royal Caribbean's newest monster cruise ship, Allure of the Seas.  On January 21, 2011, as the cruise ship docks in Cozumel, Mexico, Ms. Swift will perform in the cruise Princess Fiona - Royal Caribbean - Godmother - Allure of the Seas - Fain - Goldsteinship’s AquaTheater, providing an open-air / ocean view concert.  Let's hope that a brandy-sipping Kanye West (above right) doesn't show up on stage and take her microphone away, babbling that Beyoncé should be singing instead.  OK.  I'll admit it.  I prefer Beyoncé rather than the skinny country chick.  But that's not the point. 

Ogress Fiona and the Nation of Why Not?  Royal Caribbean announced that the Godmother of its monstrous Allure of the Seas cruise ship is no other than Shrek's Princess Fiona.  I'm not sure of the thought process behind naming a cruise ship after a cursed by-day princess who becomes an ogress at sunset.  But anything goes at the Nation of Why Not.  Sounds like the results of a deal with DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to market his movie creatures, and RCCL is pleased to cram the movie marketing down their passengers' throats.  Ogress Fiona, President Goldstein,CEO Fain and the Allure's Captain certainly make for a handsome PR photo.  Yikes. 

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

Historic Port of Falmouth - Jamaica's "Crapital" for the Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Cruises plans on using Falmouth, in Jamaica, as a port for its new monster of a cruise ship Oasis of the Seas.  There is a concern in Jamaica that Royal Caribbean is exploiting it's historic town in the process.

A Historic and Quaint "Colonial" Town - Sugar, Rum & Slaves  

Port of Falmouth Jamiaca Falmouth is the chief town and capital of Trelawny parish, Jamaica, and is located on Jamaica's north coast near Montego Bay.

In the late 1700's, Jamaica was the world’s leading sugar producer. There were hundreds of sugar estates and enormous wealth created by slaves for the rich estate owners. Falmouth was named after the birthplace of Sir William Trelawny in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain. At the turn of the 1800's, one hundred sugar plantations in Trelawny parish provided sugar and rum for export to Britain. Falmouth also has a notorious past because it was a center for the slave trade from Africa.  Based on its rum, sugar and slave business, it became one the wealthiest ports in the "New World." 

Falmouth is also considered to be one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved historic towns. Historic FalmouthMeticulously planned in the Colonial style, it is often compared to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, here in the United States. 

Royal Caribbean Makes a Sweet Deal

Several years ago, Royal Caribbean Cruises needed a port to accommodate its new "Genesis" class cruise ships (the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas).  These ships were far too big to use a regular port. 

The cruise line approached Jamaica and proposed a deal where Royal Caribbean would agree to use Falmouth as a port for its new mega ships - provided that Jamaica spend around $120 million deepening its port and creating a huge facililty to accommodate the two new mega-ships carrying over 6,000 passengers each.  The trade-off to Jamaica for this investment would be the infusion of money into Falmouth and the surrounding parish with the arrival of the new mega ships.     

Jamaica quickly jumped at the deal. No environmental impact statement or detailed economic analysis was prepared. The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) prepared promotional materials suggesting that "the destination will deeply reference the town's history, offering visitors a unigue sensory experience of the Colonial era."  William Tatham, Vice President of Cruise and Marina Operations at the Port Authority of Jamaica, proclaimed: “cruise visitors are looking for more memorable experiences, and this is certainly what Falmouth will be able to deliver.”

Royal Caribbean Cruise President Adam Goldstein  Royal Caribbean's President Adam Goldstein signed the deal with Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding  and promised to deliver 400,000 passengers a year to Falmouth over the next 20 years, with an expectation that each passenger would spend over $100 in the port. 

Jamaicans were promised a revitalized local economy with thousands of U.S. passengers spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every time the Genesis class cruise ships arrived in port.

Oasis of the Seas - a Self-Contained "Vegas with an Anchor"   

Fast forward to November 2009.  There is now little talk about passengers actually getting off the Oasis of the Seas and going into Falmouth.  Yesterday, the Charlotte Observer ran a story called  "Vegas with an Anchor," which quoted one the cruise ship's captains stating that “our hope, of course, is that people Oasis of the Seasdon't get off, because this ship itself is the destination. This is better than a lot of the islands.”

Paul Motter, the editor of the cruise community CruiseMates, echoed this sentiment: "I think it's going to be the first ship where people truly book just for the ship and hardly care where it goes."

Gadling, the online travel site, criticized the "nearly entirely inward-looking" experience of the Oasis of the Seas.  "With the aptly named Oasis, you don't need to leave the ship at all . . . As the Oasis passes by port after port, please pardon the passengers if they're not gathered at the rail watching the world pass by."

The thought of a megaship so big and self-contained that its passengers don't bother to disembark while in Falmouth is not lost on the people of Jamaica.  After spending and borrowing $120 million, they now realize that Royal Caribbean may have just taken them for a ride.

Oasis of the Seas - Looking for a Place to Offload It's Pee and Poo

In articles entitled "Why We Fail" and "Fantasies, Follies, and Frauds," John Maxwell of the Jamaica Observer warns of the  "transformation of our beautiful heirloom Falmouth . . .  to please the billionaire owners of Royal Caribbean Lines.  He writes:

John Maxwell - Jamiaca Observer"In beautiful and historic Falmouth, we are busy making a billion-dollar cosy corner for the Royal Caribbean Line on the alleged promise that they will be bringing 6,000 visitors a week to Falmouth. What we don't know is that we have probably been conned.

The Oasis of the Seas will make land-based hotels irrelevant. Instead of bringing visitors to Jamaica the new ships will bring an ersatz Jamaica to the visitors. Each of these ships will be human zoos specially designed to bemuse their clientele."

"Crapital" (sic) of the World?

Mr. Maxwell continues with his concern that Jamaica's town of Falmouth may become just a lovely place to unload the crap from the Oasis of the Seas' 6,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members:

"Given all this, the rationale for the Falmouth cruise shipping centre is simple: There's got to be somewhere to dump the huge amounts of waste generated by such a monumentally environmentally unfriendly project. Falmouth's destiny is to act as a relief point for the ship to be sanitized, resupplied with cheap Jamaican water and for the ship, its passengers and crew to offload their excrement in what will become the cruise crapital (sic) of the world"

Oasis of the Seas Allure of the SeasJamaica has a history of being exploited by foreign plantation owners, sugar barons, slave owners, bauxite-mining companies and now the mega ships of the $15 billion Royal Caribbean cruise line. 

Next year, the Oasis of the Seas will invade the historic port of Falmouth.  Later in 2010, the Allure of the Seas will follow.  When these floating-high-rise-shopping-centers cast a shadow over all of old town Falmouth, will Jamaica realize that it's once quaint port is being used for little more than a big latrine?     

 

Credits:

Historic prints of Falmouth   Falmouth Heritage Renewal

Adam Goldstein and Bruce Golding   Jamaica Ministry of Transport & Works

Oasis of the Seas   Kenneth Karsten via shipspotting.com

John Maxwell    Jamaica Gleaner

"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.