Crew Member Disappears From Independence of the Seas: Why No Mention in the Press or Social Media?

A crew member disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas earlier in the week.

We were first notified of the crew member's disappearance from another crew member who was concerned about the incident. Today we received confirmation that a crew member went overboard from a reliable separate and independent source. 

The missing crew member was reportedly a galley worker from India. The crew member went overboard early in the morning before the cruise ship called on its scheduled port in France. 

The ship is currently on a two week cruise, starting on August 9, 2014 from Southampton and sailing to Independence of the Seas Gibraltar, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, before returning to Southampton.

This is the third time in two months a person has gone overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship without any mention of the incident in the press or on social media. 

A passenger went overboard from the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas on August 7, 2014. There were no rescue attempts by the ship. The cruise ship, like all other Royal Caribbean cruise ships, has no automatic man overboard system which could detect someone going overboard and immediately alert the bridge. The passenger was not noticed missing until a cabin attendant entered the cabin over 14 hours later. There was no mention of the incident in the press or on social media until we first mentioned the incident.

Another passenger jumped from the Splendour of the Seas on June 13, 2014. The cruise ship personnel rescued him because he was seen going overboard by other passengers and crew members. Again, there was no mention of the incident until we reported on it. The incident demonstrates that even when a person intentionally goes overboard (an act often considered to be suicidal), the cruise ship can safely rescue them if man overboard steps are immediately taken.

A passenger also recently went overboard (August 2, 2014) from the Caribbean Princess. Like the situation on the Splendor, the passenger intentionally jumped overboard but was quickly rescued because he was seen going into the water.  Again, there was no mention of the incident until cruise expert Ross Klein first mentioned it on his website

Of course, many people going overboard are not witnessed. That's why automatic man overboard systems are important. The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 requires the installation of man overboard technology. The history of the legislation indicates that it does not matter whether the person intentionally went overboard (suicidal or not), accidentally went overboard (due to alcohol, recklessness or otherwise), or was thrown overboard. Cruise ships must install the available technology.  

Why are these incidents not being mentioned in the press or discussed on social media? Some people believe that it's nobody's business. They say that if someone wants to jump overboard, they must be suicidal and there's nothing the cruise line could do or should do.  

Other people say that I'm just making these incidents up. If they can't find confirmation of the overboard on the internet after a Google search, they say I must be lying. This view permeates the group-think, cult-of-personality, lynch mob mentality on Cruise Critic message boards

In situations like the Grandeur, or more recently the Independence, the person is not discovered missing until hours and hours later, when the ship reaches port or a crew member doesn't report to work in the morning or a cabin attendant finally enters the cabin.  The ship is then over a hundred miles away. 

My thought is that it comes down to a lack of transparency. Cruise lines don't like news of their guests or employees disappearing at sea. Cruise lines sell images of magical vacations with happy, smiling customers and friendly crew members. They don't like stories of out-of-their-mind-drunk-on-cruise-booze passengers, or over-worked and despondent crew members or, God forbid, passengers or crew thrown overboard into the dark waters. They suppress the information. They don't like lawyers who point out that their entire fleet is in violation of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

 

Interested in this issue? Consider reading Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death? 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Aztec06

Crew Member Overboard From Carnival Spirit Near Vanatu

Tonight we received information from a former crew member that a search and rescue operation is underway near Vanuatu after a Carnival employee has gone overboard from the Carnival Spirit cruise ship. 

There is an article from Australia stating that there is a man overboard lost from a Carnival cruise ship who is "believed to be a member of the kitchen crew" aboard the Carnival Spirit on a voyage out of Vanuatu.

The newspaper states that a passenger on the cruise ship, who did not wish to be identified, stated Carnival Spiritthat an announcement was made more than 10 hours ago that a crew member had gone missing "for up to 20 hours by that point." 

The Carnival cruise ship turned back towards Vanuatu, which is about 20 hours away from its current position. 

Under the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010, cruise lines are suppose to have implemented automatic man-overboard CCTV systems to detect man-overboards as soon as they happen. Under applicable U.S. maritime law, there should never be this type of mystery when a crew member (or passengers) disappears on the high seas.

Does anyone have information regarding this incident to share?

Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein reports that 233 people have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Hpeterswald

Honduran Crew Members Busted for Smuggling 100 Pounds of Cocaine on Royal Caribbean Owned Cruise Ship

Pullmantur EmpressA newspaper in Brazil reports that the police arrested crew members on a cruise ship who were smuggling 100 pounds of cocaine.

The Globo newspaper identified the cruise ship as the M/S Empress, owned by Royal Caribbean and operated by the Royal Caribbean brand Pullmantur.  

The police officers arrested Honduran crew members after finding 333 bags of cocaine weighing 100 pounds. The drugs were found in the crew members' cabin in several bags hidden in coffee pouches. 

The drugs were intended to be delivered to Europe. 

Royal Caribbean said that it has a "zero tolerance" policy regarding illegal drugs on its ships.

The cruise ship was previously operated by Royal Caribbean International as the Nordic Empress and Empress of the Seas.

Photo Credit: Top - Reuters / Bottom - Wikipedia (Borodun)

Pullmantur Empress Cruise Ship

Cruise Nightmare: Disney Crew Member Arrested on Charges of Molesting Child on Disney Dream

Ahmed Sofyan - Disney Cruise MolestationNews sources in Florida are reporting that the Port Canaveral Police Department arrested a 36 year old Disney crew member today on charges of molesting a 13 year old girl on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

Florida Today states that "the Port Canaveral Police Department has arrested a Disney Cruise Line crew member today for alleged lewd or lascivious molestation of a minor."

WKMG Orlando, which has been a leader in covering cruise ship crimes, identifies the Disney crew member accused of molesting the 13-year-old girl as Ahmed Sofyan, age 36, of Jakarta, Indonesia.

He was charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation and one count of false imprisonment.

The alleged incident occurred aboard the Disney Dream ship while it was docked in Port Canaveral this morning. 

The Port Canaveral Police Department says that at approximately 8:12 AM, Canaveral Port Authority Police responded to the request of Disney Cruise Lines regarding a lewd or lascivious molestation that occurred aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship while docked at terminal 8 in Port Canaveral. Upon conclusion of the investigation, crew member Ahmed Sofyan (DOB: 07/22/77) of Jakarta, Indonesia, was charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation and one count of false imprisonment. The victim was a 13-year-old female not known to the suspect.

Last year Disney refused to timely report a similar incident when a 33 year old Disney waiter molested an 11 year old girl on the Disney Dream. Although the incident occurred while the cruise ship was in port in Port Canaveral, Disney sailed the cruise ship to the Bahamas in what appeared to be an attempt to aid the crew member in escaping justice.  The Bahamas, as expected, refused to arrest the molester and Disney then flew the crew member back to his home country, India. WKMG covered the disturbing story. You can see photos of the incident here and read our account of the crime here.

Indonesian crew members have received bad press lately.  In February an Indonesian crew member on a HAL cruise ship was arrested in a horrific case where he tried to kill and throw a passenger overboard from the Nieuw Amsterdam.

Sexual assaults against children is an issue we have discussed many times on this blog.  In 2010, we reported on a situation - Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship 

A news report from WKMG on the latest Disney Cruises child molestation case is below: 

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

 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras

This evening we received reliable information that a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member was shot and killed in Roatan, Honduras earlier today.

The crew member reportedly was from NCL's Norwegian Pearl cruise ship.

The only information we received is that a Pearl crew member named "Jacob" from the Philippines was killed by a gunshot today while the Norwegian Pearl was in Roatan today. The murder apparently occurred when the gunman was trying to rob the crew member of his cell phone a short distance form the cruise ship. 

NCL Norwegian Cruise Line Pearl This year we have posted two articles warning about the high crime rate in Roatan. We published the articles last month and in January:

Travel Crime Warning: Tourists Assaulted, Robbed & Terrorized in Roatan, Honduras

Crime in Roatan: Shots Fired, Armed Robbery of Carnival Cruise Passengers

The U.S. State Department issued a warning that the murder rate in Honduras is the highest in the world. 

Before I learned of the murder today, I received the following message on this blog: 

"Honduras is rated the number 1 murder country in Central America for a reason.  . . . People, just remember this, anyone who lives there or owns property there is going to paint you a rosy picture of this place because they can't leave or they have their money invested there. Avoid Roatan."

If you have information about this crime, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Update: The Teledifusora Insular Facebook page identifies the Filipino crew member as Jacob Bagan. It states that the police are searching for someone called "Barrabas" who shot the man and then left his bicycle at the scene. The new mayor of Roatan offers a reward of 100,000 Lempiras (a little over $5,000 U.S.) for the capture of the murderer. There are numerous photographs on the Facebook page, including one of the deceased man that is graphic. Other newspapers are covering the story, including this one, which contains very disturbing images (warning). 

Below is a video from Roatan of the Mayor being interviewed.

April 7 2014 UpdateWill NCL's CEO Kevin Sheehan Pull the Norwegian Pearl, Dawn & Jewel Out of Roatan?

April 10 2014 UpdateHonduran Police Arrest Bay Islands Resident in Murder of NCL Crew Member

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Visitor 7  

Guardian of the Seas? Is MSC Cruises Polluting Brazilian Waters Again?

MSC Cruises Cruise Dumping - Garbage BagsTwo months ago, we posted a video from a Brazilian newspaper showing MSC Cruises crew members apparently throwing black garbage bags into the water (video at bottom).

The video, taken by a passenger aboard an unidentified MSC ship (later identified as the Magnifica), created a hue and cry among environmentalists and citizens of Brazil. Rightfully so. Dumping of plastics and unprocessed garbage is illegal according to the international MARPOL recommendations. This dumping allegedly took place in Brazilian waters near a marine sanctuary.

After the passenger video surfaced, MSC, seemingly unrepentant, released a PR statement calling its cruise ships "Guardians of the Seas." It said that it would investigate the alleged dumping and touted its environmental policies.

After we covered the story, a number of people within the industry contacted us. They suggested that dumping of garbage bags from cruise ships like this took place more often than the cruise lines would like the public to know.

Yesterday, we received photographs and videos from a concerned "Good Samaritan." The images appear to show MSC crew members throwing garbage bags out to sea. Unlike the video taken by the passenger from an upper deck of the ship, these videos were taken by a former crew member inside of the ship showing what he described as illegal garbage dumping. We have posted two of the videos below.

The videos shown are short "snippets," of only 10 seconds or so, of workers wearing blue MSC overalls carrying bags to the windowless portholes on a mooring deck and then heaving the bags out to sea.

MSC Cruises Cruise Dumping - Garbage Bags The video and photographs were taken by a former crew member who wishes to remain anonymous.

The former employee claims that MSC discarded garbage bags often filled with plastics, oily discharge and other materials which the cruise lines are prohibited from dumping. The former employee took photos of a lower mooring deck showing a pile of garbage bags which he said were later thrown into the sea, including a stack of wooden pallets which had been broken down to fit through the portholes and then pitched out to sea.  

The former employee told us that the dumping occurred from the MSC Magnifica within Brazilian waters.

Click on our Facebook page to see some of the photos of the dumping at sea.

The press in Brazil has focused on the cruise industry after bathers at a public beach called Praia da Tartaruga (Turtle Beach) near Búzios City in Brazil suffered irritated eyes, difficulty breathing, and gastrointestinal problems. The officials believe that cruise ships discharged noxious waste into the water. These images will add to the debate whether cruise lines are polluting the waters of Brazil.

This morning, we reached out to MSC Cruises's Fort Lauderdale office for an explanation regarding what is shown in the latest videos and photographs.  We have not received a response.    

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

Have a video or evidence of illegal cruise line conduct?  Contact us. We will bring the story to the public. 

 

MSC Cruises Cruise Garbage Bag Dumping

 

Crew Member Overboard From Celebrity Cruises' Constellation Cruise Ship

Numerous news sources are reporting that a Celebrity Cruises' crew member went overboard from a cruise ship sailing off of the coast of Mexico.

Crew member Inyoman Bagiada, age 45, reportedly disappeared from the Celebrity Constellation at around 2:30 AM today, according to a press release by the U.S. Coast Guard. He was employed on the cruise ship as a cook.

The Constellation was returning from Cozumel, Mexico, to Port Everglades, Florida, after a five-day cruise. The incident reportedly occurred between Mexico and Cuba.

Celebrity Constellation Man OverboardThis is the sixth cruise ship disappearance in the last 5 weeks.

Royal Caribbean and sister company Celebrity have recently lost 4 people overboard. In addition to this latest overboard, people went overboard from the Rhapsody of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas and Independence of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is one of the cruise lines which is in violation of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) which requires the installation of automatic man overboard systems. Four years ago Congress passed the CVSSA nto law, over the cruise industry's objections, most cruise lines have not installed the required systems.

What typically occurs is that a person goes overboard without anyone seeing the passenger or crew member.  The cruise ship then sails on, often for many hours. Eventually the person's absence is noticed, but the ship is many miles away. At that point the cruise ship will notify the Coast Guard, which must then search vast areas of the ocean at the cost to U.S taxpayers of $1,000,000.

The Coast Guard sent a HC-130 Hercules aircraft Clearwater, Florida and the Charles David Jr., a 154-foot cutter from Key West. 

A man overboard system would result in an immediate notification of the person going overboard and a rapid search and rescue. Sending Coast Guard airplanes and vessels from long distances away could be avoided with the man overboard systems. Lives could be saved which are now being lost.

Royal Caribbean experienced 8 crew members going overboard from its fleet of ships in less than 2 years between January 2011 and October 2012. You can read about those cases here.

It's my belief that unless the cruise lines face steep fines, or are responsible for paying for the Coast Guard's search, they will continue to flaunt the law.  

January 30 2014 Update: The Daily Mail reports that "according to the Coast Guard, the cruise did not report Bagiada missing until eight hours after he fell overboard." 

 

Have a thought about this issue? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

Photo Credit of Celebrity Constellation - Wikipedia / Megadri   

Crew Member From Bali Dies on Carnival Splendor

Wayan BarsianaThe Bali Discovery reports on the sad case of a young man who died at sea.

The 21-year-old Balinese man was working as a crew member on the Carnival Splendor and died shortly after joining the cruise ship.

Wayan Barsiana died on December 23, 2013 after joining the cruise ship on December 6, 2013.

The young man’s body was returned to his family in Bali three weeks later on January 13, 2014, after undergoing a post mortem examination. 

The Bali Discovery states that:

"The young man was said to be diligent in calling or texting his family and girlfriend on a daily basis, contact that suddenly stopped on December 21, 2013, when he told his family he had developed a cough. Two days later on December 23, 2104 a manager from Carnival Cruise Lines telephoned the mother to advise her son had died in his crew cabin."

The family reportedly received no further details regarding their son’s death. Wayan Barisana’s body was buried in his home village shortly after it was shipped back to Bali.

The Bali Seafarer's Centre Facebook page shows photographs of the return of the crew member's body home.

The KPI union and hiring agency in Indonesia contributed to the funeral expenses in respect for the family.

If you have a comment, please join the discussion about this article on our Facebook page.

Photo credits: Bali Discovery - top; Bali Seafarer's Centre - bottom. 

Death on Carnival Splendor

Miami-Dade Jury Hits Royal Caribbean with $6.2 Million Verdict

Today, a jury here in Miami, Florida returned a verdict over $6,200,000 on behalf of a seriously injured crew member.

The crew members is from Haiti and worked as a cleaner on the Jewel of the Seas

He sustained a serious back injury due to the repetitive nature of his work and the long hours which crew members are required to work.

After the crew member sustained injury, Royal Caribbean sent the crew member to Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic for medical treatment. There a surgeon performed a back fusion. The Brett Rivkindcrew member's lawyer alleged that the surgery was unnecessary and caused the crew member unnecessary and additional injuries. 

We have written about the medical facilities in Santo Dominican before. Rather than fly the injured crew members to Miami, where the cruise line in headquartered and the executives reside, the cruise line often sends their ship employees to the Dominican Republic where the medical expenses are substantially cheaper although the treatment is substantially inferior.

We have discussed the sub-standard medical facilities in Santo Domingo before. A jury in Miami previously returned a $1,000,000 verdict for a Celebrity crew member who underwent a crippling, unnecessary pacemaker surgery.   

Royal Caribbean tries to save money by keeping its ill and injured crew members out of Miami, and this is often the result. Read: Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft

Royal Caribbean reportedly made no settlement offer before trial.

The jury returned a verdict for the crew member finding that Royal Caribbean was negligent under the Jones Act, the vessel was unseaworthy, and the cruise line failed to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment. 

The crew member was represented by Miami maritime lawyer Brett Rivkind, photo above.

The total verdict was in the amount of $6,282,261.

The cruise lawyer was defended by defense lawyer David Horr.

Transatlantic Coke Bust: Spanish Prosecutors Seek 7 Year Prison Sentences For Two MSC Magnifica Crew Members

In a story we reported earlier this year, two Filipino crew members were busted smuggling cocaine aboard the MSC Magnifica in April.

The MSC cruise ship arrived at the port  of La Coruña on April 11th and the two crew members were arrested after they were caught with 10 kilos of cocaine taped to their bodies.

Today I received a newspaper clipping from a reader of Cruise Law News Next, bring me up to date regarding the case. The two men will be tried in the Provincial Court next week as "perpetrators MSC Cruise Ship Drug Bustof a crime against public health." The prosecutors will be asking the Court for 7 year jail sentences for the two men. You can see the on line article here too.

It was initially reported that the MSC crew members had smuggled 15 kilos.

Drug smuggling on cruise ships occurs more than the cruise lines want you to know, including MSC. 

Last month, a judge in Italy sentenced three 3 people who were involved in smuggling cocaine on an Italian flagged cruise ship to ten year individual sentences and a fine each of 60,000 Euros for importing ten kilos of cocaine from South America on the cruise ship Armonia operated by MSC.

In March, two Argentinian cruise passengers on an unidentified MSC cruise ship from Brazil which arrived in Lisbon, Portugal from Brazil were arrested for possession / smuggling of seven kilograms of cocaine wrapped in packages that the men were carrying in two backpacks. 

MSC passengers were convicted of attempting to bring 35 kilos of cocaine from the MSC Orchestra when it arrived in Dover from Brazil.

The MSC Poesia was the scene here in South Florida of a drug bust when U.S. federal and local agents with K-9 dogs raided the cruise ship looking to arrest passengers who were attending a musical Jam Cruise. The raid resulted in the arrest of passengers and the seizure of pot, mushrooms, hash oil, LSD, Ecstasy, and prescription drugs as well as unspecified drug paraphernalia. No high times on the high seas for these cruisers.

Yah Mon! Cruise Law Goes to Jamaica

Tomorrow the lawyers here at our firm are traveling again to Jamaica.

We'll be visiting our clients to see how they are doing. I will be meeting friends in Falmouth and will see if there has been any signs of the revitalization of the town after the new Royal Caribbean port destroyed ancient coral reefs and native mangroves to make way for the Oasis and Allure of the Seas

We will also make ourselves available to meet with any crew members who need to learn about the Injured Crew Members - Jamaica - Lawyers legal rights of cruise ship employees who become ill or injured on cruise ships. 

I will be arriving at Montego Bay tomorrow morning and I will be available to meet with crew members or their family for two days (Monday and Tuesday). I'll  be hosting a free conference at the "Jamaica No Problem Room" in the beautiful Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rio. The address is 83 Main Street in Ocho Rios. Please come with your questions or concerns. No fee or obligation of course.

My co-counsel Jonathan Aronson will be will me.

The photo above was from a prior visit to the famous "No Problem Room." 

If Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Celebrity, Disney or some other cruise line has treated you poorly after you were injured on the ship, or if you have medical problems like hypertension, diabetes, cancer or other illnesses which require treatment, please don't hesitate to contact me. 

And if you can't come to the clinic, no problem.  Please email me at jim@cruiselaw.com and I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have and can call you to discuss your concerns if you wish. 

Cruise CEO Arnold Donald's First Blunder: Carnival Guts Crew Retirement Benefits

Last month, the Sun Sentinel reported that Carnival's earnings "continue to be hurt by a series of embarrassing mishaps and softened demand for certain cruises that has kept fares low." The world's largest cruise operator reported a 30 percent drop in third-quarter profits.

Critics have attributed Carnival's woes to damage to its namesake cruise line's "Fun Ship" image after several cruise ships caught fire and/or lost power at sea. The most serious incidents involved loss of propulsion and power to the Carnival Splendor and the Carnival Triumph, stranding many thousands of passengers under unsanitary and unpleasant conditions.

Carnival Donald Arnold - Micky ArisonThis summer Micky Arison stepped down as Carnival CEO and a businessman, Arnold Donald, formerly of chemical giant Monsanto, stepped in as the new cruise CEO to try and right the ship. In June, Forbes magazine published an article about Mr. Arnold. The magazine quoted him saying the following about Carnival: "Here’s what success looks like. Our employees feel very confident in the future of the company. They legitimately feel like winners . . .

But Forbes didn't share the CEO's gushing enthusiasm. In order to be successful, Forbes cautioned, "Donald has to cut costs." 

Yesterday I wrote that Carnival embarked on a major cost-cutting campaign by freezing all of the retirement benefits for the crew members working for Carnival Cruise Lines. There are some 24 Carnival Cruise Line cruise ships with over 20,000 crew members working aboard the ships.  Cutting an average of just $5,000 per crew member may result in a savings of $100,000,000 over the next few years.

But at what cost in loss of morale? I doubt that the affected crew members "feel very confident in the future of the company" now, considering the comments to our article yesterday:

A comment from a crew member:  ". . . This is terribly disadvantageous and unfair if not outright discriminatory to the more than 6,000 Filipino crew members who have been working hard for Carnival Cruise Lines all these years. This retirement benefit is so important and is the very reason crew members chose to stay with Carnival for at least 10 years . . ." 

A comment from a former crew member:  "I retired from Carnival 4 years ago in order to pursue a university education. At that point I was at cross roads whether to stay or go. I am glad I choose go."

A tweet by a cruise fan: "This will trickle down 2 to me the passenger & not in a good way. Carnival could become the Self Serve Cruise Ships."

You can read other comments here or on our Facebook page.

As of publishing this article, Carnival still describes its "Fun Ship Retirement Plan" as providing a "lump-sum benefit upon team members’ retirement from Carnival, provided they have at least 10 years of continuous service . . . The longer a team member is employed beyond the initial 10-year period, the faster the benefits increase. Simply put, the longer you stay with Carnival, the larger your benefit payment will be upon your retirement."

But that's no longer true. 

Carnival announced over the last two years that it is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in its ships in technology, equipment and safety systems to avoid a repeat of the Splendor and Triumph mishaps and the Concordia disaster.  But it is taking money out of its loyal crew members to do so. It's no different that robbing Peter to pay Paul.      

There's not much the crew can do. The last time Carnival crew members went on strike for protesting low wages and the cruise line's withholding of their tips, they were all terminated, sent back to India, and blackballed from ever working on the cruise industry.

Do Carnival crew members feel like the "winners" Mr. Arnold described this summer? Should the crew feel confident in their future with Carnival?  

I suspect right now that the crew members feel like losers, cheated by the company which still promises on its website that ship employees will benefit by staying longer at Carnival.   

 

Photo Credit: Local10.com

A Comment from a Former Crew Member: "So Many Injustices"

Cruise Law News from time to time will feature a comment to our articles by one of our readers.

Comments by crew members are often poignant. The cruise industry's current state of affairs places tremendous pressure on ship employees from Carnival, Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines. Hours are longer notwithstanding the lofty goals of the MLC 2006, pay is lower, cruise lines are stealing tips intended for the crew, and recently Carnival Cruise Lines terminated the crew's retirement benefits claiming that the MLC forced it to do so.  

Cruise Ship Working ConditionsHere's a portion of a comment by a former crew member we received today, expressing some of the angst felt by cruise ship employees:

"You have no idea what is daily "MORAL HARASSMENT"!

During some meetings regarding how afraid the ship's managers and "the office" were . . . of USPH. The F&B supervisors used to call us "THALIBAN", just because we are from that side of the planet ... many times we were called like that.

Most of you have no idea how hard it is to wash 800 plates, clean floors, chemical machines without a single glove in a 14 hours shift . . .

Yes, you may say ... we signed for that. No, we signed for what a smiling recruiting agent showed us how life onboard would be like. And we own money to them.

I left Carnival Cruise Lines and continued my studies. I am free now.

P.S. I met all kind of guest too. The wonderful ones and their families are my good friends now. Many crewmenbers too. But the bad stuff ... it probably flows from the Miami office to the ships ... they don't care.

So many injustices."

 

Watch Video: Sweatships - Working Conditions on Cruise Ships

Carnival Conquest Crew Member Killed in New Orleans

Carnival ConquestThe Times Picayune on line newspaper reports that a Carnival Cruise Line crew member died today while the Carnival Conquest cruise ship was at port in New Orleans.

The accident occurred while the crew member was using a operating a "man lift" (also called a "cherry picker") which raises workers up the exterior of the ship.

Carnival said the crew member was performing maintenance work when he became wedged between the lift and a platform holding a lifeboat.

Carnival described the accident as follows: 

"Earlier today, while a crew member from the Carnival Conquest was elevated in a cherry picker performing maintenance work on the side of the vessel, he became wedged between the cherry picker and a platform holding one of the ship's lifeboats. The ship's medical team responded, along with local paramedics, but, tragically, the crew member died. The ship was docked in its home port of New Orleans at the time."

Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Lines via Times Picayune

If you have information, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page,

Death Aboard Cunard's Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria Cruise Ship DeathThe Daily Echo reports that a Cunard crew member died during a Mediterranean cruise on the Queen Victoria cruise ship.

The newspaper quotes a Cunard spokesman saying: “We can confirm the very sad news that one of our crew members on Queen Victoria died last night. We are providing support to his family back home and also to his friends and crewmates on board.

The luxury cruise ship is sailing from Piraeus to Majorca. 

Cunard has not identified the man's name, nationality, age, job position or cause of death.

If you have information about what happened, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

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Extreme Work Load & Grueling Hours Exhaust Royal Princess Crew Members

Royal Princess Cruise ShipA number of crew members have contacted us about the difficult work and long hours the crew are required to work aboard the Royal Princess cruise ship.

We are informed that 12 dishwashers signed off the Princess cruise ship in just the last 2 months because of what is being described as a heavy work load and extreme work hours, reportedly more than 14 hours work everyday.  Other crew members may be leaving as well before the cruise ship embarks on its transatlantic crossing to South Florida.

One of the problems which crew members face when a cruise ship repositions from Europe to the U.S. is that they have to work additional hours to prepare for inspections by the United States Public Health (USPH) inspectors. A failed USPH inspection is a kiss of death for a Food & Beverage supervisor or the senior managers of restaurant and galley operations. 

I'm sure that the guests aboard the newest Princess luxury cruise ship have no idea how hard and how long the crew members from Indonesian, Indian, and the Philippines work.

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

Cruise Passengers: Do You Really Complain About Your Cruise Vacations?

Crew Member Rights - Cruise ShipOur law firm receives anywhere from a dozen to several dozen e-mails a day from people complaining about every imaginable problem on the high seas. 

We divide the complaints into two general categories - complaints by passengers and complaints by crew members.

Cruise passengers complain about all types of things, like the food was bad, they missed a port of call because of bad weather, the cabins next to them were too loud, the service was bad, or they object to automatic gratuities being deducted from their accounts.  It drives me crazy. 

Yes, there are legitimate complaints too, like being seriously injured or being a victim of a crime during a cruise. But the petty "I-was-inconvenienced-and-I-want-a-free-cruise" complainers out number the legitimately injured by 10 to 1.

Crew members, on the other hand, are a different breed. They are inconvenienced every day. That goes without saying. Long hours, low pay, shrinking tips and having to deal with whiny guests are just a normal day at sea.  Who are they going to complain to anyway? There are no true unions. There are no legitimate maritime oversight bodies that can do anything. And if they complain about the hard work or excessive hours or minimal pay to their supervisors, they are likely to be fired.

And the true seafarers working on tankers, bulk carriers and large freighters?  They are the bravest of the brave. Subject to the hazards of the sea, the largely Indian and Filipino seafarers are the backbone of the maritime community.

So when you come home from a cruise vacation and are about to write a harsh review to Cruise Critic and bitch & whine about the crew members, keep in mind that your worst cruise is probably better than the best day a crew member may experience on the same ship.           

Video Credit: Seafarers Facebook page

  

Celebrity Cruises Hit with $2,500,000 Verdict

A blog discussing Goa India, and Miami's Daily Business Review, are reporting on a significant verdict that was recently reached against Miami-based Celebrity Cruises. 

The jury verdict involves a Celebrity crew member, Vincente Fernandes, from Goa, India. Back in September 2009, Mr. Fernandes was an assistant stateroom attendant on a Celebrity cruise ship. He alleges that there were shortages of sheets and towels for passenger cabins on the cruise ship. Cabin attendants had to compete to obtain them.

When Mr. Fernandes requested linens & towels to assist in preparing the passenger cabins, the linen keeper verbally abused him and then physically assaulted him. Fernandes was just 5 feet, 4 inches in height and weighed just 140 pounds. The linen manager who attacked him? He was twice Fernandes' size - 6 feet, 6 inches and weighed 280 pounds. Fernandes suffered a badly fractured leg which required surgery with the insertion of plates and screws.  

Celebrity flew Mr. Fernandes back home to Goa, India after the surgery. Celebrity paid no compensation to Fernandes and did not timely pay monies for the injured crew member's food and lodging, medical care, therapy or medication. Mr. Fernandes's lead trial lawyer, Ervin A. Gonzalez of the Colson Hicks law firm, assisted by Christopher Drury and Tonya Meister, argued that Fernandes suffered a deformed leg which will need several additional operations, including a knee replacement. 

The trial addressed only the issue of compensation. The trial court, the Honorable David Miller, struck the cruise line's defenses for pre-trial discovery violations. 

The cruise line was defended by David Horr and Eddie Hernandez of the Horr, Novak & Skipp law firm.

The jury awarded a total of slightly over $2,496,000 in damages, consisting of $1,750,000 in pain and suffering & mental anguish, $350,625 for medical expenses, and $395,400 for lost wages and loss of earning capacity.

Mr. Fernandes counsel, Ervin Gonzalez, summed the case up as follows: 

"Celebrity pounded Mr. Fernandes, a five foot four and 140 pound cabin steward, to a pulp, through its employee, a six foot six 280 pound assistant linen manager brute. As a result, Mr. Fernandez's leg was shattered. His knee was destroyed and will need to be replaced in ten years. The 2.5 million dollar verdict cannot replace his knee and make him healthy but it will at least help him find economic stability. Without the civil justice system, Mr. Fernandes would be broken, financially devastated and discarded."

Crew Member from India Disappears from MSC Opera

This evening a number of news organizations are reporting that a crew member went overboard from the MSC Opera cruise ship. 

BBC News reports that the crew member went overboard when the cruise ship was south of the Isle of Wright.  

The News identified the crew member as a 33 year-old Indian national named Fernandes Elroy.

The cruise ship was sailing into Southampton early this morning.

MSC Opera Cruise ShipMSC Cruises said staff were alerted at 5:30 AM on today that Mr. Elroy was missing.  The company claims that CCTV, which was checked at 6:30 AM, allegedly showed Mr Elroy jumping overboard around 1:30 AM, according to the The Isle of Wright Radio

A Coast Guard helicopter and lifeboat carried out an unsuccessful search. 

We have reported before on disappearances from MSC cruise ships in the past which you can read about here and here and here.

There is usually very little, if any, investigation conducted by the cruise lines to try and find out why crew members disappear on the high seas. Few cruise lines have automatic man overboard detection systems, unfortunately.  There is a tendency by the cruise lines to quickly conclude that the person committed suicide. Even if the evidence supports a suicide explanation, there is no effort to determine whether the working conditions (long hours, long contract, low wages and work pressure and emotional abuse) were factors involved in literally pushing the crew member emotionally over-the-edge.

Professor Ross Klein reports that 206 people have gone overboard from cruise ship since 2000.

If you have information about this latest overboard, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Consider reading another article about working conditions and crew members going overboard: Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / VollwertBIT 

Another Rape Alleged on the Love Boat

News sources in Alaska are reporting that Alaska State Troopers are investigating an incident where a female crew member alleges that she was sexually assaulted on a Princess Cruises sailing between Seattle and Alaska this week. 

The crew member states that two other crew members sexually assaulted her while the cruise ship was sailing to Juneau. The Alaska State Troopers say the assault took place between 4 AM and 6 AM on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers says that “Yes, suspects have been identified;” however, Princess Cruises Star Princess Sexual Assault“No arrests have been made.”

The Princess cruise ship is making additional port calls as it heads back to Seattle, the point of origin for the cruise. Both the victim and the suspects are still aboard the cruise ship.

Princess Cruises released a statement claiming that after reporting the alleged assault, the woman "indicated she no longer wanted to pursue the matter with law enforcement." 

It's a shame to see that the alleged victim was not taken off the cruise ship for medical evaluation and counseling and provided with a safe environment where she could be away from the alleged perpetrators.

Its also disturbing to see the cruise line issue a press statement claiming that the alleged victim doesn't want the matter further investigated.  It smacks of Princess trying to minimize what happened for marketing purposes.

The incident occurred aboard the Star Princess.

We have written about the problem of sexual assaults on Princess cruise shipsin the past:

Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships

Princess Cruises Sexual Assault Trial Begins

Princess Cruises Captain Pleads Guilty to Sex Crime Against Girl on Princess Cruise Ship

Cruise Rape Case Begins - Bermuda Press Tries to Conceal Connection to Princess Cruises

Do you have a thought about this issue?  Please leave a comment on our Facebook page here.

 

Photo Credit: Star Princess - Jim Walker Seattle Washington

Romanian Crew Member Seriously Injured on Carnival Dream

A newspaper in Romania reports on injuries suffered by a crew member from Romania who was seriously burned while working on the Carnival Dream cruise ship.    

The accident occurred on June 20th after the Dream departed from Port Canaveral in a 7 day cruise. The Romanian crew member is 35 years old.  

The crew member suffered severe burns to the face, hands, chest and legs and requires extensive medical care. These major burns were caused by a blast of steam from a hot water pipe that ruptured. Carnival Dream Cruise Ship The crew member's condition was so serious that the cruise ship diverted to San Juan in order to be rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter. The victim was transported to the hospital in San Juan and, later, to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Jackson has one of the best trauma centers in the world.

The Romanian newspaper states that no one from Carnival came to see the burned crew member at the hospital in Miami, even though the cruise line is headquartered here, according to the injured crew member's girlfriend. 

Carnival Cruise Line requires most crew members to resolve their legal claims through an arbitration process outside of the U.S. and often applying laws from foreign countries, even thought Carnival is based in Miami and the cruise ship was based in a port in Florida. 

There are videos of the Coast Guard medevac on YouTube.  The video below explains that the incident happened while the Carnival cruise ship was heading back to the United States "from St. Maarten, St. Thomas and the Bahamas."

"A crew member was severely burned and in need of immediate medical care. The night before the hot water stopped working, about 3 hrs later the hot water was fixed, but the morning after they told everyone a crew member was in hurt and in need for a doctor. The captain of our ship made the decision to change our course and head to Puerto Rico to meet with a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter for a medical evacuation . . . Please pray for the injured man and his family as he goes through the painful and dangerous recovery from his burns . . ." 

 

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Kuloskulos

Video Credit: YouTube / SuperDonovan911

Day of the Seafarer? Cruise Lines Increase Responsibilities & Hours of Officers But Decrease Pay

Day of the Seafarer 2013 - Royal Caribbean CruiseToday is the "Day of the Mariner."  According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), today is the day to recognize the dedication and hard work of seafarers in the shipping industry.  

Most of the focus of this blog over the years has been on the frequent abuse of the lower rank crew members, like the cruise ship cleaners, cabin attendants, and waiters. However, it's just not the crew who are being abused. There has been an increasing trend in the cruise industry to overwork and mistreat the professional mariners / deck officers who work aboard the major cruise lines.

Every single cruise ship relies on highly trained, professional and knowledgeable marine officers to safely run the ship's operations.  The safety of the passengers & and the security of the ship depend on the officers' flawless execution of navigation duties 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the cruise industry, safety can be achieved only by highly skilled officers who are well rested and physically and psychologically fit for duty.

But there has been a trend in the last few years to increase the work load of the ship's officers while substantially decreasing their pay. Some officers face a 50% reduction in their pay.  If they complain, the cruise lines are quick to terminate their employment and replace them with less qualified or experienced mariners.  

One cruise line for example, Royal Caribbean, has progressively deteriorated the working conditions, physical and mental fitness and morale of its marine officers in the last 5 years. The work load of the officers has risen to the point where officers work well in excess of the hour limitations recommended by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The officers are required to work up to and in excess of 14 hours per day every day, which is the standard 8 hours of watch that is expected for watch keepers and 6 hours of "overtime" work for "secondary" duties.

Would you fly in an airplane knowing that the pilots responsible for the flight had been working 14 hours or more a day for the past 8 weeks?

Royal Caribbean has progressively downsized its marine / deck departments over the years. The secondary work loads (deck maintenance, lifesaving, navigation) used to be spread out between multiple officers and a dedicated chief officer for maintenance and a dedicated safety officer for safety training. These roles have now been combined into fewer and fewer officers while the cruise ships get bigger and bigger.

Royal Caribbean has now increased contract lengths by an extra 4 weeks for these over-tired, over-worked, under-paid officers. The cruise line seems to consider the officers "disposable" if they try and bring up the topic of excessive work loads. The company can fire highly experienced and loyal officers with impunity. 

There are also rumblings in the ranks of Royal Caribbean that the cruise line has steadily focused on hiring officers of less professional competency. The replacements are increasingly coming from countries where you can buy a license. Some officers from these countries cannot speak English, and they do not fully understand and were never really trained on the proper operations of the complex bridge systems on today's modern ships,

Royal Caribbean - Money - ProfitThere is no question that the cruise lines are pushing their crew and their ships harder and harder.

The cruise industry is placing unreasonable demands on professional seafarers as well. At the same time, the cruise lines are inserting one-sided arbitration clauses in the seafarer's employment contracts which strip the officers of their rights under U.S. law and permit the cruise lines to get away with dangerous conditions and work practices. It is no coincidence that there are more and more cruise mishaps reported in the news.

If its really the "Day of the Seafarer," it's important for the world to understand that the cruise lines are raking in the cash at the expense of crew members and officers alike. Cruise executives are getting richer and richer while the seafarers we salute today are working increasingly longer hours for less pay with fewer rights. 

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

Do Cruise Lines Conduct Background Checks of Crew Members?

The Florida Today newspaper published two articles today about the issue of sexual assault of passengers and whether cruise lines conduct background checks of their cruise ship employees

The issue of background checks is a rather interesting topic. But it's an issue the cruise lines hate to talk about.

Six weeks ago, I attended a workshop in Washington D.C. about sexual assault on cruise ships and on vacations outside of the U.S. A cruise line spokesman, Bud Darr, Director of the environmental and health program of the cruise industry's trade group, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), Bud Darr - Cruise Line International Association attended.  

One of the participants asked Mr. Darr (photo right) a simple question: Do the cruise lines conduct background checks of their crew members?

Mr. Darr began to stutter. He didn't answer the question. He spun his response around & around & around saying that crime is rare and other gobbledygook until the participant couldn't remember the question.

But the answer is as simple as the question: No.

Cruise lines don't vet their employees. They rely on third-party hiring agents to try and screen the applicants. In places like India and the Caribbean, the hiring agents often accept (require) money from the applicant in order to get a job on a cruise ship. There is no incentive for a hiring agent to turn down a crew member who's willing to pay a little extra to get a job.

In places like Jamaica, the applicant has to obtain a certificate from a constable certifying that the applicant has no criminal record. But there is no computerized data-base for the local police in Ocho Rios, for example, to check whether a Jamaican has committed a crime in Negril or Kingston or other places in Jamaica. After a favor from an uncle or a little pay-o-la to a policeman who's making only $250 a month, anyone can appear with a stamped I'm-not-a-crook certificate and hop aboard a cruise ship.   

We have seen hiring agents in India tell the applicants that unless they list the Four Seasons, or the Hyatt, or the Hilton as a prior job, they would not be hired as a waiter on a Celebrity cruise ship. Falsification of a resume is not only a common practice, it's often required by the cruise lines' hiring agents. 

There's no chance of screening out pedophiles or child molesters. Think your cabin attendant is carefully screened and vetted?  No country in Central America or the Far East has a social-security-type database or a drivers license number system or a sexual criminal record collection practice. If a pedophile shows up with a certificate from God-knows-who that he not a criminal, he's welcome aboard. 

The worse though is not a country like India or Nicaragua. Its the cruise lines themselves. If a crew member aboard Disney has been fired on suspicion of molesting a child, Disney won't tell Carnival or Royal Caribbean. The security personnel of the cruise lines meet every 60 days. They may discuss the risk of a jihadist terrorist attack, but they don't tell each other about pedophiles on their own cruise ship's kid's centers or rapist-employees who molest teenage girls during cruises.  

We have seen cases where a Royal Caribbean rapist who was fired after a passenger alleged rape go to work for Princess, and a Princess rapist who was fired after raping an unconscious woman later join a NCL cruise ship.

99% of crew members are honest and hard-working individuals. But there are perverts, predators and sociopaths everywhere. The problem is that cruise lines have not invested the money necessary for an effective system to weed out the criminals who will prey on unsuspecting passengers and their children. The cruise industry would rather deny that there is an issue and avoid answering honest questions about the problem. 

Did Disney Cruise Lines Cover Up Sexual Molestation of 11 Year Old Girl on Disney Dream?

Disney Dream Cruise Ship Child MolestationTonight a local news station in Florida reportied on a case involving a cruise line which markets itself as being family friendly and kid oriented.

At 11 PM tonight, WKMG-Channel 6 in Orlando aired what is being described as a "shocking report about a Disney Cruise Line employee fondling an 11-year-old girl and the strange events that followed."

The news station states that it has video of a Disney crew member groping an 11-year-old girl in August 2012.

The article is entitled Disney Cruise Line Fails to Promptly Report Molestation of 11-Year-Old Girl in Port

The incident occurred on the Disney Dream cruise ship before it departed Port Canaveral for a Caribbean cruise. The crew member followed the child into an elevator and "repeatedly grabbed her breast through her clothes and forcibly kissed her on the mouth as he cornered her in an elevator on the Disney Dream."

The news station states that Disney knew what happened, and had video evidence substantiating the child's account. But it chose not to promptly report the crime to the local police in Florida.  Instead, it reported the crime the next day, after the ship was headed to the Bahamas. The news station accuses Disney of lying and trying to cover the incident up. Once the cruise ship reached the Bahamas, the crew member - identified as Milton Braganza from India (photo bottom) - eventually admitted to molesting the child. Disney then flew the crew member home to India, at the cruise line's expense, rather than arrange for Disney Dream Sexual Molestation of Minor him to return to Florida to be arrested. 

In our experiences over the years, we have seen cruise ships delay reporting crimes to the FBI and local law enforcement authorities in the U.S.  Disney registers its cruise ships in the Bahamas to avoid U.S. taxes and wages and safety laws.  By delaying the reporting of the alleged crime, Disney was able to avoid the U.S. investigation into the incident while making certain that any investigation was handled only by the Bahamas which, theoretically can investigate shipboard crimes because Disney cruise ships fly Bahamian flags of convenience.

But the Bahamas has a deplorable record of investigating cruise ship crimes.      

The news reporter who covered the story, Tony Pipitone, stated in a promotional piece: "Find out what happened to the 33-year-old man who avoided investigation in Florida, thanks in part to his employer's inaction."

Disney Crew Member Milton BragnanzaPipitone, referred to Disney having "conflicting accounts of what it knew [and] when it knew it." He mentioned that "he talked to Port Canaveral police, who say they would have liked to know about the crime, which the cruise line didn't report promptly."

Sexual abuse of children during cruises, including Disney cruises, is something we have written about at length here on our blog:

Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship 

Sexual Perverts & Pedophiles on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

Last week this news station reported on cruise crime on a Disney ship which revealed that crimes are often not prosecuted by federal authorities. You can watch that report here.

Here's the video from WKMG: 

 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

Middle Photo: WKMG Channel 6 Orlando 

Bottom Photo: Milton Bragnanza Facebook

Legal Rights of Crew Members Injured on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Royal Caribbean Crew Member When injured Royal Caribbean crew members contact us, there are a few things that they usually say:

"The ship doctor would not take me seriously and just gave me Ibuprofen;"

"My supervisor told me that if I didn't want to work I would be sent home;"

"The company would not send me to a doctor in the Miami but sent me to Nassau instead;"

"The ship doctor would not authorize a MRI;"

"The company sent me home and I have no money;"

"The company sent me home and no medical treatment is arranged;" 

"I called my medical case manager and she didn't call me back;" and

"I emailed my medical case manager and she didn't email me back."

One of the problems which Royal Caribbean crew members face is that they are required to work excessive hours (12 hours or more) seven days a week all month long. Repetitive injuries to their back, neck and wrists are common. Complicating matters is that there is constant pressure to keep working. Stateroom attendants have to clean the 20 or so cabins assigned to them each and every day; a negative comment from a guest may be the kiss of death and result in a 10 year cabin attendant finding herself summarily dismissed from the cruise ship.  

The next problem is that there is very little actual diagnosis of crew members injuries taking place on cruise ships. Rather the focus is on giving pain relievers to the injured crew which just masks the problem and can result in the injury becoming worse.  Many crew members tell us that ship infirmaries Royal Caribbean Crew Member have baskets of Ibuprofen pills out at the nurse's station, not unlike a bowl of candy to eat.

And when the crew member can no longer work and gets sent home? In most cases, the cruise line has not scheduled any medical treatment. Nor has the company provided a check for the crew member's sick wages or living expenses.  

The crew medical personnel in the company's offices in Miami are understaffed. A single medical case manager may be required to handle over 150 crew member cases.  If you are a sick or injured Royal Caribbean crew member and feel that the company isn't paying attention to you, that's because it isn't.

Under the U.S. maritime law, cruise lines are required to provide you with prompt and adequate medical care on the cruise ship. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean also have to provide full and complete "maintenance and cure" when a crew member is home on medical leave.

Over the last decade we have represented RCCL crew members from around the world. We are currently representing cleaners, waiters, assistant waiters, cooks, and cabin attendants from Jamaica, India, Guyana, Nicaragua, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Canada, Mexico, Trinidad, St. Vincent, Peru and other countries.

If you were injured on a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean (or sister company Celebrity Cruises) due to an accident, over-work or bad medical care, and are frustrated by the way the cruise line is treating you - don't suffer alone.  We will be pleased to help you.

We will explain your rights and answer any questions you have.

Email me at jim@cruiselaw.com or call our office at 305 995 5300.

 

Photo Credit - Jim Walker with clients:

Top: RCCL cabin attendant from St. Vincent in Miami for medical treatment

Bottom: RCCL cook injured in galley / photo taken in front of Allure of the Seas in Jamaica

Death on NCL's Norwegian Jade

Norwegian Jade Cruise Ship Katakolon GreeceAccording to a news account in Greece, a 25 year old Filipino crew member aboard the Norwegian Jade died when the cruise ship was in Katakolo, Greece.

In addition to the skimpy information contained in the newspaper, we learned that the incident occurred early this morning when cruise passengers were preparing to disembark for sightseeing ashore (including visiting the ruins of Olympia).

A mooring line snapped while the crew member was standing on a mooring deck platform (at the level of deck 7). The crew member was violently struck by the recoiling rope. He was knocked overboard and into the water at the port.  According to the news account, divers took several hours to retrieve the dead man's body in the murky water. 

The crew member was not fitted with either a harness or a life vest and he was not wearing a hard hat. (Some people say that his hard hat was subsequently found floating in the water).

This afternoon, the Norwegian Jade (previously named the Pride of Hawaii) continued on to its next port of call in Piraeus.  The Jade is flagged in the Bahamas.  It appears that the ship sailed without a representative of the Bahamas Maritime Authority conducting an inspection of the rope or analyzing the NCL Norwegian Jadeaccident and taking statements from the crew and witnesses.  The ship is now continuing to sail to Pireus this evening.   

Cruise lines like NCL have worked hard to strip crew members of their rights.  Crew members from the Philippines, in particular, are limited under the Philippines Overseas Employment Agreement (POEA) to very small death benefits even in cases like this where the cruise line failed to enforce basic safety procedures.  

You can read our article about the POEA here. NCL took the lead in enforcing unfair arbitration clauses which deprive seafarers of their rights under maritime law.

Without significant financial consequence to the cruise line in cases like this, there is no incentive to improve safety of the ship's hard working crew. 

If you have information about this fatality, please leave a comment below.     

Photo credits: Norwegian Jade - janiahola.fi; web cam - NCL; scene of accident - ekathimerini.com

NCL Norwegian Jade Death Greece

Join the discussion of this case on our Facebook page.

Helicopter Medevacs Sick Celebrity Crew Member from Solstice Cruise Ship

Celebrity Solstice Helicopter Pad - MedevacA newspaper in Australia is reporting that a Care Flight helicopter rescued a 22-year-old crew member off a cruise ship off the coast of Arnhem Land.

The helicopter flew to the Celebrity Solstice which was sailing 500 kilometers north east of Darwin, Australia. 

The Celebrity crew member reportedly suffered a "cardiac problem." A nurse and doctor accompanied the helicopter after notification from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

The helicopter was expected to refuel at the remote town of Maningrida before flying  another 100 kilometers km out to sea to reach the cruise ship. Unlike many cruise ships, the Solstice has a helipad on the bow.

The newspaper reports that the Celebrity Solstice left Darwin yesterday on a two-day cruise to Cairns, in north Queensland.

 

Photo credit: Harrogate Flickr

The 6 A.M. Knock

Like any employee, crew members are not immune from being terminated. But termination on a cruise ship is a bit different from being fired at a regular job. It's like being fired and kicked out of your apartment all at once.

Better known as the "6 AM knock," crew members wake up to the ship’s security officers, banging at their cabin door, and delivering the news that the crew member must leave the vessel immediately.

Within about an hour, the terminated crew member must gather all of his or her personal belongings, hand in the ship cards, pay-off any shipboard debts, and walk off the gangway.  In most cases the crew Crew Member Rights - Cruise Shipsmember is are not given any explanation as to why she is being instructed to leave. A meeting is not set up with their superiors or the captain discussing the grounds for termination. Worst of all, the fired crew member doesn’t even know what legal rights she has in this kind of situation (that’s assuming there are any rights at all).

Typically once a crew member “rocks the boat," the cruise line finds a way to dispose of the problem immediately. All it really takes is aggravating the right people or protesting unfair treatment. Alcohol and drug tests are a good tool cruise lines use to make a case to fire a crew member. Most cruise lines have an alcohol and drug policy that allows them to conduct random tests. Security knocks on the crew member’s door, and hands the employee a little plastic bottle for urine testing.  

This is all done while the security officers wait outside the bathroom located in the crew member’s cabin. If this isn’t invasive enough, the bathroom door must remain open just a crack to ensure that the crew member doesn’t taint the sample. Can you feel the trust?

Interestingly, the results of these tests are never given to the crew member. It is not even clear where the sample goes once handed to the security officers. It is important to point out that I am writing from personal experience here. I have also spoken to several other crew members who were terminated and their stories are pretty much on par with my experience.

On any given night a hundred crew members could fail such a test, but the tests are often reserved for those who are vocal in criticizing procedures or who complain about sexual harassment or unlawful conduct.

What happens once the crew member walks off the gangway? Cruise lines tend to terminate a crew Crew Gangway - Cruise Shipsmember when the ship is docked in a non-U.S. port. Although the flight is arranged and paid for by the cruise line, the crew member is rushed off the ship and sometimes has to board the flight in less than 2 hours. Once the crew member is off the gangway, they are no longer the cruise line’s responsibility. If the crew member misses her flight, she has to pay out-of-pocket for a new ticket. 

Employment on cruise ships is considered "at will" employment, meaning at the will of the employer. There is a saying in the cruise industry that a crew member can be terminated for good cause, bad cause or no cause. Maritime legal rights are virtually non-existent when the crew member is terminated.

Cruise lines don’t like problems. They don’t want crew members who will “make waves.” As soon as a crew member is labeled as a “problem,” they can expect a knock on the door around 6:00 AM.    

 

Cruise Law Miami FloridaThis blog was written by Danielle Gauer who worked as a dancer for several years on cruise ships prior to embarking on her university studies. She is currently completing her Juris Doctor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law and will be sitting for the Ontario, Canada Bar admission examinations this June. 

Prior to law school, Danielle (middle, with Jonathan Aronson left, and Jim Walker right) was the recipient of the Ryerson University Gold Medal and H.H. Kerr Memorial Scholarship for high academic standing.

You can read Danielle's prior guest blogs below:

So You Want to Dance on the High Seas?

Life Below Deck 4: What Passengers Don't Know & the Cruise Lines Won't Tell Them

Cruising, "Eh!" to Z! What Canadians Should Know Before Getting On-Board . . .
 

Australian Police Investigate Death of 24 Year Old Woman on Cruise Ship

Regent Seven Seas - Seven Seas Voyager Cruise Ship Death A number of newspapers in Australia are reporting that police in the Northern Territory of Australia are investigating the death of a 24-year-old woman aboard a cruise ship which docked in Darwin today.

Commander Richard Bryson of the Crime and Specialist Support Command said the woman's body was found in her cabin. "The woman was a staff member on a cruise ship which is currently moored in Darwin Harbour," he said.

"A crime scene was established as the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident continue."

The newspaper articles state that the police refuse to release further information, such as even the name of the cruise ship.

Ship tracking services indicate that the Seven Seas Voyager operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) is in Darwin today. The Seven Seas Voyager has a crew of 447 serving some 700 passengers.

Needless to say, the death of a young woman is unusual. 

The death of this young woman comes at a time when members of the International Cruise Victims Regent Seven Seas - Seven Seas Voyager Cruise Ship Death (ICV) organization are petitioning the government of Australia for legislation to protect passengers and crew members who sail into Australian ports. ICV Australia Director Mark Brimble lost his wife on a cruise after she was given a date rape drug. 

An on-line cruise community says that the crew member in question was the lead female singer on the cruise ship, although this has not been confirmed. 

February 3 2012 Update:

A news station in Australia has video showing a Regent Seven Seas cruise ship as the location of the incident. 

The young woman was a talented performer for Jean Ann Ryan Productions which employ dancers and singers on cruise ships.

She apparently worked aboard the Seven Seas Voyager for a relatively short period of time after performing on other Regent cruise ships like the Navigator and Mariner.

Rest in Peace Jackie Kastrinelis.

February 4 2013 Update:

A newspaper in Australia quotes police saying that they do not believe that a crime occurred.  A coroner will prepare a report.   

We received information that the crew member had an accident the preceding day during a rehearsal where she hit her head and had been given medicine by the ship doctor. 

A news station in Australia has a video tribute to Ms. Kastrinelis below.

Jackie Kastrinelis

 

Life Below Deck 4: What Passengers Don't Know & the Cruise Lines Won't Tell Them

Former cruise ship performer and soon-to-be-lawyer Danielle Gauer returns for another inside look at the cruise industry. You can read Danielle's prior articles about life as a cruise ship dancer here and what Canadians should know about cruising here.  Thanks Danielle for another great blog: 

Many cruise ship passengers wonder where the crew lives and what it's like “down below.”

Beneath the beautifully decorated lounges, restaurants, art galleries and shops is another city with its own rules and hierarchical structure. The jobs on a cruise ship are pretty much based on nationality which designates the type of living arrangement that crew member will have. Because the "lowest" jobs on the totem pole are the cleaners, those employees are usually situated on the lowest deck of the ship, in shared cabins with a communal washroom and shower to be shared with those living in that Cruise Ship Crew Barparticular corridor.

The type of job also determines status in the crew hierarchy.  Hierarchy determines crew privileges and the kind of unspoken social rules that they must follow. As a dancer, I was considered a “non-striped” officer. As a result I was allowed to go in the guest areas of the ship, have a drink in a lounge, go to the top deck and sunbathe, and watch other entertainers on nights I wasn’t working. My “status” also permitted me to "hang out" with the high ranking officers who lived on the upper decks of the ship.

A cabin steward would not dare to try and socialize with an officer, and vice versa. There are cases where male officers would “shack up” with low ranking employees for the duration of their contract. The officer coin the subordinate crew member as their “mistress.”

For those who followed the Costa Concordia disaster, you may recall the good captain and his girlfriend. That is business as usual. 

The majority of crew members do not have any special privileges. These crew members include the cabin stewards and waiters who are predominantly Indonesian or Filipino, and who work 12-15 hours a day for little money. They are lucky to get time off in port to call home to their loved ones, as satellite calling cards on the ship can be quite expensive ($20 for 17 minutes of talk time back in 2006).

But the real question is . . .  what happens after work and the passengers are out of sight?

Usually located on deck 3 or on the “I-95” (the term is used to describe the main deck or “corridor” of the crew area), the general crew bar is open to all crew members. This means that even the highest Cruise Ship Bar ranked officers can party with the lowest men and women on the totem pole. There is also an Officer’s Bar which is designated to only the officers on the ship.

Aside from blatant segregation, the crew bar is alive with music and cheap booze, allowing crew members to party and get “tanked” till the early hours of the morning. The bartender working in the crew bar typically works on the ship in another capacity during the regular work day, but takes on the responsibility to get his/her fellow crew members liquored up so that they can actually enjoy their time on board the ship.

With lots of alcohol inevitably comes inappropriate behaviors involving both passengers and crew members. Much of this misconduct flies well below the radar. The only concern for the crew members is when they wake up with a hangover the next morning, or they find themselves terminated following an alcohol test. With that said, this is a risk that many crew members see worth taking.

I guess the common phrase still holds true, what happens in the crew bar stays in the crew bar . . . 

Manslaughter Investigation Underway Following Death of Costa Serena Crew Member

Chief Prosecutor Michele DiLecceEarlier this week, we reported on the death of a 47-year-old Indonesian crew member, identified as Sahid Bin Fauzi, who worked as a mechanic on the Costa Serena cruise ship. He died after falling into a ventilation duct of one of the ship's engines.

Today we learn that a criminal prosecutor in Genoa, Italy, where Costa is headquartered and where the cruise ship is flagged, has opened a criminal investigation into the incident.  An Italian newspaper reports that chief prosecutor Michele DiLecce has initiated an investigation under the theory that the death involved a case of involuntary manslaughter.   

The cruise ship was sailing between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Angra Ries, Brazil at the time of the crew member's death.

Criminal investigations of crew member deaths are unusual. It appears that there must be an indication of egregious conduct by the cruise line to prompt a criminal prosecutor to initiate such an investigation.

Are there any crew members out there with information to share?  

 

Photo credit: ilsecoloxix.it

Are Crew Members Receving the Tips You Pay? Watch Royal Caribbean's "Screw the Crew" Scheme

Cruise lines have mastered various way to steal the tips which are intended by passengers to compensate waiters and stateroom attendants.  Carnival's P&O Cruises implemented a policy this year to withhold forwarding the tips paid by cruise passengers if the crew member's performance falls below a 92% rating as determined by management. Read Profits Over People: Carnival's Exploitation of Crew Members is Standard Industry Practice.

This is a real hardship because waiters and cabin attendants are paid a salary of only $50 a month and depend on tips to send money home to their families.

As you can see in the video below, a Royal Caribbean crew member alleges that the cruise line has devised a scheme to systematically divert money intended for the crew into the cruise line's coffers. 

Leave a comment below or leave a comment on our Facebook pageRoyal Caribbean Tipping Policy

February 20, 2013 Update: Royal Caribbean objected to the video, threatened the crew member who posted it, and was successful in taking the video down. So much for freedom of speech.  Read our updated article: "Screw the Crew" Video: Banned By Royal Caribbean & YouTube!

 

Assault With Knife Lands Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Jail

A Royal Caribbean galley worker who attacked a supervisor in May of this year on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge William Martini sentenced Donny Martin Crisanto, age 31, of Nicaragua, during a court appearance in Newark, New Jersey. 

Cristano had previously pleaded guilty to assaulting the supervisor on May 4 while working in the galley of Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas cruise ship which sails out of Bayonne, N.J. to Bermuda and the Bahamas. 

Donny Crisanto - Royal Caribbean Crew MemberThe U.S. Attorney's Office released the following statement:

A Nicaraguan national who admitted to stabbing his supervisor aboard a cruise ship in international waters was sentenced today to 12 months and one day in federal prison, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Donny Martin Crisanto, 31, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini to an Information charging him with knowingly and intentionally assaulting another with a dangerous weapon, with intent to do bodily harm, within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Judge Martini imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements in court:

On May 4, 2012, Crisanto was working as a galley utility employee aboard the Royal Caribbean International, Explorer of the Seas cruise ship, which was operating within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Crisanto was inside the ship kitchen, when he assaulted his supervisor, identified only by the initials “M.S.,” the head kitchen steward, with a dangerous weapon. After an earlier work dispute Crisanto approached M.S. from behind and, not acting in self-defense, Crisanto struck M.S. in the forehead and shoulder with a knife.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Martini sentenced Crisanto to one year of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, in Newark, and Royal Caribbean, Explorer of the Seas ship security officers, with the investigation that resulted in the sentence. 

Lessons Learned From Jamaica

Falmouth Jamaica   We returned to Miami from Jamaica last night after a three day trip where we visited crew member clients in Montego Bay, Falmouth and Ocho Rios. The weather was fantastic and the Jamaican people were warm and friendly, as usual. It is always delightful to travel to Montego Bay, which is an easy one and one-half hour flight from Miami.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas was in port when we visited Falmouth on Tuesday. The Freedom of the Seas and the Navigator of the Seas arrived on Wednesday morning. On these two days, over 10,000 people arrived on cruise ships from South Florida but you would never know it walking around the town.   

One of the problems we have witnessed with the "revitalization" of Falmouth is that the cruise line loads up its cruise passengers onto pre-booked and pre-paid excursion buses within the gates of the port and then sends them out of town to Ocho Rios or Dunn's River Falls.  We witnessed few passengers actually walking in to the town and buying souvenirs or eating in the local restaurants.

It would be quite easy to have the passengers board the buses at a central location in the town, say at the roundabout and then head off on their excursions. This way, they would be encouraged to shop in Falmouth, both before and after the bus excursions, as they walk to and from the cruise ships. But as matters now stand, the passengers are isolated from the local vendors in Falmouth. The cruise line Falmouth Jamaica  wants to capture as much of the passengers money as possible and seems to prefer that the passengers buy the goods and services offered by the cruise line sponsored vendors behind the fence erected between the ship and the local vendors.

Falmouth will never be truly revitalized until the cruise passengers turn into tourists who actually walk into and support the people of Falmouth.

In Ocho Rios, we met with approximately 50 crew members and former crew members working for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Disney cruise lines. It was a record attendance for us. We met people who traveled from Negril, Port Antonio, Mandeville, and Kingston.   

We met in the famous "No Problem Room" at the Hibiscus Lodge.  I took a photo of my partners Lisa and Jonathan meeting with a client whose cruise ship related problems we helped solve.  

One of the most painful things we observed, and experienced, was when a crew member with a serious injury or medical ailment appeared at our meeting but had not contacted an attorney for four or five years. None of the crew members we met understood that there is a three year limitations for bringing claims against the cruise lines. Some of the men and women we met had worked for over two decades in the cruise industry and were left with serious injuries to their backs. Yet after returning home they did not understand that they had only three years to make a claim.

Most of the injured crew members we met have had no medical treatment arranged whatsoever by the cruise lines. Many were forced to pay for their own medical visits in the hope that the cruise line No Problem Room - Ocho Rio Jamaicawould reimburse them. All of this violates maritime law. Unlike U.S. passengers who if injured during a cruise receive great medical care back in their home states, the Jamaican crew members we meet invariably are still suffering with no medical care months and months after their shipboard accidents and injuries.

Jamaica remains a country where many cruise lines believe that they can send their injured crew members and then look the other way even after the employees served faithfully on cruise ships for over 20 years.  

 

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

Crew Medical Care: 3 Recommendations to the Cruise Lines

Here's another great guest bog by one of our attorneys here at Cruise Law, Charles Gourlis, who takes a look at cruise line medical care for ship employees: 

Not all cruise lines are made equal. Some provide adequate medical treatment to their injured crew members, but there are several cruise lines that just won’t get “on board” (pun intended).

I try to live up to the saying, “Don’t Just Complain, Do Something About It!” So, in that spirit, I have a few recommendations for our friends at the cruise lines. My recommendations:

1. Invest in Quality Shipboard Physicians

Most shipboard doctors either were not qualified to attend medical school in the U.S. and are not licensed in the U.S. Most cruise lines hire non-U.S. doctors because it’s cheaper than hiring U.S. Cruise Ship Medical Caredoctors. If shipowners paid their doctors salaries that were competitive with U.S. salaries, they would attract better-trained physicians. The quality of care would improve, diagnoses would become more accurate, and more serious injuries & illnesses would be prevented.

2. Bring Your Crew Members to Miami for Treatment

Most injured crew members are repatriated to their home country to receive medical treatment from doctors in their home country. This presents the same problem as problem number one. By bringing ill or injured crew to Miami for immediate treatment, all examinations, tests, and doctor’s visits are conducted by U.S. physicians here in Miami. Again, the quality of care would improve, the amount of care needed would decrease as American physicians more precisely diagnose conditions and deliver timely treatment, the need for drawn-out care would decrease.

3. Pay Your Crew Members, Not Your Defense Lawyers

As I outlined in my first guest bog post, most crew members sue only after the cruise line stops paying maintenance & cure and the crew member becomes destitute. The cruise line could prevent problems by coordinating with its local agents to ensure that all injured crew members receive maintenance payments on a timely basis every month and are promptly scheduled for medical appointments. As a result, thousands of crew members don’t languish at home while the defense lawyers for the cruise line earn their holiday bonus defending the cruise line.

Following these recommendations, the cruise lines could actually save the cruise line millions of dollars a year in needless medical and legal expenses. If the human factor wan’t a compelling enough reason to change the business practices, dozen’t saving money make a strong business case for pro-active medical treatment?

 

Photo credit: Pullmantur.es

Cruise Law to Visit Jamaica in December

Jamaica No Problem RoomThe lawyers here at Cruise Law are traveling again to Jamaica. We will be visiting our clients to see how they are doing. We will also make ourselves available to meet with any crew members (or their family members) who need to learn about the legal rights of cruise ship employees if they become ill or injured on cruise ships. 

Our team will be traveling to Montego Bay on Tuesday December 11, 2012 and will be available from December 11th through December 13th for consultation.  

On Wednesday December 12th from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, we will be hosting a conference at the "Jamaica No Problem Room" in the beautiful Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rio. If you live in Ocho Rios or the Montego Bay area you of course know where that is. But if you don't, the address is 83 Main Street in Ocho Rios.

My partner Lisa O'Neill and co-counsel Jonathan Aronson will be will me.

The photo above was from our last visit to the famous "No Problem Room." We met a number of cruise ship employees from Jamaica whose problems we helped solve this year.

In the last two years, we have obtained over $3,000,000 (US $) in compensation and medical benefits for injured and ill Jamaican crew members. 

If the company has been unfair to you after you were injured on the cruise ship, or if you have medical problems like hypertension, diabetes. cancer or other illnesses which require treatment, please don't hesitate to contact us.

The flyer below has been posted on our facebook page.  We hope to see you in the "No Problem Room" in two weeks.   

Jamaican Crew Members - Miami Lawyers

Guest Blog - "A Fresh Perspective"

The following is a guest blog by fellow lawyer Charles Gourlis who works on cases with us against the cruise lines. Charlie is a bright, hard working fellow. We are glad to have him on our side.

First of all, let me extend a heartfelt thank you to Jim Walker for allowing me to guest blog on Cruise Law News. CLN is such an important resource for cruisers, crew members, the media, and the general public because it disseminates important stories about the cruise industry that often fly under the radar.

I’ve worked alongside Jim and his partners, Lisa O’Neill and Jonathan Aronson, a year-and-a-half and it still amazes me that some crew members receive such horrible medical care from the cruise lines. Some crew members receive adequate treatment, but many do not despite the maritime Charles Gourlis law's requirement that cruise lines treat their employees as if they were their own children. 

What amazes me most is that in the great majority of cases, the cruise lines seem to lose track of their own employees. They simply let their injured crew members “fall through the cracks.” Regardless of whether the cruise line's medical departments are simply overwhelmed and need to hire more personnel to correct the problem, it is a fact that many injured crew members do not receive the prompt, adequate, and complete medical care that they need and are entitled to under the law.

It seems like the case that the cruise lines’ neglect of their injured crew members is rarely benign. I’ve witnessed crew member horror stories that are not reported on CLN which appear nothing less than malicious in nature.

Crew members from Jamaica, Honduras, India, and other nations sign on to work for the cruise lines because they hope for a better life. They sign up for the chance to better their lives, travel the world, and expand their horizons. None of them expect to get injured. I would venture to say that none of them expect to be abandoned back at home if and when they do become injured.

Crew members place their trust in unseen corporate suits half a world away and hope for the best. When they arrive in our offices with broken backs or out-of-control hypertensive, they all say the same thing: How can the "Company" abandon me after I have worked so hard and for so long? Doesn't the Company care?

This reaction is understandable given the backgrounds of most crew members we represent. Most come from societies where a person’s word is their bond.  Most injured crew members don’t want to sue their employers; they just want to get healthy again.

Crew members generally idolize the “Company” in a way that most Americans can’t relate to. They sue only as a last resort. Which begs the question: given the reserve of goodwill built up in most crew members, why is it so difficult for the cruise lines to provide crew members with prompt, adequate, and complete medical care?

I would not have a job if the cruise lines treated their employees in the same way that they want to be treated. From what I have seen so far, it looks like I will be handling cases against cruise lines for a long time.

I'll continue to guest blog from time to time when work permits. Please leave your comments and questions below. I’ll be happy to respond.

What Happened to Royal Caribbean Crew Member Rossario Rodrigues From the Serenade of the Seas?

Rossario Shaggy Rodrigues - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Serenade of the SeasEarlier this month we wrote about a Royal Caribbean crew member disappearing from the Serenade of the Seas.  Our article - Another Crew Member Goes Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas - was widely read.  We also posted the article on facebook and received many, many comments.

We also posted additional information on facebook asking whether Royal Caribbean is pushing its crew members to the brink?  

Several hundred thousands of people read these posts.

In response, we received information that the missing Royal Caribbean crew member is a young man from Goa, India named Rossario Rodrigues. He is single with a brother working on a different cruise line. His mother provided a photograph of her son (above left).

What happened to Mr. Rodrigues?

Why did he go overboard?

Why was he the second crew members to "disappear" from the Serenade of the Seas in three weeks?

A photograph from his facebook page shows him full of life sitting on a motorcycle, undoubtedly not his own but in his dreams no doubt.  Why would a young man with his whole life ahead of him somehow "disappear" with no explanation and no trace?

The cruise line is not saying.  His mother knows nothing other than her son is not returning to Goa. 

Rossario Shaggy Rodrigues - Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas Cruise ShipWe have been informed that Mr. Rodrigues had a dispute with his supervisor, which we cannot confirm.  But who can confirm anything when someone goes overboard in the middle of the night from a cruise ship?

This is the way that cruises lines want it. 

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein reports that over 190 people have gone overboard from cruise ships in the last decade or so. Most are never found, and no real explanation is offered. Troubling statistics. Troubling attitude by the cruise lines.

Certainly someone knows something. If you do, please contact us. Leave a comment below, or comment on our facebook page, or contact me privately at my email address jim@cruiselaw.com. 

Don't let Mr. Rodriques be just another statistic.

Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?

Two weeks ago a television program in the U.K., "Cruises Undercover: The Truth Below Deck," revealed the harsh working conditions aboard cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises' subsidiary, Celebrity Cruises. The difficult working conditions and low pay are almost unimaginable by U.S. standards: 12 plus hour days, 7 days a week, 30 days a month with no days off over the course of 6 to 10 month contacts, for as little as $550 a month for non-tip earning ship employees.

The result of such a grueling schedule is exhausted and demoralized crew members who are often isolated from their families whose birthdays and anniversaries they miss on a regular basis.  

The mental health and emotional well being of crew members is not a topic that is discussed in the U.S.

Few Americans seem concerned with the working conditions on cruise ships faced by citizens of the greater world community.  Most U.S. citizens respond to the exploitation of crew members from India or Jamaica with the rationalization that whatever pittance the "foreign" crew members are receiving for Missing Royal Caribbean Crew Membersworking 90 hour weeks is more than the workers can receive back home. "If they don't like the work, they can quit" is the common wisdom. No doubt many crew members are easily replaceable considering that a country like India has hundreds of millions of people unemployed.

A week before the "Cruises Undercover" program aired, a Royal Caribbean crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas as it sailed to Italy. The incident was briefly mentioned in the Italian press, as well as in newspapers in Croatia and Spain. We mentioned it in our article "Crew Member Goes Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas," but no major media outlets in the U.S. was interested in covering the story.

For a U.S. based cruise industry whose mantra is the "safety of our passengers and crew is our highest priority," there is little expression of such a sentiment when a crew member disappears at sea.

This weekend another Royal Caribbean crew member disappeared. While this is not uncommon as I will explain below, what is unusual is that the disappearance involved the the same Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Serenade of the Seas. This incident was briefly mentioned in an Italian newspaper but, again, no one in the U.S, mentioned it.  We reported on it on Saturday - "Another Crew Member Goes Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas." Now two days later, no one else in the U.S. has reported on the story.

Yesterday, I posted a photograph of the Serenade of the Seas on our facebook page and asked "why are so many crew members going overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships? A number of former crew members commented and the consensus seems to be that cruise employees are working harder than ever for less money,  One crew member said that working on a ship is "like going on a marathon before preparing yourself for it." Several former Royal Caribbean crew members left their thoughts which are worth reading. 

The concern that I have is that there are so many crew members employed by Royal Caribbean who have gone overboard. Were these employees overwhelmed by work and felt hopeless away from their families? There is great stress placed on the cleaners, cabin attendants and waiters by their supervisors and department heads as Royal Caribbean struggles to stay profitable. Consider that in the three years I have written this blog, the following crew members have gone missing from Royal Caribbean / Celebrity cruise ships:

December 2009 - Majesty of the Seas - crew member jumped.

December 2009 - Monarch of the Seas - crew member jumped.

March 20102 - Radiance of the Seas - crew member jumped.

May 2010 - Explorer of the Seas - crew member jumped.

May 2010 - Oasis of the Seas - crew member disappeared.

March 2011 - Grandeur of the Seas - crew member disappeared.

March 2011 - Constellation - crew member disappeared.

May 2011 - Eclipse - crew member jumped.

December 2011 - Summit - crew member jumped.

January 2012 - Monarch of the Seas - crew member disappeared.

September 2012 - Serenade of the Seas - crew member disappeared.

October 2012 - Serenade of the Seas -crew member disappeared.

The official investigation into these types of incidents lies with the flag state.  But countries like the Bahamas will never go onto a Royal Caribbean ship to investigate a crew death or disappearance and will never, ever criticize the cruise line.

An independent and objective investigation is needed to determine why crew members are going overboard from Royal Caribbean ships. If the cases involve suicides, an inquiry is needed to determine whether the long hours and low pay are contributing causes. There is no question that the crew members need greater rest and greater pay. 

If I ran a large business and one dozen of my employees ended their lives or just "disappeared," I would launch an investigation and get to the bottom of the problem.

But cruise line executives think differently.  None of this puts money in the cruise line's pockets. The crew are viewed as cogs in the machine. When they break, they are easily replaced. 

 

If you have thoughts about this issue or have information about any of these cases, please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our facebook page.  

Photograph: 24ORA.com

Another Crew Member Goes Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas

A newspaper in Italy is reporting that a Royal Caribbean crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas earlier this morning.

The Adnkronos newspaper in Rome reports that the Serenade of the Seas was sailing from Mykonos. Upon arrival at the next port around 7:00 AM this morning, it was discovered that a cabin steward was missing. (Another news account says he was a cleaner).  The newspaper mentions that the last CCTV image of the crew member on the cruise ship was around 1:00 AM and shows the employee walking through a door.  There apparently are no images of the crew member going overboard.  The crew member is reportedly from the Philippines. 

The newspaper states that a search was conducted by five Coast Guard patrol boats and two aircraft.

Royal Caribbean Serenade of the SeasThis is the third person to go overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the last three weeks.

On September 20th we reported on another crew member who went overboard from this same cruise ship, the Serenade of the Seas, as it was sailing to Italy. You can read our article here

On September 17th a passenger disappeared from the Allure of the Seas shortly after it sailed from South Florida.

In addition to these three Royal Caribbean overboard cases, on September 29th a passenger went overboard from the P & O Aurora cruise ship.

On October 9th we reported on a Holland America Line passenger who disappeared during a cruise on board the HAL Veendam. 

Five passengers missing from cruise ships in the last month. Unfortunately there is no news coverage of cruise ship overboard cases unless the person is a U.S. passenger.  The U.S. press has virtually no interest if a "foreign" crew member goes overboard. Royal Caribbean will not make a statement unless a major media outlet makes an inquiry.  

If you have information about this latest overboard please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our facebook page.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: Cruise Industry & Cruise Fans Quiet After Four Crew Members Develop Menigitis During Cruise

Early this Monday morning I reported on an outbreak of meningitis aboard the MSC Orchestra cruise ship.  Four MSC crew members were hospitalized yesterday in Livorno, Italy once the cruise ship reached this Italian port. Newspapers in Italy, France, Germany and Spain mentioned the disease outbreak.

But no one in the U.S. mentioned the story.

Meningitis is a serious and often deadly disease.  Meningitis developing on a cruise ship filled with several thousand passengers and crew members is a big event, particularly considering that one or more of the crew members worked in the ship's galley and could infect the unsuspecting passengers though saliva from their mouths and/or throats, or coughing and spewing infected mucous on food or into beverages. 

I tweeted my article this morning "Crew Members Aboard MSC Orchestra Stricken With Meningitis."  The cruise community on Twitter operating under the #cruise hash tag is relatively small, with cruise agents, and cruise lines and the cruise trade groups all incessantly and incestuously re-twitting everyone else's tweets about the joys of cruising.  But aside from one travel agent who re-tweeted my article about the MSC meningitis cases this morning, none of the major bloggers or cruise publications tweeted or blogged a word about the disease.

See No Evil - Cruise MediaThe big boys in the world of cruising, like USA TODAY's CruiseLog and the Expedia-owned Cruise Critic, didn't mention a thing. Nor did the Miami Herald or the many travel agent publications or any of the regular cruise and travel bloggers. Instead, we had USA TODAY CruiseLog's last blog about "Princess' Next Ship to Have a Water and Light Show" and CruiseCritic writing about "Work Starts on Biggest P&O Cruise Ship."

Finally late tonight we have CNN reporting the story, commenting that more than 2,800 doses of antibiotics (Ciprofloxacin and Rifampicin) were issued for passengers. CNN repeated the Italian Health Ministry's comments that "the strand was found in the crew that worked in the kitchen and that, therefore, they should not have had continuous and close contact with passengers."  CNN also brought forth the ominous information from the Ministry in Italy that passengers who have disembarked in the past week from the prior cruise should take similar antibiotics.   

This morning I mentioned that the press in Italy reported that some 400 children were aboard the Orchestra and were told to take the antibiotics out of concern of possible exposure to the diseased crew members.  Certainly this is not the type of a cruise story involving at least one or more infected galley workers that only a little blog like mine and a few random twitters should cover and the major U.S. media should ignore until CNN reports on it 12 hours later.

Are the travel publications and major cruise bloggers afraid to offend their friends in the cruise industry?  Are they just trained monkeys who see, hear and speak no evil?    

Crew Members Aboard MSC Orchestra Stricken With Meningitis

A newspaper in Italy is reporting that four crew members of the cruise ship MSC Orchestra have contracted bacterial meningitis. Two of the four crew members are considered to be in serious condition. They were all hospitalized once the cruise ship reached port yesterday.

According to this newspaper, one crew member is a 32 year old Indonesian who is currently in septic shock in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Livorno, Italy. He apparently worked in the engine room. A second crew member is a 47 year old Italian who works in the cruise ship's galley, who also is in the intensive care unit. Two other crew members include a Brazilian and a Filipino, whose conditions are Orchestra Cruise Shipdescribed as less serious. They are hospitalized in the hospital's infectious disease department. 

Other newspapers state that the serious cases involve an Indonesian, age 32, and a Filipino, age 30, both of whom worked in the engine room. 

Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.  Bacterial meningitis is very serious and can be fatal.  It is not common on cruise ships, although it has occurred on other cruise ships as this case illustrates.

All of the crew members were given prophylactic antibiotics, which were also offered to the passengers. The 2,800 dosages were described as an "unprecedented quantity over a period of time so limited."  The medicine consisted of an antibiotic tablet of 500 milligrams for adults and syrup for about 400 children who were on board. An epidemiological survey was also conducted among the crew members who in recent days have been most in contact with the hospitalized crew.

The Orchestra is continuing its cruise as planned and has meanwhile docked in France's Villafranche, with next stops including Valencia, Ibiza, Tunis, Catania and Naples.

 

Photo credit:  Wikipedia (Ömür Tanyel)

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 . . . "

An Awkward Award: Costa Concordia Crew Members Win "Seafarer of the Year"

Lloyd's List, the well respected shipping industry newspaper, issued its "Seafarer of the Year" award today. And to the surprise of many, the recipients were the crew members of the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship. 

Lloyd's List explains that the media has painted the Costa crew with a broad brush as lacking competence, training, and experience. They allegedly added to the confusion surrounding the delayed evacuation of the cruise ship after captain Schettino steered the ship into the rocks off of Giglio.

I must admit that I have lumped them all together as well. 

Costa Concordia GiglioBut the initial reports of the four Italian experts investigating the disaster has also been critical of the crew members.  The experts have concluded that some crew members were unaware of the ship's emergency instructions and had difficulty communicating with each other. 

Lloyd's List's stated: "What was largely missed in the media storm that ensued were the genuine examples of bravery and professionalism displayed by members of the crew . . it should not be forgotten that without the skilled response of the majority of the crew, the loss of life could have been far higher."

Yes there were indeed many heroic stories which involved the crew members.  Many crew members lost their lives trying to help the passengers escape the nightmare. 

But the crew of a cruise ship is a team of individuals. Teams should not receive awards when some of the team members fail miserably in performing their professional duties.   

And there is the matter of the many dead passengers. Their surviving families, still grieving, may have a hard time wondering why anyone is receiving awards when the disaster killed their loved ones, some of whom remain trapped in the cold, dark hull in Giglio. 

Crew Member Goes Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas

Serenade of the Seas Overboard CrewAlready reeling from the publicity of its delayed reporting of a 21 year old passenger who went overboard from the Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean is now facing the scrutiny of the international press regarding the disappearance of a crew member from the Serenade of the Seas yesterday.

Several newspapers in Italy and Croatia are reporting that a Royal Caribbean went overboard from the Serenade yesterday morning while the cruise ship was sailing in the Adriatic sea.

The Bahamian flagged Serenade of the Seas was crossing the Adriatic for Venice.

There are conflicting reports of the time of the overboard as occurring between 4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. when the ship's passengers reported that a person had fallen into the sea.

An Italian newspaper reports that the unidentified crew member went overboard in off the Italian coastal city of Ancona. The waters are described either as international waters or waters under the jurisdiction of Croatia. The sea was reportedly rough with winds gusting close to 100 kilometers per hour. 

Coast Guard vessels from Croatia and Italy have searched for the crew member without success.

Cruise lines don't voluntarily disclose information about overboard passengers and crew members. Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has tracked 187 people going overboard from cruise ships in the last ten years or so.

Anyone with information about this latest case, please leave a comment below.

September 21, 2012:  So far, not a single U.S. newspaper or media outlet has covered the story.  No press statement by Royal Caribbean.  Disturbing that no one cares about cruise overboards unless they involve a passenger from the U.S. 

September 22, 2012: Several people informed us that the overboard Royal Caribbean crew member is from Panama and one reader said that he was employed in the facilities department on the ship.

October 13, 2012: Another crew member goes overboard from the Serenade of the Seas. 2 crew members from the same cruise ship in 3 weeks. What's going on with this ship? 

Photo credit: Il Messaggero.it

American Crew Member Goes Overboard From Costa Cruise Ship

An Italian newspaper, Articolo Tre, and the Crew Center website, are reporting that a U.S. female crew member disappeared from the Costa Favolosa in the sea near Istanbul.

The victim reportedly is an American crew member employed by Costa as a dancer. There are no details in the news article.  The Italian newspaper article states that "according to the preliminary findings, the woman committed suicide by jumping from the ship off the coast of Istanbul."

Costa FavolosaThere is no confirmation by Costa. Crew members who work on the cruise ship are silent, especially if they are asked by passengers about the incident.

The ship will not stop tomorrow in Dubrovnik, as planed and but instead will go directly from Istanbul to Venice.

A few months ago a young woman went overboard from another Costa cruise ship, the Costa Magica. A 21 year old Brazilian waitress disappeared from the Magica near the coast of Sicily. The company quickly labeled the incident a suicide too. 

Unfortunately suicide seems to be the cruise industry's explanation for most over-boards.  This is because the cruise lines like to blame the victim rather than admit that there are safety and crime issues on cruise ships. 

Anyone will information, please leave a comment below.

Update August 31, 2012:  Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein received information that the overboard crew member is from South Africa - not the U.S.  We also received a comment to this article stating that the woman is from South Africa.  

There have been 185 people overboard from cruise ships in the last decade or so. 

Update September 2, 2012: The Italian newspaper, Articolo Tre, has another short article.  The title of the article states that Costa "confirms suicide" and yet the text of the article (if I am translating this correctly) states that the crew member "fell" into the water.  Unfortunately there is really no information contained in this article either, other than the Captain explaining why the cruise ship was skipping Dubrovnik, reassuring the passengers that they would receive a credit and wishing them a "happy" rest of the cruise.   

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia / Andrsvoss

Walker & O'Neill Settles Claim By Royal Caribbean Cabin Attendant

Walker & O'Neill recently settled a claim against Royal Caribbean Cruises on behalf of a seriously injured former crewmember, originally from St. Vincent in the West Indies.

The crewmember was employed as a stateroom attendant for a number of years. Stateroom attendants, also referred to as cabin attendants or cabin cleaners, are required to work long hours and are often assigned over 20 cabins to clean. They are responsible for cleaning the bathrooms, cabin interiors, and balconies on exterior cabins for all of the assigned guests, as well changing the linen and making the beds several times a day. The cruise line also presses them into carrying heavy luggage during embarkation days as well.

Royal Caribbean pays cabin attendants only $50 a month in salary.  The crewmembers are dependent on tips from passengers to make a living.Royal Caribbean Crew - Cabin Attendant - Maritime Lawyer   

The crewmember in question was injured on the Enchantment of the Seas while he was lifting a sofa to clean under it and experienced sharp pain in his lower back. He sought treatment from RCCL's on board medical team.

Unfortunately, the cruise line failed to provide prompt and adequate care and deemed him fit to continue working even though he was in immense pain.

Our firm flew the injured crewmember to Miami where we arranged for him to be evaluated by a board certified orthopedic doctor.  We were successful in reaching a settlement of his claim to compensate him for his injury and resulting pain and suffering, and to provide funds for medical treatment in the future.

Please keep in mind when you cruise on Royal Caribbean cruise ships that the cabin attendants work well in excess of 10 hours a days, 7 days a week. That's over 280 hours a month without a day's rest.

Tip them generously! 

 

Photo credit: Jim Walker (photo used with client's consent)

Young Brazilian Woman Missing From Costa Magica Cruise Ship

Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein reports on his website that a young Brazilian woman working as an assistant waiter on the Costa Magica has disappeared from the cruise ship in the Mediterranean. She was last seen on Friday, June 1 but authorities were not notified of her disappearance until yesterday, Saturday. The Magica had sailed from Malta towards Catania, Sicily and was about 20 miles from the Sicilian coast when the young woman disappeared.

According to a Brazilian newspaper Globo, the crewmember is Lais Santiago, age 21.  She is from Lais Santiago - Costa Magica Cruise Ship - Missing Cremember - BrazilSantos, on the coast of Sao Paulo, Brazil.  

Her brother, Lucas Santiago, confirmed his sister's disappearance.  There are conflicting accounts about her boyfriend who is described as being either from Brazil or India, with most accounts suggesting that he is also a Brazilian. The crewmember's family stated that they have had no contact with him, but he was questioned by police.  Some internet accounts suggest that she may have made a call late at night with the next account indicating that her boyfriend reported her missing the following morning after she allegedly did not return to the cabin.

The family also spoke with her co-employees, one of whom stated that Lais was friendly and had no enemy on board. She didn't drink, smoke or do drugs, "which is very common on ships." 

According to Dr. Klein's database of passengers and crewmembers missing from cruise ships, this is the 182nd person to go overboard from a cruise ship since 2000. 

In this day and age, and with all of the incredible technology available, how can anyone "disappear" from a cruise ship without the closed circuit television video cameras not capturing the event?  

Do you have information about this case?  Please leave a comment below.

June 4, 2012 Update: There are a couple of comments, one from Brazil and one from Portugal, suggesting that the vessel's video camera captured images of Ms. Santiago going to the rail, hesitating, and then going overboard around 2:00 AM.

The Brazilian newspaper Globo published a report  today confirming that Ms.Santiago apparently jumped as indicated above.

Ms. Santiago's brother is quoted saying that his sister loved working on the ship, but had been complaining a lot lately. "Lais would resign and return to Brazil in the next 28 days. She loved working in the ship, but was tired."

 

Photo credit:  Facebook

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

A dozen newspapers in the U.K. have reported on P&O Cruises' decision to pay its crewmembers a basic salary of 75 pence an hour (around $1.20 an hour) which turns out to be approximately $400 a month. Cash tips are being phased out with automatic gratuities being added to the passengers' bills. But rather than forwarding the passengers tips to the crew, the cruise line has threatened to withhold tips if the crewmember's rating falls below 92 percent.

In grade school, a 92 is an "A-."  So if a waiter who works a minimum of 11-12 hours a day (330-360 hours a month) receives a 91 (a "B+"?), management will pocket the tips?  

The Guardian newspaper reports that P&O Cruises justifies the move claiming that it is actually "good" for the crewmembers because many tourists don't tip.  It quotes David Dingle, CEO of Carnival UK, in charge of P&O cruise lines, saying that the crew were allegedly "much happier" and P&O's pay scale is "standard for the industry."

Some passengers reported that many of the crewmembers on a P&O cruise ship, mostly Indians, were India - Impoverished Crew - Exploitationat the point of tears upon hearing the news.

Carnival U.K. CEO Dingle tells the Guardian that "we have a manning office in Mumbai. There are queues out on to the street."  Ah, the desperate lining up, praying that Mr. Dingle will bestow them with the opportunity to work 350 hours a month for $400.

This no reason to exploit people.  But it is a revealing insight into why Carnival and P&O exploit their employees. They can and therefore they will. 

The U.N. reports that over 410,000,000 people from India are living below the poverty level.

Dingle is also right about low pay being what he calls "standard for the industry."

Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the U.S. pay cleaners from Jamaica as little as $545 a month. They expect them to grind out 12 hours days for 6 to 8 months straight.  For a 31-day-month, that's 372 hours for $545, less than $1.50 an hour.  And when the crewmembers' bodies break, the cruise lines dump them back home without medical care and treatment. 

Corporate Watch has an interesting article which characterizes the low P&O pay as shameful.  Fares for the Carnival Legend range between $2,798 and $6,458 per passenger for a 12 day cruise around northern Europe. Yet, P&O workers would need to work for 500 days straight to pay for a cruise themselves, assuming that they did not spend a single penny of their wages.

Carnival Corporation has annual revenues of $15.8 billion in 2011 and profits of $2.2 billion.  Micky Arison is Florida's richest person with a net worth of many billions.  But Arison is no Gandhi.  You will find him counting his billions on his 200' super-yacht or on the front row of the AA arena in Miami watching his hundred million dollar super-star basketball players.  Trust me, he's not worried about Indian waiters getting their tips.   

I can't imagine working 350 hours a month for $400, hoping that the guests I slaved away for would reward me a score higher than a 92.  An "A" or no tip?  You would think that a company earning billions a year (tax free to boot) wouldn't jack up a crew member for $150 in tips. But there is no satisfying this type of corporate greed.   

But who cares?  There are many young Indian men in line at the hiring agency in Mumbai hoping to be the next one to be hired to work aboard a P&O cruise ship.  

FBI Arrests NCL Assistant Cruise Director for Engaging in Sex With 16 Year Old Passenger & Child Pornography

The Federal Bureau of Investigations ("FBI") arrested the assistant cruise director of the Norwegian Star cruise ship for engaging in sex with a 16 year old passenger and possessing child pornography.   

29 year old Senad Djedovic, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, worked for Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) for six years for a number of different NCL cruise ships 

The 16 year old girl, from Minnesota, was sailing with her family on a 7 day cruise out of Tampa at the end of January.  Djedovic met the girl shortly after she boarded the cruise.  At the end of the cruise he engaged in sex with her in a stairwell on the cruise.  After the cruise, Djedovic exchanged Senad Djedovic - NCL - Cruise Ship Sexual Abuse emails with the girl which included explicit images and a video of him masturbating in front of a photo of the child. 

One email included the message: I miss you big time . . . you little young girl."  

The child 's father allegedly told him earlier in the cruise that she was 16 years old.  He apparently admitted to other crew members that she was only 16. 

The FBI seized his computer which contained child pornography on a hard drive.  Under a sub-folder entitled "scandals" there were several videos depicting sexual acts with 12 to 15 year old girls, which were downloaded from the internet. 

The Department of Justice charged Djedovic with sexual abuse of a minor and possessing materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors.  

Sexual abuse of minors during cruise by cruise staff and older passengers is one of the real dangers on cruise ships.  Last month we reported on a Cunard children's activities supervisor being arrested for child sexual abuse

You can read about many other cases where crewmembers possessed child pornography or crewmembers and passengers sexually abused minors during cruises here, involving all of the major cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean.

Crewmember Overboard From Royal Caribean's Monarch of the Seas Cruise Ship

We have been contacted by several different individuals today inquiring into the facts and circumstances surrounding a crewmember going overboard from the Monarch of the Seas cruise ship.

We are informed that the overboard involved a crewmember from India.  No other information is known at this time.  The cruise ship is in Nassau today and was in CoCo Cay yesterday.  There are no news outlets reporting on this incident so far.

Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas - OverboardRoyal Caribbean / Celebrity cruise ships have seen the most overboards over the course of the last 2 years.

On December 27, 2011 we reported on a Celebrity crewmember's disappearance - Celebrity Crewmember Missing From Summit Cruise Ship.  Here are other recent stories:

Another Celebrity Crewmember Goes Overboard

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

The last two articles involve a wife of an Indian crewmember going overboard from the Monarch of the Seas. 

The last time the Monarch of the Seas was in the news was when it failed a CDC inspection in November - Dirty Dishes & Fruit Flies Flourish on Royal Caribbean's Oldest Cruise Ship

Does anyone have information about this latest crew overboard?   If so, please leave a comment below.

January 12, 2012 Update:

DIS, the "Internet's largest unofficial on-line guide to Disney Cruises," contains the following information:

This report is coming live from the Disney Dream.  An unknown Carnival Cruise Line ship and Coast Guard helicopters are currently next to the Dream helping with a search for a man overboard from the Monarch of the Seas.  On schedule today for the Dream is a day at sea, but overnight, guests began noticing unusual movement from the ship.  Guests later learned that the ship had docked at Nassau overnight, but weren't sure why.  An officer from the Dream made an announcement overhead at 9:00 am alerting guests of the situation.  This is the first official notification passengers have received; if any news-worthy updates are given, this story will be updated.

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? 

Update on Alleged Sexual Assault of Child Aboard the Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship

This week we have been contacted by a number of readers who want to know the status of the criminal proceeding against a Carnival crewmember who is accused of sexually abusing a 14 year old girl aboard a Carnival cruise ship.

The incident occurred last month and you can read our initial account of the incident here.   

The crewmember involved is identified as Kert Clyde Jordan, age 35 from the country of Grenada, who worked as a waiter aboard the Carnival Liberty cruise ship.

According to the affidavit of the arresting FBI agent, the young girl was vacationing with family members aboard the Liberty cruise ship during a cruise from October 29th to November 5th of this year.  On the last night of the cruise at around 11:45 PM, crewmember Jordan encountered the girl, age 14, on the upper deck (Lido deck).  She told him that she was 14 years old.  At around 12:15 Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship - Sexual Abuse of MinorAM, Jordan led her a bathroom where he engaged in sexual acts with the child until around 2:00 AM.

The girl reported the incident to her mother the following day after the family returned home following the cruise.  Her mother took her to a hospital in her home state where she underwent medical treatment.  The local police were notified and, in turn, contacted the FBI here in South Florida on November 9, 2011.

On November 19, 2011, the FBI boarded the cruise ship and questioned Jordan, who waived his Miranda rights.  The FBI agent showed him a photograph of the girl, who he acknowledged seeing on the cruise and admitted that she advised him that she was 14 years old.  He also stated that he took photographs of the minor with his cell phone.

The FBI agent also stated that Jordan admitted to committing sexual acts with the girl.

Under federal law, sexual contact with a minor is a felony.  Here Jordan was charged with violating United States Code Section 2243(a)(1) which prohibits a sexual act with a child over the age of 12 but under the age of 16.   

If Jordan in fact waived his Miranda rights and admitted that he knew that the girl was only 14 years old, he will likely be convicted.  The maximum sentence for this type of crime is 15 years in prison. 

Jordan's arraignment was last week and a jury trial will be scheduled for later this year.  He remains in jail. 

Our prior article on this case drew a number of comments, including from people who claim to be family members or friends on the cruise ship.  Some of the comments question the veracity of the minor's claim because she reported the incident after the cruise.  Victims of sexual abuse often report the crime after the fact.  In this case the minor reported it the following day, which is not unusual at all.

There are some unusual comments to our article, including comments from someone who claims to have been a passenger who engaged in sex with Jordan on the same day as the incident involving the 14 year old girl.

We have no basis to verify these comments.  But if true, they raise the issue whether this crewmember engaged in sexual activities with women and underage girls in public bathrooms on the ship during prior cruises.

 

Photo credit:  wikipedia (Captain-Tucker)

Crew Member in Critical Condition in Hawaii

Newspapers in Hawaii are reporting today that a twenty-seven year cruise ship employee was pulled from the water at Kalapaki Beach this afternoon.

The local police are saying that bystanders brought the man to shore and administered CPR.  Paramedics later continued CPR after arriving on the scene, and transported the crew member to Wilcox Hospital, where he is listed in critical condition.

The crew member is from an unidentified cruise ship docked in Nawiliwili Harbor which is the major port for Kauai.  If you are familiar with this incident and know what cruise ship the crewmember is from please leave a comment below.  
 

 

Cruise Law Visits Ocho Rios Jamaica

Jamaica - Cruise Ship - Crewmember Our firm and our co-counsel Jonathan Aronson spent a few days this week in Jamaica. 

On Tuesday, we toured the port of Freeport - Montego Bay where we will begin advertising our services helping Jamaican crewmembers injured on cruise ships.  We met with the head of the terminal and enjoyed a VIP tour of the facility where we will be advertising. 

We walked the terminal grounds and viewed the Carnival Elation (photo left). 

The highlight of the trip was the seaman seminar we offered on Wednesday in Ocho Rios.     

We met with crewmembers almost all day on Wednesday.  Most of the crewmembers were employees from Royal Caribbean, Celebrity , and Carnival.  The injured crewmembers were stateroom attendants, pantry employees, cooks and utility cleaners.  They presented with a variety of orthopedic and neurological problems, repetitive injuries, and failure to provide appropriate medical treatment claims.

We met in the Jamaica No Problem Room (photo below). 

Jamaica is a beautiful country.  Lush landscapes filled with heliconia, giant banana plants, bamboo and coconuts from the coastal mountains to the ocean.  The Jamaican people are gracious, warm and hospitable.    

I have written a couple of blogs about crewmembers Jamaica, one of my favorite countries: 

Long Hours, Repetitive Injuries & Bad Medical Care Plague Royal Caribbean Crewmembers

"Injured on a Cruise Ship?" - Lawyer Advertising in Jamaica

Cruise Law Visits Montego Bay Jamaica   

Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica?

If you are from Jamaica and missed us during our last trip to Jamaica, we will be back in January 2012.   Please feel to contact us in the interim here at Cruise Law . . .   

Ocho Rios Jamaica - Cruise Ship Lawyer

Photo credits:  Jim Walker

Crewmembers Trapped on Happy Cruises' Gemini Cruise Ship?

A reader of Cruise Law News has informed me that CNN's iReport contains a message seeking help from a crewmember aboard the Gemini cruise ship operated by the now defunct cruise line "Happy Cruises."

Happy Cruises is a Spanish cruise company which abruptly ceased operations on September 24th.  When cruise lines suddenly stop operations due to financial problems, the crewmembers are often treated poorly and sometimes abandoned. 

Happy Cruises - Gemini - Cruise Ship - Crew AbandonedIn this case, crewmember Rooy Eduardo Deceno Velásquez, a 32 year old cruise ship restaurant worker from Trujillano, Peru, left a message on CNN's iReport.  He is crying for help, stating that the crew has been  deceived and about to be abandoned in Gibraltar without pay.   The message is in Spanish and is translated roughly as follows:

DEAR CNN.

The reason I'm writing is because we need you to help us, they are holding us hostage, against our will, owing us over four months worth of paychecks, with deceit we were first told that we would cruise from Malaga to Barcelona but then we weren't allowed to get off in Malaga.

We left for Barcelona and were told we would arrive on Tuesday, but then the captain said we would arrive to Gibraltar on Wednesday 8am.  Now we're being told it will be on Thursday at noon.

This is the Happy Cruises Gemini, we're near the Gibraltar strait. Besides, today we were given the sign off sheet and they put "vacations".  Many of us don't want to sign it.  Please, we need help urgently, we don't know what to do and feel unprotected. They won't even let us call our families, we're being held against our will.

And try to contact the  "ITF" PLEASE, WE'RE BEGGING YOU, HELP US. I'M AWAITING YOUR ANSWER, PLEASE COME...WE'LL BE IN GIBRALTAR ON THURSDAY, OR MAYBE THEY'LL KEEP DECEIVING US, WE DON'T KNOW UNTIL WHEN, THERE'S SICK PEOPLE ON BOARD AND THEY DON'T WANT TO DO ANYTHING..

The link to the message is here and can be listened to below:

 

 

A newspaper in Peru also has an article about the incident which can be read here.

Do you have information, photos or video about the incident to share?   Please leave a comment below.

September 30, 2011 Update: 

The El Comercio newspaper in Peru is reporting that another Peruvian crewmember wrote to her sister 3 days ago stating that the crew has not been fed and that there was a big brawl aboard the cruise ship.   

Happy Cruises - Gemini - GibraltarCruise Law News received comments from unidentified individuals who claim to be crewmembers (see below) or family member of the crew who dispute that there are any problems on the ship.

October 1, 2011 Update:

International Shipping Partners (ISP) here in Miami is the administrative manager of Jewel Owner Ltd., which is the owner of the cruise ship.  ISP is the commercial and technical manager of the vessel.  ISP has made no statements about this dilemma other than stating the Gemini is "available for immediate sale or charter."

October 2, 2011 Update:

The Spanish newspaper Provincia reports that on Friday the Gemini dropped anchor in the eastern port of Gibraltar by the Ocean Pearl in hopes that the company pay the crew's wages and repatriate them.  Yesterday, the vessels docked in the passenger area of ​​the port of Gibraltar

Does anyone have photos or video of the conditions on the cruise ship?

October 4, 2011 Update:

The Panarama newspaper in Gibraltar has an update on the story - "Sad Times for Crew of Happy Cruises."

 

 

Photo credit:  

Top:  El Comercio

Bottom:  Provincia

Henriquez v. NCL: Eleventh Circuit Slams Another Door in the Face of an Injured Crewmember

Last week we reported on the case of Lindo v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd. where the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of a case filed on behalf of a seriously injured NCL crewmember from a U.S. court, leaving him to seek compensation in Nicaragua.    

Today the same court entered a similar order in the case of Henriquez v. NCL.  Mr. Henriquez was injured when another  crew member smashed a glass bottle on his head and stabbed him while they were aboard the NCL cruise ship.

Jones ActWhen he filed suit for compensation under the Jones Act and the maintenance and cure doctrine, NCL responded with a motion to send his case to arbitration in Nicaragua where the arbitrator would apply Bahamian law. 

The appellate court refused to entertain the crewmember's argument that arbitration is against public policy because an arbitrator in Nicaragua applying Bahamian law might not recognize his claim under the Jones Act.  The court held that Mr. Henriquez "cannot avail himself of the public policy defense at this stage . . . only after arbitration may a court 'refuse to enforce an arbitral award if the award is contrary to the public policy of the country.'"

The court also rejected the argument that arbitration should not proceed because he signed his employment agreement under duress. 

Finally, the Eleventh Circuit dismissed the crewmember's maintenance and cure award and held that it was subject to arbitration.

This xenophobic decision is unconscionable.  The Bahamas has not adopted U.S. statutory law or maintenance and cure.  This type of ruling ensures that cruise lines face limit virtually no accountability when they injure a crewmember on their cruise ships and then refuse to provide prompt and adequate medical care.  In the process, the Eleventh Circuit has departed from 90 years of Jones Act history and close to 200 years of maintenance and cure decisions.    

Lindo v. NCL: Crewmembers Lose Rights As Harsh Cruise Arbitration Decisions Continue

Yesterday, in the case of Lindo v. NCL, a federal appellate court entered a decision which further stripped the legal rights away from seriously injured cruise employees.   

The Lindo case is the latest decision which reflects that our judiciary has little concern for the rights of cruise employees outside of the U.S. 

Eight years ago the Norwegian cruise ship Norway blew up at the port of Miami.  Originally bearing NCL Norway Boiler Explosion the name SS France, the Norway was an old decrepit cruise ship built in 1960.  It was poorly maintained.  Over the course of 40 years, the ship's old boilers had been neglected to the  point of criminal wrongdoing   The cruise ship suffered from a long history of safety problems.  The NCL executives refused to invest the money necessary to replace the dangerous boilers which were cracking and ready to burst. 

The cruise ship was a time bomb waiting to explode.  

On May 25, 2003, the faulty boilers blew up while the Norway was docked at the port of Miami.  Vapors, smoke and human flesh billowed hundreds of feet into the air.  The explosion scalded eight Filipinos and one Jamaican crewmember to excruciatingly painful deaths, leaving dozen of family members grieving the loss of their husbands, fathers and brothers.  

The families filed lawsuits against NCL and its parent company, Star Cruises, for negligence under the Jones Act, unseaworthiness, failure to pay maintenance and cure under the general maritime law of the United States, and punitive damages

NCL paid what is described as a confidential settlement, rumored to be over $7,000,000, to the family of the dead Jamaican crewmember.

But NCL responded to the lawsuits filed by the families of the eight dead Filipino men by moving to enforce language in the crewmembers' employments agreements which purported to prohibit the filing of lawsuits in the U.S.  NCL argued that the dead men's lives were to be valued by a compensation scheme set up in the Philippines which set the value of a dead seafarer at around $60,000.  

Even though the cruise line is headquartered here in Miami and the accident occurred here, NCL instructed its Miami defense lawyers to argue that the families had to pursue arbitration in Manila where a dead Filipino was considered less valuable than the luxury cars driven by NCL's executives.

Why the discrepancy between the compensation owed to the wife and children of a Jamaican crewmember versus the family of a Filipino? 

The answer lies in the word "arbitration."  Unlike the Filipinos, Jamaican crewmembers were not subject to arbitration agreements, which are designed by large corporations to take away a Norway Cruise Shipcrewmember's right to a jury trial in the U.S.   The Jones Act has provided crewmembers - both U.S. and "foreign" seafarers - the right to seek compensation from juries in the U.S. for dangerous work conditions aboard ships for the past 90 years.

Recognizing that a U.S. jury would fairly consider compensation for the Jamaican seafarer, NCL paid a fair amount of compensation to the surviving family members in Jamaica. 

But for a Filipino who might have to arbitrate the case?  NCL gambled that it could convince a U.S. federal court to kick the Filipino families' cases out of the U.S. because of an "arbitration" clause in the Filipino crewmembers' employment agreements.  Without a jury trial under the Jones Act in the U.S., the Filipinos' cases would be worth peanuts.

NCL's strategy worked.

On October 14, 2003, in the case of Bautista v. Star Cruises, 286 F. Supp. 2d 1352 (S.D. Fla. 2003), a federal district court in Miami granted NCL’s motion to compel arbitration and closed the cases.  On January 18, 2005, in Bautista v. Star Cruises, 396 F.3d 1289 (11th Cir. 2005), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the order compelling arbitration.

The Bautista case stripped the NCL crewmembers of their right to try their cases in state court before a jury in the U.S.  The opinion was a result-oriented decision for big business and against the "little man."  NCL thereafter settled the death cases for a small fraction of what anyone in a civilized country would consider fair and just    

After NCL's stunning success in Bautista, other cruise lines based in Miami began inserting language in their crewmember contracts of employment taking away the right to a jury trial under the Jones Act.   Carnival and Royal Caribbean began requiring the cruise employees to arbitrate their cases outside of the U.S. without a jury.  The cruise lines unilaterally deprived their ship employees of U.S. remedies and inserted language requiring the application of foreign law. 

Crewmembers have historically been entitled to special protection under U.S. law.  Under the Jones Act, cruise employees are entitled to seek compensation for unsafe work conditions and must prove only that their injuries were caused by their employer's slightest degree of negligence.  Under the "unseaworthiness" doctrine, cruise lines are liable to their employees for dangerous shipboard conditions without a showing of negligence.  Crewmembers are also entitled to the payment of their living expenses and medical care under the "maintenance and cure" doctrine which has existed in the U.S. since around 1820.  Another important right afforded to seamen is a Federal statute which provides penalties against maritime employers for not timely paying wages to the crewmembers.

Cruise lines instead chose to insert the law of countries like Panama or the Bahamas.  These countries do not recognize the unseaworthiness or maintenance and cure doctrines.  Although the concept of negligence exists, these countries apply a much higher threshold necessary to establish liability and do not provide nearly the same elements of compensation.    

For the past six years, the cruise lines have sought to enforce arbitration clauses which send their employees outside of the U.S. to foreign countries which have few laws protecting the crewmembers.

Carnival LibertyIn 2009, the crewmembers finally received a break when the Eleventh Circuit held an arbitration clause attempting to apply Panamanian law was null and void when it deprived the seaman of his U.S. statutory right to recover penalties wages when the cruise line refuses to timely pay wages. 

In Thomas v. Carnival Corp., 573 F.3d 1113 (11th Cir. 2009), the court held that public policy prohibited a cruise line from enforcing arbitration where the result was that a crewmember was stripped of his rights under U.S. law.  

Unlike the tortured and result-oriented reasoning in Bautista, the Thomas decision was regarded as a fair and logical decision by the Eleventh Circuit.  Finally, the Eleventh Circuit pushed back against the cruise industry's wholesale assault against the rights of crewmembers.     

Many maritime lawyers thought that the Eleventh Circuit would apply the logic of the Thomas decision to reject arbitration clauses which stripped crewmembers of their statutory rights under the Jones Act.    

But yesterday, crewmembers received a cruel blow when the Eleventh Circuit upheld a decision enforcing a NCL arbitration agreement which required the application of the law of the Bahamas and prohibited a seaman  from pursuing litigation in the U.S. applying the Jones Act.  In Lindo v. NCL, a crewmember from Nicaragua employed on the Norwegian Dawn was seriously injured during his work.  The NCL employment agreement contained language that crewmember claims  would be arbitrated in Nicaragua (Lindo’s country of citizenship) under Bahamian law (the law of the flag state of cruise ship).

In a split decision, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the arbitration agreement even though the crewmember lost his right to a jury trial under the Jones Act.  In a plodding and painfully reasoned 66 page opinion, the majority essentially upheld Bautista and effectively overruled the Thomas decision.   The court prohibited the seaman from making a public policy argument that the effect of a forum clause sending his case to Nicaragua and a choice of law clause applying Bahamian law waived his rights.   The court held that at the conclusion of the case, he might be able to raise this argument, although this appears to be at best an inefficient result and more probably an illusory remedy. 

In a well written and compelling dissent, Judge Barkett cited the tradition of recognizing the “great public policy of preserving [seamen as an] important class of citizens for the commercial service and maritime defence of the nation.”  Judge Barkett cited one of my favorite maritime cases, the case of Harden v. Gordon, 11 F. Cas. 480, 483 (No. 6,047) (C.C.D. Me. 1823) where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Story adopted "maintenance and cure" as part of American jurisprudence.  

Seamen have historically been regarded as "wards of the admiralty," and their rights have been a special subject of U.S. maritime jurisdiction.  The majority opinion in Lindo completely ignores this well established tradition and line of cases.  The Lindo decision has no mention of equitable principles, public policy, or basic human rights.

The notion that a crewmember stripped of his Jones Act, unseaworthy and maintenance and cure remedies under U.S. law will find justice under the laws of the Bahamas in an arbitration proceeding in Nicaragua is preposterous.

Unless there is a reconsideration by the Eleventh Circuit en banc, the cruise industry will view the Lindo case as a green light to screw ship employees at every turn. 

$800,000 Arbitration Award for Injured Carnival Crewmember

An arbitrator in California recently awarded substantial compensation on behalf of a seriously injured Carnival crewmember.

California attorney Stephen Estey issued a press release which stated that he obtained an arbitration award for a crewmember working aboard the Carnival cruise ship Imagination in the amount of $800,000 for injuries sustained in June 2008.  The press release states that Polish citizen Marcin Sokolowski was employed by Carnival as an assistant Maître D.’  His duties Imagination Cruise Ship - Crew Injury - Arbitrationincluded lifting heavy bins of food and equipment.   Although some of the bins weighed in excess of 100 pounds, Carnival refused to provide him with a dolly to assist him in loading and unloading the bins. 

In June, 2008, crewmember Sokolowski felt a "pop" in his low back while lifting the bins.  He felt immediate pain and reported this to the ship's doctor, who only prescribed pain medication. When the crewmember's pain persisted over the next few days, the ship doctor injected him with pain killers and tried to "adjust" his lower back. 

Sokolowski's condition declined and a doctor in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico recommended surgery after a MRI of his lumbar spine confirmed that he had a herniated disc at L5-S1 on the right side.

In mid August, 2008, surgeons at the University of California at San Diego Medical Center performed  a lumbar discectomy; unfortunately, Sokolowski suffered permanent damage to the nerves radiating to his leg.  The press release states that the U.S. neurosurgeon and, subsequently, a disability commission in Poland found Sokolowski to be permanently disabled.  The arbitrator awarded total compensation in the amount of $800,000. 

As we reported earlier today, arbitration awards for back injuries have ranged for as little as $75,000 to a high of $1,250,000 in a case we handled earlier this year.

I do not know Mr. Sokolowski or his counsel but his story is the same story injured cruise employees tell us.  Crewmembers sustain serious injured on cruise ships and then undergo medical "treatment" on the cruise ship consisting of masking the pain and delaying the cure.  By the time that board certified U.S. doctors finally treat them, the crewmembers often have sustained additional and permanent neurological damage.   

Given the range of cruise ship arbitration awards so far, Mr. Sokolowski's lawyer did a good job obtaining compensation for his client.   

If you are a crewmemmber, from the Caribbean, Europe, India or South or Central America, injured on a cruise ship, please consider reading Arbitration of Cruise Line Crewmember Cases.

Arbitration of Cruise Line Crewmember Cases

In the last few years, the major cruise lines have been trying to enforce arbitration provisions which they inserted into the crew member's employment agreements.

Many of our crew clients around the world ask us "what is arbitration?" and was is the difference between an "arbitration" and a "trial."

Arbitration is a process where disputes between parties are decided by an "arbitrator" or a panel of "arbitrators."  In the crew cases we have arbitrated, the process is started by filing a claim with the Cruise Ship Arbitration - CrewMember American Arbitration Association / International Centre for Dispute Resolution.  This is the administrative body, typically called AAA or the ICDR, which oversees the process. 

The biggest difference between arbitration and a trial, is that a trial takes place before a judge and a jury.  There is no judge or jury in arbitration. 

Arbitrators are typically other attorneys or retired judges who are selected by counsel for the parties.  When there are three panel arbitrators, counsel for the crewmember will select one arbitrator and counsel for the cruise line will select one arbitrator.  Those two selected arbitrators will select a third arbitrator.  The arbitrators are sworn to be fair and impartial.

Once the arbitrator or arbitrators are selected, a date for the arbitration hearing will be selected.  Unlike a jury trial which could easily last more than a week, an arbitration hearing may last just two days.  There are relaxed rules of evidence.  The arbitrators will typically receive into evidence hearsay medical reports and affidavits of witnesses without the other side being permitted an opportunity to conduct cross examination.   

Pre-hearing discovery is limited.  There is no requirement to conduct discovery, although in most cases the crewmember will give a deposition and appear for a medical evaluation by a doctor selected by the cruise line defense lawyer.  We will always have our crew clients examined by a doctor who will appear live at the arbitration hearing, and we will take a deposition of a representative of the cruise line.

The cruise lines are responsible for the filing fee and the fees of the arbitrators.  These costs and fees can be expensive.  A cruise line paid around $60,000 in the ICDR filing fee and the fees of three arbitrators in a recent case.  Obviously, no crewmember could afford to arbitrate if they were responsible for these fees.  

There is the issue of where the arbitration hearing will take place.  Many arbitration agreement stipulate that the hearings will take place in the country where the cruise ship is flagged or the country of the crewmember's citizenship of the crewmember.  In many cases, the cruise line will nonetheless agree to arbitrate in Miami, because it is too expensive to pay the fees and costs associated with flying Miami based arbitrators and defense lawyers to far away places like India.  Quite frankly, I would love to arbitrate cases in India, Romania, Serbia, and throughout the Caribbean islands.    

Another big difference between arbitration and a trial is that the entire arbitration procedure, from start to finish, should take less than one year.  Given the congestion of our court docket in the state court system here in Miami, a date for jury trial could take two years or more.  This is good news for injured crewmembers who have no income and are in need of resolving their cases in an efficient manner.

Once the arbitration award is decided, it is not appealable except under very rare circumstances.  This is good news because the cruise lines can't drag out an appeal for another year. 

It is generally thought that a down side of the arbitration proceeding is that the amount of the arbitration awards are generally considered to be less than what a jury might otherwise award.  But the range of arbitration awards in my experience and to my knowledge have not been unreasonably low.

Of the six or so arbitration awards I am familiar with regarding crewmembers with injured backs for example, there was a low award of around $75,000, several in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, one for $800,000, and the high award of $1,250,000 which our firm handled this year.

If you are a crewmember injured on a cruise ship, don't hesitate to contact our office for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

Long Hours, Repetitive Injuries & Bad Medical Care Plague Royal Caribbean Crewmembers

Royal Caribbean Crewmembers - Miami Florida Cruise LawyerWe just settled a case we filed on behalf of a Jamaican crewmember who sustained a wrist injury while working as a cleaner aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  She is now able to support her two boys back in Ocho Rios (photo left). 

Her job responsibilities involved cleaning every single public lady bathroom on the cruise ship (around 30).  Mopping the floors, scrubbing the toilets, wiping the stalls and mirrors, every day of the week - Saturdays and Sundays included of course.  In addition, every embarkation day she was required to deliver hundreds of bags luggage from the elevators to the passengers' cabins.

She developed a painful and debilitating wrist injury.  She went to the ship doctor who gave her Ibuprofen and a sling to wear.  She then returned to full time duty wearing a sling.  I don't know how a one armed cleaner can possibly clean 30 bathrooms every day of the week and then carry hundreds of pieces of luggage on top of that.  Her salary was around $550 a month.

Royal Caribbean eventually sent her back to Jamaica.  Two general surgeons ended up operating on her wrist.  What they did exactly no one knows because neither one of these doctors prepared an operative report.  There are no hand specialists anywhere in Jamaica.  The crewmember's pain, numbness, swelling and limited motion did not improve.  Shortly after the second surgery and without ever providing physical therapy, the cruise line terminated her medical treatment and stopped paying the $12 a day daily stipend.  

After she called and explained her predicament, we filed suit, arranged for her to obtain a tourist visa, and then flew her to Miami for treatment with a U.S. board certified hand specialist.  After around $60,000 of medical care we forced the cruise line to pay, her symptoms finally resolved. We can't mention the amount of her settlement because the cruise line requires a confidentiality agreement regarding the settlement figure, but we can state that she was happy and, most importantly, pain free when she went home.

Cleaners, waiters, and cabin attendants work insane hours on Royal Caribbean ships.  Working 12 hours a Royal Caribbean Crew - Injuries - Accidents day minimum and up to 16 hours on embarkation day, they are instructed not to report more than 10 to 11 hours of work on their times sheets.

The human body is not designed to perform hard manual labor over 330 hours a month. 

Repetitive injuries to waiters who carry trays weighing 50 pounds or more are common.  Neck injuries, disc herniations in the low back, and rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder are common.  Then the cruise line sends these hard working employees to the four corners of the earth to receive bad medical care.         

The photo to the right is of another Jamaican client who sustained a severe wrist injury working as a cleaner on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  My partner, Lisa O'Neill, is shown discussing her injury in a hotel here in Miami.  My partner does not like to be mentioned on this blog, but she is the backbone of the team which we have who cares for injured crewmembers.   A substantial part of our law practice is flying injured Royal Caribbean crewmembers back to Miami for medical treatment which the cruise line refuses to provide.      

 

Photo credits:  Jim Walker

Cruise Passenger and Crew Members Assaulted in Bermuda

A post by a cruiser on a CruiseCritic forum yesterday indicates that a cruise passenger visiting Bermuda was assaulted and battered in an attempted robbery last week.

One June 14th, a passenger from the NCL Dawn cruise ship was walking back to the ship around 4:00 p.m. from Snorkel Beach on what is described as a "relatively well traveled walkway in front of the main entrance to the Maritime Museum." 

Bermuda Cruise CrimeA Bermudian man punched the passenger in the face, knocking him to the ground and then began to search through the passenger's pockets.  The passenger fought back and then fled back to the cruise ship where he reported the incident to security personnel and customs agents. Bermudian police reportedly stated that such attacks have become more frequent  in recent years.

On June 8th, the BDA Sun reported that two NCL crewmembers from the Dawn were assaulted early in the morning in Snorkel Park and one of the crewmembers required medical treatment in a hospital.

The newspaper then published an article about the fracas entitled Warning of Tourism Fallout after Fight.   Snorkel Park chief Tom Steinhoff is quoted as saying: "Behaviour like this threatens further investment in Bermuda and threatens Bermuda tourism – we are going to do everything we can to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again."

On May 31, 2011, the Royal Gazette newspaper reported on the attacks of two cruise tourists in an article entitled "Man Admits Attack on Cruise Ship Visitors."  A Bermudan man admitted attacking two cruise tourists with a piece of metal pipe in a public bathroom in Par-la-Ville Park.  As usual, the newspaper did not mention the name of the cruise line or cruise ship.

Last week's violent assault and battery of a cruise passenger is not going to help the island's reputation.

The Bermuda Police have an online website which contains "daily reports" of crime.  Although there is an online account of the earlier incident involving the crewmembers, there is no mention of the assault of the cruise passenger last week.

Unlike many of the Caribbean islands, Bermuda has long enjoyed a reputation for being a generally safe destination (the exception being the brutal rape and death of a young Canadian tourist Rebecca Middleton and the incompetence of the Bermudian authorities which followed). 

Are crimes against cruise passengers and crew a problem in Bermuda?    

 

June 22, 2011 Update:

Cruise Critic has an interesting article about this incident.  The police in Bermuda are claiming that this was no random act of violence but rather a "drug deal gone wrong."  The police do not deny that the passenger was injured.  Rather they are saying that the alleged drug transaction led to the violence. 

I'm not sure that makes me feel any better.  It seems to raise the issue whether Bermuda may have a problem with drugs as well as violent crime. 

The article is entitled "Bermuda Police Debunk Alleged Attack on Cruise Ship Passenger." 

June 23, 2011 Update:

The Royal Gazette newspaper in Bermuda is finally covering the story - "Alleged Robbery was Drug Deal Gone Bad Govt."
 

"Injured on a Cruise Ship?" - Lawyer Advertising in Jamaica

Today we began advertising in Jamaica, as I mentioned in an earlier blog.  The ad below will begin appearing in some of the newspapers in Jamaica, and a variation will appear on some of the billboards in Jamaica.

I have been a lawyer for 28 years.  I have never advertised on television, radio, newspapers or billboards.  We have relied on our reputation developed over the years and recommendations from one client we have helped to the next potential client who finds himself in a similar situation.

I have always viewed "billboard lawyers" with disdain.  Florida is littered with huge billboards looming over the highways advertising lawyers with 1-800 I N J U R Y telephone numbers.   

I do not think I have ever seen any of these "billboard lawyers" actually in the courthouse.  Probably because they don't really go to court or actually handle cases.  Many of these lawyers take the calls from their 1-800 numbers and then refer the cases to other lawyers to handle.  Lots of Americans point to the lawyer billboards as endemic of the so-called "litigation explosion" which many people think plagues the U.S. 

Unlike the U.S., Jamaica has a culture where litigation is not encouraged.  Plus there are virtually no Jamaican lawyers who advertise.  Injured crewmembers are often from countries like Jamaica where few people file lawsuits, there is no legal advertising, and it is difficult to obtain basic information about your legal rights. Cruise lines often take advantage of this type of situation.

Over the next few months, Jamaicans will see our firm's name and photos on billboards, in newspapers, and on the radio throughout the country.  We know first hand that there are many Jamaican men and women who dedicated their careers to cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, only to be sent a one way ticket home and forgotten when they are seriously injured and can no longer work at sea.  Advertising in Jamaica will help level the playing field against the cruise lines.  We are educating these crewmembers regarding their right to obtain compensation here in Miami when they are disabled from cruise ship employment.

So, it is with mixed feelings that I am about to become a "billboard lawyer."   But not just any "billboard lawyer."  A Jamaican billboard lawyer.  

But unlike U.S. billboard lawyers, you will see the lawyers in our firm in the courthouse here in Miami fighting for the rights of our clients who the cruise lines have abandoned in Jamaica.      

June 28, 2011 Update:  We modified our ad, with a non descript cruise ship and a different background.

 

Cruise Law Visits Montego Bay Jamaica

Falmouth Jamaica - Royal CaribbeanI just returned from a three day trip to Montego Bay. 

My co-counsel, Jonathan Aronson, and I met with several of our clients who were seriously injured while working for Miami based cruise lines and have been languishing in Jamaica after being dumped back at home.  Seeing our clients, in their local communities, with their kids, brings a sense of reality and urgency to our relationship with them.   

We visited the port in Freeport / Montego Bay, the new Royal Caribbean development in Falmouth (more about that to come later), and headed over to Ocho Rios to meet the family of one of our clients who needs surgery after a cruise line accident.

A good trip.  

The country of Jamaica is beautiful.  Its people are filled with courtesy and generosity. 

Over the course of the next week, we will talk about some of our experiences in Jamaica, and the relationship of this proud Caribbean country with the Miami-based cruise industry.

Photo: 

Above - Jim Walker - Falmouth with Pullmantur Horizon cruise ship in background.

Below - Jim Walker - Kevin, with wife, son and Jonathan Aronson

Jamaica - Montego Bay - Cruise - Crewmember

 

Passenger Medevac & Crew Suicide Mar Celebrity Eclipse Cruise

Yesterday, we discussed the latest overboard from a Celebrity cruise ship, this time involving a 31 year old Filipino on the Eclipse who by all accounts committed suicide by climbing a rail and jumping into the English Channel.

While some people may be inclined to say oh,a suicide end of the story, my thought is that an investigation is warranted to study the significant number of crewmembers who decide to end their life in this manner.  Is there a correlation between the long hours and difficult working conditions of "ship life" and crew suicides?   

There are a number of interesting comments posted on line about this sad incident, which apparently occurred shortly after an ill passenger was medevaced from the Eclipse.  A medevac of an ill passenger and a crew suicide is not how you want to remember a family cruise holiday.   

One post links to Ship Finder which charted the cruise ship altering course and returning to the location where the crewmember went overboard.  It looks like the Eclipse may have originally  altered course to sail closer to France to meet the helicopter involved in the passenger medical evacuation.  

Eclipse Cruise Ship Medical Evacuation

  

Image credit:   Lee Armstrong via Pinkfroot

NCL Crew Member Medevaced to Bermuda

Norwegian Sun Cruise ShipThe Royal Gazette newspaper reports that a crew member from the the Norwegian Sun cruise ship was transported to Bermuda because of a medical emergency.

The Norwegian Cruise Line ship was near Bermuda after sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida en route to the Azores when the 23 year old Peruvian crew member became ill.

The cruise ship took the crew member off the ship by stretcher to a pilot vessel which transported her to the island of Bermuda where she was taken to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

Cruise Lines like NCL have a non-delegable duty to provide prompt, adequate and complete medical care to their ill and injured crew members. 

Medevacs involving crewmembers are relatively rare, especially compared to medical evacuations of passengers.

Who Investigates Disappearances on Cruise Ships?

The disappearance of a youth counselor from the Disney Wonder cruise ship this week raises the issue of who is responsible for conducting investigations when crew members disappear at sea.

Disney released the following statement to us yesterday:

"The Mexican Navy has been conducting searches since Tuesday, and we immediately contacted the FBI and the Bahamian Maritime Authority, which is leading the investigation on this matter.  We have also conducted a thorough and comprehensive inspection of the ship and spoken with the crew member’s colleagues to gather as much information as possible.”   Disney also told us that Mexican Navy - Cruise Overboards - Crew Passenger Disappearancesthe cruise line notified the U.S. Coast Guard. 

But what is the reality of who does what in cases like this?  What is the true involvement of the Mexican government, the U.S. Coast Guard, the FBI, the Bahamas Maritime Authority, and the cruise line in these type of circumstances? 

The Mexican Navy:  Because the incident appears to have occurred off of the coast of Mexico, the Mexican Navy is involved.  Now, some people will say that the "Mexican Navy" conjures up an image of "three men in a row boat."  Such criticism, although disrespectful, may accurately characterize the small scale of the Mexican maritime operations.  When you think of dramatic search and rescue operations, the "Mexican Navy" does not come to mind.  Rather, one would hope that the U.S. Coast Guard, with its quick deployment of cutters, jets and helicopters, is involved.  

Mexico is a country of limited resources.  Its is questionable what motivation Mexico has to expend money and resources searching for a citizen of another country who went overboard from a ship registered registered in the Bahamas.  Once its navy ends its search (which it has probably already done), the country of Mexico will have no further involvement.  

The U.S. Coast Guard:  CNN's article "Disney Cruise Employee Missing Off Mexico" indicates that while the Mexican navy is leading the search, it asked for the U.S. Coast Guard's help early in the effort.  The Coast Guard provided long-range search aircraft but was not now actively involved in the search as of yesterday.  The U.S. Coast Guard is an impressive and highly experienced group of men and women, but there is only so much it can do when cruise overboards occur around the FBI - Cruise Disappearances - Passenger Crew Overboardsworld.

The FBI:  CNN's article contains a revealing quote from a spokesperson from the FBI. "The FBI is not involved because it does not have jurisdiction, as the ship was off the coast of Mexico flying under a foreign flag," said spokeswoman Laura Eimiller of the agency's Los Angeles office. 

This is a typical comment from the Los Angeles office of the FBI which, unlike the U.S. Coast Guard, is filled with bureaucrats with little motivation to leave their desks and head over to the port when the cruise ship returns to L.A.  The fact of the matter is that the FBI has special maritime jurisdiction to investigate incidents which occur on U.S. based cruise ships around the world, especially when a U.S. citizen is involved, even though the ships fly flags of convenience.

The statement of the FBI spokesperson that the FBI has no jurisdiction because the ship was in Mexican waters is preposterous.  Last month, the FBI investigated the murder of a Polish crew member from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship calling on Cozumel which was allegedly committed by a Mexican citizen, even thought the victim was employed on a foreign flagged ship and the crime occurred ashore in Mexico.

The Bahamas Maritime Authority:  Under the Bahamas Merchant Shipping Act 1976, the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) is supposedly responsible for investigating incidents involving Bahamas-registered ships worldwide.  The BMA has been criticized for being being beholden to large shipping companies like Disney and Royal Caribbean which register their cruise ships there to escape U.S. safety rules and regulations and U.S. taxes.  

Bahamas Maritime Authority - Cruise DisappearancesThe BMA has a deplorable record responding to serious injuries, deaths or crimes involving passengers passengers and crew members on cruise ships flying the Bahamian flag.  Often no real investigation is performed.  Often the "investigation" will consist of a representative or two from the BMA appearing at the next port of call, sometimes working with the cruise line's defense lawyers or risk management team.  No BMA report concluding malfeasance of the cruise line in a passenger or crew death will ever see the light of day.

If foul play is involved, the BMA will do nothing.  As the BMA concedes on its website, "in fact, reports and documents may not be used as evidence in the event of any subsequent criminal proceedings. If a criminal investigation proves necessary, the entire incident should be investigated by a body independent of the original investigating authority."

So if foul play is involved (and there is no indication of that one way or the other), then who will be involved?  The FBI has already declined to get involved.  No police detectives from Nassau will fly to California to investigate.  No police or sheriff agencies in California (where the vessel is ported) will become involved.  No police agency from Florida (where the cruise line is located) or the United Kingdom (where the cruise line is incorporated) will investigate a disappearance at sea involving a cruise ship sailing between California and Mexico. 

The Cruise Line:  The Wonder cruise ship is operated by the Magical Cruise Company, Limited, d/b/a Disney Cruise Line, which is incorporated in the United Kingdom for tax purposes.  Although Disney is saying that it is speaking with its crew member’s colleagues "to gather as much information as possible," these statements and reports will never become public knowledge and will usually be kept away from the crew member's family.  Cruises line have exclusive control of the scene of the incident, witnesses, and evidence such as CCTV tapes.  Cruise lines consider their own Disney Cruise Wonder - Passenger Crew Disappearancesinvestigation to be privileged "work product," conducted for the purpose of defending them from potential law suits.  Disney usually hires some of the top maritime defense firms here in Miami to defend their legal interests. 

The Crew Member's Country: An issue remains of the nationality of the crew member.  Most youth counselors on cruise ships are American, Canadian, or English.  If you are from the U.S. and it was your child who went overboard, who would you want investigating the disappearance?  The FBI or the Bahamas Maritime Authority?   If a Canadian or English citizen is involved, no one from these countries will be actively involved with an investigation. 

The Bottom Line:  Disappearances at sea like this fall into "no man's land."   The FBI takes the "not my problem" approach.  The flag state's investigation will end up in a file cabinet in an old building in Nassau.  Disney's investigation files will never leave the cruise line's risk management and legal departments.  

According to cruise expert Ross Klein's website, 157 people have gone overboard from cruise ships in the last decade.   Many appear to be due to intoxication, negligence, suicide, and sometimes foul play, but many remain unsolved mysteries.  Often there is a delay in reporting the Rebecca Coriam - Disney Crew Member - Chester England disappearances to the authorities and the crew member's family.  Uncertainly, confusion and a lack of closure are the usual outcomes.   Certainly there must be a better way to investigate disappearances from cruise ships than this.  The families of loved ones lost at sea deserve better.    

 

March 25th Update:  BBC News identifies the crew member as Rebecca Coriam of Chester England.  The BBC article states that England's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been "in touch with the relevant organisations and authorities" and identifies the Bahamas Maritime Authority and Interpol.  

Photo credit:     BBC News

Did a Crew Member Go Overboard from the Disney Wonder Cruise Ship?

In the past day our office has received numerous requests for information about a woman who apparently went overboard from the Disney Wonder cruise ship two days ago.

There are no reports of this alleged incident in the mainstream press.  This does not necessarily mean anything because the last three cruise line overboard were either not reported in the press at all or the stories were mentioned only in non-U.S. newspapers.

Disney Wonder Cruise Ship OverboardCruise expert Ross Klein's website contains a short reference to the incident, stating: "From a crew member (unconfirmed):  Two days ago one of the youth activities counselors apparently jumped over board.  It was at 3 am.  They are still searching the ship without any news about her."  

Professor Klein reports that there have been 157 cruise ship overboards in the last decade.

There have been five other cruise ship overboards this year, involving crew members from Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity Cruise's Constellation, Carnival's Miracle, and Costa's Atlantica, as well as a passenger from Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.

Neither the cruise industry nor the U.S. maintain a list of cruise overboards.  

Disney responded to our request for information indicating that the cruise line reported the incident to the Mexican Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, the F.B.I., and the Bahamas Maritime Authority.   Disney sent us the folowing statement: 

“Given the circumstances we are very concerned about this situation and are doing everything possible to assist with the search effort and investigation. The Mexican Navy has been conducting searches since Tuesday, and we immediately contacted the FBI and the Bahamian Maritime Authority, which is leading the investigation on this matter. We have also conducted a thorough and comprehensive inspection of the ship and spoken with the crew member’s colleagues to gather as much information as possible.”   

Consider reading:  Who Investigates Disappearances on Cruise Ships?

Do you have information about this latest overboard?  Please leave a comment below. 

 

March 24th Update:  The crew member apparently disappeared off of the coast of Mexico.  The ship is sailing to Cabo San Lucas today.  Here is a video from ABC-7 News (Los Angeles):

  

 

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

Officials are searching for a female Disney Wonder cruise ship crew member who has been missing since Tuesday.

We have also conducted a thorough and comprehensive inspection of the ship and spoken with the crew member's colleagues to gather as much information as possible," a Disney Cruise Lines statement indicated.

The Disney Wonder, which sailed out from the Port of Los Angeles, has been on a seven-night cruise to the Mexican Riviera.

Disney Cruise Lines spokeswoman Rena Langley said the Mexican Navy is conducting the search. The U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI also is assisting. The Bahamian Maritime Authority is investigating the incident.

Langley said the crew member, who has been with the cruise line since 2010, never returned for her scheduled shift. She did not identify the missing woman. It's unclear if she fell overboard, but Langley said it's "certainly a possibility."

"Given the circumstances, we are very concerned about this situation and are doing everything possible to assist with the search effort and investigation," Disney officials said.

March 25 Update:  BBC News identified the crew member as Ms. Rebecca Coriam, age 24, from Chester, England.

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

Newspapers in India are reporting that a young man working as a crew member on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship disappeared at sea.

"Disappearances" at sea have been a regular occurrence on Royal Caribbean cruise ships over the past several years.   

The Times of India ("Did 'Missing' Ship Staffer End Life?") and the Hindustan Times ("Chef Commits Suicide in U.S., Mom Cries Foul") report that 27 year old Sandip Surwade went missing from Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship on February 18th in waters near Aruba.

Sandip Surawade - Missing - Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the SeasThe Indian newspapers report that Mr. Surwade left India for work on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship in June of last year.  On February 20th of this year, a representative from the local hiring agency in India came to Mr. Surwade's home in Bara Bungalow, Thane (north of Mumbai) and told his family that he was "missing."  The hiring agency gave the family a telephone number and e-mail address of Dr. Fabio Acevedo, a supervisor in the medical crew department of the cruise line.

Later, the cruise line told the family that their son committed suicide by jumping off the cruise ship around 9:00 p.m. on February 18th.  The cruise line claims that Mr. Surwade left a letter which mentions the name of a female crew member with whom Mr. Surwade was allegedly involved, notwithstanding that he was reportedly engaged to be married in April. The letter purportedly states that his supervisors were troubling him and the woman due to their relationship. 

His family doubts the authenticity of the letter which, according to the newspaper articles, was written in chaste Hindi, a language with which he not particularly familiar. The family tells the newspapers that Royal Caribbean and the local agent for the cruise line has "stonewalled" them. 

The cruise line, however, states that there are closed circuit video tapes documenting the overboard and an eye witness who allegedly confirms that Mr. Surwade jumped from the ship.  

What is one to make of this mess?  The family suspects foul play.  If another crew member saw him jump, why did the cruise line first tell the family that their son was "missing" and then mention "suicide" later?  Why did it take the cruise line 2 days to tell the family?

Adding to the confusion is that the first public account of this incident is in a newspaper in Aruba, Cruise Ship Overboard - Missing Crew Memberindicating that it was a passenger who committed suicide.  Another newspaper in Aruba indicates that the cruise ship first reported the incident around 11:00 p.m. on February 18th which, if true, would be 2 hours after the overboard.  Helicopters and a coast guard cutter from Aruba searched for 4 hours before ending the search with intentions of searching again at day light.      

An online website, "Cruise Bruise," speculates wildly that Mr. Surwade's disappearance may have been a drug-related murder.  As we reported,  Royal Caribbean crew members were smuggling large quantities of cocaine from South America aboard this cruise ship and there was a drug bust on the Grandeur of the Seas ship a few days later when the ship reached Montego Bay.  However, there is no indication that Mr. Sandip was involved in drug smuggling or a victim of violence by drug smugglers, and at this point there is no connection between his disappearance and the drug bust as suggested by others.

Nonetheless, we are  suspicious of most anything this cruise line says.  It suffers from a lack of transparency and the most unexplained disappearances and deaths of any cruise line. 

Did this crew member really commit suicide, which is the cruise line's favorite excuse?  Consider how cruise lines use the "suicide defense" as a public relations tool -  "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Also consider in the last year:

January 6. 2011: Another Passenger Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

November 30, 2010: Death of a Young Jamaican Cook on the Mega Ship Oasis of the Seas 

May 24, 2010: Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas

May 5, 2010: Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

March 22, 2010: "Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas

January 4, 2010: 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?

Sandip Surawade - Overboard - Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the SeasJanuary 1, 2010:  Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard

Determining the cause of cruise ship overboards and mysterious deaths is the role of experts - the F.B.I., sometimes the U.S. Coast Guard, or other law enforcement authorities - not the cruise lines' PR departments.   

But this case raises a more profound question.  Who investigates the circumstances of a crew member from India who goes overboard into waters around Aruba from a cruise ship flagged in the Bahamas and operated by a cruise line incorporated in Liberia?

This is a no man's land, where there are no clear answers - only self-serving statements by a cruise line with a reputation of being less than honest. 

 

Photo credits: 

Photographs   24ORA.com

Overboard drawing     CruelKev2's blog regarding overboard cruise passengers 

Screwed If By Sea - Cruise Lines Throw Workers Overboard When It Comes to Providing Urgent Medical Care

Every so often, I will read an article which reminds me why I practice maritime law and represent crew members from around the world.  Here is an article from Miami's New Times about several of our clients.  Although it was published several years ago, it reveals how cruise lines today mistreat crew members to try and save money.  

"Doran McDonald reached Miami International Airport at dawn, limping and hopping to a pay phone after his third flight in 24 hours. His right leg had been boiled, and the odor of decay oozed from his burned flesh. The top of his foot was a grapefruit-size blister, the stretched skin tight and shiny. McDonald hadn't been able to elevate his leg at all on the flights from Alaska to Vancouver, or from Vancouver to Los Angeles, or from L.A. to Miami. The swelling and pressure were excruciating and he was close to passing out from the pain. He was afraid the next two segments of his trip (Miami to Antigua, Antigua to St. Vincent) would be unbearable. Adding to his discomfort was the thought of Doran McDonald - Royal Caribbean Medical Carearriving in his native St. Vincent: His family lived two hours from the airport and didn't have a car; he had no idea how he'd get home. McDonald would arrive on the island on a Sunday morning. No doctor would see him for at least another day. 

McDonald, a small, soft-spoken 29-year-old, did what any man facing such obstacles would do: He called his mother.

Pearlie Hector was angry. She thought her son should never have boarded an airplane, that he should still be in the Juneau, Alaska, hospital where he had received preliminary medical care the day before. Most of all, she thought Doran was being mistreated by Royal Caribbean International, the cruise line he was working for when he was burned. Hector told her son to call Miami lawyer James Walker, who had represented another family member in a case against a cruise line years before, and she told him to go to a hospital in Miami.

McDonald's decision to stay and retain a lawyer resulted in his receiving a quality of medical care he wouldn't have had access to on St. Vincent, but it also prompted Royal Caribbean to set in motion the federal government's immigration policy machinery. Within a month McDonald would be languishing at Krome Detention Center.

The massive ocean liners that steam out of the Port of Miami almost every weekend look like whole city blocks torn free and headed for the Caribbean. Happy passengers, unmoored from daily responsibility for a weekend or more, lean against the rails beatifically smiling and waving to MacArthur Causeway motorists. It is a long way from the upper decks of a cruise ship to sea level, and no one knows that better than the workers who inhabit the lower stations of such a vessel.

Passages honeycomb the great ships' interiors, opening onto cavernous ballrooms and opulent luxury suites. Endless hallways of cabins each morning disgorge tourists who scurry to sprawling, dining rooms or outdoor bars next to bright-blue pools that shimmer in the sun like clear, antiseptic simulacra of the murkier ocean below. Deep in the bowels of a cruise liner are the smaller rooms with bunk beds where the workers live. Employees tend the engine, cook the food, and clean the Cruise Line Medical Care - Crew Memberpools. If they're lucky, they tend bar or wait tables. Others clean rooms and fluff pillows.

Some, like Doran McDonald, wake up in the middle of the night to make use of the only lull in the never-ending demand for food onboard a luxury liner. They file into the galleys and wipe every surface from counters to walls, cleaning the daily residue of bacon grease and chicken fat, sweeping up stray sprigs of parsley and shreds of lettuce from hastily thrown together salads.

McDonald, like many cruise line employees, is from a poor country. The big ships provide an inviting economic opportunity for men and women from Third World nations in Eastern Europe, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean.

The sailor had something else in common with his fellow galley workers when he rolled out of his bunk around midnight on May 20, 2002, pulled on rubber boots, and trudged into the kitchen to start cleaning: a desire to move up to a higher-paying job in the dining room. "When I work for Premier I am a waiter, and the money then was very good," McDonald says. "But when I go to Royal Caribbean, I start over again at the bottom."

McDonald was no stranger to shipboard living -- even for $500 a month, doing janitorial duty onboard a cruise ship was more remunerative than harvesting bananas in St. Vincent. McDonald had gone to work for Premier Cruise Line in 1998, and advanced from galley worker to waiter, a job in which he made more than $1000 a month and sent much of it home. But in 2000 Premier went bankrupt. McDonald started over at Royal Caribbean in 2002.

May 20 was only McDonald's second night onboard the Legend of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship cruising from Miami to Alaska via the Panama Canal, but he figured the work was routine. He would sweep and mop and scrub, and then go back to bed. He would mentally tote up his earnings and plan to send them to his mother in St. Vincent.

The kitchen was a mess, and McDonald says his supervisor told everyone to work quickly. Mops were handed out like rifles to infantrymen, and a crew of eight began hustling through their cleaning routine. McDonald picked up a pot full of oil from a fryer that had just been switched off. The pot was heavy and hot, and the oil made tiny shimmering waves as he labored to carry it to a Crew Member Medical Care - Cruise Linesink where he could dump and scour. Halfway to his destination, McDonald slipped. He felt nothing as the scalding liquid drained down inside the rubber boot on his right leg, but jolts of adrenalin shot through the numbness as the oil cooked his leg and the top of his foot.

His crewmates carried him to the ship's clinic, where he was given ibuprofen. Doctors decided to wait and observe the afflicted area in order to determine how bad the burn was.

This is where McDonald's story and Royal Caribbean's diverge. According to company policy, if an employee is taken to an emergency room, the attending doctor will determine what kind of care is appropriate and where and when such treatment should be given. But McDonald says that the ship's doctor already told him he would be sent home to St.Vincent before he was taken to the hospital in Juneau. In depositions taken later, cruise line employees claimed that they adhered to the policy.

Notes written by the emergency room doctor in Juneau indicate that McDonald believed already that he would be sent to St. Vincent.

The ER doctor's notes also make it clear that McDonald's burns were mostly second-degree, with the possibility of some third-degree burns, a direct refutation of Royal Caribbean's claim that McDonald only had second-degree burns and was, therefore, fit to travel. Royal Caribbean medical case manager Terri DeBrita, who admittedly didn't know if the doctor she was sending McDonald to in St. Vincent had any medical license, said in a deposition that other crew members had received satisfactory treatment for second-degree burns in St. Vincent, though she couldn't remember any such cases specifically.

On May 24, after four days of nothing but ibuprofen on board the ship, McDonald began his journey from Vancouver to Miami.

When McDonald called a lawyer at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, the attorney was annoyed. "I was in bed when I got the call from Mr. McDonald, and I thought, Jesus, what a hassle, you know?" says James Walker. "I thought it was probably nothing, but I knew his family, so I dragged myself out of bed."

Walker was aghast when he saw McDonald's foot. "The smell was disgusting," he remembers. "And it was obvious that he was in a lot of pain and needed immediate medical care. When I saw it I was hyperventilating." Walker took McDonald to South Miami Hospital, but not before meeting up with a photographer who documented McDonald's injuries. The blister on top of McDonald's foot ruptured in the emergency room.

After two days of treatment at South Miami Hospital, Walker arranged for McDonald to be checked into Baptist Hospital, into the care of a burn specialist who treated and observed McDonald for Jim Walker - Cruise Law - Maritime Lawyer  about a week before performing skin graft surgery on the badly burned foot.

In the meantime, Walker had informed Royal Caribbean that McDonald was being treated in Miami. This was, apparently, not to the company's liking. On June 4, Royal Caribbean's crew medical manager, David Blackwell, fired off a letter to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now part of the Department of Homeland Security) that put a decidedly unsympathetic spin on McDonald's decision to get his health care in the U.S. The letter stated, in part, that "upon his layover in Miami, (McDonald) was intercepted by an attorney, James Walker, and taken to South Miami Hospital." The letter also characterized McDonald's admission to Baptist Hospital and his skin graft surgery as "a move on the part of the attorney to keep the crewmember in Miami."

McDonald stayed in the hospital through July, receiving physical therapy for his leg and foot. The doctor prescribed a custom-fitted pressure sleeve for the newly grafted skin. Royal Caribbean had been talking to Walker about McDonald's INS requirements, asking that he present himself to an INS official so that he could ask to stay in the U.S. throughout the course of his medical rehabilitation. At this point, Walker was unaware of Blackwell's e-mail to INS, and while he was wary of Royal Caribbean's intent, he knew McDonald had to comply with the law and show up for the hearing. The cruise line arranged for transportation to an INS office in Miami. McDonald thought he'd be checking into a hotel somewhere in Miami after his INS appointment.

Instead, INS officials handcuffed McDonald and slapped shackles on his ankles. "I told the guy that it is paining me on my foot and I now have a skin graft and my foot is not cured, and he told me I must take my time and walk slowly," McDonald recalled in a deposition.

McDonald confesses that up to this point he still clung to the hope that he could go back to work on Legend of the Seas for Royal Caribbean. McDonald wasn't happy about missing work. He still owed money to an "agent," basically a cruise line recruiter, who charged McDonald $1500 for his job on Legend of the Seas. "I really just want to get my leg fixed, get back to work," says McDonald. He says he was frightened and confused by the immigration officials, and didn't know what he was signing when he signed a piece of paper admitting he was in the U.S. illegally, and that returning home would not put him in harm's way.

McDonald again sought advice from his mother.

Pearlie Hector called everyone she could, including St. Vincent's diplomatic representatives in Washington. After five days her son was released from jail. "I tried everything I could to get him out of there, but they wouldn't even let me leave his leg sleeve for the prison doctor," Walker says. "It was his mom who got him out." McDonald was released temporarily, and placed in a boarding house for foreign cruise workers. He continued medical treatment until his foot healed. Even with the skin graft, there is some scarring and discoloration, and he says it's a little stiff. "But I think it would be very much worse if I don't have the surgery," McDonald says.

After the cruise line refused to pay for much of his medical treatment, McDonald sued Royal Caribbean and won an undisclosed amount. "I'm not rich," he says, smiling. "But I'm okay."

The papers he signed prevented him from staying in the U.S. legally -- and from having a seaman's visa, which would enable him to go back to work for another cruise line. Meanwhile, though, McDonald has become engaged to be married to a Haitian woman who resides in the U.S. and has applied for citizenship. McDonald is in the States illegally, working with an immigration Cruise Ship Medical Care - Crew Member lawyer to regain his legal status. "It doesn't look good because of the paper I signed," he says.

Cruise ships, with crew from around the world, are often registered outside the U.S., allowing South Florida-based companies such as Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International to skirt some U.S. labor laws (Legend of the Seas, for example, is registered in Liberia). The jurisdictional jumble -- foreign nationals working on ships registered abroad and often operating in international waters -- creates a legal gray area that can work to the detriment of employees.

There are few industry watchdogs; this is no surprise given the disparate ethnic groups that work on cruise liners, the transient nature of employment (contracts for a single cruise are not uncommon), and the constant movement of the ships themselves. But those who do keep an eye on corporations such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean say that employees, especially foreign-born employees, are being funneled to cheap doctors in the Caribbean who provide sometimes inadequate care for cut-rate prices.

"We hear about it all the time," says Scott Brady, an inspector with the International Transport Workers' Federation in Cape Canaveral. "A lot of people don't want to complain, because they want to keep their jobs. This line of work is the only hope for some of the poorer people from the Caribbean and from Eastern Europe, so they want to stay on with whatever company they're with. But you hear the horror stories." ITF doesn't keep any statistical data on health care for cruise line employees -- in fact, an exhaustive search conducted by New Times couldn't turn up a single advocacy group or agency that keeps comprehensive information on the subject.

"I can't prove anything, industry-wide, except that the cases keep coming in, and I see, one by one, instances where these companies are overlooking an obligation to provide quality medical care in order to save money," says Brett Rivkind, an attorney with the Miami firm Rivkind, Pedraza and Margulies. "We think it's cost-saving in terms of treatment, and also to avoid workers pursuing claims here in the U.S. They try to cover that up by saying "We're sending them to their hometown,' as if there's sentimental value that counts for something."

Carnival Cruise - Crew Member Medical Care Carnival settled such a case with Rivkind client Francisco Romero in August. "We had a case where a Carnival worker needed cataract surgery. He was using a Miami ophthalmologist, and the cruise line said, "No, no, we want to send him home to Honduras,'" Rivkind recounts. "The ophthalmologist in Honduras had just had a baby, and her husband was studying to be an ophthalmologist, so she just let him do the surgery." Fifty-year-old Romero, a long-time Carnival employee, lost his eye in 2000, and filed suit in June 2001. Carnival fought the suit for more than two years. "It's not enough they let this happen, when they could easily have gotten him a good surgeon in the U.S., but then they fought us tooth and nail when he tried to get compensation," Rivkind says. The settlement included a nondisclosure clause, so he can't reveal the amount Carnival paid Romero.

"These companies are making decisions regarding crew members' medical conditions on a legal basis and a financial basis, rather than a medical basis," Rivkind avers.

U.S. immigration policy makes it easier to send foreign-born crew members to second-rate doctors in Third World countries, according to Rivkind and others. Foreign-born crew members need medical visas to receive treatment on U.S. soil. Medical visas are usually good for 30 days, and if a crew member needs an extension, the employer must produce documented proof of the need for further treatment. In some cases, Homeland Security requires that the crew member be produced in person. This arrangement can work out to the employers' advantage if the crew member is fighting to receive medical treatment in the U.S. "Look, it's impossible to prove collusion," says Rivkind. "But I've had calls from these companies saying, "Yeah, sure, we'll get him the treatment he needs, but we have to produce him for an immigration hearing first, so he can stay in the country. It won't be a problem.' Next thing I know, the guy's being shipped home where he's likely to get god-only-knows what kind of care."

Royal Caribbean officials deny taking advantage of crew members. Blackwell, the crew medical manager, says that Royal Caribbean employs about 36,000 people, and takes good care of the 400 or so on medical leave around the world at any given time. But, he says, the company has to follow immigration rules. In the U.S., medical parole for foreign-born crew members is difficult to arrange since September 11, 2001 (Department of Homeland Security officials did not return phone calls asking about interaction with cruise lines).

"Immediately after 9/11 it was very difficult (to get medical parole for injured crew members) because of security," Blackwell says. "Then things kind of eased up a little. Recently, it's gotten more difficult again."

Blackwell says that medical parole in the U.S. is determined by immigration officials based on a doctor's evaluation. He also says the company can be fined up to $50,000 for violating immigration laws. He refused to comment on specific cases, but when pressed by New Times about his e-mail alerting INS that Doran McDonald had been "intercepted by an attorney" at Miami International Airport, Blackwell offered this hypothetical situation: "Our obligation as a company is, if a crew Brett Rivkind - Maritime Lawyermember is in transit and in the process they arrive in Miami to change planes and they do not make the flight, we have an obligation as a company to let INS know that a crew member has jumped ship, essentially."

Rivkind admits that, post-9/11, more stringent adherence to U.S. immigration laws makes it harder for cruise lines to keep injured crew members for treatment in the U.S. "But I think they're using that, as well. They used to have an ability to keep these guys on medical parole if they wanted to. With immigration changes, I believe it is more difficult, but I think the cruise lines also take advantage of that."

While Blackwell was willing to speak to New Times -- though not about any specific cases -- weeks of back-and-forth with South Florida's other cruise line giant, Carnival Cruise Lines, resulted in an anemic e-mail response. Spokesperson Jennifer De La Cruz wrote that no information on the number of crew members the company employs was available, nor was there any available information on the number of crew members receiving medical treatment, in the U.S. or elsewhere.

ITF's Brady says that the cruise industry is notorious for pressuring employees to avoid making waves, even when their health is at stake. "I can't prove it because all I get is word of mouth," he says. "Every once in a while someone gets a lawyer, but they always include nondisclosure agreements in their settlements. And if word gets back to a cruise line that an employee is speaking with a union representative about these kinds of issues, they'd be fired from their jobs and probably blacklisted."

There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence of medical malfeasance by cruise lines. Brady has stories, and Walker and Rivkind each have had several clients with similar tales of woe. One of them, 28-year-old Azumi Sagara, is actually a U.S. citizen who says Royal Caribbean employees tried to delay her access to an emergency room until the ship she was on traveled to Nassau, and then refused to pay for her medical care. Sagara was an ice skater on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. As the ship lumbered toward Port Canaveralon March 27, Sagara found herself doubled over in pain. "Something in my abdomen really hurt -- I didn't know what it was, but I knew I needed to see a doctor." She was told she was probably pregnant. When a quick test proved otherwise, the ship's medic said she probably had an infection. "The doctor gave me some pills and told me to come back in a week," Sagara says.

By 9:00 p.m. the pain was so severe, she knew she'd have to go to the emergency room when the ship docked in Port Canaveral the next day. That night she called a nurse, asking for a referral from the doctor to seek medical treatment in Port Canaveral the next day. "She said, 'I can't call the doctor for that, you'll have to wait until tomorrow.'"

Sagara knew that would likely mean she couldn't get treatment in the U.S. Crew members only had two opportunities to get off the ship in Port Canaveral: before the passengers started leaving at 7:30 a.m., and after all passengers had disembarked, at noon. Sagara knew that a trip to the doctor would mean she'd have to wait until noon to get off the ship, and she was in too much pain to do that. "And at that point, I thought maybe I could get back onboard that day, but we had to be back by 3:45 p.m., so waiting until noon would pretty much put that out of reach," Sagara says. She decided to get off the ship and to the emergency room by any means necessary. "The ship's security officer wouldn't let me off," she says. "I said, 'I'm in a lot of pain, I need to go to the ER.' While I was signing off, he told me to wait until we got to Nassau." Eventually, she made a break for it. "I ran past the security officer and got to the immigration guy. The security officer was saying,'She's not cleared, she's not cleared.' I said, "I need medical attention.' The immigration guy said, 'I can't stop you from going to your own country.'"

Doctors in the ER told Sagara she had pelvic inflammatory disease, and ruptured ovarian cysts with some internal bleeding. "They said I had to see a specialist immediately," she says. Sagara flew home to California, received a week's worth of medical care, and returned to the Mariner on April 4 after missing one week of work. She worked for Royal Caribbean for the duration of her contract, until May 2.

Calin Ioan, a Romanian citizen, formerly a bartender aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas and also a client of Walker's, is lucky to be alive. Walker filed suit on Ioan's behalf after the 28-year-old repeatedly went to the ship's doctor with complaints of ear pain, starting in the summer of 2002. According to Walker, Ioan was given ibuprofen and sent back to work. The Enchantment docked at Port Everglades every weekend, but Ioan claims that the ship's doctor would only allow him to see a physician in St. Thomas in September 2002. That doctor gave Ioan a nasal spray and some ear drops.

Eventually, the doctor in St. Thomas suspected something more was wrong with Ioan and, in January 2003, recommended a CT scan and biopsy. The ship's doctor wrote an e-mail to David Blackwell and Ioan's medical case manager, Bill Sera, summing up the St. Thomas doctor's suspicions. The doctor also suggested that they wait until Ioan's contract ended on January 20 and arrange for him to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist once he returned to Romania. The shipboard physician, Bernhard Van Staden, ends his e-mail with overdue compassion: "I would like this to be sorted out, as he has been going with his problem for quite some time."

By the time Romanian doctors detected the tumor in Ioan's throat (on February 2, 2003), it had reached Stage IV -- the final stage of cancerous growth -- and had spread too far to be removed surgically. Radiation and chemotherapy have beaten the cancer into remission, but they also rendered Ioan unable to work. He has been living with his mother since his return. His medical bills mounted, and he says that Royal Caribbean will only pay for some of his treatment costs. He retained Walker, and is suing for his living bills and all medical expenses from the time of his arrival in Romania. Royal Caribbean officials wouldn't comment on his case."

 

Article credit:  Forrest Norman, Miami New Times

Photo credit:  Jonathon Postal

Diagram credit:  CruiseBruise.com

 

Have a comment?  Please leave one below. 

 

Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Monika MarkiewiczNelson Perez Torres, age 24, reportedly confessed to striking Royal Caribbean crew member Monika Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean, according to the chief prosecutor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo where Cozumel is located.

As we reported in a prior article, Ms. Monika Markiewicz, a 32-year-old Polish musician who worked aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship was found last Saturday in the waters off the southern part of Cozumel.  Her employer, Royal Caribbean Cruises, indicated that she was a victim of foul play.  

This morning, Royal Caribbean took the unusual step of issuing a statement via PR Newswire, claiming that the killer and Ms. Markiewicz were "casually acquainted for several months."  The cruise line also made a point of characterizing the crime as "isolated and uncharacteristic" for Cozumel."  Royal Caribbean also congratulated its security department for assisting in the investigation which led to the arrest of the alleged killer.

Meanwhile, a newspaper in Mexico Por Esto is reporting that the parents of Mr. Torres are complaining that their son had been falsely accused of the crime and allegedly intimidated into a confession.  Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Monika MarkiewiczThey claim that he had never been in trouble before and he had worked at a bar near the cruise pier for the past eight years.  They claim that because they are a humble family of little means, their son was railroaded into a confession.  Friends and family members picketed at the pier with signs saying Mr. Torres is innocent.   

There are several Mexican newspapers indicating that Mr. Torres gave different statements to the police, initially stating that he did not know Ms. Markiewicz and had never seen her, or that they had walked together to a location and he left after she resisted his advances, or that she had slipped and then he hit her with a rock to end her suffering.   

 

Photo credits:    Por Esto newspaper

Another Royal Caribbean Death In Cozumel

The AP is reporting that a second person has died after arriving in Cozumel on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship last Friday, February 4, 2011.  We previously reported on the death of Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, whose body was recovered Saturday from the sea off of Cozumel and is believed to be the victim of foul play.

The AP reports that a 24-year-old American tourist died Monday in a Cancun hospital from internal bleeding "after ingesting a safety pin that punctured her organs."

Samantha Page (Paige) ThomasThe state prosecutor in Quintana Roo, where both Cancun and Cozumel are located, apparently released two different names for the woman neither of which were released by the AP.  The prosecutor also released information regarding the dead woman's medical history and autopsy findings.  A patient apparently has no medical privacy rights in Mexico.

The passenger's death is apparently completely unrelated to the death of crew member Ms. Markiewicz.

We have reported on six deaths of Royal Caribbean passengers and crew members in the last 10 days.

February 9, 2011 Update:  The Latin America Herald Tribune identifies the cruise passenger as Ms. Samantha Page Thomas (this article confuses the name of the cruise passenger and crew member).  A newspaper in Mexico also identifies the passenger and contains a strange explanation of events.  A press conference of the Mexican prosecutor is available on line.  Warning, the video contains graphic post mortem images of Ms. Paige as well as a photograph of Ms. Markiewicz  face down in the water when she was found.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico

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

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

Her body was recovered on Saturday.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources:

Mexican Vacation Awareness

 

Photo credits:  

Top - Runekrem Flickr page

Bottom - AP Photo/Angel Castellanos

 

Accident on Oasis of the Seas Seriously Injures Crew Member

Cruise Law News has been contacted by two passengers this weekend, inquiring about a serious accident which occurred on the Oasis of the Seas.  The passengers are describing the incident as occurring during a crew fire drill while the cruise ship was at the port in Cozumel last Thursday, January 27th.  A crew member was badly injured and taken from the cruise ship by a medical team.

The captain of the Oasis made a number of announcements indicating that the crew member was in critical condition and underwent surgery.

 If you were you on the cruise and have pertinent information, please feel free to leave a message below.

January 29, 2011:  We received information that the accident occurred "during the mandatory drill an oxygen tank cracked and hit a crew member on the head.  Safety officer broke his leg."    

January 30, 2011 Update: a passenger comments below that a defective oxygen tank used during the fire drills 'took off like a rocket' and hit the crew member in the head and he was taken to Miami for emergency medical treatment.  

January 31, 2011 Update:  a cruise insider informs us that the Royal Caribbean crew member died on January 29, 2011.

Holland America Crew Member Killed In Life Boat Mishap

A 29 year old crew member died during a botched life boat training exercise in New Zealand today. 

According to newspapers in New Zealand, the accident occurred when crew members from Holland America Line's Volendam cruise ship were practicing life boats drills.  One of the wires attaching the lifeboat to the cruise ship snapped, throwing the two HAL crew members into the water in Lyttelton Harbor.  One of the crew members was rescued, but the other man who was wearing heavy clothing and boots went under water and did not reappear.  The crew members were reportedly not wearing a life jacket.

HAL has not released the name of the deceased crew member. 

January 9, 2011 Update:

We received a comment (below) from the Medical Officer on the HAL cruise ship, expressing his/her condolences.  We appreciate hearing from cruise line like this.  It shows compassion.  This is the first time in 500 blog articles that a cruise line has posted a comment on our blog following a crew member death or injury. 

A newspaper in New Zealand has a follow up article on the crew member death - "Liner Crew Traumatized by Shipmate's Drowning" - indicating that the cruise ship's 600 crew members were "obviously traumatised by the whole thing . . .  they all know each other pretty well, so they are quite upset."

More Caribbean Cruise Crime - Crew Member Shot in St. Marteen

The international press is reporting that Gahadhar Pradhan, a crew member (waiter) from P&O's Aurora cruise ship, was pistol-whipped over the head and shot during a mugging while ashore in Philipsburg, on the Caribbean island of St Maarten. 

We first learned of the incident via Crew Member Shot - Caribbean Violence - Cruise Shipone of our favorite cruise blogs by Captain Greybeard in the U.K. 

The crew member was shot in the buttocks, while apparently in an area consisting of "gentleman's clubs," which may tend to make the crime a tad tawdry or humorous depending on how you would like to view it.  

But a matter like this is deadly serious, particularly considering that the local police said "crew members from visiting cruise ships had been attacked on a number of occasions . . . "   This apparently was the first time a crew member had been shot. 

The best source for the story is a local newspaper in St. Maarten, which contains photos (left) of the crime scene.   

We have written many blog posts about violence, and murders, involving cruise passengers and crew members in the Caribbean islands -  Crimes in the Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call.   Just last week, NBC ran a story on the Today Show about crimes against cruise tourists in the Caribbean islands.  

  

 Photo credit:  St. Martin News Network

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Found Dead on Oasis of the Seas

A Royal Caribbean crew member was found dead in his cabin on the mega-ship Oasis of the Seas on November 26th.  A local television station in Miami, CBS-4, identifies the crew member as a cook.

 According to a statement from the cruise line, the crew member is a 33-year old Jamaican man. 

"As is our standard procedure, both the FBI and local law enforcement were notified and responding to the ship on Saturday when it arrived at Port Everglades."

Oasis of the seas - Death - Crew member - Royal CaribbeanThis is the second death of a crew member aboard the Oasis of the Seas this year.   In May, 45 year old Dillon Roache, of St. Vincent, jumped overboard in an apparent suicide. 

Royal Caribbean has experienced a high number of crew members deaths this year. In May we reported on Royal Caribbean crew member Satianand (Satyanand) Buddaru who disappeared from the Explorer of the Seas -  Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.  In March a crew member employed by Park West Gallery jumped overboard from the Radiance of the Seas.  Our stories about the incident are available here: "Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas and here Master of Radiance of the Seas Praised for Rapid Response to Crew Overboard.   On New Year's Eve Royal Caribbean crew member Neha Chhikara jumped from the Monarch of the Seas

It is currently unknown whether this incident involved a death by natural causes (highly unusual with a 33 year old man), a suicide or foul play.

If you have information about this incident, please leave a comment below.  

The Right Way To Report A Sad Cruise Story

A Carnival crew member went overboard around 1:00 a.m. yesterday from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship.  According to crew members, the crew member jumped.  Unfortunately, despite a prompt search, the crew member was lost.

The incident was not reported by Carnival's corporate headquarters, nor was the incident reported by the press.  Instead the first person to report on it was a popular Cruise Director, John Heald, who was aboard the cruise ship at the time of the tragic incident.  Mr. Heald is employed as Senior Cruise Director - John Heald Carnival's Senior Cruise Director and writes a very popular blog named, naturally enough, John Healds Blog

The article Mr. Heald wrote - A Very Sad Day -  explains what happened in a clear and sensitive manner.  You will not find any hint in the blog of the stiff corporate mumbo-jumbo which we see from most cruise lines.  One of the problems cruise lines face is that they are afraid to reveal tragedies like this.  When they say nothing, or delay, or sugar coat ugly facts, they lose credibility at best or look like they are hiding things at worst.

But Mr. Heald's informative and respectful blog timely explained the circumstances which brought the cruise ship to a stop in the middle of the night.  It avoided speculation and conspiracy theories. It was the right thing to do.  Over a hundred readers commented, almost all 100% in support of the thoughts expressed in his article. 

Over 140 people have gone overboard in the last decade.  This is the first time I have seen such a prompt statement of a crew or passenger overboard by anyone associated with the cruise line which contained accurate and timely information and also conveyed the story in human terms. 

The industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association, should invite all of the public relations and corporate communications experts from all of the other cruise lines to a cruise with Senior Cruise Director Heald so they can watch a real pro in action.       

 

Photo credit:   Carnival-News.com

Jury Hits Royal Caribbean With $1.7 Million Verdict for Injured Crew Member

A jury reached a verdict yesterday in the amount of $1,700,000 against cruise giant, Royal Caribbean Cruises, here in Miami.  The crew member is a musician who slipped on stage and suffered an injured shoulder which required surgery and ended his music career.

The Miami Herald reports on the case this morning, explaing that the defense lawyers for the cruise line suggested to the jury that they award less than $130,000 for the crew member's injuries.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship VerdictThe case is now being discussed on USA TODAY 's Cruise Log, a popular cruise blog frequented mostly by cruise fans.  The type of comments on this website are often in defense of the cruise industry.  You will often read comments that a verdict like this will cause cruise fares to increase.

The fact of the matter is that Royal Caribbean will collect over $6,000,000,000 (billion $) from its passengers this year.  It will pay $0 in Federal taxes because it registered its business in Liberia and flies flags of foreign countries to avoid taxes, safety laws, and wage regulations.  It is also part of an international "Protection and Indemnity" insurance group with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets.

The verdict will have no effect on the cruise line or any of its cruise passengers.  

Royal Caribbean is considered by many to be the worst cruise line in Miami regarding the mistreatment of ill or injured crew members.  Take a moment and read:

Royal Caribbean Cruises - An Epidemic of Sick, Injured & Neglected Crew Members

Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft

Leave a comment below if you agree or disagree. 

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

A member of Cruise Critic sailing aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas cruise ship is commenting that a crew member apparently went overboard from the cruise ship last night.  There is a suggestion by those on the cruise ship that the crew member is a waiter and may have jumped. 

We reported earlier this year on two other crew members who jumped from Royal Caribbean cruise ships.  On December 31, 2009 we posted the article " Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard" involving an apparent suicide of Royal Caribbean crew member Neha Chhikara who jumped from the Monarch of the Seas.  Her case involved allegations that her husband, Ankit Delal, also working on the cruise ship, physically and emotionally abused her.

Explorer of the Seas - OverboardIn March, another crew member jumped from Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas.  You can read about that incident here:  "Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas.   We reported that the Master of the  cruise ship responded quickly; however, the crew member (an employee of Park West Gallery) did not survive - "Master of Radiance of the Seas Praised for Rapid Response to Crew Overboard."

It is currently unknown whether the crew member was rescued.  139 people have gone overboard from cruise ships in the last ten years, according to Professor Ross Klein's Cruise Junkie web site.

We will update the article as more information becomes available.  Were you on the cruise or have information to share?  Please leave a comment below. 

May 6, 2010 Update:

FoxNews.com is reporting that the U.S. Coast Guard is conducting a search for the 26 year old crew member 138 miles north of the coastal town of Isabela, Puerto Rico.  

Royal Caribbean's PR spokesperson Cynthia Martinez is quoted as saying that an after-the-fact review of closed circuit television tapes (CCTV) reveals the crew member lowering himself over the side of the cruise ship around 8:15 p.m. last night.  However, a passenger commenting on the Cruise Critic web sites indicates that the ship did not turn to search for the crew members until around 10:20 p.m. - around two hours later.

These types of incidents reveal security deficiencies on cruise ships.  If a crew member can lower himself over the rail and into the water without being spotted by security or detected by cameras, a terrorist can just as easily come over the rail and onto the ship without being detected. 

Does anyone on the Royal Caribbean cruise ships monitor the exterior cameras? 

We have reported on this problem on other Royal Caribbean overboards - "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? "

May 7, 2010 Update - Search begins:

The Coast Guard News reports that Coast Guard watchstanders in San Juan received a call at approximately 9:15 p.m. Wednesday from the cruise ship Explorer of the Seas reporting the incident.

Coast Guard rescue crews then began searching for the man overboard.  The Coast Guard deployed a HU-25 Falcon jet crew from Air Station Miami, a C-130 aircraft from Air Station Clearwater, and Coast Guard Cutters Matinicus and Chincoteague (110-foot patrol boats) homeported in San Juan.

May 7, 2010 Update - Comments by family:

The brother and sister of the crew member have left comments below, seeking information and an explanation regarding what happened.  We hope that the cruise line will provide the necessary information and assistance.  Condolences to the Buddaru Family. 

May 8, 2010 Update - Search ends:

According to the Daily Sun newspaper in Puerto Rico, the Coast Guard suspended its search for the crew member yesterday morning at "about 7 a.m.”  A Coast Guard spokesperson said "regrettably we did not find him alive."  

 May 8, 2010 - Crew member identified:

A newspaper Defi Media Group is reporting that the Royal Caribbean crew member is Satianand (Satyanand) Buddaru, age 26, whose family lives on the island of Mauritius.  The newspaper suggests that he worked as a bartender on the cruise ship, although most comments indicate that he was a waiter or assistant waiter.  His sister, Anuradha, stated that she spoke to him "on the telephone Wednesday Satianand Buddaru - Satyanand Buddarumorning.  It seemed normal.  He had no personal problem."

May 9 Update - Passengers applaud Master and crew: 

Passengers aboard the cruise ship are commenting that the cruise ship responded promptly and the crew handled themselves profesionally during this difficult experience. 

A newspaper in Mauritius LexPress.mu reports that Mr. Buddaru had worked for three years for Royal Caribbean.  

May 10, 2010 Update:

Defi Media in Mauritius has an article today on Mr. Buddaru's disappearance, and incudes a photograph (above right) of the young man.

May 11, 2010 Update:

A newspaper in the cruise ship's home port in New Jersey is reporting that the FBI is investigating the incident.  The article also mentions that crew members reported Mr. Buddaru missing around 8:40 p.m.  The Coast Guard issued a statement that they were notified around 9:15 p.m.  The CCTV images apparently show the crew member going overboard at 8:13 p.m.

 

Credits

Photo of Explorer of the Seas       Luke Redmond's Fickr photostream

Photograph of Ms. Buddaru  DefiMedia Mauritius

Reason No. 7 Not to Cruise: Cruise Lines Exploit Foreign Crew Members, Like You'd Never Believe

Cruise Critic ran an article a couple of weeks ago about the Top 10 Reasons To Cruise.  I responded with my article "Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruise."  I previously addressed the first six  reasons not to cruise, which are at the bottom of this article.*

The purpose of this series is not to convince you not to cruise, but to educate consumers regarding the dangers inherent in and the consequences of cruising.  I'm not your big brother, trust me.  It you want to cruise, that's entirely your business and none of mine.   But at least educate yourself before you take your family on a vacation you may regret.  

St. Vincent - Royal Caribbean - Exploitation - Crew MemberThe 7th reason not to cruise may not leave much of an impression on most of my American readers because it involves "foreign crew members" who most passengers will never meet.

Our firm and clients have been featured over a hundred times on every major television station, cable news network, radio, newspaper and magazine in the U.S. and abroad.  But the news sources are interested almost exclusively in crimes or injuries involving U.S. passengers.  An injured or victimized crew member from Jamaica, India, or Nicaragua is usually of no interest to U.S. reporters.

The exception was several years ago when The Miami New Times ran a story "Screwed If By Sea - Cruise Lines Throw Workers Overboard When It Comes to Providing Urgent Medical Care."

The article focused on one of our crew member clients from the little island of St. Vincent who, after suffering second and third degree burns on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing to Alaska - was sent by Royal Caribbean on a journey from Alaska to Los Angeles to Miami to Barbados to St. Vincent - as part of a plan by the cruise line Royal Caribbean to abandon him in a third world country with no medical treatment. 

Take a moment and read the article.

You will smell the crew member's rotting flesh half way through the article.

Is "evil," or "diabolical," or "criminal" too strong of a word for this degree of corporate malfeasance?  I suppose it depends if it involved you - or a "foreign" crew member. 

The exploitation of crew members, particularly "utility cleaners" who often work 360 hours a month for around $540 a month, continues.  Last year we addressed the problem in an articles entitled:

"Titanic Dreams" - Royal Caribbean Wins "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award; and

Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft.

There are few Americans who would cruise if they knew how poorly the cruise lines treat their crew members.  The absolute worst cruise lines which abuse their crew members are Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises - the only winners of Cruise Law News' popular "Worst Cruise Line In The World Award."

Read the first six reasons not to cruise and then add this article into the mix.  Are you really going to cruise with your family on one of these foreign-flagged cruise ships which exploit the souls of the hard working men and women from Jamaica, India, Nicaragua and St. Vincent?

 

Tomorrow - Reason No. 8 Not To Cruise: Blackwater, Blackwater, Blackwater

 

Credits:   Jim Walker's Cruise Law Flickr Page 

 

*Cruise Law News' Last  6 Reasons Not To Cruise 

No. 1: Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

No. 2: Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It!

No. 3: Carnival, Royal Caribbean And NCL Are Corporate Felons

No. 4: If You Are A Victim On A Cruise Ship, The Cruise Line Will Treat You Like A Criminal

No. 5: If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless

No. 6: If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

Update On Death of Royal Caribbean Crew Member Neha Chhikara

Neha Chhikara - Ankit Dalal - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship OverboardA newspaper in India is reporting that there are developments in the sad case of Neha Chhikara, who died after going overboard from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Monarch of the Seas on New Year's Eve.  Ms. Chhikara was sailing aboard the cruise ship with her husband, Ankit Dalal, who is described as working on the Monarch as a "manager" of some type.  She was about to start working as a guest relations manager.

Ms. Chhikara's family accuses Mr. Dalal and his family of abusing their daughter as part of a "dowry dispute."  She is alleged to have jumped overboard because she could not stand the physical and emotional abuse caused by her husband.  In return, the Dalal family accused their daughter-in-law of being emotionally imbalanced.  We have written many articles about the incident.

The Sify News is now reporting that a "vigilance department" in India, which is investigating the complaint of "harassment for dowry," has received a report from "U.S. officials" regarding the death.  It is less than clear who in the U.S. is investigating Ms. Chhikara's death; perhaps it is the FBI.  The newspaper mentions that the U.S. report allegedly "indicts" Mr. Dalal, at least according to the Chhikara family. 

It is also unclear why the U.S. is investigating an incident involving two Indian nationals on a foreign flagged cruise ship in international waters.  Uncertainty of who will take jurisdiction is one of the problems which families of crew members face when their loved ones disappear from cruise ships.  

Update:

The Indian Express reports that the report was a "joint report" by the the "U.S. authorities and the Bahamas government." 

The Monarch is registered in Nassau, Bahamas and the cruise ship was sailing from Nassau to CocoCay, Bahamas at the time of her disappearance overboard.  There is no information being reported now that was not contained in the initial reports of the incident.  See our report on January 1, 2010 - Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard.

 

Credits:

Photograph of Neha Chhikara and Ankit Dalal           FaceBook    

Master of Radiance of the Seas Praised for Rapid Response to Crew Overboard

In most cases involving overboard passengers and crew, the cruise line faces criticism that it failed to respond quickly to the emergency.  Cruise lines are often guilty of trying to bamboozle the passengers after-the-fact and act like nothing happened.

So with the recent tragedy of a crew member jumping overboard from Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas, we were expecting the usual criticisms from both passengers and crew that the situation was handled poorly.  But instead, we have received calls and emails that the cruise ship Master - Captain Eric Tengelsen - Royal Caribbean - Radiance of the Seasresponded rapidly to the crisis.  The officers on the bridge quickly slowed the cruise ship and turned the vessel to begin rescue efforts.  The crew member was back on the cruise ship within 18 - 20 minutes.  Unfortunately, the crew member died notwithstanding the rescue efforts.

The Master of the cruise ship - Eric Tengelsen - was also praised for being informative and sincere with the passengers about what was happening.

Here are some comments we received from passengers aboard the cruise ship:

From Catherine: "The ship's Captain was very honest and forthcoming coming with all the information."

From Esther:  "The Captain was very thoughtful and straightforward when he announced he was pleased that within 18-20 minutes they were able to rescue the man.  What a great response.  We were all relieved but the next day, heard the Captain announce that the man died after 1 1/2 hours of CPR.  We were so sad but glad that the Captain was honest with us. Our prayers go out to this man's family."

From Susan: "A heroic effort by the crew.  The event was handled respectfully by the Captain who was honest and forthcoming.  Very sad that he wasn't able to ask for help.  I was very impressed by the staff from day one to 10."         

The Cruise Critic website has similar comments praising Captain Tengelsen's handling of this very sad situation.

Condolences to the crew member's family and loved ones.   

 

Credits:

Master Tengelsen                      Mike and Carol's Vacation Vacation Reviews (thepreismans.com)

"Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas

According to the cruise community site Cruise Line Fans, a "man overboard" was  reported at 8:00 p.m. last night from Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas cruise ship. Here is the account:

"At about 8pm last night the call was heard OSCAR! OSCAR! OSCAR! PORT SIDE!  The ship shook as it slowed done and turned around.  Flashing buoy rings could be seen in the distance.  The rescue boats was quickly launched.  Within 20 minutes CPR was being conducted on a Radiance of the Seas - Crew - Overboardman being brought back onboard."

If this account is accurate, the good news is that the overboard was reported right away and the cruise ship responded quickly.

No one else has published information about this latest cruise overboard.  The news was first released via the Twitter page of @CruiseLine Fans.

Do you have information regarding this latest overboard?  If so, please leave a comment below.

Update:

A reader commented below that a crew member jumped, apparently an employee of the art concessionaire. 

 

Creidts:

Radiance of the Seas      Wikipedia

Costa Europa Collides With Pier in Egypt - Three Crew Dead, Passengers Injured

Newspapers are reporting that the Costa Europa cruise ship collided with a pier in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt yesterday.  The collision ripped a hole in the hull of the ship and flooded a crew cabin, resulting in the death of three crew member who, unidentified, are described as "an Indian, a Honduran and a Brazilian."  (Technically speaking, when a vessel strikes a pier, it is called an "allision" - "collisions" occur between vessels). 

Costa Europa Collision - Egypt - Passenger and Crew Injury and DeathFour other people were injured.  Some reports indicate that another crewmember and three British women passengers were injured.  Other newspapers say that four passengers were injured. 

Pursuant to the terms of the passenger's cruise tickets, if the passengers need to make a claim for medical expneses and compensation, they are required to make their claim in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

Cruise line officials are quoted as saying that "strong winds" pushed the cruise into a pier as it tried to dock at the port.

It seems that every time a cruise ship hits a dock, the cruise lines blame it on the wind as opposed to poor seamanship at the helm.   

The cruise ship was sailing on an 18-day cruise from Dubai to Savona.

The photographs of the Costa Europe show the vessel listing heavily on its port side, in order to keep water ouring into the large opening on the starboard side. 

A photograph of the extensive damage to the crew quarters in shown is an article in the U.K. Sun newspaperCosta Europa - Damage to Crew Cabin - Collision

The passengers were disembarked, and Costa Crociere is arranging for them to be flown back to their countries of origin.

 

Credits:

 

Costa Europa  cruise ship -  AP (Hussien Talal) via Mail Online

Damage to crew cabin of  Costa Europa - U.K. Sun Newspaper

 

 

 

Cruise Law Services for Passengers and Crew Members

Cruise ship accidents, injuries, crimes, disappearances, fires, and collisions on the high seas involve issues of maritime law.  Jim Walker graduated from law school in 1983 and has been handling maritime law cases for the past thirty-one years. He handles a wide variety of cases from serious injuries to the highest profile sexual assault and cruise crime cases.

Cruise Passenger Injuries and Accidents - Carnival - Royal Caribbean - Jim focuses his maritime law practice on representing cruise passengers and crew members in cases against cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America Line, Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line among others. 

The firm handles cases on a "contingency" basis - meaning that you do not send us a retainer and we do not bill you for our fees or expenses. 

We advance all costs and are reimbursed for our time and costs only if we are successful in reaching a settlement or we win the case for you. 

PASSENGER CASES:

Jim's firm represents passengers throughout the United States, Canada, England and Europe.  95% of his U.S. clients live outside of Florida, from New York to California.  

Jim handles the following types of cases: 

  • Slip and fall accidents on wet decks, buffet floors, and slippery pool decks. 
  • Sexual assaults on cruise ships, by crew members or other passengers.
  • Physical assaults and battery, often due to intoxicated passengers.
  • Overboard passengers and “disappearances” at sea.
  • Injuries during shore excursions.
  • Injuries and deaths on tour excursion vehicles and open "safari" buses.  
  • Injuries while boarding tenders to and from the cruise ships.
  • Cruise ship catastrophes - fires, sinkings and collisions.
  • Injuries and deaths arising from terrorist and pirate attacks.

CREW MEMBERS CASES

Jim has handled many hundreds of cases against cruise lines like Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Oceania, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Silversea.  The types of cases include:  

  • Delayed and improper medical care on the cruise ship.
  • Failure to provide medical treatment ashore.
  • Jim Walker - Cruise Ship Law - Maritime Law MiamiMedical negligence by doctors hired by the cruise lines in foreign countries
  • Failure to pay wages and living expenses in a timely manner.
  • Abandoning the crew member in their home country after becoming injured or ill.
  • Neck, shoulder and back injuries to waiters due to lifting heavy trays.
  • Slip and falls in the galley.
  • Injuries to stateroom attendants.
  • Accidents handling luggage during embarkation day.
  • Sexual harassment and sexual assault.     

Jim is handling cases of crew members from countries like Jamaica, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Nicaragua, Serbia, Croatia, India, Canada, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.

With recent widespread incidents of cruise ship fires, collisions and sinkings, the world-wide media has called upon Jim for legal commentary and analysis.  In 2013 alone, Jim has appeared in over 150 television, cable news, radio, documentary, and newspaper articles and programs