Independence of the Seas Mooring Mishap Kills Two in St. Kitts

This morning we were contacted by passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas indicating that two dockworkers were killed when the cruise ship was leaving the port.

The passengers described the incident as occurring when the two dockworkers were in a small vessel trying to remove the last mooring lines. The Independence of the Seas' wake allegedly swamped the vessel with its azipods and threw the two men into the water. The vessel then allegedly slammed into the Celebrity Silhouette and overturned.

The two men were described as wearing life-vests, although one vest apparently became loose when the man was tossed into the water.

The passengers who we communicated with were critical that the Independence "launched rescue but not fast enough. Celebrity took 30 min after we launched rescue to respond."  They described a "lack of quick response and feeling of helplessness."

The incident occurred yesterday around 5:00 PM.  The Independence was delayed approximately 3 Independence of the Seas St Kittshours.

The incident has already been posted on social media sites.

The Times Caribbean Blog posted this on Facebook (and the photo to the right):  

"Eyewitnesses suggest that the Cruise Liner may have pulled out before the men had enough time to clear the berthing area. As a result the sea currents created by the massive cruise liner may have caused the smaller berthing boat to capsize and the men were apparently sucked below water by the current and drowned."

The news account also indicated that "the small boat was capsized when our rear azipods pushed us away from the dock. The two men where thrown overboard and never resurfaced, only one had on a life vest, the other man's life vest came off when he was thrown into the water. The capsized boat was then pushed into the back of the Silhouette. All of this viewed from my aft balcony, kinda puts a damper on an otherwise wonderful cruise. Very sad for the families of these two men.'" 

CNN iReport posted information (based on the Times Caribbean account) and a local newspaper in St. Kitts, SKNVibes, published an article as well.

The St. Kitts & Nevis Observer identified the two men. 

April 5 2014 UpdateLinesman expresses safety concerns following colleague's death.

If anyone has additional information or photos or video of the incident, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Times Caribbean

Another Celebrity Cruise Ship Flunks Health & Sanitation Inspection

Celebrity Century Cruise Ship - Failed CDC ScoreAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), another Celebrity Cruises ship flunked a surprise inspection.

The Celebrity Century failed the CDC inspection, receiving a score of only 78.

Last week we reported that another Celebrity cruise ship, the Summit scored, flunked an inspection with a score of only 81. Three other cruise ships received failing scores as well.  So far this year there have been five cruise ships with failing grades. Read our article: Disease Breeding Grounds: Three Cruise Ships Fail Health & Sanitary Inspections.

The most disturbing finding was not just that the Century was dirty with contaminated food debris, but that crew members worked while ill with gastrointestinal sicknesses. Several of the ill ship employees worked in the galleys or interacted with passengers while ill.  The other cruise ships who flunked the inspections earlier this year also had ill crew members who worked with food and around passengers as well.  

These findings are significant because the cruise lines always blame the passengers when there are norovirus outbreaks and accuse the quests of not washing their hands.  The outbreaks may be due to ill employees who may be contaminating the food and infecting passengers.  

Celebrity Cruise Ship - Failed CDC ScoreYou can read the report of the Century here

The report indicates that two cruise ship cook worked while ill before reporting to the ship's medical infirmary.  A sick hair stylist worked all day around passengers before going to the medical center. And an ill gift shop attendant worked before going to the medical center and continued working after he was suppose to be in isolation.

A particularly disgusting finding was that the toilet intended for galley workers was found locked when the galley was in service, and when the inspectors opened the door, the bathroom had no toilet paper.

And you wonder why there are norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships?

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

 

Photo Credit: Celebrity Century Cruise Ship - Wikipedia / Emesbe

Citing Tight Cruise Itinerary and Jurisdictional Issues, New Zealand Police Decline to Arrest Crew Member in Alleged Cruise Ship Sexual Assault

Millinnium Cruise Ship  -Sexual Assault Last Friday, I wrote an article about a cruise ship incident where a passenger reported that a Celebrity Cruises crew member "indecently assaulted" her aboard the Celebrity Cruises' Millennium cruise ship as it sailed from Fiji to New Zealand. 

The cruise ship arrived early in the morning on Friday and was scheduled to depart later the afternoon of the same day. 

In my article, I mentioned that in our experience, rape cases involving women and children by cruise employees are rarely prosecuted in the criminal courts.

One of the problems is that crimes on the high seas fall into a jurisdictional "no-man's land." The Celebrity cruise ship flies the flag of Malta, an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. The alleged rape reportedly occurred in the waters of Fiji.  The nationality of the alleged perpetrator and victim are unknown, but they are probably not citizens of New Zealand which was conducting the investigation.    

Today, we learn that the local police in New Zealand declined to arrest anyone. A newspaper in New Zealand states that a police detective involved in the investigation cited, as one of other factors, "jurisdiction" as one factor in declining the case for prosecution.  Unless the cruise ship was flagged in New Zealand, or the assailant or victim were a citizen of New Zealand, or the alleged crime occurred in its waters, New Zealand would have no jurisdiction over the incident. 

The police detective said that there was "insufficient evidence" for a prosecution which is the usual type of comment we hear in cases like this.  The detective did not cite exactly what other factors may have played a part in declining the case, but he made disturbing comments about making certain that the cruise ship kept its scheduled itinerary.

Recognizing that the the Millennium was due to sail to at 4:15 PM last Friday afternoon, the detective pointed out that the cruise ship sailed on time: “We were aware of those tight time lines and our team got right into it from the first opportunity, and it wasn’t held up at all.”  This is interesting because an earlier account of the story said that the cruise ship captain didn't notify the local police of the alleged sexual assault until after the cruise ship arrived in port. How do you assemble a forensic team, conduct multiple interviews, administer polygraph tests, look for trace evidence, review video tape surveillance, conduct medical and laboratory tests and get your team off the ship for a timely 4:15 PM departure?  

Why should a professional law enforcement care about boat schedules when the vessel contains an alleged crime scene? 

One of the criticism of cruise ship crimes investigations is that the investigating law authorities are Jim Walker - Dr. Henry Less - Cruise Crime Scene Investigationdeferential to the cruise ship schedule and rush their investigations. Some suggest that local ports are afraid to jeopardize their relationship with large cruise lines by delaying a cruise ship's departure from port. Anger a large cruise line and you run the risk that it will drop your port like a hot potato. Unfortunately, crimes on cruise ships literally involve a moving crime scene that is often compromised due to the cruise line's business interests.

In the infamous case of honeymoon groom George Smith who "disappeared" from the Brilliance of the Seas under disturbing circumstances (we represented his widow in litigation against the cruise line), the local police investigation was so rushed that the Royal Caribbean cruise ship actually left the Turkish port of Kusadasi 45 minutes ahead of schedule

Later, I hired Dr. Henry Lee who assembled a team of nine forensic investigators, video and photography experts and detectives. When we boarded the cruise ship to inspect the Smith's cabin and balcony, the cruise line placed us under substantial time pressure not to interrupt the cruise ship's scheduled itinerary.    

 

Photo:

Top: Bay of Plenty Times

Bottom: MSNBC

Passenger Reports Sexual Assault By Crew Member Aboard Celebrity Millennium Cruise Ship

Tauranga New Zealand - Celebrity Millennium Cruise Ship - FijiA New Zealand newspaper reports that the police in the port city of Tauranga are investigating sexual assault allegations made against a crew member of the Millennium cruise ship which docked at the port yesterday morning after sailing from Fiji.

Police state a woman in her late 40's or early 50's accuses one of the crew members of the Celebrity Cruises ship of "indecently assaulting her" while the cruise ship was in Fiji waters.

Police state that the passenger alerted the ship’s captain who then informed Tauranga Police once the ship docked at the port in New Zealand.

The newspaper reports that "police are looking into the matter."

Cruise ship rapes are one of the problems which cruise lines try and keep secret.  

A decade ago, we represented a victim of a rape which occurred on this cruise ship. In our experience, the rape of women and children by cruise employees are rarely prosecuted in the civil courts. Behind the scenes, cruise lines work to defend their employees and build a case against the victims. 

In the civil courts, cruise lines are strictly liable when their employees sexually assault passengers on the high seas.  

November 18, 2012 update: No Surpirse - New Zealand declines to make arrest: "Citing Tight Cruise Itinerary and Jurisdictional Issues, New Zealand Police Decline to Arrest Crew Member in Alleged Cruise Ship Sexual Assault"

 

Photo credit: Sun Live 

Cruise Industry Friends Rally to Support Celebrity Cruises Following "Cruises Undercover" Investigation

Last night in Britain, Channel 4 Television's "Dispatches" program aired its undercover investigation, "Cruises Undercover," into the hours and working conditions on Celebrity Cruises' Eclipse cruise ship sailing out of Southampton. 

The Twitter feed for "#cruisesundercover" and comments to the Channel 4 website page seems to show the general public's disgust for the long hours and low pay revealed on the Celebrity cruise ship, which some are calling a "slave ship," while many in the travel industry are dismissing the program as biased. 

The usual cruise apologists have rushed to the industry's defense.

We have the perpetually-on-a-cruise expert regarding cruise ships and cruise holidays and blogger for the U.K. Mirror John Honeywell who writes that the investigation was "under-researched and underwhelming" but then again three days before the show aired he wrote "I will have to watch this, but . . . it will be a complete and utter waste of my time."  

Cruises Undercover - Cruise Ship InvestigationWe have my favorite shill for the cruise lines, Paul Motter, editor for CruiseMates, who assures us that although "there are a lot of ways of doing business in the third world, which is where most of these workers come from, that we in the U.S. may not understand," most of the crew members are "ecstatically happy with their jobs."  And those crew members complaining about working conditions? Mr. Motter assures us that the waiters are telling us "lies" wanting to get "money at the end of every cruise."  

Can you believe the nerve of these liars from third world countries who work over 12 hours a day and expect tips?       

And then we have the cruise industry cheerleader publication Travel Weekly who tells us that before the program aired Celebrity Cruises expected a “biased and unbalanced” investigation.

Nonetheless, Travel Weekly promises us that the cruise line "is taking immediate steps to investigate all of the allegations made by the undercover reporter" and if anyone "violated our procedures and requirements, or the European and international labour regulations to which we adhere to, then we will take swift and corrective actions."

Pray tell, what exactly are these wonderful sounding "European and international regulations" which apply to Indian citizens working on a Maltese flagged ship?  

If the actions of Carnival U.K. and P & O Cruises (which earlier this year terminated 150 Indian waiters who protested low wages and the withholding of tips), are any lesson, "swift and corrective action" is exactly what I would be worried about if I were a crew member complaining about what the Channel 4 investigation revealed last night.   

 

Chart Credit: Channel 4 Dispatches "Cruise Undercover"

Case Study: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. - Avoiding U.S. Taxes, Labor Laws, Environmental Regulations & Criminal Accountability

Royal Caribbean Cruises - A Liberian CoporationToday I read an interesting case analysis from the Journal of Business Case Studies (May/June 2012), which studied the business model of the second largest cruise company in the world, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.   

The article is entitled "Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.: Innovation At A Cost?" (click on the pdf link)

The article focuses on Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. which was formed in 1997 when Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (founded in 1968) and Celebrity Cruises (founded in 1988) merged together. 

The article explains that the foundation of Royal Caribbean is the avoidance of U.S. taxes and regulation. It accomplishes this by:

  • Incorporating in a foreign country (Liberia, Africa), and
  • Registering its cruise ships in weak, poor and disorganized foreign countries (mostly Liberia and the Bahamas).  

By registering its corporation and ship overseas, it avoids U.S. taxes, labor and environmental laws, and criminal culpability.  U.S. executives are offered millions in bonuses while the cruise line itself pays no U.S. taxes, which is the key to its profitability. The Journal writes that Miami based cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean:

" . . .  take advantage of maritime laws to avoid paying U.S. taxes, gain immunity from American labor laws, avoid U.S. courts in workplace disputes, and fend off new environmental regulations, government records and industry reports show. They have done this by incorporating in Central America and Africa and registering their ships under the flags of foreign nations . . ." 

Although this theoretically gives tiny countries regulatory power over one of some of Florida's Flag of Convenience - Royal Caribbean Cruiseslargest corporations, the flag states " . . . are not only reluctant to discipline major contributors to their economies, but also do not have the resources to enforce regulations or even punish polluters."

Flying flags of convenience has historically been used to conceal criminal activities, and is now "used primarily for economic reasons and sanctuary from restrictive regulatory environments."

Tonight in England a documentary will air about the exploitation of crew members on the Eclipse cruise ship which is operated by Royal Caribbean's sister company, Celebrity Cruises, out of Southampton England.  Crew members work 12 hours a day (sometimes more), every day, every week for the length of their 6 - 8 month contracts with no time off. When injured, the crew members  are often dumped back in their home countries and paid only $12 a day and denied competent medical treatment.

You can trace the root cause of this abuse back to the earliest days of Royal Caribbean in the late 1960's when the cruise line decided to skirt U.S. laws by incorporating in the lawless country of Liberia.       

 

Don't miss:

"Celebrity Cruises Crew Member Controversy Brewing in Britain"

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

"Royal Caribbean Executives Get Richer While Crew Members Get Poorer"

 

Credit: Flags of convenience article - "Flags at Sea . . . "

Celebrity Cruises Crew Member Controversy Brewing in Britain

On Monday October 1st, the U.K.'s Channel 4 Dispatches television is airing a documentary about the working conditions aboard the Celebrity Cruises' Eclipse cruise ship which is now home ported in Southampton. 

The program is called "Cruises Undercover: The Truth Below Deck."  Channel 4 describes the program as follows:

Almost two million Brits took a cruise last year. For many, it's the holiday of a lifetime with hard-earned savings going in to a dream adventure.

Tazeen Ahmad - Channel 4 Dispatches - Cruises UndercoverGlossy marketing films and brochures depict a cheerful workforce dedicated to making a cruise a five star experience.

Channel 4 Dispatches goes undercover to investigate the reality of life below deck for the multi-national workforce who toil behind the scenes of glamorous ocean going holidays.

The cruise industry generates billions of pounds in revenue each year and working on a ship provides many people from around the world a much needed source of income.

However Dispatches reporter Tazeen Ahmad - traveling as a passenger on a European cruise - and an undercover reporter working as an assistant waiter discover working conditions below the legal minimum in the UK."

Celebrity Cruises has called upon its friends in the travel industry to launch a PR campaign to denounce the program even before its airs. One travel group responded to the battle call and said: "Dramatization of these documentaries does nothing to educate the public to the facts, but represents poor value TV entertainment  . . . "  (I can't wait to watch!)

Celebrity Cruises says "sadly, we are anticipating a biased and unbalanced programme about the labour and wage issues in the cruise industry."

Claiming that the documentary is biased or misleading is the usual cruise line game plan when Celebrity Cruises Eclipse  investigative reporters go on board Royal Caribbean / Celebrity cruise ships to take an undercover look at how cruise ships really operate. Earlier this year, Inside Edition went aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Liberty of the Seas, and filmed the excessive drinking which the cruise line encourages. The president of the cruise line protested that the program was "sensationalist" and "highly misleading." 

The treatment of crew members, particularly waiters, on cruise ships is shameful.  Some call huge cruise ships like this "floating sweatshops." The waiters work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 6 to 8 months straight. One of the more dramatic stories this year covered Carnival U.K. firing 150 waiters from India who worked aboard P & O Arcadia.

Carnival terminated the waiters' jobs after they protested for one hour about their tips being withheld. 

Its great that the media will shine light on the cruise industry's treatment of its employees.  Once the program airs, expect more howling protests by the cruise lines and travel agents.

The documentary will certainly depict the industry as being different than the Love Boat TV series.  

I'm hoping that my friends in the U.K. will copy the program and send me a disc . .  .  

 

Photo credit:  EPA via Daily Mirror 

British Cruise Passenger: Crew Member Raped Me on the Celebrity Equinox

The U.K.'s Mail Online reports today that a 27 year old British passenger alleges that a Celebrity Cruises ship employee raped her in her cabin aboard the Celebrity Equinox.

The article reports that the crew member, believed to be working on the cruise ship in the entertainment department, met the passenger in a bar and spent several hours drinking with her.  He then allegedly followed her back to her cabin where he raped her.  The articles states that although she said she was tired and going to bed, the crew employee attacked her. 

The Celebrity Equinox had left the Italian port of Civitavecchia and the arrest came some 17 hours later.

Rape Aboard Celebrity Equinox cruise ShipThe arrest took place after ship video showed the crew member and passenger in the bar, with him then following her back to her cabin. 

The woman was seen by a doctor on board the ship.

Celebrity's parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises, has not made a comment to date about this alleged crime. 

The last rape aboard the Celebrity Equinox we reported on was last September - Perfume Sales Assistant Alleges Rape Aboard the Celebrity Equinox

As we mentioned in our prior article, Celebrity and its parent company Royal Caribbean have known about the high rate of sexual assaults on cruise ships for over a decade.  

In 1999, Royal Caribbean hired two top notch firms to study the problem of sexual assaults on the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity fleet of cruise ships. The cruise line retained a consulting firm called "Sheridan, Swailes" to study the company's security systems. Royal Caribbean also retained a nationally recognized expert on sexual harassment issues, Dr. Kay Krohne, who previously was a commanding officer at the Naval Training Station in San Diego.

After conducting an extensive analysis of the Royal Caribbean / Celebrity fleet, these experts concluded that sexual misconduct occurred "frequently" during cruises. They attributed this problem to the fact that most crew members were not afraid of being arrested, much less convicted.  

Unfortunately, Celebrity Cruises does not warn its guests of the history of men attacking women during cruises.

Women on cruise ships need to be aware of the danger of rape by crew members, especially after drinking alcohol.

 

July 20, 2012 Update: We were informed that the crew member who allegedly raped the passenger was an IT employee. 

July 21, 2012 Update: A newspaper in Italy identified the alleged rapist as an American. 

Celebrity Cruise Passenger Robbers Face Trial in St. Kitts

The alleged robbers of a bus load of Celebrity cruise passengers in St. Kitts are facing trial for a crime committed during an excursion in St. Kitts in November 2010.

We wrote about this incident in our article More Cruise Tourists Robbed, This Time In St. Kitts.

The robbery targeted 17 cruise passengers from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship. They were on a cruise sponsored excursion called the "Caribbean Journey Masters tour bus."  While the tour bus was heading towards a historic site, rocks and branches were strewn across the bus' path. The driver exited St. Kitts Robbery - Excursion - Celebrity Cruise Shipthe bus to investigate, and the robbers threw a rock into the windshield of the bus. Two armed, masked men rushed from the bushes and entered the bus.

A local newspaper reported that seventeen passengers, including an infant, were aboard the bus at the time of the robbery. The cruise passengers were robbed of their money, cell phones, jewelry and other personal items. 

As is often the case in St, Kitts, the police did not release the name of the cruise line or cruise ship. Local police and tourism bureaus in the Caribbean are very sensitive to bad press and avoid embarrassing the cruise lines on which they rely for the U.S. tourist dollar.  Nonetheless, the crime caused cruise lines to temporarily suspend cruises to the island.

The St. Kitts & Nevis Observer reports that five men are accused of being involved in the robbery.

St. Kitts has recently been in the "cruise news" lately.  Last month, a young woman from Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas alleged that she was raped aboard an excursion sailboat which sailed between St. Kitts and Nevis.  

 

Photo credit:  St. Kitts & Nevis Observer

Celebrity Crewmember Missing From Summit Cruise Ship

On Sunday we received emails inquiring about a Celebrity crewmember who went overboard from the Summit cruise ship.  The Summit was sailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it is currently based, to Barbados when the cruise employee disappeared. At the time we had no information.

Today the U.S. Coast Guard issued a statement that the missing crewmember is a Filipino woman, age thirty, employed as a bartender aboard the cruise ship.  The cruise line states that she was seen jumping overboard Sunday morning, approximately 6 - 7 miles off the northeastern coast of Culebra Island, Puerto Rico.  It is less than clear whether eyewitnesses observed this, or whether the incident was captured on the ship's CCTV cameras.

Summit Cruise Ship The cruise ship notified the Coast Guard of the incident from the cruise ship at approximately 12:50 a.m. Sunday.  We would be interested in learning when the cruise ship left San Juan, as the incident occurred shortly after departure. 

The Coast Guard suspended its search last night.

Royal Caribbean / Celebrity cruise ships have seen the most alleged suicides over the course of the last 2 years.  As we have said before, the Filipinos on cruise ships work incredibly long hours and are away from their families for long periods of time.  At this point, it is unknown what led this young woman to jump if this is what happened.

A Filipino crewmember allegedly jumped from a Celebrity ship earlier this year - Another Celebrity Crewmember Goes Overboard

You can read about RCCL / Celebrity crew overboards (all nationalities) below: 

Crew Member Goes Overboard from Celebrity Constellation Cruise Ship

Crew Member Missing from the Grandeur of the Seas - Why Are So Many People Disappearing From Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships?

Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas

Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

"Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas

Asleep At the Wheel: What Does the Delayed Reporting of Neha Chhikara's Disappearance from the Monarch of the Seas Reveal About Royal Caribbean's Shipboard Security?

Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard

Does anyone have information about this latest incident? 

Jury Hits Celebrity Cruises with $1,000,000 Verdict for Unnecessary Pacemaker Surgery

Yesterday, a jury in Miami returned a $1,000,000 verdict against a Miami based cruise line whose ship employee underwent an unnecessary surgery to insert a pacemaker which he did not need.

The case involves a Celebrity Cruises chef, Shalesh Buttoo, who experienced headaches and pain to his face while working on a Celebrity cruise ship.  Although only 31 years old and apparently in good health, a doctor in Santo Domingo inserted a pacemaker into the crewmember's chest.  The issues at trial focused on whether Mr. Buttoo needed such a surgery and, assuming he did, whether the surgery was properly performed.   

In 2009, the cruise line had flown Mr. Buttoo from Europe, where the Celebrity cruise ship was based, to Santo Domingo.  We wrote about the danger of sending injured or ill crewmembers to Santo Domingo in order to reduce medical expenses for crew back in November 2009.  You can Medical Treatment in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic?  read our thoughts here.  You can read another article we wrote here: Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft.

For those readers not up on international geography, Santo Domingo is in the Dominican Republic, adjacent to Haiti, on the island of Hispaniola. 

Mr. Buttoo testified at trial that the pacemaker caused him debilitating injuries and forced him to use a walker.  The pace maker not only medically unnecessary but was improperly placed and caused inflammation.  He eventually traveled to Miami for follow up medical care where cardiac surgeons removed the pacemaker.

The jury found the cruise line negligent in its care and treatment of its crewmember and returned a $1,000,000 verdict.  Cruise lines are vicariously liable for the bad medical treatment rendered to their crewmembers.

Mr. Butto's trial lawyer in Miami, Earvin Gonzalez, argued that Celebrity Cruises sent the ship employee to Santo Domingo to save money because the doctors in the Dominican Republic are much cheaper than in Europe or here in Miami where Celebrity Cruises is based.  Mr. Gonzalez commented on the verdict:

“I am pleased that the jury was able to appreciate the level of harm caused by Celebrity and awarded damages to compensate Mr. Buttoo for what he went through.  Although no amount of money will ever erase the horror of being implanted with a heart device he did not need, the amount awarded allowed Mr. Buttoo to feel that justice was served.  It is important for ship owners to recognize the need to provide their crew with quality health care and to listen to their needs, rather than taking a calloused and uncaring approach.  The crew is part of the Cruise line’s family and they should be treated like family members and not like indentured servants.”

Celebrity Cruises was represented by Jeffrey Foreman and Noah Silverman of the Miami firm Foreman Friedman.  They declined to respond to our request for a comment.

Celebrity Cruises Passenger Killed in Parasailng Accident in St. Thomas

A news source in the U.S. Virgin Islands reports that two passengers from the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship were involved in a serious parasailing accident on Tuesday in St. Thomas.

The incident occurred late Tuesday afternoon while the passengers were on an excursion.  One of the passengers died, and the other was seriously injured and remains hospitalized.

There are comments from an online cruise community suggesting that the deceased passengers was celebrating  her 60th birthday and her daughter was the one seriously injured.     

Celebrity Cruises Parasailing Accident - St. ThomasCelebrity Cruises advertises parasailing "400 feet over St. Thomas" on its website.  You can watch's Celebrity's brief  video about parasailing in St. Thomas here which describes the excursion as an "experience of a lifetime." 

A number of agencies are apparently involved in the investigation into this incident, including the Virgin Islands Police Department, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Attorney General’s Office, and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Last year we reported on the death of a Carnival cruise passenger parasailing in Cozumel during an excursion. 

 if you know how the accident occurred, please leave a comment below.

November 17, 2011 Update:

Caribbean Water Sports and Tours - Parasailing DeathThe Virgin Islands Daily News published an article this evening stating that "squalls and wind gusts Tuesday afternoon may have factored into the death of Bernice Kraftcheck, 60, and the serious injury of her daughter Danielle Haese, 34, who was hospitalized overnight at Schneider Hospital." 

The mother and daughter purchased a parasailing shore-excursion from Celebrity Cruises which was conducted by Caribbean Watersports and Tours.  The excursion company conducted the parasailing trip aboard the 31-foot powerboat Turtle.  The newspaper reports that two crew members operated the Turtle, which was carrying five passengers. 

"All parasailing shore excursions in the Caribbean have been cancelled indefinitely, pending the outcome of the investigation," said Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez.

Cruise lines face legal liability when they fail to vet the safety policies and procedures of the excursion companies which the cruise lines select to do business with. 

For example, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Summit cruise ship were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica.  We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident.  Information on the Dominica excursion accident is contained in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

December 3, 2011 Update:

Coast Guard Continues to Investigate St. Thomas Parasailing Accident

 

Photo credit:  Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises and Disabled Passenger Exchange Threats - Are Celebrity's Cruise Ships ADA Compliant?

After kicking disabled cruise passenger Jim Keskeny off in a Caribbean island alone, Celebrity Cruises responded to Mr. Keskeny's request for reimbursement of his cruise fare and travel expenses home with a "bombastic and bullying" letter threatening him with legal fees and costs, according to his Mr. Keskeny's Michigan lawyer Richard Bernstein.

The cruise line threats follow Mr. Keskeny's decision to go to the press about his mistreatment aboard the Century cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's subsidiary Celebrity Cruises. The Daily Tribune in Michigan first published an article explaining that Celebrity Cruises left Mr. Keskeny, who is wheelchair bound due to MS, alone on the island of Guadeloupe. Cruise Law Lawyer Richard Bernstein - Jim Keskeny - ADA - Celebrity Cruises - DisabilityNews followed up on this article the same day with Celebrity Cruises Abandons Disabled Passenger in Guadeloupe.

Celebrity Cruises refused to respond to requests for information by our blog and the newspaper in Michigan.

Instead, Celebrity eventually decided to release a statement only to the online cruise fan community, Cruise Critic, claiming that the cruise line has a strict policy that passengers with special needs must be self-sufficient and, if need be, travel with a companion to provide assistance with eating, dressing, toileting or lifting.

In fact, there is no such policy explained in the cruise passenger ticket at all. There is only an answer to the question "Can I Travel Alone?" in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section of the cruise line's web site which casually mentions this language.  It is of no legal significance.

Celebrity Cruises responded to the unwanted publicity by pointing out that Mr. Keskeny was on a nude cruise (although he never undressed) offered by "Bare Necessities Tour and Travel Company," a company which specializes in nudist vacations.  Was Celebrity Cruises trying to embarrass Mr. Keskeny by releasing such information?  Probably, but who cares?  If cruising nude is on someone's bucket list, more power to them especially if they have a debilitating neurological disease and they are in a wheelchair with perhaps a diminished life expectancy.  And consider that Celebrity and its parent company Royal Caribbean offer the greatest selection of alternative lifestyle cruising with nudist cruises, swinger cruises, cougar cruises, and gay rave / Atlantis drug cruises.

Mr. Keskeny and his lawyer Richard Bernstein seem not to be intimidated by Celebrity Cruises' threats.  Mr. Bernstein, who himself is a disabled (blind) lawyer, indicates that Celebrity is trying to intimidate Mr. Keskeny because the cruise ship is not compliance with the American with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). 

In particular, Mr. Bernstein claims that the bathroom toilets are not ADA compliant, they are too low, and this was the problem in the first place.  Mr. Bernstein is responding to Celebrity Cruises heavy handed threats with his own threat - an investigation to determine whether the Celebrity cruise fleet is in fact ADA compliant.  

Whatever the outcome of this dispute, one thing is certain.  The issue of the cruise lines' attitude toward disabled passengers is once again front and center.  Cruise lines historically have not been a friend of the disabled community.  Celebrity Cruises and the cruise industry's trade group, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), spent millions and fought vigorously to avoid complying with the ADA. 

The cruise industry argued that because cruise lines are not incorporated in the U.S. and fly foreign flags from countries in Africa and Central America, the ADA does not apply.  The cruise industry appealed this issue all of the way to the US Supreme Court before they lost.  Only then did the cruise lines begrudgingly begin reading the ADA's design requirements for disabled passengers. 

It is a rather amazing spectacle to see a $15,000,000,000 non-tax paying foreign corporation in a shit kicking contest with a disabled U.S. passenger, with the hard core Cruise Critic fans ready to lynch the disabled passenger and his blind lawyer from the nearest tree.  

The story is now garnering international press - read the U.K.'s Mail Online "Nudist with Multiple Sclerosis Booted Off Naked Cruise."  And don't miss the video below from the local ABC news station in Michigan: 

     

 

Photo and video credit:   WXYZ ABC-7 Farmington Michigan

Celebrity Cruises Abandons Disabled Passenger in Guadeloupe

A newspaper in Michigan is reporting on what is described as a the "shocking and scary" story of a disabled cruise passenger who faced  the obstacles of a non ADA-compliant cruise ship only to have the cruise line force him off the ship in a Caribbean port to fend for himself alone. 

Jim Keskeny, age 66, is confined to a wheelchair after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ("MS").  He booked a cruise of the eastern Caribbean with Celebrity Cruises, which is owned by cruise line giant Royal Caribbean Cruises.

The newspaper reports that Mr. Keskeny paid $4,000 for a larger stateroom for his wheelchair.  He Jim Keskeny - ADA - Cruise Ship - Disability - Handicapped Passenger also reportedly paid extra to have a crew member available to assist him because he was traveling alone. 

According to the article "Voices of Disability: Cruise Line Strands Disabled Senior on Island" written by journalist Jerry Wolffe,  Mr. Keskeny had traveled extensively during his career on behalf of the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation.  But his treatment on the cruise ship was like nothing he had experienced before.  The cruise line refused to assist him getting over the non ADA-compliant threshold into the bathroom, or to assist him when he fell.  “They wouldn’t touch me,” he said. “I felt like a leper.”

“If they had to touch me or lift me, I would be made to disembark,” he said cruise officials told him.

On the seventh day of the cruise, the cruise officers were true to their threat.  They ordered Mr. Keskeny off the cruise ship and left him in his wheelchair in Guadeloupe, alone.  He reportedly spent about $1,500 to get home. 

The newspaper notes that of additional concern to Mr. Keskeny, was the fact that he had to travel through the airport in Haiti.  Travel to Haiti normally requires vaccinations for certain diseases which pose a particular threat to Mr. Keskeny because of his MS which weakens a person’s immune system. 

The cruise in question was aboard the Century, one of Celebrity Cruises' older ships.

Although our firm does not handle ADA violation cases, the issue of how cruise lines treat or, in this case, mistreat customers is of particular interest to me.   How any particular corporation treats the handicapped and elderly is ultimately the greatest reflective of the ethics and core values of the company.

We asked Royal Caribbean for its side of the story but the cruise line refused to respond.

Ironically, in February we reported on this cruise line exceeding a disabled passenger's expectations (admittedly only after a few disastrous attempts).  Consider reading Celebrity Cruises Provides Perfect Cruise for Visually Impaired Guest.

Readers, what do you believe is the cruise line with the best (or worst) reputation for accommodating the needs of disabled passengers? 

Let us hear from you.  Please leave a comment below.  

April 13, 2011 Update:  Cruise Critic has an article with Celebrity's spin on the story - "Disabled Cruise Passenger Ordered Off Celebrity Ship During Charter."  The article says that the cruise line has a policy that passengers with special needs must be self-sufficient and, if need be, travel with a companion to provide assistance with eating, dressing, toileting or lifting. I initially did not see any such language on Celebrity's web site or in its "Special Needs" section. Under a section called "Outstanding Service," the cruise line says: With one staff member for nearly every two guests, Celebrity's personal service anticipates your every need. Unobtrusively. Intuitively. So you'll feel restored and relaxed–effortlessly. In your stateroom . . ."

A reader brought the answer to the question "Can I Travel Alone?" in the Frequently Asked Questions site to my attention.  However, this is not a term or condition in the passenger ticket and is just an "answer" to a "frequently asked question" and of no legal effect.  I see no terms and conditions stating that the cruise line can send a disabled passenger off the ship for not reading a "frequently asked question."   

In any event, why kick a 66 year old disabled passenger off of a cruise under these circumstances?

Where is the compassion people?

Although Cruise Critic quotes the cruise line calling the incident "regrettable," and the company which chartered the cruise ship uses the phrase "terribly unfortunate," it looks like their regret for Mr. Kesney's misfortune stops short of reimbursing him a penny. 

April 18, 2011 Update:  Read our updated article: Celebrity Cruises and Disabled Passenger Exchange Threats - Are Celebrity's Cruise Ships ADA Compliant?

 

Photo credit:  WXYZ ABC-7 Farmington Michigan

Celebrity Cruises Crew Member Arrested on Child Porn Charges

Several newspapers in California are reporting that the FBI arrested a crew member aboard Celebrity Cruises' Constellation on child-pornography charges after the cruise ship arrived at the Port of San Diego. 

According to the Union Tribune newspaper in San Diego, Amado Nicholas Hernandez, age 31, was employed by Celebrity Cruises as an audiovisual manager and provided onboard guest-entertainment services. 

Amado Hernandez - Cruise - Child PornographyHernandez was arrested after he apparently abandoned his computer which was subsequently purchased at an estate sale.  The computer reportedly contained 450 photographs and about 250 video files of child pornography portraying a total of 44 different victims.  The computer contained information which permitted the FBI to trace the pornography back to the crew member. 

The criminal complaint filed against Hernandez alleged that upcoming cruises included several stops in Mexico.  Hernandez, in documented online chats, reportedly had bragged that he had bought young boys for sex in Mexico and “almost offed one,” the criminal complaint alleges.

The issue of child predators and crew members with child pornography on cruise ships is something we have written about frequently.  It's not an isolated problem: 

Nabbed at Pier 21 - Another Crew Member Busted with Child Porn in Halifax

Another Carnival Crew Member Busted for Child Porn

Costa Crew Member Caught With Child Pornography 

Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships

Another Crew Member Arrested for Child Pornography 

Cruise Ship Passenger Sentenced in Child Porn Case

 

Photo Credit:    roadiejobs.com