"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 . . . 

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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

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. 

NCL's Norwegian Star Suffers Engine Failure Again

Last month, I wrote about an azipod failure on the Norwegian Star which resulted in the NCL ship limping around on an altered Asian itinerary, much to the frustration of cruise vacationers.  It seems that instead of sending the ship to dry dock, NCL arranged to send the azipod contractors aboard to repair the ship while it was sailing. They apparently fixed the problem but the other azipod has now apparently failed:

According to a message which from a crew member on the Norwegian Star today:

"I'm writing to you again from the unlucky Norwegian Star! I wrote to you sometime in December when we broke down in Singapore at the beginning of our Asian season . . .  yesterday 25th of January, while at sea we experienced problems again, this timer with other engine, "the old one!" So now thatNCL Norwegian Star one is offline... Today, 26th, in Bali, Indonesia, captain made announcement that we are changing the itinerary AGAIN this cruise, skipping 3 ports and adding sea days in order to reach Sydney in time. At the beginning of the cruise (before 23rd, Singapore) we already skipped places and for that everybody received 200$ for onboard account, today, that was changed to 500$. But of course, guests are NOT happy and poor guys at the reception and the security are getting pounded heavily by raging crowd . . . I feel sorry for them because it is not their fault or any other crew member for a broken engine and Miami office made a decision about refunds and amounts, not onboard management . . . So the stricken Norwegian Star is going AGAIN through some very hard times . . ."

I also received this message from a passenger's family:

"I have been contacted by relatives on Norwegian Cruiseline NCL Star. They left Singapore earlier this week and are on the way to Australia. Azipod failure again and they have been told their day in Brisbane is canceled, and their trip to the barrier reef is off. This was the reason my relative took the cruise in the first place, so he is very annoyed - it was his 70th birthday present and he has waited over a year to take this cruise. This cruise already can celled part of the itinerary before leaving due to the delays on the previous cruise. So far, they have been offered no refund of this cruise - have been bunged some on-ship credit to spend and 50% off the next cruise. They are not happy bunnies!! There is nothing on the internet about this yet, so please can you inform everyone. I don't see how NCL keep getting away with NCL Norwegian Starthis - there is an obvious issue with this ship and they just keep taking people's money and canceling the planned trips."

January 27, 2017 Update:

I received photographs (right and below) of what is happening on the Norwegian Star and comments from a passenger which say in part: 

"This is what is happening here on the Norwegian Star at noon on Friday 27th January 2017!

We are on board NCL Star and it is desperate to say the least. To say that things have virtually descended to mob rule would not be an understatement.

As I write this there are more than 500 people demonstrating in the main atrium, shouting in unison ‘Shame on Norwegian’, ‘Where’s the Captain?’, ‘Boo, Boo, Boo’!

This has been going on for over two hours today and the same yesterday evening. I attach three photographs that I have taken within the last hour.

The ship has engine propulsion problems again and the itinerary has been changed once again with another three ports having been cancelled meaning that we are now only stopping at half of the planned ports on this three week cruise.

The main thing that seems to be causing mass unrest is not the fact that the ship has engine problems but the fact that this is the same fault as the ship has had many times previously and that people have been miss sold this long cruise when Norwegian Cruise Line clearly knew there were ongoing problems with the ship.

Documents have been circulated by some guests showing that this problem has been ongoing for months, and a ships log that has been produced on board which shows that the same propulsion faults also occurred on 17 October 2015 and again on 11 December 2016, there are other dates for similar issues in the report also.

During the peak of the demonstrations no officers were to be seen, the Captain has not been seen for the whole cruise and the reception desk are merely handing out comments cards to whose who want to complain. People are absolutely furious about how we are being treated here - ­there is just no leadership! We have been told by staff that there is nothing that staff on board can do because they need to wait to hear from Miami ­- but we have been waiting for nearly two days now! This lack of action seems to be infuriating people more and more . . . ."

January 28. 2017 Update:

". . . There were more demos today and captain eventually made an appearance after more chanting 'where's the captain'. NCL flying some execs in from Miami to speak to us at sometime tomorrow . . ."  

January 30, 2017 Update: NCL offers passengers aboard the Norwegian Star 100% of cruise fare towards a future cruise in addition to onboard credit of $500 per first and second guest ($1,000 per stateroom).  See letter here.

February 9, 2017 Update: The Star is dead in the water.  I received dozens of emails today from passengers on the NCL cruise ship saying that the remaining azapood failed shortly after leaving Melbourne, Australia (although A/C, electricity and water remain on). Here's one: "We are on the Norwegian Star and our complete propulsion system has failed. We are unable to maneuver and wait for help. Thank goodness before the coast of Australia and not in the middle of the Tasmanian Sea! The plan is to return to Melbourne for repair. For all friends and relatives: we are not in danger! Everything except the drive works and help is on the move. All stops in New Zealand are canceled...."

Another comment: "100% refund on this cruise and 50% on future cruise good for 5 years.. Also not the commotion of last cruise and no protests. Very orderly. Tugs are on way, should be here by 5pm and then we should be back in Melbourne by early evening on Saturday. Also giving 300 for airline changes or 350 if you decide to fly to Auckland."

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Photo credit: above - Top - Pjotr Mahhonin - CC BY-SA 3.0; commons / wikimedia; middle and bottom - anonymous.

NCL Norwegian Star

NCL's Norwegian Star Stuck in Singapore

Norwegian StarI received this message from a crew member of the Norwegian Star:

"At the moment I am on NCL Star and we are in Singapore, still in Singapore!

We were scheduled to leave on 11th at 6 pm for 11 days to Hong Kong. We got delayed because it took forever for immigration to process the guests! Some guests were held for 5 hours in the terminal. So finally at 8 pm after we finished all that captain made an announcement that can't actually leave due to the engine problems. Half an hour after half an hour announcement we stayed over night.  And we are staying at the moment in Singapore until 3 pm on 13th of December. One engine is down and some electrical issues with azipods. 

This is not the first time, after a dry dock few years back ship broke down right away and the first cruise was canceled and ship returned to the dry dock for repairs. And few months ago we could not sail out of Stockholm at 4 pm to have a sea day the next day to reach Copenhagen for embarkation. We reached Copenhagen at 4pm with absolute nightmare caused to the guest booking flights on their own.

This cruise is already fully refunded to the guests and they will get 50% off the next cruise they choose."

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Photo credit: Pjotr Mahhonin - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

December 12, 2016 Update: Speed to be restricted; new itinerary below (via a travel agent).

December 20, 2016 Update: NCL has notofied its travel agents and future passengers that the intinerary of the Norwegian Star starting on January 16, 2017 has changed. This is the email received:

"Norwegian Cruise Line has important information for you regarding Norwegian Star's 21-Day Southeast Asia sailing of January 16 to February 6, 2017 from Hong Kong, China. All guests booked on this sailing need to be aware of this change.

On the evening of December 10, while departing the port of Singapore, Norwegian Star experienced a technical issue with one of the ship's Azipods. As a result of this technical issue, Norwegian Star will have to sail a revised itinerary for the January 16 to February 6, 2017 sailing from Hong Kong, China.

Please review the revised itinerary information below:

As a gesture of our thanks for our guests' understanding of this unforeseen delay and change in itinerary, we will provide a $200 shipboard credit per stateroom. If you pre purchased shore excursions for Thailand, those will be refunded and posted to your onboard account."

NCL Norwegian Star

January 3, 2017 Update: A local ABC news station in Jacksobville aired a video of an unhappy NCL customer who took her first cruise on the Norwegian Star.

January 26, 2017 UpdateNCL's Norwegian Star Suffers Engine Failure Again.

Propulsion Problem Causes Carnival Legend to Tilt

Carnival LegendLast Monday I received messages from a crew member friend on the Carnival Legend who said: "im on carnival legend / just as we are almost arriving in victoria canada 6:30 pm, local time, the ship experience a heavy swing towards the side / lots of things fell of in my cabin and for a second got scared then they made an announcement that there was a problem with an azipod on the stb side that caused that and nobody should be concerned and we will be on our way but the speed went down a lot was a bit scary but they say everything is fine  . . . / going very slow arriving late in victoria canada, all shore excursions are canceled." 

A few days later, I received an email from a passenger who described the listing incident as follows:

"I recently finished a one-week Alaska cruise out of Seattle from Tuesday, August 23 to Tuesday, August 30. All went well until the last evening. In accordance with the itinerary, the ship was headed to a final port of call evening at Victoria, BC.

At about 6:00 pm on Monday (August 29, 2016), I was sitting with a friend in a lounge when we felt the shop tilt and stay tilted. A few cups & napkins began sliding off tables. Looking out the windows near
to where we were seated, we could see only the upper sky. When I looked across the lounge to the windows on the other of the ship, all I could see was water, the sea, as though it were a wall facing us!

This tilt occurred while the ship was still traveling at speed, which made the sensation worse.

After about a moment the captain, one Captain Gazzano, addressed the passengers by the public address system. His command of English was so poor that I could only understand 2 or 3 words of what he said: propeller, engine, disengaged.

Immediately after the captain's address, the cruise director, Jaimie Dee, spoke over the public address system. She was superb, essentially re-saying in comprehensible English what the captain had tried to say.

After about 3 or 4 minutes, the ship was righted and slowed its speed.

As I was leaving the lounge to go to the second seating dinner, passengers was leaving the restaurant from the first seating. Some were chatting about the incident, saying that the plates sliding off the table was what made them frightened. I myself saw four or five cakes slide right out of the refrigerated display case in the lounge where I was seated during the incident.

After the ship was righted, the captain addressed the passengers once more as I recollect, perhaps twice. And again, immediately after the captain spoke, the cruise director spoke to re-state clearly what the captain had tried to say.

Apart from the frightening aspects of the mechanical failure, the inability of the captain to address the passengers in basic English was deplorable."

A reader sent also me a jink to a YouTube video taken by a passenger on the Carnival Legend at the time of the incident. He writes on YouTube: 

"Watch the water flow from the pools aboard the Carnival Legend. There was a failure in the ships propulsion system about an hour and a half away from Victoria, British Columbia on Sunday, August 28th, 2016 at around 6:00 pm PST. The ship started to list heavily to the port side. I just happened to be in the area when it happened. Instead if panicking, I decided to film it!"

Wikipedia, strangely enough, already has this description of the incident:

"On August 29, 2016 at approximately 6:15 pm PT while sailing to Victoria, British Columbia, the turning valve in one of the ship's four engines failed, causing the ship to make a hard starboard turn and listed 30 degrees to the port side, only 10 degrees away from capsizing the vessel. This caused hundreds of dishes to fall over and break and caused both pools to drain out and items to be thrown off the deck. Passengers were directed by crew members to all stand on the left side of the ship to even out the listing. Captain Giuseppe Gazzano had to manually control the ship towards Victoria. There were no reported serious injuries but the ship arrived at Victoria two hours behind schedule." 

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September 3 2016 Update: Ship Tilts Cause Concern - Malfunctions In Auto-pilot Cited In Some Reports (prior incidents) via Sun Sentinel in 2006.

September 4 2016 Update: Other videos of the listing were posted by passengers on YouTube; credit Randy Gibbs YouTube page and Nate Kosch YouTube pages.

We recently received a longer explanation of what happened from another passenger on the cruise ship, who said, in part: 

"Towards the end of dinner we heard a ve loud mechanical noise and the ship began to shake violently. The ship then went into a sharp turn. The ship then began to list. I had figured since the seas were so calm it was likely an evasive maneuver to avoid hitting something. I had told my wife to brace for a possible impact. However, the ship continued to turn and continued to list at a greater degree and you could see the water line come up to the window. The entire ship made a creaking sound. We were seated at the aft port side of the dining room and had a good view. Glasses and plates began to fall and shatter. Then a Carnival crew member yelled out for everyone at dinner to get to the starboard side of the ship. My wife and I had already started to do so. The direction was the correct one so no criticism there, but the alarm in the crew member's voice was disconcerting. My wife then said we had to find the kids that she did not want them to be alone. We knew that both were with their kids clubs and where they were. We, and hundreds of others, left the Truffles dining room, there was some panic and shoving but overall not too bad under the circumstances. I had advised my wife to exit bygoing through the waiters serving area on the starboard side of the dining room. I did so for two reasons, one it was as far starboard as we could go, but if the ship tipped to its side, it would give us a barrier so we wouldn't slide across the width of the ship. Right before we stabilized into a stable port side list, it did feel as
though the ship may tip over. In fact, one woman yelled out, "my god we are going to tip over." We made our way out of the dining room somewhat consistently stepping on broken dishware and food. We went
up the stairs. On the third deck, many people had already began assembling at their muster stations, one crew member was directing people to do so. However, the general alarm had not sounded and we
were not going to the muster station without our kids

We made our way to the lido deck (deck nine) where my son was. He stated that they were all advised to go to the starboard side of the ship and did so, but that his counselor had left. He said he was not scared, but hugged us so we know he was. He said he was on his way to get his sister and then the muster station. We were most concerned about her since she was playing mini golf on an open deck
with her group. It was at this time, the captain got on the PA system and announced that, "nothing has happened," to which several passengers responded with expletives.

We were able to get to deck ten and find my daughter, she was visibly very upset. My daughter's counselor was about to take the children to their muster station and had prepared them for what to
expect. We were able to speak with my daughter and her friends afterwards. She had directed all on the deck to the starboard side. She originally advised the kids it was only a sharp turn, but at some point yelled out, "oh s--t." I can't blame her for her choice of words but again it underscored that the crew was alarmed. Two of the kids had stumbled while on the way to the starboard side. One fell into the net roping off the basketball court, one slide part way down the deck. The basketball and several golf balls went over the side of the deck. Shortly thereafter, the ship had been stabilized and was now slightly listing to the starboard side, likely a slight overcompensation. We spoke to one of our daughter's friend's parents
later. They were on the first floor, their room was completely underwater. (There is at least one deck below deck one where there are crew quarters). They had put on their life vests and headed to their
muster station. I have travelled extensively by sea and air and have never seen anything like this before.

Before we got underway later that evening, we went to guest services for an explanation. By the time we were done we had gotten four different ones, that it was the stabilizers, it was the propulsion system, it was the steering system, and finally that nothing had really happened. They advised nothing like this had ever happened before, but we later found out that this has happened at least once prior on the Carnival Legend. They were unapologetic and unmoved. They denied that any crew members directed people to their muster stations. This was simply not true. We called Carnival again today. We received a similar response. The representative said they really can't do anything about it because everyone on the ship was affected. We received no explanation, no apology, and were informed we would not receive a follow-up phone call from anyone. There would simply be too many people to call. It is as though they want to cover it up. Perhaps the situation was not as bad as believed at the time. In reading, apparently this happens from time to time. However, generally it is a weather event which this was not. Rarely it is
significant mechanical failure which this appeared to be. A listing of only 14% can cause dishes and plates to fall and shatter and apparently a cruise ship can sustain up to a 40% before it capsizes. Nonetheless it was pretty scary at the time and we were shaken . . .  

. . . Only Carnival can manage to have an incident in near perfect weather and seas. It would have been more understandably if it was the weather . . ."

September 5 2018 Update: The listing incident was picked up by CHEK media in Canada: Pools drain, dishes fly in cruise ship incident near Victoria.  The Times-Colonist also published: Passengers ‘freaked out’ after cruise ship lists 30 degrees near Victoria.

Photo credit: By Robertsrules - Own work, CC BY 3.0.

Video credit: Jerry Janes YouTube 

 

 

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

Azipod Failure on Norwegian Star

NCL Norwegian StarPassengers aboard NCL's Norwegian Star are telling me that the ship's azipod system has failed. The cruise ship is skipping Miami today and is heading for Tampa one day early. One passenger said that the next cruise is reportedly canceled. (The cancellation of the next cruise is not confirmed information. Please double check this information with your travel agents or the cruise line).

Another passenger said that he did not know whether the next cruise on Monday is canceled. He told me that the captain made the announcement about the azipod problems and said that "all communication with us has been absolutely clear, giving us free internet and phone calls and helping us to change hotel, and transportation bookings. Although it not an ideal situation the crew has behaved amazingly in this transatlantic and they have always provided us with transparent information."

This ship experienced propulsion problems earlier this year which were supposedly fixed while in dry dock.

Anyone have additional info?

Photo Credit:  Pjotr Mahhonin Creative Commons Via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He added: "@RoyalCaribbean = confusion."

A member of Cruise Critic left this comment:

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

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

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

You can read the Cruise Critic comments here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Propulsion Problems: Mis-Adventure of the Seas Limps Back to San Juan

Royal Caribbean Adventure of the SeasLast Wednesday, Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas canceled two port calls after the ship’s cruise ship' "fixipod" propulsion unit device lost oil as the ship headed to port in St. Kitts.

Royal Caribbean says that it placed oil booms around the ship to contain the leaking oil, and its engineers began addressing the problem.

Since then, cruise passengers and family members ashore have expressed concern with what happening with the ship and whether there will be a delay or changes in the itinerary of the cruise which leaves today.  

Their concerns intensified after the cruise ship lost all propulsion last night.

There have been on line discussions whether the "fixipod" will be repaired before the ship goes into dry dock on March 30th. The ship has limped back to San Juan at very low speed this morning. It looks like there have been additional issues which slowed the ship down further. At this point it looks like today's cruise may going forward (still anyone's guess) but it's less than clear how much of a delay there will be in boarding and/or sailing.

As usual, the discussion seem to be only when the ship will sail, not whether it's safe to cruise on a ship with 5 - 6 days of propulsion problems.

Cruise Critic members have expressed frustration over what they perceive as a lack of communication by Royal Caribbean. One member posted:

"They've posted NOTHING on the agent site, consumer site, their FB page, nor either the Public Relations nor regular twitter feeds, and I've asked!

And, no one knows diddly when you call...."

Fixipod Azipod On March 21, Royal Caribbean posted this one tweet:

"Adventure is sailing a modified itinerary due to a delayed departure from St. Kitts for required work on the ship's fixipod."

But nothing since then. It's surprising that a multi-billion dollar corporation which spends literally hundreds of millions a year in a big marketing campaign can't figure out how to utilize Twitter and Facebook (both are free) to communicate with their guests and the public.

I have not heard anything about whether the cruise line intends to compensate the passengers for the missed ports of call. Anyone know?

If you were on the cruise, please leave a comment or join the discussion on Facebook. If you have photos or a video of the tugs bringing the ship into port in San Juan, please send us a copy! 

March 24, 2014 Update: This is the most inept PR handling of a cruise problem I have ever seen. Read about Royal PR #FAIL: Royal Caribbean Keeps Adventure & Navigator Passengers in the Dark.

 

Photo Credit:

Top: CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia

Bottom: Kvaerner Masa (image of Voyager of the Seas)

Pod Problems: Carnival Legend Limps Back to Tampa

WTSP in Tampa reports on the plight of the Carnival Legend cruise ship which left last Sunday from the Port of Tampa under full power but will return limping home tomorrow.

There's a problem with one of the cruise ship's two propulsion pods that is substantially reducing the Legend's speed.

Carnival canceled the ship's port stop at Grand Cayman.

Ironically, the Legend came to the aid of the fire-stricken Carnival Triumph last month.