"Speed Restrictions" Plague Allure of the Seas

Allure of the SeasSeveral Royal Caribbean customers have reported that propulsion issues which the Allure of the Seas experienced several years ago have returned and will interfere with the cruises which are scheduled in the future.

One guest sent us an email she recently received:

"Dear Valued Guest,

We have updated information about your sailing.

Allure of the Seas currently has a speed restriction that will result in slight adjustments to your itinerary. For your convenience, the updates are noted below. The new port of San Juan, Puerto Rico offers the opportunity to visit the culturally rich city of Old San Juan and the lush rainforest of El Yunque. We apologize for this change, but have no doubt that your vacation will be nothing short of amazing. We can't wait to welcome you on board."

The guest who contacted us said that Royal Caribbean replaced St. Kitts with San Juan (others said that Royal Caribbean replaced St. Thomas with San Juan on other itineraries) and the duration of time that the ship will remain in the other ports of call has changed.

Many quests have made their plans a long time ago and chose the itineraries for the specific ports in question, with some people planning honeymoons and anniversaries.  They naturally feel disappointed. They are prohibited from canceling the planned cruises at this point without a penalty being assessed. Many have asked whether compensation is in order.

Unfortunately, the one-sided terms of their cruise tickets permit Royal Caribbean to change ports like this. It's not nice bit it's not illegal.  It is a matter of goodwill and the company's view of its own PR. Compensation is usually reserved for missed ports.

The cruise line that will say that, notwithstanding the propulsion issues, the guests are still receiving the value of a 7-night Caribbean cruise.

Back in November of 2013, 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 were canceled. We wrote about the problems in Dry Dock Cure for Allure of the Seas?

The Allure eventually went into dry dock (with the use of cofferdams) in the Bahamas in early 2014 for the repair of the bearings in an azipod, which was the subject of an interesting YouTube video

To our knowledge, Royal Caribbean has made no official announcements regarding this issue; there is no indication one way or the other whether the cruise line will respond to the ship's reduced speed with an early dry dock again. 

Stay tuned . . . 

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

August 18, 2017 Update: The Allure is scheduled for dry-dock repairs on Janaury 21, 2018, according to Royal Caribbean. The cruise line says that the cruise ship will undergo "standard maintenance work."  The specfics of the work is not specified.

Photo Credit: Allure of the Seas (in Falmouth Jamaica) - Jim Walker

Mission Impossible: Evacuating Behemoths at Sea

The Miami Herald's article today (by Hannah Sampson) regarding what is described as the "behemoths at sea" raises a basic question - how can you safely evacuate 5,000 passengers and 2,000 crew members from one of these "super-size" cruise ships?

The answer is simple, you can't. 

Maritime regulations require the task to be completed in just 30 minutes. Several retired Coast Guard officials (who didn't sell out and join the cruise industry) tell me that there is no way that a cruise ship like Royal Allure of the SeasCaribbean's Oasis, Allure or the to-be-built Harmony can accomplish this feat. 

It doesn't seem like the cruise lines have much confidence that they can either. Quite frankly, they don't seem to think that they have an obligation to do so. Ms. Hannah interviewed a dozen cruise executives and managers, including Carnival chief maritime officer William Burke who said "big ships are inherently more safe than the smaller ships . . . and so as a result, there is less likelihood of ever needing a lifeboat.”

Royal Caribbean’s global chief communications officer Rob Zeiger echoed this we-really-don't-need-a-lifeboat sentiment telling Ms. Sampson: “These things are designed now on the theory that the ship is its own best safety vessel. It’s as much about designing them to remain stable and in motion as anything else.”

Of course this is same mentality that doomed a thousand souls on the deck of the sinking cruise liner Titanic over a hundred years ago.  

Two years ago, I pointed out in Titanic Redux that the Allure and the Oasis were designed not to have enough lifeboats for all of the crew and passengers. The crew, and maybe some passengers, will have to jump down a chute into a raft.  It's a dangerous procedure even if the weather is perfect and the ship is in port. But if the giant ship is engulfed in flames, experiencing storm conditions or heavy seas, or is far from port, the outcome will become a disaster.

Ms. Sampson interviewed one voice of reason in her article, Captain Bill Doherty (former safety manager for NCL), a director with Nexus Consulting Group. Captain Doherty said “You’ve got to get out there and you’ve got to physically assess your worst-case scenarios. Real time, real people, real hardware drills that clearly identify where the holes are."

The reality is that the cruise lines, which are in competition to build bigger and bigger ships, are not conducting such real life, worst-case-scenario drills. It's disturbing to hear Carnival and Royal Caribbean cavalierly tell Ms. Hannah that lifeboats may not really be needed after all.

I hate to think what the guests and crew will be thinking when they hear the captain announce "abandon ship" from one of these gigantic monsters floundering in the middle of the Atlantic.

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

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

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

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, cpnsisting of 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 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

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)

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.  

Royal Caribbean's Dangerous FlowRider: Is the Cruise Line Drafting a New Liability Waiver?

One of the most dangerous activities you can participate in during a cruise is found only on Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. It's the "FlowRider," a simulated surfing and water-boarding activity where a thin stream of water shoots up a sloped platform to create a wave-like flow of water.

Wipe-outs are expected. But what is not expected are the serious, life-altering injuries and, sometimes, even death.

You can see one such serious accident in the video below, where a young man falls on his neck. 

A considerable number of cruise passengers have been seriously injured on the Flowrider, which Royal Caribbean helped design and install on five of its cruise ships: one FlowRider on each of the Freedom class cruise ships (Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas) and two on each of the Oasis class ships (Allure of he Seas and Oasis of the Seas).    

You will read absolutely no warnings about the dangers of the FlowRider on Royal Caribbean's website. Nor will you see any warnings whatsoever posted around the FlowRiders on any of the cruise ships. Even after a passenger was killed when he fell while trying to surf, the cruise line decided not to warn cruise passengers that the activity is, well, deadly

The cruise line's approach to the problem has been to require all passengers who participate in the activity to sign an electronic liability waiver. The process of scrolling through the electronic keypad in a long line is so quick that it's clear that no one reads the waiver. Moreover, the waiver is legally invalid. Earlier this year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of appeal struck down the Royal Caribbean waiver finding that it violated federal law (46 U.S.C 30509) which prohibits contract provisions that attempt to absolve a shipping company from its own negligence.  

At the moment, Royal Caribbean has an illegal waiver, and still no warnings on-line or warnings posted around the FlowRider.   

So what is the cruise line thinking? 

Some people think that Royal Caribbean may be going back to the drawing board to try and draft a new waiver.     

In a recent message thread on the website of the popular on-line cruise community Cruise Critic, there is discussion that the cruise line is working on creating a new and improved liability waiver - apparently for the purpose of trying to navigate around the statutory prohibition found in 46 U.S.C. 30509.  

If that's true, the new waiver will be struck down too. It's too bad that the cruise line won't post warning signs on its website or on the seven FlowRiders on its cruise ships. There are lots of people who don't understand just how dangerous this activity is.

If Royal Caribbean is going to be the only cruise line promoting this dangerous activity, it needs to spend less time drafting illegal waivers and more time drafting effective warnings before the next unsuspecting passenger steps on a surf board and breaks his neck.     

 

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

Allure of the Seas Overboard: Royal Caribbean Struggling to Justify Late Notification to Coast Guard

With the Coast Guard ending its delayed search and the 21 year old woman still missing at sea, Royal Caribbean is struggling to justify the two hour delay it caused in reporting the latest person overboard from the Allure of the Seas.  Its excuse is a whopper - it claims that it first had to first search the ship to make certain that the passenger was still not onboard. 

This statement is coming from a cruise line PR executive Cynthia Martinez, who is obviously unfamiliar with well established maritime rules and even her company's own man overboard protocols.  According to International Maritime Organization (IMO) recommendations and Coast Guard regulations, cruise ships are required to notify the Coast Guard if the person overboard is not "immediately" observed in the water.  

Royal Caribbean knows better than to act like this. It has some highly experienced mariners and former Coast Guard commanders working for it, like former Coast Guard Commander Captain Howard Newhoff Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seaswho was awarded a medal of commendation by President Reagan in the 1980's and whose skills and service to this country are beyond reproach. He must be shaking his head in disgust after reading the PR statements dreamed up by the cruise line's PR team members who don't know the difference between port and starboard. 

Royal Caribbean said that the Coast Guard was notified when the cruise ship found “the incident on the recording . . . from the video, we could pinpoint the exact time and location using Global Positioning System and provided that information to the Coast Guard.”

Nonsense. The Coast regulations require immediate notification. The GPS coordinates should have been sent to the Coast Guard immediately. Searching the largest cruise ship in the world and pouring over CCTV images from hundreds of cameras first?  A person can float for tens of miles over the course of the unnecessary two hour delay.

Maritime experts on Ring of Fire Radio voiced their displeasure about the delay from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m., over 2 hours after the passenger fell overboard. Gerald McGill, a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and a former Commanding Officer of two Coast Guard cutters, states:

"The most troubling aspect of this tragedy is why the ship waited two hours before notifying the Coast Guard. Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said the process of making sure a passenger is not onboard takes some time. She said such verification is necessary before the Coast Guard is notified 'and they commit to sending assets to help search.'

However, in this case a witness reported seeing another passenger go overboard and video footage verified this. The important fact was that “someone” had fallen overboard. Determining who had fallen overboard should not have delayed notifying the Coast Guard. Hopefully the FBI investigation will address this issue."

Delayed notification causes the Coast Guard to expend additional resources and expands the search grid of the Coast Guard cutters, helicopters and aircraft. The expenses increase substantially. And most importantly the chances of the person being rescued - which is why immediate notification to the Coast Guard is required in the first place - decrease dramatically.

 

Check out our facebook page to see what people are saying about how Royal Caribbean handled the situation. 

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

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

Rush to Judgment: Did Pressure from Royal Caribbean Cause Mexican Police to Arrest an Innocent Man?

Earlier this week, we reported that the case against the Mexican man charged with killing Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, was falling apart.  A key prosecution witness testified at a hearing that police pressured him into making a false statement implicating Nelson Pérez Torres as the murderer.

Nelson Pérez TorresIn our article Is Alleged Murderer of Royal Caribbean Musician Innocent? we pointed out that the Mexican police have now been accused of strong arm tactics against both the alleged killer and the star prosecution witness.

A newspaper in Mexico is reporting today that after Ms. Markiewicz's death, an official from Royal Caribbean traveled to Mexico and placed pressure on Mexico officials to quickly solve the crime.

SIPSE.com states that case gained special importance because it involved a crew member from the Allure of the Seas cruise ship, operated by Royal Caribbean.  The newspaper reports that Michael Ronan, vice president of Royal Caribbean, traveled to Cozumel and met with tourism authorities and the police to discuss the details of the case.

"The pressure increased when he made statements that cruises to the island could be suspended if the case was not resolved."  (translation)

This crime occurred at a time when some cruises lines were suspending cruises to Mexico due to the perception that it is unsafe to disembark in Mexican ports due to violent crime. 

Mexican police arrested Mr. Torres within a week of the death of Ms. Markiewicz.  Newspapers in Mexico published stories that Mr. Torres was railroaded into a confession.  His friends and family members even picketed at the pier with signs saying Mr. Torres is innocent. 

On the same day as the arrest, Royal Caribbean issued a press release stating that its "Global Adam Goldstein - Royal Caribbean Security Department fully supported and assisted Mexican officials in their investigation of this isolated and uncharacteristic crime for Cozumel."

Cruise line President Adam Goldstein was quoted saying:  

"We thank the Mexican authorities for their commitment to quickly solving the murder of our crew member . . ."

"Quick" justice is often no justice at all. 

It will be unjust to both the Torres and Markiewicz families if the wrong man is convicted.  
 

 

Photo credit:

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