Controlling the Images: How Royal Caribbean Handles PR During Cruise Ship Fires

Royal Caribbean Cruise PRPR News recently published an interesting article about how Royal Caribbean Cruises successfully handled its public relations image during the 2013 fire aboard the Grandeur of the Seas. Titled How Royal Caribbean Controls the Message During a Crisis, the article explains how the cruise line effectively controlled the narrative when the Grandeur caught on fire while cruising to Nassau.

PR Success: Immediately after the fire, Royal Caribbean quickly flew its president and a professional photographer to the port and tweeted photos of the cruise CEO interacting with guests "so that journalists would use those photos instead of a guest’s."

I mentioned this effective PR move in an article which I posted shortly after the fire titled Where Are Photo & Video Images of the Fire on the Grandeur of the Seas?  I commented on Royal Caribbean's new and improved PR efforts, but pointed out that the cruise line released more photos of the cruise CEO having tea with passengers after the fire than of the damage to the ship. 

A video report by ABC News helped to explain why there were no videos or photographs because the cruise ship's crew stopped passengers from taking images of the fire and chaos. Passenger Carrie royal Caribbean Cruise PRMcTigue told ABC News that "even when people put their cameras up to photograph the sunrise, they were told, 'no photos.'"

PR Disasters: But Royal Caribbean has not always been able to control the images shown to the public when its cruise ships catch on fire. In July 2015, the Freedom of the Seas caught on fire. When we learned that the Freedom was on fire while heading to port in Falmouth, Jamaica, we asked a former client who lives near the port to video the fire. He videotaped the ship coming into port, billowing a huge amount of smoke. We immediately posted the video, on our Facebook page, which was viewed by over a million people within two days. We also posted the video on this blog with other images of the fire and the passengers mustering to prepare to abandon the fire-stricken ship.

So when Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story, with a misleading statement by its CEO that the fire was allegedly "small and quickly extinguished," the public could make their own assessment regarding the size and ferocity of the fire. All of the major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) carried the video on their news programs and the international media included the video on their multi-media presentations.

The public was left with the impression that the cruise line was either completely out-of-touch with the danger posed to its guests or that it deliberately fabricated a falsehood to masquerade as the truth, which I suggested in the Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax.

Royal Caribbean also caused a public uproar after it sailed the Anthem of the Seas into a well publicized storm last year. Royal Caribbean's PR people tried to say that the storm was "unforeseeable" but weather professionals didn't buy it. They ripped the cruise line for routing the cruise ship directly into the storm. Read the Washington Post's 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm. Weather experts accurately predicted the Atlantic seas out of New Jersey to be over 30 feet high with winds of hurricane strength, but the Anthem nonetheless recklessly sailed into theRoyal Caribbean Cruise PR storm, terrorizing thousands of passengers and burning out the clutches of its azipods in the process. The Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating.

Royal Caribbean initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then falsely claimed that the only damage to the ship was "cosmetic." Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean's claim that the storm was not predicted: "Royal Caribbean's claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers."  USA TODAY chimed in with "Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm."

Practice Makes Perfect?  The director of the cruise line's corporate communications, Cynthia Martinez, was quoted in the PR article as saying that that the company often "practices roundtable discussions of how to handle an issue, and sometimes they practice writing tweets and press releases for specific situations." So the next time that a Royal Caribbean ship catches on fire or sails into a storm, remember that what you may be seeing from this cruise line is what it wants you to believe rather than the reality of what actually occurred or - as Al Roker said - "bullfeathers."

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Anthem of the Seas Suffers Propulsion Problem

The Anthem of the Seas is experiencing propulsion problems, necessitating a slight alteration in its current itinerary according to the popular RCL Blog. The ship will remain in Nassau, for two days, where repairs will be attempted to correct the problem.  

The propulsion problem issue is reportedly due to an electrical issue in one of the pod systems.  The Anthem has been cruising at reduced speed on this voyage. AIS systems show it sailing between 15 and 17 knots. 

Last February, the Anthem of the Seas encountered a large storm after leaving Bayonne, New Jersey. The Coast Guard announced that one of the vessel's two azipods malfunctioned during the storm and that the Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating. The Coast Anthem of the Seas Guard stated that "during the storm the port azipod, which is one component of the vessel's propulsion system, burned out all four clutches." Royal Caribbean, which initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then claimed that the only damage to the ship was cosmetic, was forced to try and quickly replace the clutches on the storm damaged azipod before the ship's next cruise. The cruise line also decided the starboard azipod 's clutch also needed to be replaced "as a precaution," raising the possibility that it also sustained damage during the storm.

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Photo credit: El Coleccionista de Instantes Fotografía & Video - El Crucero Anthem of The Seas en el muelle de Santa Catalina de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria., CC BY-SA 2.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Drowning on the Anthem of the Seas?

Anthem of the SeasToday, I received emails from passengers, who disembarked from the Anthem of the Seas, that there had been a drowning on the Royal Caribbean ship yesterday.  One guest stated:

"We departed Anthem of the Seas this morning wondering whether there was a death in the main outdoor pool this week. While there were multiple medical emergencies onboard during this cruise, the pool incident was the most talked about amongst guests. This was the first week RCCL had lifeguards onboard. My husband was walking through the pool area when he heard clapping as if someone was doing a stunt in the pool. Then he said the medical response team was called and rushed to the scene and used a defibrillator. The main pool was closed for the rest of the day while security did their investigation. Some passengers said it was a drowning. We also noticed on the itinerary channel that the ships course changed to head directly to the coast as if it were meeting a helicopter. Perhaps that was for any earlier emergency." 

Another guest stated: "A lady drown this week aboard the Anthem."

An eight year old child drowned on the Anthem nine months ago.  That incident was one of four drownings or near-drownings involving children which occurred on Royal Caribbean ships (Liberty of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and  Independence of the Seas) in the last two years. An adult woman also reportedly drowned on the Anthem last August.  

Ironically, Royal Caribbean just announced that it would begin to employ lifeguards on its ships. The Anthem of the Seas was one of the first ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet to be staffed with lifeguards this month.

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Update: I received the following message from a guest: "My family was on this same cruise on Anthem of the Seas this past week and can confirm that an older woman in her 60's or 70's did die in the outdoor pool on Friday. My wife and I were in the medical clinic with the nurse when her deceased body was wheeled in. During my follow-up appointment with the doctor on Saturday I asked the doctor about this woman and he confirmed to me that she died by drowning in the pool but it was not yet determined if there was an underlying medical cause, such as a heart attack, etc."

March 20, 2017 Update: This from another guest on the ship: "I was at the pool 2 feet away, from where she entered. I think she was much older than 70's maybe even 90. She got in to swim, she swam a slow crawl across the pool. She knew how to swim and went the diagonal length, the guard was watching her. When I looked back She was motionless in the water near where she got in. The guard and I saw at the same time. He prodded her with his life float, no response. Then again , no response. He went In and got her out fairly fast. I would have gone in after the first prod, but it was only a couple seconds. She knew how to swim, had to be underlying event."

 

Photo credit: GlynLowe.com, Hamburg, Germany - Anthem of the Seas - Cruise Ship in Hamburg, CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

Confusion Surrounds Medical Emergency in Swimming Pool on Anthem of the Seas

Anthem of the SeasLast Wednesday, I received a number of messages from cruise passengers about an incident on board Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas regarding what was described as a woman (passenger) who either suffered a heart attack or nearly drowned in one of the ship's swimming pools.

The cruise ship increased its speed to arrive back in port in New Jersey so that the passenger could receive shore-side medical treatment, although some people indicated that the woman died on the ship while it was returning to port.

This weekend, the Jersey Journal posted an article titled Cruise ship sped back to Bayonne after woman's medical emergency in pool: Royal Caribbean. The article quoted one of the ship's passengers who reportedly witnessed part of what happened when the Anthem was about halfway through its return voyage from Bermuda to Bayonne: 

"When we arrived in the area, she had just been pulled from the water and was unresponsive and had a pale/purple look." 

A press release issued by Royal Caribbean, however, downplayed the incident saying:

"On Tuesday, August 10, a 72-year old female from the U.S. onboard Anthem of the Seas was witnessed by guests having difficulty swimming in one of the ship’s pools. The guest was helped out of the pool, was initially treated by the ship’s medical team, but required additional medical attention. Therefore, the ship increased its speed for the earliest possible arrival into Cape Liberty, New Jersey for a medical evacuation. Royal Caribbean’s Care Team provided support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them."

The newspaper said that none of several area hospitals in Hudson County and Staten Island, or the U.S. Coast Guard for the New York/New Jersey area, or the Bayonne Police Department had "knowledge of any cases matching Royal Caribbean's description of the incident."

Did the woman pass away after being pulled from the water unresponsive (or "helped out of the pool" as the cruise line euphemistically puts it)? Why wasn't a medevac by helicopter requested? (We have reported on a prior medevac this June when a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew 260 miles out to pick up ill passengers from a NCL cruise ship).

Royal Caribbean is no stranger to swimming pool medical emergencies. An eight year old boy died after being pulled from an unattended swimming pool on the Anthem of the Seas in June of this year. A four year old and a six year old nearly drowned in pools on the Oasis of the Seas and the Independence of the Seas respectively.

Before this latest incident, fourteen (14) passengers drowned or nearly drowned on cruise ships without lifeguards, including eleven children. After every such tragedy, many cruise fans quickly blame the children's parents for not paying attention.  But three adults drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards in just the last two years. 

Lifeguards, of course, do more than just keep kids safe in pools.  A certified lifeguard, trained in life saving measures, can provide immediate CPR on the scene of a heart attack or other medical emergency.  

If a passenger suffers a near drowning or a heart attack, and a lifeguard is not on the scene to immediately provide CPR, it may be too late - for the medical team to run up from a lower deck on a huge ship, for ship personnel to decide whether to request a helicopter medevac, or for the ship to speed up to return to port. 

Photo Credit: By www.GlynLowe.com from Hamburg, Germany - Anthem of the Seas - Cruise Ship in Hamburg, CC BY 2.0.

Eight Year Old Nearly Drowns on Anthem of the Seas

Multiple news sources are reporting that Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas cruise ship turned around after leaving Bayonne, New Jersey because an 8-year-old child was found unresponsive at the bottom of one of the ship's swimming pools this evening.

ABC-Channel 7 News NY says that the "8-year-old is currently on life-support."

Children drowning or nearly drowning in cruise ship swimming pools unattended by life guards is not an uncommon topic. 

Anthem of the SeasLast December, an eight year old child drowned in an unattended swimming pool on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas. The child was pulled unconscious from one of the cruise ship's pools by a passenger. 

In January last year, a 4 year old boy nearly drowning aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas on January 3, 2015. The Miami Herald published Near-drowning on Royal Caribbean cruise raises concerns about lack of lifeguards after that incident.

In May 2014, a 6 year old boy nearly drown on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas and left the child fighting for his life in a hospital.

Last year, in an article titled Cruise Ships Are Unregulated Trouble on the High Seas, the New York Times wrote that Congress has exempted these cruise ship behemoths from virtually all regulations. The Times characterized the last death of a child in a pool without a lifeguard as a problem with letting cruise lines regulate themselves.

All major cruise lines have lost children and passengers in swimming pools on their ships. Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL and Princess Cruises continue to refuse to hire lifeguards.

To my knowledge, Disney is the only cruise line to employ life guards on its cruise ships. However it did so only after a 4 year old child nearly drown on the Fantasy and sustained a catastrophic brain injury requiring life-time medical care and resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement.

I have long advocated for having a lifeguard at every pool on a cruise ship. Lifeguards are needed because parents are not perfect, and there is a natural tendency for parents to let their guards down when they are on vacation. Kids deserve to have their parents and the cruise line working together to keep them safe. The cruise industry collects billions of dollars a year from passengers and pays virtually zero in U.S. taxes. It's shameful for every cruise line except Disney to refuse to hire lifeguards to keep kids safe and to be trained and certified in life saving measures and CPR.

Read Thoughts From A Concerned Cruiser about cruise ship swimming pool safety before Disney hired life guards.

The Miami Herald covered the issue and interviewed me, reporting that there have been a dozen passengers who have drowned or nearly drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards in the last 2-3 years involving primarily children: Royal Caribbean (4)(ages 4, 6, 8 and 8), Princess (4, 3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (1)(age 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before hiring lifeguards).

July 11 2016 Update: The boy, identified as Prince Adepoju of Maryland, died on July 2, 2016, according to multiple media reports.

 

Photo Credit:  By GlynLowe, Hamburg, Germany https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46635956; Video Credit CBS-2 NY. 

 

 

Families of Children With Autism File Suit Against Royal Caribbean

The Palm Beach Post is reporting that a lawsuit was filed this week against Royal Caribbean by families of children with autism who faced the February 6th storm which terrorized many passengers aboard the Anthem of the Seas.

The article was written by the the Palm Beach Post's weather reporter, Kim Miller, in her blog called WeatherPlus.  

Ms. Miller writes that "40 families of children with autism sued the luxury cruise company saying Anthem o fthe Seas Stormofficials were negligent in their actions to sail the Anthem of the Seas into the storm despite forecasts that predicted turbulent weather."  

She cites the lawsuit filed on Monday which says that "there were 40 families with Autism Spectrum Disorder children aboard the vessel and parents and aides did their best to protect themselves and their children who were being severely battered and traumatized."

The lawsuit represents a potential public relations nightmare for the cruise line which, ironically, has collaborated with Autism on the Seas, a non-profit national organization, since 2007, in developing cruise vacation services to accommodate adults and families living with children with special needs, including "autism, asperger syndrome, down syndrome, tourette syndrome, and cerebral palsy." 

Royal Caribbean said that the lawsuit lacks merit. The cruise line again commented that the Anthem encountered "unexpectedly severe storm" but still kept "the ship safe . . ." 

This may well prove to be a difficult case to defend given the fact that weather forecasts predicted 30+ foot waves and hurricane strength winds which rocked the cruise ship and damaged at least one of the ship's azipod propulsion units in the storm. 

The court records reflect that John Ostrow of Miami and Alan Trachtman of New York City represent the families. Long time cruise line defense lawyer Curtis Mase of the Mase and Lara law firm in Miami is representing Royal Caribbean in the first two lawsuits arising out of the storm last month. 

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Photo Credit: Incredible World / ABC News / Youtube

"Curse of the Seas" Returns to New Jersey for Noro Cleaning

Passengers on the Anthem of the Seas are stating that as of Monday, as the cruise ship continued to head back to New Jersey for deep cleaning, the captain informed them that 109 passengers are sick with norovirus.

Other passengers also tell me that there are more than this sick, but they don't want to go to the medical facility.    

According to the CDC, cruise lines are required to provide notification to the federal agency when the gastrointestinal illness (GI) count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers or crew onboard. The CDC-required notification is for totals for the entire voyage.

There are between 4,180 passengers (double occupancy) and 4,905 passengers (maximum occupancy) on the cruise ship so 2% turns out to be between 83 and 98 passengers. So expect Anthem of the Seas - Norovirusthe CDC to officially announce that the Anthem to be the fourth U.S. based cruise ship with an norovirus outbreak this year. 

The much ballyhooed "severe storm" that supposedly caused Royal Caribbean to cancel two days of the cruise is nowhere to be seen, as passengers report good weather and calm cruising. 

Royal Caribbean, which didn't mention the topic of norovirus until passengers went to Twitter complaining of the virus outbreak, denied on Twitter that the outbreak was the reason behind returning to port in New Jersey early. But many news sources blended norovirus into the story after an executive with the Associated Press aboard the cruise ship said that the ship’s captain and its cruise director made announcements about norovirus sickening people on the ship.

The AP executive was also quoted saying that the cruise ship "workers are scurrying around like ants, scrubbing down handrails, tables and any other surfaces that can be washed" - an apt although somewhat derogatory description. This is hardly what the cruise line wants the passengers to think about on a cruise marketed as a relaxing pleasure cruise.  

Whoever you believe, whether the Anthem of the Seas is returning to avoid the so-called storm or because of a virus outbreak, there is no doubt that the Anthem's reputation is being mauled in the court of public opinion.  New York Magazine called her the "bad luck cruise ship."  CNN calls her the seemingly perpetually "storm battered" cruise ship. Some people on Twitter are asking "Anthem of the Seas: Cursèd ship of doom, or just a run of bad luck?"  

Of course, any mention of the Anthem today is accompanied by photos and video of the raucous cruise earlier this month which reminds everyone of the fact that the ill-fated ship sailed into the violent storm.

The "cursed" cruise ship theme was blasted in the headlines of the popular U.K. tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail which asked "Is the Anthem of the Seas Cursed?" The Inquisitr, Newsmax, and the Examiner, among others, all joined the Daily Mail in labeling the Anthem "cursed" in their news Anthem of the SEas Norovirusarticles.   

So the overworked crew members continue to spray and scrub everything in sight. Photos sent to me from the ship show the crew members wiping all rails and counters (photo top) and wrapping a rack of cookies-(photo bottom) with a Saran-Wrap like film, apparently to keep the surfaces and food clean. (I have never seen this before).  

Regarding the crew members who had to deal with storm-frazzled passengers three weeks ago, and are now pressed into non-stop noro-eradication measures, I'm sure that they feel that the Anthem of the Seas may indeed be cursed.

March 1, 2016 Update 5:00 PM:  The CDC disease data-base just listed the Anthem of the Seas. It lists "unknown" rather than norovirus so we may find out that there is some other source of infection like e-coli or something more exotic. 125 passengers and 16 crew members are infected at this point. The CDC recommends sending 10 more crew members and 10 contract cleaners to the ship as well as 4 Hotel and Housekeeping Operations Managers, 3 Public Health staff, one nurse from the cruise line corporate office.   

A newspaper in New Jersey published a story that quotes a passenger on the cruise ship saying that the CDC came on the ship in Puerto Rick and tested for e-coli.  

Anthem of the Seas: Afraid of the Weather or More Bad Publicity?

This evening Royal Caribbean announced via Twitter that that it's "closely watching a large storm off the coast of Cape Hatteras. We want to be extra cautious when it comes to weather in the area." The cruise line decided that it is canceling the last two days of the current Anthem of the Seas cruise which will skip Barbados and St Kitts in order to "avoid a severe storm & provide guests with a comfortable journey back home."

Is this the same cruise line which recklessly sailed into a much larger storm three weeks ago?

The forecasted wind and wave conditions seem modest compared to the weather conditions forecast prior to the disastrous cruise on February 6th when the cruise ship sailed into waves over 30 feet and encountered hurricane strength winds.

So why the cautious approach today? Is this a cruise line that really learned its lesson?  Is this the result of new decision makers back in Miami who decide whether the Royal Caribbean ships will encounter rough weather? Remember, Royal Caribbean announced that the last storm revealed what the cruise line said were "gaps in our planning system that we are addressing."

Royal Caribbean also said that it was strengthening its storm avoidance policy, and allegedly added resources at its corporate headquarters in Miami to provide additional guidance to its captains. 

So is the decision this evening to cut the cruise short the result of more cautious meteorologists and fewer macho captains?  I doubt it. The weather reports seem pretty tame. 

It seems that the decision to cancel the remainder of the Anthem cruise is motivated more in order to avoid bad press than bad weather. Why? Passengers are reporting that over 65 people have come down with symptoms of the dreaded norovirus. A code red is underway. If there are 65 official reports, chances are that the true number is much higher. There will be what the cruise lines call "enhanced" cleaning when the ship returns to New Jersey on Wednesday in an effort to kill the noro.  Royal Caribbean's reputation can't take a massive noro outbreak on the heels of subjecting its guests to a massive storm earlier this month.

So what happens when the cruise ship returns to port 2 days early?  If this were truly just a weather related event, then the passengers, whose flights home are still scheduled two days later, should be able to stay on the ship. But if passengers are forced to leave the ship early for the anticipated super cleaning, it would seem that Royal Caribbean is more concerned with eradicating norovirus from its huge cruise ship than risking its guests encountering another round of rough weather.  

Anthem of the Seas Captain's Letter

Anthem of the Seas Lawsuits: Royal Caribbean Recklessly Sailed Into Storm

Today, Miami lawyers filed suit on behalf of a cruise passenger who sailed aboard the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas on Sunday, February 7th. The Lipcon law firm, based here in Miami, has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Royal Caribbean in Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Anyone who has read this blog in the last two weeks knows how I feel about the cruise in question. There is little doubt that the cruise line acted recklessly by ignoring weather forecasts of hurricane strength winds and 30 foot waves of this Altantic winter storm.  The winds strengthened, as to be expected in a storm like this, to well over 100 MPH. Many passengers experienced Anthem of the Seas Storm Lawsuitterrifying experiences where some passengers were fearful of losing their lives and those of their loved ones on the cruise ship.    

The Anthem of the Seas returned to New Jersey with severe damage to its propulsion system, among other damage. 

The captain of the Anthem of the Seas said during a talk to the passengers after the storm that he expected waves of only 12 to 15 foot waves.  But weather forecasts indicate that much higher waves, to over 30 feet, were expected. This means that the cruise line did not provide accurate weather reports to the captain or he ignored them. Navigation officers are required to up load "passage plans" pursuant to the the International Safety Management (ISM) codes before they sail. This information will quickly reveal exactly what weather conditions the captain anticipated during the ill-fated cruise in question.      

ABC reports that any passenger who was on the ship can be represented in the lawsuit, which covers both passengers who suffered physical injuries and those passengers who are alleging only severe emotional, psychological and emotional stress. 

You can read the lawsuit papers here.

At least one other lawsuit was filed last week by a lawyer in Houston, Texas.

Our firm will be representing passengers who sustained physical injuries during the storm.  

Cruise lines ordinarily have a duty of only "reasonable care" under the circumstances. But in instances of rough weather, cruise lines have a much higher duty of care toward the passengers. Some characterize this duty as the "highest duty of care" of the passengers when the ship is expected to encounter rough weather.  

Can it seriously be argued that Royal Caribbean exercised "high care" when it sailed 4,500 passengers, including the elderly and children, into a winter storm forecast to bash the ship with hurricane strength winds and waves over 30 feet?  

Read our last article on the Anthem of the Seas fiasco.

Is the Anthem of Seas More Unseaworthy Than It Looks?

Anthem of the Seas StormThe maritime blog gCaptain published an article yesterday, written by Rick Spilman, author of the well written Old Salt blog, titled Anthem of the Sea - is She  Seaworthy?  The Old Salt blog takes issue with an article I wrote several years ago entitled Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?

In my article I was critical of the cruise industry's trend to build these jam-packed mega cruise ships of today - the 'floating condo" as some call them, which "seem to be out-of-proportionally tall, perched precariously on a hull which seems incapable of safely supporting a structure towering hundreds of feet into the air."  Fours years ago, I said that these monster ships "look like condominiums ripped out of Collins Avenue on Miami Beach and placed on a barge. They look eager to tip over."

I am more convinced today of these observations after the Anthem of the Seas debacle this past week. 

Commenting on the recent fiasco, the Old Salt blog stated that the cruise ship passed the test of encountering a major storm. It said that the cruise ship "survived" what it characterized as a "full-scale blowout trial in highly dangerous conditions." It pointed out that "no one died or was seriously injured" and "the ship made it into port under its own power."

The Old Salt blog scoffed at the notion that the Anthem of the Seas was "unsafe" and concluded that the gigantic cruise ship and others designed like it "are a lot more seaworthy than they look."

But the article was published before the Coast Guard announced that one of the vessel's two azipods Anthem of the Seas Abandon Shipmalfunctioned during the storm and that the Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating. Late yesterday afternoon, the Coast Guard stated that "during the storm the port azipod, which is one component of the vessel's propulsion system, burned out all four clutches." Royal Caribbean, which initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then claimed that the only damage to the ship was cosmetic, was forced to try and quickly replace the clutches on the storm damaged azipod before the ship's scheduled departure today. The cruise line also decided the starboard azipod 's clutch also needed to be replaced "as a precaution," raising the possibility that it also sustained damage during the storm.

So putting differing opinions aside, the undisputed fact of the matter is that the Anthem of the Seas sustained significant damage to its propulsion system during the storm and returned to port unseaworthy.

The failure of portions of the cruise ship's propulsion system is very troubling  It raises an issue which I discussed in my article four years ago: "ask yourself whether you really want to take your family onto one of these floating sky-scrapper hotels when, God forbid, it loses power while encountering rough seas?"

If the Anthem's propulsion was further disabled during the storm, the cruise ship would be in serious trouble. 

“Major casualties are the result of synergy from multiple causes. If one bad thing happens, you probably get through it,” maritime law litigator and law professor Larry Brennan told the media. “If a ship loses propulsion in a storm, it’s at the mercy of the seas. Instead of cosmetic or structural damage, there’s a much better chance that a ship can be lost.”

Cruise passengers claim that the waves crashed over the top of the lifeboats tethered along the side of the Anthem of the Seas as the ship listed heeled heavily to one side. Even if passengers could have gotten into the lifeboats, this class of Royal Caribbean ships does not have enough lifeboats for both passengers and crew members. The ship is designed such that the crew are forced to use a system of sliding down chutes into life-rafts - a dangerous design even in pleasant weather. Panic may cause the crew members and the passengers to compete to get into the lifeboats which are far safer than the life-rafts. As I explained and illustrated in my article Titanic Redux, there is a danger of the tether ropes breaking, the chutes twisting, or the life-rafts ripping away from the chutes during the type of rough weather which the Anthem faced this week.  

Of course a vessel can be unseaworthy not only when it is designed in an unsafe manner, or it is in state of disrepair, but when the vessel has unsafe procedures. The fact of the matter is that the Anthem of the Seas and other huge cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet do not have a safe means of evacuating passengers and crew members at sea, particularly in dangerous storm conditions.

But most passengers don't seem to be aware of this dangerous practice. The Anthem is claimed to be a technological marvel with all types of bells and whistles to wow the passengers: from being served by a robotic waiter to simulated surfing on the FlowRider to simulated sky diving on the iFly to riding on the North Star. But it has no way to evacuate people safely if disaster strikes, which almost happened last week.

All issues considered, I would say that the Anthem of the Seas is far more unseaworthy than it looks.

Images credit: Weather Nation YouTube - top

Is the Public Sick of Lying Cruise Lines Endangering Passenger Safety?

Anthem of the Seas Captain VideoYesterday, Florida Senator Bill Nelson stated that he is proposing that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigate the circumstances surrounding Royal Caribbean's decision to cruise the Anthem of the Seas into a storm with over 4,500 passengers aboard. The Senator expressed frustration with the fact that the Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailed into a storm with expected 30 foot seas and hurricane force winds.

The captain of the cruise ship spoke to the passengers on the ship yesterday via video, telling them that the forecasts of the storm indicated that there would be winds of only around 12 to 15 feet which is clearly contradicted by several forecasts indicating that the waves would be twice that in height.

The Today Show's weatherman Al Roker summed it up accurately saying that the cruise line's claim that it was surprised by the storm was "bull feathers." (video)

Some may question the wisdom of having the master of the cruise ship providing false information to the cruise line's guests after he terrorized them by recklessly sailing into the storm, but this is a cruise line which has a Pinocchio-like tendency of lying to the public when the truth would serve it better.  When a TV weatherman makes you the butt of a joke on a popular morning television program, you may want to re-think your PR strategy.

Just last July, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas caught fire as it sailed into Falmouth, Jamaica. Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas FireWhat makes the fire so memorable is that the cruise line went out of its way to downplay the event, calling the major event - which burned from the bottom to the top of the ship - just a contained and quickly extinguished "'small fire." It repeated over and over the cruise line's talking point that the safety of its passengers is always its highest priority. The "small fire" hoax, as I called it, and the cruise line's habitual practice of placing profits over safety, were revealed by video of the large ship fire posted on social media and the cruise line's decision to flaunt IMO recommendations and keep sailing without anyone conducting a survey of the heavily damaged ship. 

The Anthem of the Seas debacle places the cruise industry back before before a cruising public which is increasingly weary of dealing with the high seas drama of rough weather, cruise ship fires, and cruise mishaps - ranging from poop cruise inconveniences to Costa Concordia-scale disasters, when families are just trying to enjoy a vacation at sea with their kids. Providing false and misleading information to these families after the fact just makes things worse. It tarnishes the credibility of the entire cruise industry before the public.

Newspapers are again posting videos of cruise ship disasters from the past. like the one below from USA TODAY. The question of "who is policing the cruise ship industry" is again being asked in public forums.  No one, we believe.

The bottom line is do you trust the cruise lines when they claim that your family's safety and security is their top priority? If this were the case, then cruise ships would not be sailing to the majority of the ports in the Caribbean which are mostly far more dangerous than the U.S.'s most dangerous inner cities.  

Some people may scoff at the notion that a cruise lines would possibly risk a new billion dollar cruise ship filled with many thousands of passengers and crew by sailing into a storm forecast with extreme winds and sea conditions.  But cruise ships don't make money if they are not operating. When cruising requires prudence and caution, whether it be dealing with proper maintenance of cruise ship engines or respect for mother nature, cruise lines seem prone to exhibit a macho "we can't sink" mentality that invokes historical references to the Titanic. 

Photo/video credit: Sean Ferguson YouTube

 

Master of the Anthem of the Seas: Storm Not Accurately Forecast

A YouTube video of the Master of the Anthem of the Seas was broadcast to the staterooms on the Anthem of the Seas internal channel the day after the storm. A passenger, Sean Ferguson, recorded it with his iPhone.

The captain stated that, in his opinion, the low pressure system was not forecast accurately and the Anthem of the Seas faced wind and wave conditions much worse than were forecast.

His comments are in stark contrast to a number of meteorologists who have stated that the storm was accurately forecast last week. Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, a local meteorologist from Ohio, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page. Another meteorologist, Ryan Maue, a "digital meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, said it's hard to believe no one at Royal Caribbean had been aware of a storm system that had been forecast — and included in official advisories and warnings issued by the National Weather Service — days in advance, " says NJ.com in the article Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing 'Anthem' cruise ship into storm.

The meteorologists at the Weather Channel were highly critical of Royal Caribbean last night and stated that the storm was accurately predicted in several programs and widely reported. The Weather Channel broadcast images showing that the seas were predicted to be over 30 feet last week (see photo below), which sharply contrasted with the Royal Caribbean captain's claim that the waves were forecast to be only 12 to 15 feet in height.   

Of interest is the Master's statement that the winds which rocked the cruise ship were up to 170 MPH which is actually higher than the estimates of many terrified passengers who contacted us of around 150 MPH.  He also stated that the passenger were understandably extremely uncomfortable and fearful of the weather conditions.

Ar the 18 minute mark of the video, the Master used an online chart from PassageWeather.com which, ironically, accurately predicted the development of this storm before the Anthem of the Seas sailed into danger. 

Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean's claim that the storm was not predicted:  "Royal Caribbean's claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers.

USA TODAY published Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm. 

Florida Senator Bill Nelson was quoted in the press asking why would the ship continue right into the path of the ferocious storm that had been predicted at least four days on February 3rd, before the cruise encountered it, according to the Daily Mail.

Storm Anthem of the Seas Cruise

 

Anthem of the Seas Cruises Into Rough Weather

Anthem of the Seas StormRoyal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas was pounded by rough weather last night, according to passengers leaving comments, photos and video on the internet.

New accounts initially indicated that there was no damage to the cruise ship or injuries to the passengers but this notion was quickly dispelled by images of extensive damage caused by the storm.

Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page.

The storm was the result of a sudden although predictable intensification known as "bombogenesis," which is explained by this article in Forbes magazine.

ABC News reported that "after seeing pictures and people’s comments on Twitter and other social media platforms, the USCG contacted the Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas to check in.”

Passengers contacted us indicating that several guests were injured in the mayhem caused by the hurricane strength 125+ MPH winds and 30+ foot waves.  

The cruise line said initialy that it would be late getting to Port Canaveral but later said that the Anthem would return to New Jersey. Passengers would be refunded 100% and, in addition, receive 50% of their fares a future cruise credit in compensation. 

The storm and damage to the ship reminds me of a harrowing incident on the Brilliance of the Seas when several passengers were seriously injured when a storm hit the Royal Caribbean cruise ship in December 2010. The ship tried to outrun a known storm into Alexandria, Egypt. Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story in the media, saying that the storm was far worse than expected. 

Watch Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos

February 8 2016 Update: Seems that Royal Caribbean is playing the "unforseeable" weather game again. Weather professionals are not buying it  - Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing 'Anthem' cruise ship into storm. Also read 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm.  The Weather Channel pointed out that several weather programs predicited the high waves and high winds last week, and questioned where the cruise line obtained its weather forecasts.

February 9 2016 UpdateMaster of the Anthem of the Seas: Storm Not Accurately Forecast.

Image Credit: NOAA/NASA via Forbes

Storm Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

Mystery of the Seas?

Royal Caribbean - New Name for Cruise ShipIt seems that Royal Caribbean has plans for a half-dozen new names for its cruise ships of the future.

Cruise Critic and a Royal Caribbean fan web site report that Royal Caribbean trademarked the names Anthem of the Seas, Passion of the Seas, Vantage of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Pulse of the Seas in trademark applications filed on November 2, 2012.

Royal Caribbean previously announced that it is building a new Oasis-class cruise ship. Perhaps Quantum of the Seas will be an appropriately ironic name for Royal Caribbean's next gigantic ship.

Royal Caribbean obviously has some long term plans in mind to have trademarked six new names. Previously Royal Caribbean announced that it will be building new cruise ships as part of its "Project Sunshine" with a new cruise ship coming on line in late 2014.

Right now the cruise line is keeping the name of its next ship a mystery.

What do you think of the new names?  What's your best guess for the name of the next Oasis-class ship?

Join the discussion on our Facebook page. There are some hilarious alternative names being suggested.