Ebola on the High Seas: Will the New Cruise Health Questionnaire Work?

The cruise industry finally instituted Ebola-specific protocols after the highly publicized incident yesterday when a healthcare worker from Dallas was discovered to be on a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean. 

TravelPulse published an article discussing the new protocols Cruise Industry Adopts Stricter Ebola Screenings.

Cruise lines like Carnival are finally asking cruise passengers whether they have come into contact with an Ebola patient or worked at a healthcare facility where such a person was treated, within the Cruise Ebolalast 21 days. Cruise lines are also finally inquiring whether the passengers have visited Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone within the last three weeks.  It was a glaring error not to have such a basic protocol before yesterday.    

But there is a problem with the questionnaire. It doesn't address what happens if a passenger checks "yes" to these questions.  

Obviously the questions are designed to bar the passenger and his companions from traveling on the cruise ship. The issue remains will the passenger's cruise fare and travel expenses be refunded? Will the cruise passengers receive a full cruise credit?

We know from norovirus cases that many cruise passengers, although they are symptomatic, refuse to disclose that they have a fever and a runny nose. They then get on the cruise ship and infect others. 

Many passengers are inherently selfish. They have planned the cruise far in advance. They have obtained vacation time from work and blocked a week of "family time." They have looked forward to the cruise for many months. They have flown or driven long distances to the cruise port at considerable expense. They realize that they will be barred from embarking and their vacation will be ruined if they provide full and complete answers about their health.  

Cruise lines are inherently selfish too. Although they collect literally billions and billions each year and pay no U.S. income tax, cruise lines are notoriously stringent in not permitting cruise vacationers to cancel if they experience last minute medical emergencies or even deaths in the family.  There is great debate about the need for travel insurance. The attitude toward people who don't purchase insurance and then suffer a medical problem is often "screw 'em." 

The result is that cruise passengers are often not honest about their health and the cruise lines are often unreasonable in not permitting their guests to reschedule and issue them a cruise credit.

So they sneak aboard, already infected with the nasty norovirus.

But unlike the noro bug, Ebola is deadly. The consequences of carrying Ebola aboard a cruise ship packed with 5,000 passengers and crew members is too great. 

The health questionnaire should include language which states that if you checked "yes" to any of the Ebola questions, don't worry. No you won't be able to cruise, but you are entitled to a full refund and your travel expenses will be refunded as well.  

Cruise Critic posted an article today about the new questionnaire. The articles states: "Notably, cruise lines rely on passengers and crew to provide honest and accurate answers in health screenings and on health questionnaires. CLIA said intentionally providing false or misleading answers is a criminal offense and is subject to prosecution."

Threatening cruise passengers with criminal prosecution is ridiculous. It's the wrong idea. First of all, there is no criminal law which applies and no prosecutor will ever take such a case. You can't scare a consumer into doing the right thing. 

Instead, the cruise industry has to anticipate that cruise passengers will be less than candid. Cruise lines need to provide an incentive by way of a refund. You can call it the "Ebola refund."

This will require a substantial change in the greedy attitude of the cruise industry. But it's absolutely necessary to prevent what happened yesterday on the Carnival Magic.Cruise Ebola Questionnaire

 

Cruise Industry Fabricates and Distorts Norovirus Information

Christine Duffy, the CEO of the cruise industry trade group Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), has authored an article entitled "CDC report debunks norovirus cruise myth."

The article was first issued as a press release and later picked up by cruise cheerleaders like Cruise Critic. Travel Weekly is the latest travel publication to publish the misleading article. 

Ms. Duffy fabricates and distorts information in her article. 

Christine DuffyShe compares norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships with norovirus outbreaks on land. But her method of doing so is inherently flawed and misleading. 

She says that In 2013, a little over 10 million people embarked on a cruise from a U.S. port. She claims that there were only 4 norovirus outbreaks, involving around 834 passengers, in 2013. That turns out to be approximately 1 in 12,000 cruise passengers who are affected by the nasty bug, she concludes.

Meanwhile, the CDC estimates that norovirus affected 20,000,000 ashore. With a population of some 318,000.000 U.S. citizens, that turns out to be 1 in 15 people who contract norovirus on land every year.

However, to make a meaningful comparison, you have to compare the U.S. population with the average population of the cruise industry at any given point. There are around 250,000 people cruising at any given time world wide from the major CLIA lines, with around 125,000 sailing from U.S. ports. You don't compare the U.S. population to the total number of travelers. That's like comparing apples to oranges.

A typical cruiser may spend anywhere from 3 days to a week or perhaps 2 or 3 weeks a year cruising. They are not on the cruise ship 52 weeks a year obviously. So it is highly misleading to compare the U.S. population with the total numbers of travelers. It skews the number from 125,000 to over 10,000,000. It understates the likelihood of contracting norovirus on a cruise ship by a factor of 80 or so.

In addition to the flawed methodology, Ms. Duffy's numbers regarding the incidents of cruise norovirus cases are flat-out wrong. She says there were only 4 outbreaks affecting only 834 passenger in 2013. 

But the CDC data shows that there are in fact thousands of passengers who are sickened on cruises every year. From February 25, 2013 to February 22, 2014, for example, the CDC reported that there 13 outbreaks totaling 2,468 passengers. So to make a correct statistical comparison, the land-based outbreaks must be compared to 2,468 incidents in a total cruise population of 125,000 (not 834 incidents out of over 10,000,000 people).

Remember that the CDC data is limited. It doesn't include outbreaks when the cruise ship doesn't return to a U.S. port. Even when a U.S. port is involved, it doesn't even record incidents when less Norovirus Cruise Shipthan 3% of the total number of passengers become sick. So that means that 175 passengers could become ill with norovirus on the Oasis of the Seas and the CDC would ignore it. The CDC data reveals only a fraction of the actual number of cruise norovirus victims. Plus it's well known in the cruise industry that many passengers don't report their sicknesses to the ship infirmary because they don't want to be quarantined.  

During many of the Congressional hearings on cruise ship crimes over the last few years, the cruise industry offered similarly misleading comparative data. It would provide crime statistics using the total U.S. population compared to the total number of passengers who travel on cruise ships. This skewed the statistics wildly in favor of the cruise industry. It made it appear that fewer crimes occur on cruise ships. Congress chastised the industry for providing such misleading comparisons.

Senator Rockefeller criticized Ms. Duffy for not being truthful when she testified before a Senate subcommittee on cruise ship safety in 2012. 

It's a shame that travel publications like Travel Weekly publish such rubbish. It's a disservice to the U.S. public who deserve honest numbers and meaningful analysis.   

Human Resources FAIL: Cruise Lines Don't Conduct Background Checks of Their Crew Members

Following the horrific crime perpetrated by the Holland America Line crew member against the passenger on the Nieuw Amsterdam cruise ship on Valentine's Day, the cruise industry is pulling out all of the stops to convince the public that the cruise lines carefully screens their employees.

But it's not true. 

Cruise lines don't vet their crew members.

The foreign flagged, foreign incorporated cruise industry delegates the obligation to third-party foreign hiring agents to try and screen the applicants. Countries like Indonesia, India, and the countries in the Cruise Ship CrimeCaribbean & Central America have no computerized electronic data-base base of criminals, perverts, sex offenders or pedophiles which can be carefully cross referenced with social security numbers, driver's license numbers, and passport numbers. There is no infrastructure in a place like Nicaragua or Goa to search to make certain that the prospective employees isn't a sociopath.  There are no U.S. human resource specialists involved. It's a random, unsophisticated, "hit-or-miss" task conducted (or not) by hiring agents far-far-away who make money when they place people from around the world on U.S. based cruise ships.  

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. The system is often based on bribery.

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 the official cruise line 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 state-of-the-art database tied to someone's criminal history.  If a pedophile shows up with a certificate from God-knows-who that he is not a criminal, he's welcome aboard.

The worst ones involved in this rotten system are not foreign countries but 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 in their own cruise ship's kid's centers or rapist-employees who molest teenage girls during cruises. They just fire them and hope they go away.

We have seen cases where a crew member who was fired after he drugged and raped our client ended up later on a Princess cruise ship, and another crew member who was fired after raping another one of our clients later join a NCL cruise ship.

Cruise lines tout that crew members are "vetted by the U.S. Government prior to issuance of a visa." Hogwash. All a crew member needs is a C1/D visa. That's called a "seaman's visa." There is no investigation or rigorous screening at all.  A "seaman's visa" is also called a "transit visa."  It permits a foreign crew member simply to transit through the airport and be taken to the ship.  It's easy to obtain and essentially just involves an administrative task to obtain one. There is no interview; it's just paper work.  It's completely different from a B1/B2 tourist visa which requires an interview and a strict review of a candidate's background. Most tourist via applicants are rejected; seaman transit visas are rarely turned down.

A couple of years ago I wrote about a former Eastern European who allegedly raped a child in California. He was on the "Most Wanted" list in a city in California. But he was hired to work on a Carnival cruise Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Shipship which routinely sailed into and out of California. He previously worked on other cruise ships after he allegedly raped the child. Crew member Kaloyanov was a fugitive from justice for 8 years but was safe working in the cruise industry. 

U.S. Customs and Immigration officials in California, who are suppose to check the crew and passenger rosters every time a ship enters a U.S. port, failed to realize that Kaloyanov was a criminal suspect - even though he was on a "Most Wanted" database of a city in California!

The resourceful California police finally caught up with the crew member when they Googled his name and found photographs of him on line standing in front of a cruise ship. The police then determined that Kaloyanov had worked for Carnival Cruise Lines for four years, as a fitness instructor and the manager of a hair salon on a Carnival ship.

Its a shame that the cruise lines' "rigorous" pre-employment screening does not even include Googling the applicant's name.  You can read about this case: 

Most Wanted Rape Suspect Arrested On Carnival Cruise Ship - Worked As Manager Of On Board Hair Salon      

My view:  99% of crew members are honest, hard-working individuals trying to support their families back home. But there are perverts, predators and nut cakes everywhere. The problem is that cruise lines try and save money by sloughing their obligations off to mostly disinterested or sometimes corrupt far-away agents that they don't vet themselves. There is no way this doomed system will successfully weed out the criminals who will prey on unsuspecting cruise passengers and their children.

 

I suggest reading: USA TODAY's "Who's working on the cruise ships you're sailing aboard?"

Please leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credits:

Top: Broward Country Sheriff's Office

Bottom: Wikipedia / Cybergoth

CLIA CEO Christine Duffy Interview: Denial & Scare Tactics

Travel Weekly published a rather fascinating interview by Arnie Weissmann of the CEO of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), Christine Duffy, entitled "Cruising at a Crossroads."

Over the past eight years, there have been eight Congressional hearings on important issues which have plagued the cruise industry, such as the suspicious disappearances of cruise passengers, sexual assaults of women during cruises and cruise excursions, and the under-reporting of crimes by the cruise lines.  A number of victims have traveled to Washington D.C. over the past decade to testify about the crimes committed against them. Women from all walks of life have testified how they felt re-victimized by the cruise lines's refusal to believe them and promptly and accurately report the crimes to law enforcement. 

Cruise Ship Safety - CLIABut Ms. Duffy would not acknowledge a single victim in her interview. She dismissed the issue of cruise ship crime and other problems as consisting of "inaccurate assertions" or "false assumptions." She complained about the erroneous perception of the cruise lines created by "critics." 

Ms. Duffy goes as far as to say that "crime is not really an issue that consumers or vacationers should be consumed about." 

She characterized the cruise lines' lack of transparency in reporting crimes, which has been vigorously debated before Congress, as a "non issue."

Addressing Senator Rockefeller's proposals of removing the cruise industry's tax exemption and imposing a 5% excise tax, Ms. Duffy threatened the loss of U.S. jobs and families being unable to take fun and affordable vacationers:

"The cruise industry, like the rest of shipping, is mobile, and these bills would create an incentive to relocate those jobs and the economic activities that U.S. ports and communities get today. There may be places where those opportunities may be more favorable. So, yes, it would place jobs and economic benefits for the United States at risk."

                                                        *                          *                       *

"Consumers who benefit from a vacation that is a very good value may not be able to otherwise take a vacation that would come close to the level of what's provided by a cruise. I think it's important for your readers and for consumers to understand that that gets put at risk, as well."

Ms. Duffy's blanket denials and browbeating show that the cruise industry is squarely on the defensive. Ignoring the stories of crime victims, CLIA demonstrates that it has no plans to bridge the gap between the cruise industry and cruise critics. And threatening to pull out of the U.S. while frightening families that they will be unable to afford cruise vacations, the cruise lines reveal that they have no clue how to deal with the public relations mess they find themselves in. 

 

Photo Credit: Safety4Sea.com

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. 

Does Anyone Believe the Cruise Industry Anymore?

The U.S. and international media covered the saga of the stricken poop-filled Triumph cruise ship non-stop last week. CNN led the coverage with its "ceaseless, rigorous reporting" on what some newspapers are characterizing as essentially "inconvenienced cruise passengers without working toilets." CNN enjoyed a 74 percent increase from its recent prime time numbers according to the people that follow these type of statistics.

The media loves to interview maritime lawyers in Miami. As of the weekend, I participated in over 45 newspaper, radio, TV and cable news interviews about the Triumph fire.  The media is still covering the PR and legal fallout following the debacle.  There is a debate playing out in newspaper articles and cable news shows whether aggrieved passengers should pursue lawsuits over the incident or, as I Cruise Ship Public Relations - Pr - Triumph Fire feel, they should accept Carnival's meager compensation and move on with their lives.     

But there is little debate about whether there are too many fires and capsizings involving cruise ships these days. 

The cruise industry has done a pretty good PR job with its talking points over the years - "cruising is remarkably safe, the "safety of our passengers is the cruise industry's top priority" and so forth. But after the Costa Concordia deadly disaster just a year ago came a dozen cruise ship fires on cruise lines like Azamara, Costa, Cunard, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. At some point, the cruise casualties reach a critical mass. If the cruise lines' response is always "cruise-accidents-are-rare," at some point the public simply does not believe a word they say.

We are past that point today.  

Last week CNN asked me to write an article about my opinions of the cruise industry. Readers of this blog know I have a lot of opinions about how the cruise lines operate. I had literally a few hours to type the article and CNN posted it on line later that day: "What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know."  The article sparked a debate not only about cruise ship safety, but about the cruise industry's non-payment of taxes, avoidance of wage and labor regulations, exploitation of its foreign crew members, and damage to the environment.  Many hundreds of readers left comments (nearly 2,000 to date) and over 12,000 people "liked it" on Facebook.  Clearly the article struck a cord with a lot of people.

Yesterday, the cruise industry's trade association, the "Cruise Line International Association" (CLIA), wrote its response to my article: "A Cruise is a Safe and Healthy Vacation."  Only 115 people have "liked it," and just 10 readers have left a comment.  Here are some of the comments:

"This guy works for Cruise Lines, enough said."

"Why in the world would I believe this cruise line spokesperson?"

"How many wolves do (we) need to guard the hen house again, honey?"

"Someone getting Cruise industry payoffs to write this nonsense."

If I have learned one thing as a trial lawyer for the past 30 years, it's that the American public is smart. Don't ever underestimate a jury's intelligence and common sense.  If I have a problem with my case, I acknowledge it. I make certain that I discuss the weaknesses in the case in my closing argument. But If you talk around troubling issues and try to bamboozle people, you will lose your credibility and lose your case in the process.

The cruise industry has some serious problems, including a lack of federal oversight over the safety of passengers and crew.  But the cruise lines will not acknowledge anything negative about their industry.

By publishing a puff piece like cruising is "safe and healthy" when cruise ships are catching on fire and guests are sloshing around in urine and feces, the cruise industry is doing more harm than good to its already shaky reputation. 

 

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Where Is CLIA When Disaster Strikes?

It has been a brutal week for the cruise industry. Consider the developments over the last week:

A 24 year old dancer from Massachusetts died aboard the Seven Seas Voyager. Her body was found when the cruise ship docked in Australia.

Two passengers went overboard from MSC cruise ships in the last couple of days.  The body of a 46-year old passenger from the MSC Divina was pulled from the water but a 30 year old man who went overboard from the MSC Fantasia this weekend has not been located.

Cruise Line International Association - CLIA Five crewmembers are dead and three injured when a cable snapped as a lifeboat was being raised aboard the Thomson Majesty in the Canary Islands.

Yesterday, the Carnival Triumph lost power after an engine room fire disabled the ship.  The cruise ship is now being towed to port in Progreso, Mexico while the guests have no running water or air-conditioning and are having to poop in bags.  

So where are the reassuring words from the cruise industry's leadership? Where's the don't-worry-cruise-fans these are just rare mishaps in the remarkably safe world of cruising?

So far no word from the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), which now seemingly has every cruise line in the world as a member.  Nothing either from CLIA's CEO Christine Duffy.  Does CLIA and its CEO work on weekends when the lifeboats and passengers are falling and the ships catch fire?

I suppose all of this must be embarrassing to the marketing and public relations people at CLIA. After the Concordia disaster, CLIA announced 10 new safety proposals with great fanfare. One of them had to do with lowering lifeboats with only a few essential crewmembers aboard to avoid unnecessary injuries and deaths. But it seems that this was just a proposal which the cruise lines could ignore.  Why were 8 men sitting like guinea pigs in the lifeboat as it is winched up to the 22 year old ship when the cable snapped?

So how does CLIA handle this mess?  It seems like CLIA is about as responsive to the disastrous week in cruising as Captain Schettino was in responding to his sinking ship. Its hide-under-the-bed PR.

Eventually the executives at Carnival and Royal Caribbean making tens of millions a year will send some talking points over to CLIA.  Then we will hear talk about the remarkable safety record of the cruise industry. Maybe CLIA will announce a Blue Ribbon Lifeboat or Fire Safety Task Force or something equally obtuse but official sounding.

Meanwhile eight families are mourning their dead loved ones and a boatload of families stuck on the disabled Triumph are being towed back to Mexico.   

Cruise Line International Association Gobbles Up Smaller Cruise Associations

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) announced today that eight cruise line groups have agreed to be merged with CLIA in order to operate under a common organization.    

The associations are the European Cruise Council (ECC), Asia Cruise Association (ACA), Passenger Shipping Association (PSA/ACE), France's AFCC, Brazil's ABREMAR, Northwest and Canada Cruise Association (NWCCA), Alaska Cruise Association (ACA), and International Cruise Council Australasia (ICCA).

CLIA will be governed by what it is calling a "Global Executive Committee," chaired by Carnival Corporation Chief Operating Officer Howard Frank.

Christine Duffy will continue as the President and CEO of CLIA.

Cruise Line International AssociationThe new CLIA global organization will represent the cruise industry at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) based in London, and the International Labour Organization in Geneva.

The CLIA press release is silent regarding what new member lines will be joining CLIA.

In my view, the consolidation of these smaller cruise groups under the CLIA umbrella will strengthen South Florida-based CLIA's lobbying efforts world-wide and also infuse CLIA with additional money from the additional cruise line members. It may also help CLIA deal with critics of the cruise industry's environmental practices, cruise ship crime issues, and exploitation of cruise employees.

The inclusion of these various cruise organization under one roof is the natural evolution of the multi-national cruise lines increasing their control of the international cruise industry. 

Latest CLIA Safety Policies: Too Little & Too Late

Pacific Sun Storm - Cruise Ship MayhamTravel Weekly reports that the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) announced three new policies designed to supposedly improve cruise ship safety after the Costa Concordia disaster earlier this year. 

It's great PR for the cruise industry. But like the other post-Concordia CLIA policies, there's not much substance to the new procedures.

One policy talks about storing more life vests at the muster stations, but some cruise ships (like the Oasis of the Seas) store the life vests in the cabins.

A second policy is something about "standardizing bridge procedures across a brand's fleet, and across different brands under the same ownership."  Huh?  Not sure what procedures CLIA is thinking about. It seems like this means that all Costa ships, for example, or all brands owned by Carnival could have one procedure but there will be different procedures for other ships and other companies like Royal Caribbean or NCL.  Why not one uniform procedure for all cruise ships?

The third "new" policy mentions using "tie-downs or other means of locking down heavy objects such as pianos, televisions, treadmills and laundry equipment that could cause injuries if they shift unexpectedly."

Does this mean that cruise ships currently don't have such a policy?  That's remarkable.

Consider the CCTV images of the Pacific Sun cruise ship hit by rough seas where literally everything in sight was sliding violently across the cruise ship's decks.  The video was filmed in 2008.  It has been over 4 years since the video was filmed. The cruise industry is only now finally thinking of a tie-down policy? 

 

Secrets on the High Seas - Rape of Houston Passenger Reveals Flaws in Cruise Crime Reporting

A local news station in Houston, Texas reports that there are problems with the manner that crimes on cruise ships are reported and investigated by the FBI.

KRPC Channel 2 in Houston aired a program yesterday that reported on the rape of a 56 year old Texas woman on at the last night of a cruise out of the port of Houston (Galveston).  Like most rape cases on cruises, the FBI did not make an arrest.

The investigation by the news station revealed that the FBI disclosed that it investigated only 16 crimes all of last year.  But the crime numbers "just don't add up," according to the news station. (We know that this is a bogus number of crimes because in years past, there has been testimony before Congress tCarnival Cruise Ship - Rape - Sexual Assaulthat hundreds of crimes occur each year during cruises).  

The interesting thing revealed in this report was that the Port of Houston alone had 15 crimes reported just out of its port, so clearly the FBI's data of 16 cruise crimes for all cruises nationally is grossly understated.

This particular case involved an allegation that a cruise line employee (waiter) committed the rape.  In our experience most shipboard rapes are committed by cruise employees with waiters, as well as cabin attendants and bartenders, the most likely ones to rape a passenger.

Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") organization was interviewed during the program and stated: "True and accurate crime data needs to be available and released to the public . . .  it is the cornerstone of accountability and safety for millions of Americans who chose to cruise each year."

But the cruise industry's organization that promotes cruising, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), says that everything's just fine. CLIA responded to the program by claiming that cruise lines have been reporting crimes pursuant to a law passed in 1996.  This is a false statement as the first law requiring the reporting of crimes during cruises was not passed until 2010.  But due to intense lobbying, the law was altered and permits the cruise lines to hide crimes unless the crimes were first reported to the FBI and then closed by the FBI.  

The wording of the law permits over 95% of cruise ship crimes to remain secret - just like the cruise lines want.  

Cruise lines have been hiding true crime statistics for decades. You will see more and more of these types of stories in the future.

To watch the video, click on the link here.

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Cruise Crime Talking Points: Attack, Attack, Attack!

The big news coming from the cruise industry is that the CEO of the Cruise Line International Association, Christine Duffy, launched a new blog.  One of the primary purposes of Ms. Duffy's blog is to attack what CLIA is calling "sensationalist" and "misleading" news accounts of crimes on cruise ships.

Ms. Duffy recently sent an email to its travel agents together with an attachment called “The Truth About Crime and Crime Reporting.  Several travel agent friends sent me copies. 

The cruise line talking points are primarily in reaction to a cruise documentary which aired last month CNN Safe at Sea - Sexual Predators on Cruise Shipson CNN's Anderson Cooper's AC 360 called "Safe at Sea." CNN interviewed a 15 year old girl who was violently sexually assaulted by an uniformed crew member on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship. The crime involved a scenario we have warned about repeatedly, where a crew member uses a pass key to enter a cabin and rape a child who is alone.

You will hear no apologies to the girl from the cruise line, or the cruise industry, or Ms. Duffy during the program or in her blog. CLIA declined to participate in the program; instead, CLIA sent in an after-the-fact statement (as it always does) criticizing the little girl and two other individuals who CNN interviewed.     

The CNN program interviewed a former U.S. Customs and Border agent and a former cruise ship security officer who stated that cruise ships are "magnets" for sexual predators. (Watch the video below).

CLIA attacked them as "irresponsibly" offering "inflammatory and unfounded accusations."  

One thing to remember is that Ms. Duffy just joined CLIA as its CEO last year.  She did not attend any of the five Congressional hearings into cruise ship crimes from 2005 through 2009. She was not present at the Congressional hearings to listen to first hand accounts of sexual assault and one expert testify that the chances of being raped on a cruise is twice that of being a victim on land.  Professor Ross Klein’s study of cruise crimes indicated that the rate of sexual assault on cruise ships was 59 per 100,000 passengers. The rate of sexual assault in the United States was only 32 instances per 100,000 people.

Last year, in a landmark rape case against Princess Cruises, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal held that " . . . if congressional reports are to be believed, sexual assaults and other violent crimes on cruise ships are a serious problem." The Eleventh Circuit cited the testimony from cruise line executives from the March 2006 Congressional hearing that 178 passengers on North American cruises reported being sexually assaulted between 2003 and 2005. 

In the March 2007 hearing, a FBI representative testified before Congress that from 2000 through June 2005, the FBI opened 305 case files involving “crime on the high seas.” During those five years about 45% of the crimes that occurred on cruise ships involved sexual assaults.

In September 2007, a Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI testified before Congress that “sexual assault and physical assaults on cruise ships were the leading crime reported to and investigated by the FBI on the high seas over the last five years . . .  employees were identified as suspects in 37 percent of the cases, and 65 percent of those employees were not U.S. citizens.” The FBI representative also testified that the majority of cruise ship sexual assault cases are not prosecuted.

Although these numbers are significant, I have always thought that the crime statistics reported to Congress are probably just a fraction of the actual number of crimes which occur during cruises. For example, in 2006, Royal Caribbean told Congress that 66 rapes and sexual assaults reportedly CNN Cruise Crime - Rape on Cruise Shipsoccurred over the course of the preceding three years - that's 3 rapes every 2 month just on the Royal Caribbean fleet. However, in a subsequent civil case our firm handled against this cruise line, a trial court here in Miami ordered the cruise line to produce its raw crime data to us. The reports revealed that the total number of sex-related crimes were actually around 273 (over 4 times the amount reported to Congress). 

The Los Angeles Times covered the story in an article entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters."

CLIA is banking on its travel agents having short memories and not being concerned with actual statistics. CLIA's talking points contain no statistics, only self-serving opinions like "crime is "remarkably low" or there are only a "handful" of crimes during cruises. 

So far it seems like the travel writers and travel agents are responding to CLIA's call to arms.  

Travel Agent Central was the first to publish articles about the cruise industry's crime talking points. One article is entitled "CLIA ARMS AGENTS TO REBUT REPORTS OF CRIME AT SEA" (caps in original), written by Andrew Sheivachman.  It explains how CLIA is "arming" its agents to engage in a war against those who were victimized at sea.

The headline made me stop and shake my head - the cruise lines "arming" their  agents to fight the victims? Sounds like the cruise industry is fighting a war.  What an real insight into the cruise industry's thought process. Let's-re-victimize-the-women-and children-raped-during-cruises!   

Other bloggers and travel writers are taking CLIA's bait.

A Canadian travel agent, Robert Mackie, recently blogged about the CLIA talking points and adopted all of Ms. Duffy's talking points verbatim in his article Truth in Television Travel Reports.

Travel writer Theresa Norton Masek is the latest one to swallow the cruise lines' bait - hook, line and sinker. Writing for Travel Pulse, Ms. Masek penned CLIA Takes Steps to Battle Sensationalist Reports on Cruise Ship Crime which pitches all of CLIA's points.  The article offers no view other than the cruise lines' and might as well as been written by Ms. Duffy herself.

These articles are entirely disrespectful to actual crime victims. What did the the 15 year old girl raped on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas do to deserve such scorn?  CLIA has chosenCruise Ship Rape - Royal Caribbean not only to "deny and defend," but to "attack the victim" and anyone who will stand with her. 

The question posed to travel agents is simple.  Do you stand with your cruise trade organization when it embarks on a war to regain its reputation where victims are re-traumatized in the process?

Such a question poses not only a philosophical dilemma, but a pragmatic problem as well.  Do you really want to risk embedding CLIA's talking points into your sales pitch to your clients - only to expose yourself to a lawsuit for fraud if your client's daughter is raped on a cruise you sell based on such false information?

Instead of walking lock-step with CLIA, do something not contemplated by CLIA's cult-like talking points - tell your clients the truth.  Refer them to a reliable source of information. 

The Sun Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale has an online data base for one year of cruise ships crimes. There are hundreds of assaults, rapes, thefts and other disturbing stuff - no different than any major city. Take a look here.  

 

 

Is CLIA CEO Christine Duffy Really Ready For Twitter?

Today the cruise Industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), sent out a press release announcing that its CEO, Christine Duffy, now has a Twitter account: @CLIACEO 

I could not help but think, oh boy is this going to be fun.  

Ms. Duffy began her tenure at the helm of CLIA in January of last year.  She started her employment with a bang when she answered some friendly questions from a travel magazine about lobbying Congress for the cruise lines. Somehow she managed to criticize the U.S. automobile industry while trying to promote the cruise lines.  Listen to this whopper:  

CLIA CEO Christine Duffy - Cruise Line International AssociationPart of the message we delivered in D.C. is that the travel industry employs more people than the auto industry, and we didn’t get a bailout. We employ a lot more people than anybody recognized, and our impact is in all 50 states. We’re not going to offshore our jobs . . .

The fact of the matter is that all of the CLIA cruise lines are foreign corporations. Unlike Ford or Chevrolet which are U.S. corporations and employ U.S. employees, the CLIA cruise lines are 100% foreign corporations. Carnival was incorporated in Panama. Royal Caribbean was incorporated in Liberia (yes, Africa). And all of these cruise lines fly the flags of foreign countries like Panama, Liberia, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

By registering their companies and cruise ships overseas to avoid U.S. labor, wage and safety laws, the foreign cruise lines also avoid U.S. income taxes. The $35,000,000,000 (billion) cruise industry pays virtually no U.S. Federal income taxes. If the cruise lines were required to pay U.S. taxes, they would pay over $10,000,000,000 a year. The cruise industry receives a $10 billion bailout each year, year after year.

But that's not all. All of the cruise ships are manufactured and constructed in foreign shipyards, in Italy, Norway or France. And 99.9% of the officers and crew members (except some U.S. dancers, singers and an occasional assistant cruise director) are from "overseas." No U.S. workers are going to work 360 hours a month for around $545 like the incredibly hard working utility cleaners from India, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

The cruise industry is the most outsourced, non-U.S. industry in America. The industry is built on the business model of tax-paying U.S. citizens paying their hard earned wages to the foreign corporation cruise lines who pay no taxes to the U.S. 

This year, at a hearing in the U.S. Senate about cruise safety issues following the Costa Concordia disaster, Senator Rockefeller questioned Ms. Duffy's honesty when she testified about the cruise industry's failure to pay U.S. taxes.

A happy faced former travel agent, Ms. Duffy knows the importance of staying upbeat while selling cruise tickets. But the question remains whether she has the gravitas to actually discuss important issues regarding the safety of the cruising public.

Will Ms. Duffy use Twitter as just a PR platform to repeat the CLIA talking points laid out by the cruise line public relations experts and cruise lobbyists ( "cruising is safe . . . the security of our guests is CLIA's number one priority") or will she will actually engage the public and answer some tough questions about crime on cruise ships, sexual abuse of minors, and working conditions of the predominately non-U.S. crew members.

What will Ms. Duffy do when she receives a tweet from a mother whose daughter was served alcohol and taken to a crew member's cabin, or a father whose daughter disappeared overboard from a cruise ship, or a widow whose husband experienced a heart attack and was then dumped on a Caribbean island?    

My prediction?  Ms. Duffy will tweet happy gobbledygook carefully vetted by CLIA's PR consultants. She will chit chat with travel agents. But she will ignore the cries of those families who suffered death or injury.  She will avoid all spontaneous and genuine discussions of real issues. She will religiously avoid making direct comments about cruise ship fires, sinkings, deaths, disappearances, crimes and norovirus outbreaks.

And when the next disaster strikes the cruise industry, Ms. Duffy's Twitter account will go silent.    

 

Interested in other articles about CLIA?  Consider reading:

@CruiseFacts - Cruise Line Pravda

Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash

Did Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy Lie to Congress?

Reuters Falls For Cruise Industry's PR Release

This year has been a public relations mess for the cruise industry.

2012 started off with the January Costa Concordia disaster, followed by a series of articles and TV specials about cruise ship engine failures, fires, sexual assaults and controversy over the cruise industry's manipulation of the new cruise safety law.

Just the other week the cruise industry's best friend, the Miami Herald, published a critical article stating that "the cruise industry is treading water, faced with depressed fares in key markets, continuing negative headlines and would-be cruisers still spooked by the deadly disaster." 

Costa Cruise Ship Collision But yesterday the cruise industry tried to turn the bad press around. The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) released a press release stating that it polled 300 of its 16,000 CLIA travel agents and over one-half of them claim to be "doing better than last year."

But let's take a look at the actual poll.  The percentage who claim to be doing better is only 51.9% which, if accurate, means that 48.1 are doing no better or even worse than last year.

Of course, the CLIA poll is not scientific, or quantifiable, or verified by a third party.  Even if it were, there would still be a margin of error, something like like 4-5%.  So the notion that over half of travel agents are really enjoying increased bookings is a rather dubious proposition at best.

But that did not stop Reuters from writing a promo piece for CLIA "US Cruise Industry Sees Increased Bookings for 2012." Reuters ran with the conclusions on the CLIA PR release that ticket sales were up and then quoted the CLIA CEO Christine Duffy characterizing the Costa Concordia disaster as "a very isolated event and not indicative of how the broader cruise industry operates."

Other travel publications then quickly fell in line and reported that cruise ticket sales were up. 

Breaking Travel News reported "Cruise Lines International Association Finds Optimism in Industry;" Travelers Today published "Cruise Bookings on the Rise in 2012 Despite Costa Concordia Incident;" Travel Agent's Report stated "Agents' Cruise Sales Are Outpacing 2011;" and the Sun Sentinel reported "Cruise Agents Optimistic About Sales, Survey Says."

Its a fascinating process to watch a cruise industry, battered by bad press, create its own happy news and then feed it to the press as a newsworthy event.

Costa to Re-Float the Concordia, But Can the Cruise Industry Salvage Its Reputation?

Friday the 13th was the 6 month anniversary of the January the 13th Costa Concordia disaster.

This weekend, I read through several dozen articles which looked back over the last 6 months since the Costa cruise ship killed 32 people and terrorized thousands.  I watched the recent specials on NBC and CNN about dangers inherent in cruising, including rapes as well as ship fires and sinkings.

I am struck by just how badly all of the articles and videos portray the cruise industry.

The Miami Herald recently published an article Cruise Industry Still in Troubled Waters Six Months After Costa Concordia, written by tourism reporter Hannah B. Sampson, who I have criticized for writing puff pieces supporting the cruise lines. Ms. Sampson seems to have had a moment of insight.  She writes " Costa Concordia Salvage. . . the cruise industry is treading water, faced with depressed fares in key markets, continuing negative headlines and would-be cruisers still spooked by the deadly disaster." 

The article continues: " . . . lawsuits related to the Jan. 13 catastrophe are piling up. The captain blamed for the accident — still being investigated but no longer on house arrest — is making new headlines in television interviews. And the larger question of safety on cruise ships is earning greater scrutiny as longtime critics gain a wider audience."

This time, the Miami Herald has the story exactly right. Things are indeed tough when the Miami Herald - a huge supporter of the cruise lines - delivers a message that the cruise industry is struggling.

The Miami Herald interviewed the usual cruise lines fans and industry representatives. Carolyn Spencer Brown, the editor of the popular online cruise community Cruise Critic, and an unabashed cruise supporter, is quoted saying “It was horrific, the ship’s still in the water, we’re still hearing about it.”  She predicted that  " . . . we won’t see the new normal until we get past the year’s anniversary."  I agree, assuming the doomed ship is not still lying on its side in the little port of Giglio next year.

Salvage operations are finally starting in an effort to float the dead cruise ship out of sight to a scrap yard where it will be disemboweled, cut up and eventually melted.  The salvage operations seem to be painfully slow to me, although I suppose it is a massive undertaking with a ship that big.

Will the salvage be done by January 13th of next year?  It will be a PR disaster if not. The cruise industry doesn't want the ship to still be there when the families of the dead return for another vigil.  I would not doubt it if the salvage contract contains incentives to complete the job before January 13, 2013.      

There is another operation underway - to try and salvage the cruise industry's reputation.  This is a far more difficult task.      

The Concordia disaster brought the world's attention not only on the outrageous conduct of the captain but on the manner in which the cruise industry treats its customers after disaster strikes. Part of the discussion today involves the onerous terms of the passenger tickets which the cruise lines draft to protect themselves against all legal claims.  It is shameful for a cruise industry, which collects over $35,000,000,000 a year and pays no taxes, to offer 11,000 Euros on a take-it-or-leave-it basis to traumatized passengers.

There is also the pesky business of cruise ship crimes (particularly rape) and accusations that the industry covers crime up. The debate whether cruising is a perfect place to commit a crime has resurfaced and reached a much broader audience.   

The cruise line's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), doesn't have much to say to compete with the images of the panic and terror aboard the Concordia or the spectacle of a rape victim explaining how a family vacation turned into a nightmare.  CLIA's talking points are old.  This is an industry that promises cruising is safe, but works overtime to conceal crimes from the public.

The public must feel uneasy when CLIA's favorite PR statement “the number one priority of the cruise industry is the safety of its passengers” is juxtaposed against a 15 year old girl on CNN's Anderson Cooper's program discussing how a crew member raped her.

CLIA was under siege at a Senate hearing into the Concordia last March when Senator Rockefeller characterized CLIA President Christine Duffy as dishonest and the cruise industry being more interesting in avoiding U.S. taxes than the passenger's safety.

Add to this the recent revelation that the FBI and the cruise lines scuttled the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act in a concerted effort to prevent the U.S. public from learning about the hundreds of crimes which occur each year on CLIA cruise ships.    

CLIA tries to portray the cruise industry as proactive and interested in regulating itself.  But many think this is more publicity than substance. Consider how little the cruise lines have done since January to actually improve cruise ship safety. 

The Herald article outlines only a handful of steps the cruise lines have discussed in an effort to convince the public to spend their vacation dollars cruising:

Costa Concordia Evacuation - Confusion(1) more life vests on the ships; (2) no unnecessary people in the bridge; (3) pre-approved ship routes shared with all members of bridge; (4) twelve uniform emergency instructions; and (5) evacuation drills before a ship leaves port.

But these are such basic procedures that it is shocking to think that they were not in place 100 years ago, after the Titanic sank. 

It's like having an aviation industry where there are no mandatory safety instructions before take-off, girlfriends of the captain are permitted to enter the cockpit during an emergency landing, and the captain is the first one off the plane and down the emergency slide.

Even uber cruise fan Carolyn Spencer Brown admits: "Many of those changes should have already been in place before the incident."

My prediction is that the salvage efforts will have the Concordia out of sight before the one year anniversary of the disaster.  

But the cruise line's reputation?  If the cruise industry doesn't develop transparency, its battered reputation will sink further below the waves. 

 

Photos credits:

Top - AP / Pier Paola Cito

Bottom Sky News

Cruise Facts: Cheap Foreign Labor, No U.S. Taxes & Minimal Compensation to Dead & Injured Passengers

Jim Walker - Maritime Lawyer - Miami FloridaOver the past week, CNN has aired a number of special programs about the cruise industry, revealing a number of things that the industry would prefer you not know.

The segment below focuses on the cruise lines' efforts to avoid U.S  taxes,

By registering their cruise ships in foreign countries, cruise lines avoid most U.S. regulations and virtually all U.S. taxes. The CNN program points out that Carnival is registered in Panama; Royal Caribbean in Liberia; and Princess in Bermuda. Why? Primarily to avoid U.S. taxes.

Last year Carnival paid no U.S. taxes.  None.  Over the last seven years Carnival netted profits of over 11 billion dollars and paid a measly amount in taxes of barely over 1%.

The video shows some interesting comments by Senator Rockefeller (D - WVA) who presided over the hearing in the U.S. Senate about the Costa Concordia disaster. He stated that cruise ships are "getting away with alot."  They register overseas to avoid taxes; they hire cheap labor; they don't reimburse some 20 U.S. federal agencies for services rendered to the foreign cruise ships; and they pay the absolute minimum to passengers who are seriously injured or killed due to their negligence and recklessness.

There is a direct correlation between registering cruise lines in places like Africa or Central America and few safety regulations and lackluster regulatory bodies.      

CNN interviewed me for a short segment of the program where I discuss the extraordinary efforts cruise lines go to limit their liability by inserting onerous terms and conditions filled with legal "mumbo jumbo" to avoid paying fair compensation to injuries passengers and the families of the dead.      

The cruise industry may say that its priority is the safety of passengers, but as Senator Rockefeller said: the cruise lines' financial "bottom line" is the cruise lines' true emphasis.  

Watch the CNN video below:

  

Cruise Industry's New Safety Initiatives - Too Little, Too Late?

The cruise industry's trade group, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), announced two new safety initiatives last week. I was rather amazed when I read what the new proposals involved.

The first policy is what is being called the "Nationality of Passengers" policy. This policy states that each passenger's nationality should be documented for use by search and rescue personnel in case of an emergency evacuation. 

It surprises me that cruise lines don't already do this.  Airlines have kept such international manifests with passenger nationalities listed for decades.

CLIA claims that this is an effort to enhance passenger safety on board cruise liners. I'm not sure how listing passenger's nationalities leads to safety at all. Perhaps the information helps to Cota Concordia Cruise Ship - Muster Drillidentify the dead after disaster strikes.

A second safety procedure touted by CLIA is a list set of 12 "universal" instructions that should be given to passengers at muster drills.  These include the most basis instructions to passengers to prepare them for an abandon ship situation after a cruise ship fire or collision.

Cruise Critic summarized these instructions in a recent article as follows:

  • When and how to don a lifejacket;
  • Description of emergency signals and appropriate responses in the event of an emergency;
  • Location of lifejackets;
  • Where to muster when the emergency signal is sounded;
  • Method of accounting for passenger attendance at musters both for training and in the event of an actual emergency;
  • How information will be provided in an emergency;
  • What to expect if the Captain orders an evacuation of the ship;
  • What additional safety information is available;
  • Instructions on whether passengers should return to cabins prior to mustering, including specifics regarding medication, clothing and lifejackets;
  • Description of key safety systems and features;
  • Emergency routing systems and recognizing emergency exits; and
  • Who to seek out for additional information.

When I first read this proposal, I couldn't believe that the cruise industry didn't already have an established set of muster station / life vest / life boat instructions.  It's 2012, over 100 years since the Titanic sank!  No wonder there was such deadly confusion on the Concordia.

You may recall that back in April, CLIA announced some other new proposals including limiting visits to the bridge during cruises. I called this the "no bimbos in the bridge" policy because Captain Schettino's girlfriend was reportedly in the bridge after the Concordia hit the rocks.

Is this an industry so far behind the times that it is only now recommending standard muster drill instructions, listing passenger nationalities, and keeping the captain's girlfriends out of the bridge during disasters? 

 

Photo: Carlos Carballa / EFE 

Cruise Industry "Safety Tool Kit" Lacks An Important Tool - Honesty

Yesterday I read a press release by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) touting a "Cruise Industry Safety Tool Kit."

The kit is designed by CLIA to "educate and reassure" prospective cruise clients about safety at sea.

The materials contain brochures which can be customized with the travel agency's name on the front and includes questions and proposed answers to provide to customers who may be skittish about cruising following the Costa Concordia disaster and highly publicized cruise ship fires on the Royal CLIA Safety Tool Kit - Cruise Ship DangersCaribbean / Azamara Quest and the Costa Allegra.

Unfortunately the CLIA materials are incomplete and misleading. Consider this proposed question and answer:

Q: Is cruising safe?

A: Absolutely. Cruising is extremely safe, and incidents are rare . . .

If you are a travel agent and tell your clients that cruising is "absolutely safe" in order to make a sale, and one of their kids is victimized by a crewmember, you can be sued for fraud.  

CLIA also suggests that travel agents tell prospective cruisers that "as ships have grown larger, cruises have become safer than at any time in history." Considering the 32 deaths in the Costa Concordia just a few months ago (which CLIA is careful to omit), this may be another whopper that you may want to skip too. To make matters worse, CLIA's casualty statistics end as of 2011 and do not include the Concordia victims. 

The greatest omission from CLIA's safety kit is there is absolutely no mention of crime.  The greatest risk to a passenger is not the cruise ship catching on fire or sinking, it's sexual assault - like a cruise employee molesting your child or your teenage daughters being sexually assaulted by a crewmember or older passengers.  

Earlier this year we reported on a child supervisor who worked for many years on Cunard cruise ships who admitted to abusing at least 13 boys in and around the cruise ships' play zones.  We suspect that there are more victims than this.  

There has been a vigorous debate in our U.S. Congress for the past six years about the frequency of crime on cruise ships. One cruise expert who testified several times before Congress stated that the chance of being a victim of rape on a cruise ship is twice that of being sexually assaulted in your home town.  

Azamara Quest Cruise Ship FireThe safety kit also has a section where CLIA recommends certain messages for travel agents to post on Facebook and "tweets" to post on Twitter under #cruisesafety.  So far I have not seen any travel agents posting the CLIA info under this hashtag.

When interacting with your clients, the smartest thing a travel agent or cruise specialist can do is to disregard the CLIA propaganda. Here's my safety tip to travel agents:

Be honest with your clients.  

Anyone can Google "cruise ship crime" or "cruise ship fire" and read many hundreds of articles and see all types of disturbing images about all types of crimes and mishaps on cruise ships. Why tell a lie and lose your credibility, when your customers can find the truth about the dangers of cruising by a simple Google search?

 

"Cruise Safety Kit Logo" - Cruise Line International Association

Photo of Injured crewmember following Azamara Quest fire - IBN Live 

Cruise Lobbyist Michael Crye to Leave CLIA

Fairplay reports today that Michael Crye, a lawyer and long time lobbyist for the cruise industry, will soon be leaving the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Lines International Association ("CLIA"). Fairplay does not mention where Mr. Crye is going. 

Mr. Crye used to be the president of the old International Council of Cruise Lines ("ICCL") in the early to mid 2000's. ICCL was the cruise industry trade association before the lobbying duties shifted to CLIA.

Michael Crye - CLIA Mr. Crye's background was with the U.S. Coast Guard for 25 years, from the early 1970's to the mid 1990's. He parlayed his Coast Guard experience into a career as a Washington DC lobbyist for the cruise lines.

Mr. Crye was the face of the cruise industry when our U.S. Congress began to focus on cruise ships disappearances and sexual assaults around 2005.  

He appeared before a series of Congressional sub-committees which were investigating incidents of passengers going overboard on the high seas following the high profile disappearance case of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise in July 2005.

Mr. Crye was not a particularly warm and fuzzy fellow.  Some thought he was symbolic of the cruise industry's arrogance and indifference to families who lost loved ones on cruises.

I will never forget his performances at the Congressional hearings after women testified about being raped on cruises or when cruise honeymooner George Smith vanished on the high seas under disturbing circumstances.  When the cruise industry faced embarrassment over Royal Caribbean's mis-handling of Mr. Smith's disappearance, Mr. Crye told an AP reporter " it's difficult if someone chooses to do harm to themselves . . . "   

One of the best know photos of Mr. Crye was taken at the Congressional hearing in December 2005, as he sat in front of George Smith's mother Maureen, and his widow, Jennifer Hagel. 

One of the amusing things I liked to to watch following Congressional cruise hearings was what I called the "Crye exit." Mr. Crye, the lawyer, would sit behind the CLIA president (Terry Dale or Christine Duffy) while they testified.  At the end of the hearing, Mr. Crye would quickly escort the CLIA president up to Michael Crye - CLIAshake hands with the Congressmen and Congresswomen.  After exchanging pleasantries, he and the cruise line witness would make a beeline for the rear exit of the hearing room.  Mr. Crye would quickly take the CLIA president down a hallway, out a rear door, and into an elevator.  

This way the CLIA witness could avoid interacting with the cruise victims' family members and answering the press' questions.  

In addition to safety issues, Mr. Crye was a leading spokesperson on behalf of the cruise lines on regulatory issues, such as trying to avoid waste-water restrictions and air emission controls on cruise ships. 

Mr. Crye's last public appearance on television was in a documentary earlier this year entitled "Ships of Shame."  Mr. Crye appears around the 5:23 mark.  He makes an extremely nervous defense of the cruise industry's safety record.  

You can watch the video here

 

 Photo credit:  Top - Kevin Wolf / AP

Cruise Ships: The Deadliest Form of Public Transportation?

NCL Norway Cruise Ship ExplosionSince the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise lines' PR departments have been working overtime trying to convince the public that cruising is safe. I have mentioned the cruise industry's talking points in a prior article "Six Lies the Cruise Lines Will Tell You after the Costa Concordia Crash."

One of the bigger cruise whoppers is the notion that the cruise industry has the best safety record compared with other forms of passenger transportation.  Just last week, the cruise lines' trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), issued a press release stating that cruise ships deaths are "extremely rare."  The press release quotes CLIA President Christine Duffy, who credibility was recently called into question at a U.S. Senate hearing on cruise ship safety.  

Ms. Duffy cites a report by a consulting firm, GP Wild International, Inc., which represents that in the 10 years before the Concordia disaster, there were 28 deaths on cruise ships out of 223 million passengers and crew who sailed in the past decade. 

GP Wild states that "average fatalities between 2006 and 2011 are 0.16 per one million passengers . . . this compares with 0.3 per one million passengers for the airline industry."  GP Wild does not cite a reference for these statistics, but let's assume that they are true.

Carnival Ecstasy Cruise Ship - Cruise FireSo is the cruise industry saying that you are twice as likely to die on an airplane than a cruise ship? 

Let's take a look at this claim.  Ms. Duffy characterizes GP Wild as "an independent source of analysis and data on the cruise industry."

That's hardly true.   GP Wild is not "independent."  It's clients are Carnival and Royal Caribbean (the cruise industry's largest cruise lines comprising 75% of the cruise market) as well as Radisson, Silversea and Star Cruises.

GP Wild's methodology intentionally excludes most cruise ship deaths.  It counted dead cruisers only if they were killed in an "operational casualty," such as collisions, fires, groundings or sinkings. But this limited definition does not include common situations like over-boards (170 in the last 10 years) like this case, or deaths due to norovirus like this case, or this case, or deaths caused by Legionnaires' Disease like this case, or due to shipboard medical malpractice like this case or this case, or fatalities due to rough weather and poor seamanship like this case, or cruise ship murders like this case, or this case, or this case, or deaths due to dangerous shipboard conditions like this case, or or deaths due to excursion mishaps like this case or this case, or fatalities due excessive alcohol like this case or this case.

It seems strange to to prepare a list of cruise deaths and exclude most of the dead people.

The problem with cruise death statistics is that there is no central cruise database which the public can access. The International Maritime Organizational (IMO) / flag state reporting systems are inconsistent and spotty.  There is no consequence when the cruise line and/or flag state don't report a death.  Even if the cruise line reports the fatality, the flag state does not have to report the incident to the IMO.  Like most UN agencies, the IMO is toothless. It  cannot compel a flag state to release casualties reports, assuming they decide to prepare one.  And flag states like Panama and the Bahamas Princess Cruises Star Princess Fireconduct amateurish reports which are designed to protect their cruise line customers.

Take, for example, an earlier deadly Costa cruise incident.  In 2010, the Costa Europa recklessly smashed into a pier in Alexandria, Egypt, killing three crew members and seriously injuring four more. The incident was published in newspapers in the Egyptian and British press. I blogged about it here, but otherwise there was no media coverage in the U.S.

After the Concordia capsized, many reporters here in the U.S. and in Europe, who were researching Costa's safety record, contacted me and asked for a copy of the maritime accident report regarding the Europa.

Of course I did not have a copy.  The point is no one had a copy of the casualty report.  The flag state, Italy, investigated the deaths but did not bother to send a copy of the report to the IMO.  Italy responded to inquiries from reporters  by stating that the report was "strictly confidential."

Even if the IMO obtained a report, it is unlikely it would share a copy with the family of the dead crew members or reporters.  The IMO does not release casualty reports to the public.  The flag states don't either.  And neither do the cruise lines which consider their reports regarding dead passengers to be the "confidential and privileged" property of the cruise line. 

The GP Wild report references the Europa incident, but there are no reports publicly available to discuss the factual findings and the probable cause of the incident. 

Contrast this with the strict and vigorous procedures of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which overseas the U.S. aviation industry.  TheAmerican Airlines Safety Record FAA data is accurate and public in nature where the cruise data is inaccurate and secret in nature.

U.S. commercial airlines have enjoyed a remarkably safer record over the past decade than the cruise industry. By all verifiable statistical data, travel by U.S. commercial airplane is much safer than traveling by cruise ship.

The U.S. air carriers transport around 750 million people a year. That's several times more than all cruise passengers and crew members over the last decade. There were no deaths on U.S. commercial carriers in 2007 and 2008 or in 2010.    

Unlike the secretive cruise industry, U.S. airplane manufacturers (like Boeing) and U.S. airline companies keep meticulous records regarding accidents and fatalities.  They release this information to the public. They are transparent.  No other form of public transportation is as carefully scrutinized, thoroughly investigated and closely monitored by outside U.S. agencies as commercial aviation. Foreign flagged cruise lines, on the other hand, incorporated in Africa and Central America, have no equivalent as the FAA.  They can bamboozle the United Nation's IMO without consequence.  Cruise lines claim that they don't keep records of fatalities and if they do, they are uniformly unwilling to share them even with the families of the dead.

Statistics don't always tell the full story of course.  Cruising is also the only place where you can be killed and your loved ones will have no legal recourse against the cruise line pursuant to the Death On The High Seas Act.

So let's get back to the cruise lines' claim that cruising is the safest means of public transportation today.  

Its not true.       

If you add the 32 dead and presumed dead from the Costa Concordia disaster to the cruise industry's reported number of dead passengers and crew - compared to flying on an U.S. air carrier - cruise ships may well be the deadliest Costa Concordia Muster - Cruise Shipform of public transportation.  

Think cruising is safe?  You may be more likely to die during a vacation cruise or working with Carnival or Royal Caribbean than flying on Delta or American Airlines.      

 

Photos, top to bottom:

NCL's Norway Explodes at Port of Miami

Carnival's Ecstasy Catches on Fire Off Miami Beach

Princess Cruises' Star Princess Ignites Off Jamaica

Costa Concordia Confusion in Giglio, Italy

Did Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy Lie to Congress?

Congressional Cruise Safety HearingThe first blog I wrote when I started Cruise Law News three years ago was about the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  It was called "Death On The High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

Under this archaic law, families who have lost a loved one on the high seas due to the negligence of the shipping company are entitled to recover only the lost wages and burial expenses of the decedent.  In cases where the dead passenger is a child or a retired grandfather or grandmother, and hence no wages to be recovered, the recovery is limited to funeral expenses.  There is no entitlement to the decedent's pre-death pain and suffering or the sadness, bereavement and mental anguish of the surviving family members.  

The current status of DOHSA provides no financial incentive for the cruise lines to improve their operations to make cruising reasonably safe for the traveling public.  I have written a number of articles about DOHSA over the years, including "If a Cruise Line Drops Your Grandmother in the Ocean, Don't Expect Any Compensation." 

Cruise lines love DOHSA.  Even when a cruise line is clearly negligent or even acts recklessly, there is no accountability when that negligent or reckless conduct kills a child or elderly passenger.

The cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), have spent millions lobbying Congress to kill efforts to amend the law to include additional remedies. Two years ago, when victim groups were getting close to amending DOSHA, CLIA and its lobbyists went into overdrive and killed the amendment.

Tandy Bondi and Christine DuffyTake a moment and read: "Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act." 

You can read about how Alcalde & Fay lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi, met with Congressmen and Congresswomen to derail efforts to amend DOHSA back in 2010.

The issue of DOHSA came back into the news last week during the Congressional cruise safety hearings.  

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono of Hawaii raised the issue why families have virtually no legal remedies when they lose a family member during a cruise, but enjoy the full range of remedies if the accident occurs in an automobile or airplane.  She asked the cruise line panel whether they thought this was fair.

Congresswoman Hirono asked CLIA's President and CEO Christine Duffy to answer first.  Ms. Duffy was unprepared for the question and initially did not respond.  Everyone in the hearing room knew that CLIA was absolutely against amending DOHSA, and that the victims groups, like the International Cruise Victims (ICV), were absolutely for the amendment.

But instead of answering honestly before the C-Span audience, Ms. Duffy hemmed and hawed and tried to deflect the question by saying "I'm not a lawyer."  But right next to her was the CLIA lawyer Michael Crye and behind her was maritime lawyer Bradley Rose who is CLIA's outside legal counsel. These lawyers were key players for CLIA in submitting a position paper to Congress against revising DOHSA.  Lawyers Crye and Rose just watched Ms. Duffy squirm.   

Sitting close to CLIA's lawyers were the CLIA's lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi (photo above left, chatting with Ms. Duffy right before the hearing).  Ms. Bondi, you will recall, was one of the main lobbyists who helped CLIA kill the DOHSA amendments just two years ago.            

Ms. Duffy knew good and well that CLIA opposed changing DOHSA.  But instead of choosing to be transparent, she chose the gobbledygook I'm-not-a-lawyer non-response.  She had just testified at length about how international laws, flag state laws and U.S. laws supposedly regulate the cruise industry, but now she was no longer competent to give an opinion about an unfair law that screws U.S. cruise passengers.

None of the other cruise line representatives at the hearing would answer the question either.

 

Photos credits:  Jim Walker

Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash

Shortly after the Costa Concordia capsized, the cruise lines' PR committee assembled to try and figure out a strategy to minimize the disaster's effect on the cruise industry. 

A decision was made for the cruise lines to issue a series of "talking points" to the media. The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) distributed "cruise safety talking points" to travel agents, travel magazines and the media.  CLIA embedded the talking points into "updates" on the Concordia crash on its website. CLIA's president Christine Duffy released "open letters" which travel publications and blogs often published in their entirely, without questioning the accuracy of the information.   

Costa Concordia Cruise ShipTravel agents began pitching the talking points to the public in articles like this one from Travel Market Report entitled "What to Say to Clients Post-Concordia."  You can read "6 Talking Points" and other tips from travel agents on how to overcome reluctant clients' fears and talk them into buying a cruise. 

Here are some of the cruise industry's talking points: 

1.  "100 Million Passengers Sailed in Last Five Years and Only 16 Died"

This talking point is part of the "cruising is incredibly safe" message.  It's false and misleading.  It's based data from a private consulting firm for the cruise lines which excludes crew deaths and excludes cruises which don't call on U.S. ports.  This excludes the deaths in the last cruise sinking (the Sea Diamond).   Click on the cases under our section "Maritime Death" and "Disappearances" categories to the left.  You will see that there have been many more than 16 people who die during cruises each year.   

The information is further limited to "maritime casualties," like two ships colliding into one another.  But if you take into consideration the passengers and crew who died because of bad cruise ship medical care, murder, lifeboat accidents, deaths during excursions, deaths on Flow Riders and rock climbing walls, drownings, drug overdoses, drunken assaults, being dropped overboard during medical evacuations, and suspicious disappearances - there are far more than 16 deaths during cruises each year for each of the last five years.  

The cruise industry wants you to think that the Concordia is just a freak accident.  But read about prior similar accidents here and the problems with cruise ship fires here.  The Concordia is just the latest in a long list of catastrophes. 

Dayana Arlotti - Costa Concordia CruiseCruising is not just a means of transportation. Cruise ships are floating amusement parks and entertainment venues. Compared to Disney World (which attracts more tourists than all cruise ships combined) or any international hotel or resort chain, there is no place where you are more likely to die than on a cruise ship.     

2.  "Cruising Is Safe for the Family & Kids"

This whopper of a lie makes my skin crawl. Last week, the bloated body of Dayana Arlotti (photo left), a five year old little girl from Italy, was finally pulled from the wreckage of the Concordia.  

It's a sick joke for a travel agent to hawk cruises by telling parents "hey, I bring my children cruising - it's perfectly safe!"  Don't tell that to Susy Albertini, Dayana's mother (photo below right).

Read though my blog and learn of other dead children caused by cruise line negligence over the last few years. Read about cruise tragedies involving kids, and the extraordinary efforts the cruise lines take to avoid accountability, like this story.  And this doesn't include the kids who are sexually abused during cruises, including being molested by cruise line youth counselors.         

Susy Albertinni - Costa Concordia Cruise3.  "No Cruise Ship Has Sunk Since the Titanic" 

Some travel agents have taken the "cruising is safe" talking points so far that they are claiming that no cruise ship has sunk in 100 years.  

The Travel Market Report quotes travel agent Nancy Yoffe of Cruise Planners, in Spartanburg, South Carolina explaining how she sells cruise tickets in the post-Concordia world: “ . . I would say the last time a ship like this went down was 1912.”

These travel agents may be good salesmen but they are bad historians.  

The truth is that many cruise ships have sunk with loss of life.  The last sinking was the Sea Diamond,which nailed a charted reef, and sank just four years ago.

Then there is the infamous sinking of the Oceanos cruise ship (photo left), where the captain abandoned ship leaving women, children and elderly passengers to die (they miraculously survived). The sinking of the Oceanos is featured on my list of top 5 cruise ship disasters - watch the video here.
Cruise Ship Sinking - Oceanos

Other spectacular sinkings of cruise ships include the loss of the Sun Vista which burned and sank.

No one can forget the sinking of the Andrea Doria, which ironically enough was home ported in Genoa, Italy where Costa is based. It sank in the Atlantic after a collision with another cruise ship. The fire and sinking of the Yarmouth Castle resulted in nearly one hundred dead passengers and crew.  Add to this list, the sinking of the SeaBreeze I, the Majestic Explorer, the Al-Salaam Boccaccio, Achille Laura, Explorer, M/V Saurav, Queen Of The North, Senopati Nusantara, M/V Bulgaria, Estonia, and the Mikhail Lermontov (which sank in 100 feet of water off the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island after hitting a reef).

If a travel agent sells a cruise by misrepresenting that no cruise ship sank for the 100 year period between the Titanic and the Concordia, they should be sued for fraud.

4.  "The Cruise Industry is Heavily Regulated"

The basic business model of the cruise industry was perfected by Carnival's founder Ted Arison in the 1960's - incorporate the business in Panama and register the cruise ships there too in order to avoid all U.S. taxes and safety and labor laws, and then sell cruises to tax-paying U.S. citizens.  

There is no way that an U.S. incorporated business which pays income tax and complies with U.S. minimal wage and overtime laws can possibly compete with an offshore business like Carnival which collects nearly $15 billion a year, pays no taxes, and exploits workers from India and the Caribbean islands who earn as little as $550 working 360 hours a month.  

Ted Arison's son, current Carnival CEO Micky Arison, is carrying on this tradition of avoiding all U.S. regulation and oversight.  He and other executives understand perfectly well that the success of their cruise lines depends on avoiding U.S. oversight at every turn.  No wonder Micky is the richest person in Florida with a net worth of many billions.  

Flag states like Bermuda, Bahamas and Panama will never meddle into the cruise lines' business. Yes, there is the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and its "regulations."  But truth be told, the IMO is a weak and toothless U.N. entity.  It's "regulations" are mere suggestions.  If a cruise line ignores a IMO rule, there is no consequence. That's why you have have reputable journalists like reporters at Reuters who are characterizing the Concordia crash as a symptom of the cruise industry's "lax regulation and supervision," as explained in the recent article "How the Cruise Industry Sails Under the Radar." 

5.  "Cruising Will Now Be Safer Now Than Ever"

There is a warm, fuzzy and entirely naive sentiment expressed by travel agents that once a disaster happens, the cruise industry will quickly learn from its mistakes and make changes to improve safety.   The problem is that's not true with an industry which keeps things secret and does not invite regulatory scrutiny.

For example, two Costa cruise ships were involved in separate collisions in the years before the ConcordiaCosta Europa - Secret Report crash. The Costa Classica ran into a freighter and slashed a deep gash through the side of the ship. The Costa Europa slammed into a dock and killed several crewmembers. The flag state, Italy, investigated the incident but refused to turn the report over to the International Maritime Organization.  In the article "Costa Cruise Egypt Accident Report is Strictly Confidential," BBC News points out that the IMO cannot begin to assess the accident and consider potential improvements to safety without seeing the report.     

After the Concordia deaths, Carnival stated that it would be conducting a full blown audit of Costa to make certain that its operations were being conducted safely and responsibly.  Whether this is happening who knows. This was a PR move, to head off public demands that the cruise line should be investigated by the government.

There is no statement by Carnival that the results of the alleged audit will be released to the public or that it will permit its operations to be investigated by professional and independent maritime experts. That will never happen. If there is an audit, Carnival will keep the results secret. This is the wild west environment of the cruise industry, not the aviation industry which is squarely under the thumb of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).    

6.  "Excessive Drinking, Violence & Crime Are Rare"

Shortly after the Concordia disaster, ABC News aired a 20/20 cruise special.  I was in the special explaining how the Concordia drama unfolded.  You can watch the first segment of the program here

The second part of the program showed the problem of excessive drinking and violence.  You can see that segment here. I learned a new phrase watching the show - "cruise drunk."  It has been clear to me for years that there is way too much booze and way too few security personnel on cruise ships.  When I expressed these opinions on the 20/20 show, I received hate e-mails for a week after the program aired.

The ASTA and travel agents took it upon themselves to include talking points in response to the 20/20 program, believe it or not.  The talking points included assurances that passengers don't get out of line or drink excessively.

Two weeks later 16 drunken cruise passengers were kicked off P & O's Pacific Dawn cruise ship for out of control violence. 

Be Honest, Tell the Public the Truth 

The cruise industry's reputation has been tarnished with a lack of transparency over the years.

A post-disaster PR campaign of talking points should start and finish with "be honest" - which is absent from the CLIA talking points.  Instead, CLIA suggests that travel agents should require clients to sign a "waiver" releasing the travel agent from all liabilities, including misrepresentations of the cruises. Why would an agent need such a waiver if they were simply telling the truth? 

There is a certain irony about all of these false talking points.  Many life threatening situations Costa Concordia - The Situation Is Under Control - Go Back To Your Cabinswhich the Concordia passengers faced after the cruise ship struck the rocks can be attributed to false information provided by the vessel's officers and crew.  

Remember, as water poured through the 160 foot gash in the Costa Concordia's hull, the officers were dishonest with the guests.  As the cruise ship sank, they lied to the passengers - "everything is okay; the ship had just experienced an electrical failure."  Later, the Costa crew falsely assured passengers - "the situation is under control, go back to your cabins." And no one can forget the lie told by Captain Schettino after he abandoned women and children to die on his ship that he had somehow "fallen into a lifeboat."   

CLIA's talking points, like the lies told by the Costa captain and his officers, perpetuate the cruise industry's reputation as lacking honesty and transparency.       

There are travel agents who don't rely on someone else's talking points.  New Jersey travel agent and my friend David Stern has his own warnings and safety videos on his web site.  

If you are a travel agent reading this, don't get caught up in CLIA's cult of personality.  Be yourself.  Learn about the history of cruise ship fires, collisions, groundings, sinkings and crimes. And then tell your clients the truth.

 

Photo credits: 

Dayana Arlotti:  lego.it

Susy Albertini: Telegraph

Costa Concordia Cruise Disaster Reveals Cruise Industry Has No Credible Voice

Late last Friday, I received a tweet from one of my 9,000 friends on Twitter informing me that a cruise ship had run aground off the coast of Italy.  Not much was known about what happened.  No one in the media was initially reporting on the incident. 

I stayed up all Friday night and Saturday morning watching the increasingly frantic twitter feed about the emerging circumstances surrounding the grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship.  Twitter friends like London cruise blogger John Honeywell a/k/a @CaptGreybeard began Costa Concordia Cruise Disastertweeting the first photographs of the beached cruise ship.  Other friends on twitter like Mikey's Cruise Blog tweeted non-stop as the story unfolded.  

Completely missing from the discussion on social media sites like twitter and facebook were Carnival (the owner of Costa) or its CEO Mickey Arison ( @MickyArison ) or the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) which has a twitter name @CruiseFacts.

CLIA did not make a single tweet, statement or press release all weekend. 

The few bits and pieces of information which trickled from from Costa falsely suggested that the stricken cruise ship was being orderly evacuated and that the passengers were "not at risk."

In the first blog I wrote that night, I suspected that the cruise line's comments were "probably the usual misleading and false cruise propaganda."  As it turned out, while Costa was assuring the public that everything was fine, panicked passengers were jumping overboard or struggling to survive as water filled their cabins.    

Costa Concordia Captain - Coward of the Seas?The motto of the $35,000,000,000 a year cruise industry is CLIA's "one industry, one voice."  But CLIA apparently does not work on the weekends.  When disaster struck the Concordia and over 4,000 passengers and crew feared for their lives, CLIA remained silent.

Meanwhile, the void  was filled with insightful analysis and photographs from the international media, particularly from the U.K., as well as iReporter accounts from the scene of the disaster.

The first tweet from the Carnival CEO Arison, who has amassed a personal fortune of over $4,000,000,000 (billion) from cruise fares, came long after the disaster, expressing his condolences, but quickly followed by a tweet (since deleted) supporting his pro basketball team of NBA superstars.         

The void created by the absence of information from CLIA and Carnival and its subsidiary line Costa was quickly filled by non-stop interviews of surviving passengers who described the chaos and deadly confusion as they tried to escape the sinking vessel, which we now understand was caused by the reckless conduct of the cowardly cruise ship captain (above right) who abandoned ship when things got tough.  

The media quickly called on maritime lawyers here in South Florida to provide insight into the disaster.  Our firm received inquires from major television and radio networks like ABC, 20/20, NBC, CNN, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, CNBC, the Canadian Television Network and BBC Radio, as well as national and international newspapers and magazines like Newsweek, the Jim Walker - CNN Studio - Costa Concordia Cruise DisasterNew York Times, the Washington Post, and U.K.'s Telegraph.  I spent the better part of this week speaking with several dozen journalists and shuttling between TV production studios in Miami and Fort Lauderdale for interviews.

The cruise industry did not have much to say.  No one appeared on TV on behalf of the cruise lines. CLIA finally updated its facebook page to assure the public that cruise disasters like this were "extremely rare."  But journalists are turned off by such false and self-serving garbage, and turn to information like that contained on my article Costa Concordia Calamity Just the Latest Disaster for Cruise Industry which discussed prior deaths and injuries on Costa cruise ships in the last two years and a rash of deadly cruise disasters which CNN featured this week.

CLIA also teamed up with a local cruise line defense lawyer here in Miami to write a press release with claims like "the cruise industry is a heavily regulated industry and safety is our highest priority" and "all cruise ships are designed and operated in compliance with the strict requirements of the International Maritime Organization."

I have learned that the media hates corporate PR statements like this.  It's called "gobbledygook" (definition below).  

Most journalists understand that cruise lines are largely unregulated.  To the extent that there is any regulation it is mostly self regulation by an industry whose business model is to incorporate in places like Panama and Liberia and flag their vessels in places like the Bahamas and Bermuda to avoid all U.S. income taxes, labor laws and safety laws.  The so-called "strict requirements" of the IMO are, at best, mere recommendations which the cruise lines can choose to ignore with impunity, like the decision Costa made not to bother to conduct a lifeboat drill before sailing on this disastrous cruise.    

As this week comes to an end, the misleading cruise line press releases simply added to the lack of credibility and silliness of an industry which is known for its lack of transparency.  As the Costa Concordia disaster became a nightly staple for the cable news stations this week, CLIA and the cruise line supporters were no where to be found.  They seem to be hiding under the covers.

Perhaps CLIA's new motto should be "one industry, no voice."         

 

Here are examples of some of the articles we participated in this week:  

CNBC:  Travel: Do you need medical evacuation insurance?

Canadian Television:  Crime, fires compromise cruise ship safety: experts

International Herald Tribune / New York Times: Disaster Cripples Cruiser, Not Cruising

Washington Post:  Costa Concordia sinking leaves other cruise ship passengers alarmed — and out of luck

Cleveland Plain Dealer:  Cruise ship accident prompts questions about industry safety

Examiner:  Passengers blame Carnival Corporation for Costa Concordia wreck

 

*The word "gobbledygook" comes from Maury Maverick, a Texan lawyer who served as a Democratic Congressman and the mayor of San Antonio. He used the word in the New York Times Magazine in 1944 referring to a turkey, “always gobbledy gobbling and strutting with ludicrous pomposity.” 

Cruise Industry Spent $2,505,094 Lobbying Congress This Year, $36,389,955 Since 1997

Cruise Line International Association CLIA Lobby CongressBusiness Week reports that the Cruise Lines International Association ("CLIA") spent $453,444 lobbying the federal government in the second quarter this year.

CLIA is the cruise industry's trade organization which promotes the interests of the cruise industry. 

It lobbied Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, and the U.S. Coast Guard on issues such as vessel sanitation, safety and security.

Professor Ross Klein maintains a data base of the cruise industry's lobbying on his popular cruise site "Cruise Junkie."  

CLIA has spent a total of $1,644,094 so far this year (six months).  Royal Caribbean alone has spent an additional $741,000 lobbying Congress, with Holland America Lines and a Carnival / Arison family group spending $120,000 each.   The total money spent by the cruise industry so far this year is $2,505,094.

CLIA and the cruise lines have spent $36,389,955 since 1997 lobbying the U.S. Congress and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lobbyfederal agencies. 

Royal Caribbean spent over $6,000,000 in the last five years, during a time when most of the cruise crime hearings involved incidents which occurred on Royal Caribbean ships.

To understand how the foreign flagged cruise industry uses its tax free money to lobby U.S. Congressmen and Congresswomen, consider reading:

Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act

Cruise Industry Spent $400,000 Last Quarter Lobbying Against Safety & Environmental Regulations

Cruise Industry Spent $490,000 Lobbying Congress & Federal Agencies in First Three Months of 2011

Forbes is reporting that the Cruise Lines International Association ("CLIA"), the trade trade group which promotes the interests of the cruise industry, spent $490,650 in the first quarter this year, lobbying the U.S. government. 

The cruise industry lobbied Congress, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs & Board Protection, State Department, Homeland Security Department, Transportation Department, Justice Department on a number of matters, including  vessel quarantine and safety issues.

 

Did MSC Cruises Try To Cover Up Major Coast Guard Safety Violations On The Opera?

Last week I was away from my computer traveling in Jamaica to visit crewmembers while the story broke about the U.K.'s Maritime and Coastguard Agency detaining the MSC Cruises' Opera cruise ship for safety violations.   

The incident was the type of event which I would normally and quickly write about.  But by the time I returned to Miami the cruise ship had already been detained, released and back to sea.    

A story today in the USA Today entitled "UK Coast Guard: Issue with Detained MSC Cruises Ship was Major" renewed my interest in the story.  The article was written by Gene Sloan who hosts an  excellent and very popular cruise blog called "CruiseLog," which caters to the cruise community.   MSC Cruises Opera Cruise Ship - Detention - Major Safety ViolationsHe reported today on the fact that the detention of the MSC Opera was no small matter.  In fact, the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency informed USA Today that there were multiple issues that together "led to the conclusion of a major non-conformity."

In the UK, cruise ships may be detained under UK Merchant Shipping Act 1995 only when it “appears to a relevant inspector to be a dangerously unsafe ship."

USA Today reported that the MSC Opera arrived in Southampton "overladen" with concerns by safety inspectors about the cruise ship's stability and safety emergency preparedness which were in violation of the International Safety Maritime Code (an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships).

USA Today further reported that the Opera was detained after it arrived in Southampton on May 25th coming from a shipyard where it had undergone repairs after losing power in the Baltic Sea, which left it adrift for several days until it was towed back to port.  "Passengers described uncomfortable conditions during the incident that included blackouts, a lack of hot food and running water, and backed-up toilets."

What is remarkable about the USA Today article is that it reported that when news of the detention first broke last week, MSC Cruises falsely told news outlets (including USA Today) that it was just "a rumor."  Later in the day, after the ship had been cleared to sail, MSC "issued a short statement that appeared carefully crafted to leave the impression that there had been no issues with the vessel. The statement made no mention of the detention."

Of the over 500 blogs I have written about the cruise industry in the last year and a half, a major Richard Sasso - President MSc Cruises - Opera Cruise Ship - Cruise Line International Association  focus of my articles is not about the bad things that happen on cruise ships - but the extraordinary steps that the cruise industry takes to cover them up.

The fact that CruiseLog, a friend to the cruise industry by all accounts, would publish an article about this cruise ship's safety deficiencies as well as the cruise line's lack of candor is encouraging.  It reflects objectivity and a clear concern for the public's safety and welfare which are often lacking in most pro-cruise publications. 

It will only be when cruise fans and CLIA travel agents demand greater transparency and accountability from the cruise lines will there be improvements in the safe operation of cruise ships.    

It also cannot be overlooked that the CEO and president of MSC Cruises, Richard Sasso, has been the chairman of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Marketing Committee.  CLIA is the trade organization for the cruise industry which promotes the U.S. cruise lines and has the motto that it "promotes all measures that foster a safe and secure cruise environment."

Needless to say, it's disappointing that a cruise ship deemed by UK safety inspectors to be "dangerously unsafe," and whose leader is the head of marketing CLIA cruise ships, would exhibit such a lack of candor to international news outlets and to the American public. 

This type of conduct perpetuates the image of the cruise industry as slick and dishonest marketers.  
     

 

Additional info:  What is a Cruise Ship Detention? 

The MSC Opera is flagged in Panama which is suppose to make certain that the ships carrying its flag meet safety standards.  But like many "flag of convenience" countries, Panama does not have a reputation of vigorously overseeing the safe operation of cruise ships and other vessels flying the flag of Panama.   

Responsibility for overseeing the safety and security of cruise ships often falls, by default, to the "port states" where the cruise ship are based or countries where they call on port.  Caribbean countries are largely either incompetent or indifferent to safety issues or hesitant to incur the wrath of a major cruise line. 

But countries like the U.K. or the U.S., from time to time, will intervene.  Agencies in port states can intervene for safety or health reasons, like was threatened in this norovirus case aboard the Balmoral cruise ship once it reached the U.K. 

The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. public health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") can shut cruise ships down, like when the CDC issued a "no sail' order for the noro-virus plagued Celebrity Mercury cruise ship which infected passengers for four sailings until it was finally shut down for health reasons.

 

Photo credits: 

Top:  Solent Shipping News 

Bottom:  Travel Agent Central

What Happens to Cruise Ship Criminals? Not Much . . .

"Naked Law" by AVVO recently published an interesting article "What Happens to Cruise Ship Criminals?"

The article poses the following scenario: 

"A group of young women take a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean, a trip they’ve been planning for months.  The second night on board, they have a couple of drinks in one of the ship’s many lounges and bars.  The bartender is attractive and flirty.

Later that night, he rapes one of the women in her cabin—something he’s done before because he always gets away with it.  He knows full well that cruise companies generally do whatever it takes to cover up shipboard crimes.  By the time his victim gets to port, it’s too late to get any real evidence, plus the maid steam-cleaned the DNA off the cabin carpet."

TIME Magazine - Crime Rocks the Boats - Cruise Ship CrimeThe problem with this hypothetical scenario is that it is not hypothetical at all.  We have represented passengers who have been raped by bartenders, cabin attendants and even security guards on cruise ships.

The article mentions two of our client's cases and also refers to an article by Cruise Law News. 

First cited is an article by Julie Rowe in TIME Magazine entitled "Crime Rocks the Boats" which discussed the case of firm client Janet Kelley and the disappearance of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise with firm client Jennifer Hagel.  TIME published its blockbuster article in March 2006 while Congress was convening its second (of five) hearings on the problem of cruise ship crime.  It would not be until 2010 that Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which requires cruise ships to report shipboard crimes to the FBI and U.S. Coast Guard and to maintain rape kits aboard the ships.  

AVVO also cited our article Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It! in which we discuss the disturbing cases of passengers James Scavonne (Carnival), Dianne Brimble (P and O Cruises), Merrian Carver (Celebrity Cruises), Christopher Caldwell (Carnival), and George Smith IV (Royal Caribbean), as well as the disappearance of Italian crew member Angelo Faliva (Princess Cruises). 

The new cruise safety law will not go into effect until 2012.  In the meantime, there remains few arrests and even fewer convictions when crimes occur during cruises.  The most recent alleged crime, involving a 17 year old who was allegedly raped after a crew member purchased her a half dozen drinks, resulted in a quick FBI investigation and no arrest.  Royal Caribbean terminated the crew member and gave him a one way ticket back home.  But the cruise line bartender who sold the booze and those on the cruise ship who observed the crew member drinking and fraternizing with the minor remain employed today.

The fired bartender is free to seek employment on one of the other 25 cruise lines which operate out of the U.S.  The cruise lines who are members of the Cruise Line International association ("CLIA") do not share information with each other when a crew member from one of the CLIA cruise ships is fired for sexual misconduct.

In the case of firm client Janet Kelly, raped by a cruise line bartender on a CLIA cruise ship, the crew member applied for work on another line (Princess Cruises) and was accepted for employment.  Sexual predators are emboldened by the cruise industry's indifference to this problem.

 

Credit: Julie Rowe, Time Magazine

Christine Duffy, President of CLIA, Tells Her First Lie

Yesterday, Travel Pulse published an "interview" of Christine Duffy, the incoming president of the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA").  CLIA is the cruise industry's trade organization responsible for promoting the cruise lines' interests and lobbying Congress. 

We have written a few articles about CLIA and their Pravda-like view of the facts regarding the cruise industry.  We were hoping the new leadership at CLIA would be a change from the past. 

CLIA - Christine Duffy - Cruise Line International AssociationThe "interview" was the usual PR piece, consisting of prearranged soft ball questions.  But I fell out of my chair upon reading her comments about what she told Congressional leaders during a lobbying trip to Washington D.C.:   

Part of the message we delivered in D.C. is that the travel industry employs more people than the auto industry, and we didn’t get a bailout. We employ a lot more people than anybody recognized, and our impact is in all 50 states. We’re not going to offshore our jobs . . .

Wow!  What a whopper!

The fact of the matter is that all of the CLIA cruise lines are foreign corporations.  Unlike Ford or Chevrolet which are U.S. corporations and employ U.S. employees, the CLIA cruise lines are 100% foreign corporations.  Carnival was incorporated in Panama.  Royal Caribbean was incorporated in Liberia (yes, Africa).   And all of these cruise lines fly the flags of foreign countries like Panama, Liberia, Bermuda and the Bahamas.  By registering their companies and cruise ships overseas to avoid U.S. labor, wage and safety laws, the foreign cruise lines also avoid U.S. income taxes.  The $35,000,000,000 (billion) cruise industry pays no U.S. Federal income taxes.

If the cruise lines were required to pay U.S. taxes, they would pay over $10,000,000,000 a year.  The cruise industry receives a $10 billion bailout each year, year after year.  

But that's not all.  All of the cruise ships are manufactured and constructed in foreign shipyards, in Italy, Norway or France.  And 99.9% of the officers and crew members (except some of the U.S. dancers and singers) are from "overseas."  No U.S. workers are going to work 360 hours a month for around $545 like the incredibly hard working utility cleaners from India, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

The cruise industry is the most outsourced, non-U.S. industry in America.  The industry is built on the business model of tax-paying U.S. citizens paying their hard earned wages to the foreign corporation cruise lines who pay no taxes to the U.S. and exploit their foreign employeesby paying slave wages to the lower tier crew members.

"We’re not going to offshore our jobs" Ms. Duffy?  Please, it's too early in 2011 to tell lies.       

 

Photo credit:  Travel Industry Today   

Power Outage on Queen Mary 2 Due to Catastrophic Explosion

A temporary power outage on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 in September was caused by the "catastrophic failure of a capacitor and explosion in an 11kV harmonic filter" on the vessel, according to the U.K.'s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) which issued a marine safety report yesterday.

On September 23rd, the Queen Mary 2 was approaching Barcelona early in the morning when the vessel lost lights and power, causing the cruise ship to drift off of the coast of Spain.  No Queen Mary 2 - QM2 - Explosion - Blown Out Doorexplanation for the power failure was provided by the Captain or the cruise line.

There are excellent articles regarding this incident published today by Cruise Critic - "Power Outage on QM2 Found to Be Result of Explosion" and another by Gene Sloan's CruiseLog - "Safety officials issue warning after explosion on Cunard's Queen Mary 2:" 

The explosion near one of QM2's main electric switchboard rooms (photo below) when a capacitor failed and leaking oil sprayed onto high voltage bars, causing a "major arc flash event. The explosion blew the steel door to the room out of its frame! (photo, left)  "The blast ... also caused serious damage to an adjoining steel door into the main switchboard room, the stiffeners on the bulkhead of the compartment were buckled, and the steel cover plate on a cross-flooding duct was blown out into the main switchboard room," the report says.  "Fortunately there were no personnel in the vicinity."

The reporting of this latest incident raises the issue of the safety of foreign flagged cruise ships, and comes after a string of recent disturbing mishaps.

Yesterday, we reported on Passengers Poisoned By Gas On Princess Cruise Ship

Earlier in the week, the negligence of Holland America Line permitted a drunk passenger to enter a restricted area and drop an anchor as the cruise ship was underway - Drunk Passenger Drops Cruise Ship Anchor

Last week, a passenger died on the Carnival Splendor under mysterious circumstances and Carnival added to the mystery by issuing a terse and questionable statement that the death was "medical related" notwithstanding a small army of FBI agents spending the day in the cabin and leaving with bags of evidence - Death on a Fun Ship: What Really Happened on the Carnival Liberty?

And two weeks ago, the cruise industry faced the spectacle of what an engine room fire can due to a new mega ship as the disabled Carnival Splendor drifted around off of the coast of Mexico for the better part of what seemed like forever.       

But the cruise industry will never admit that it has a safety problem.  Rick Sasso, president of MSC Cruises (USA) and chairman of the marketing committee for CLIA, disagreed with me yesterday in an article about cruise safety issues in Cruise Critic.  Sasso said "I challenge people to measure the cruise industry's safety record against any other industry  .  .  .  Any critic that says cruises are unsafe -- sorry, it's just B.S."  

Right out of the horse's mouth.

Queen Mary 2 - QM2 - Explosion

 

Credit:  maib.gov.uk (via Cruise Log)

 

Cruise News Round-Up: A Cruise Billionaire, Cruise Industry Lies, Royal Caribbean Monkey Business, and Good News For Cruise Law News

This week was another interesting week in the strange world of cruise law.  Just consider:

A Cruise CEO With Billions of Dollars But No Soul?

Carnival Cruise's CEO Billionaire Mickey Arison was named the richest man in Florida again by Mickey Arison - Carnival Cruise CEO - Billions for him - Peanuts for Crew Fortune magazine with a net worth of $4,100,000,000.  So why does he pay his injured and ill crew members slave wages of only $12 a day? 

Arison owns the Miami Heat and is paying basketball stars Dwayne Wade and LeBron James hundreds of millions of dollars, but he treats his crew employees like dog crap.  

Arison and the other cruise line tycoons Leon Black and the Pritzker families are stereotypes of greedy shipping executives.  Earlier this year I wrote about these Cruise Line Fat Cat Billionaires.  Here we are again with these billionaires counting their pennies.  

Billions for me, peanuts for the crew.  

More Lies By the Cruise Line International Association

The notorious Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), which rivals the former communist regimes of Russia in trying to control the flow of information (Pravda anyone?), released a major marketing PR effort this week to promote itself as a green industry.  CEO Arison is quoted as saying that the cruise industry is "committed to the highest environmental standards through cutting-edge environmental policies, procedures, technologies . . . "

Ha.

The truth is that Arison and CLIA fought tooth and nail this year to avoid Alaska's high wastewater restrictions.  A green company?  Hardly.  CLIA opposes the Clean Air Law and its cruise ships are still burning nasty bunker fuel.  Technologies needed to meet the "highest" wastewater and emission standards cost money, that billionaire Arison has historically avoided spending unless forced to do so.     

Bunker Fuel - CLIA - Cruise Line International AssociationAt the same time CLIA issued its grandiose environmental press statement, numerous newspapers published articles revealing that the cruise industry still has a long, long way to go to protect the seas in which its cruise ships still pollute: "Cruise Ships Continue Dumping Sewage,"  "The Dark Side of Cruising: Waste Disposal," and "Cruise Ships Continue to Foul the Baltic Sea."

More Monkey Business By Royal Caribbean

My blog this week contained two of my most widely read articles over the course of the last year.  Royal Caribbean's Deep Throat focused on the corruption in Royal Caribbean's risk management department.  

The "Deep Throat" article about the cruise line's indifference toward its own corrupt employee should be read in contrast to the cruise line's diabolical conduct toward a former cruise line lawyer who decided to "switch sides" and represent injured passengers and crew members - Royal Caribbean Forces Defense Lawyer to Switch Sides.  This article was widely circulated by email within Royal Caribbean's legal department and its outside law firm who are teaming up in a campaign of malicious prosecution against our firm.

The "Deep Throat" article was named as one of the "best in blogs" by LexBlog yesterday.

More Good News For Cruise Law News (CLN)

Speaking of the best blogs, CLN has reached another milestone as one of the most read legal blogs in the U.S.  Three months ago, I was excited to mention that this blog was the 55th most popular legal blog per the Alexa rankings and was rising fast. I predicted by the end of the year that CLN's popularity would place it in the top 25 law blogs.

Well today Alexa's ranking shows that CLN moved up from the 55th to the 32nd most popular law blog.   

It seems that the public is hungry for a source of information about cruising other than the slick corporate statements from billionaire executives and bogus facts from the cruise industry's PR people. 

 

Interested in how your blog or website is ranked?  Click here and download the Alexa toolbar.  It will take 20 seconds . . .

Credits:  Mickey Arison - David Adame AP (via Cruise Blog)

Cruise Crime and the Indifference of Travel Writers

This was a historic week in the world of cruising.  

Congress passed the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act, which will help make cruising safer for U.S. families.  Cruise lines will be required to install peepholes in cabin doors, maintain anti-retroviral medications and rape kits for victims, improve crime evidence handling procedures and - for the first time in the history of the cruise industry - report crimes to the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI.  

Travel Writers - Cruise - EthicsCongress also passed the "SPILL Act" (H.R. 5503) which removes the limitation of liability  for shipping companies, and amends the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA) to permit families to recover compensation when they lose a loved one on the high seas - whether it is on a drilling rig or a cruise ship.  In so doing, Congress finally repealed an archaic and wicked law that has inflicted additional pain on cruise victims for the past ninety years.  

These pieces of legislation are the results of the dedication and hard work of families of U.S. citizens killed in international waters, including members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV).  The ICV is a grass roots, non-profit organization comprised entirely of volunteers who have been a victim of a crime on a cruise ship or lost a loved one during a cruise.

These two new laws are truly historic. But you would never know it by reading the hundreds of cruise websites and travel-writer blogs.    

There are literally thousands of travel agents and travel writers who I follow daily on Twitter.  But not one blogger mentioned either one of these new bills.

The problem is that many of the travel writers and most of the cruise bloggers are shills for the cruise industry.  They sell cruises or advertise cruise banners on their web sites.  Many cruise lines invite them on all-expense-paid cruises in exchange for favorable cruise reviews.

The exception is Arthur Frommer, of the famous Frommer's Travel Guides, and his daughter Pauline Frommer who covers travel stories in her blog "Daily Briefings."  Ms. Frommer covered the cruise safety law in an article entitled In the Wee Hours This Morning, Cruising Just Got a Heckuva Lot Safer.  Mr. Frommer re-printed his daughter's article, and added a few personal comments, in A Cruise Line Safety Act Has Quietly Passed the House of Representatives.      

The Frommers explain the key provisions of the new law and recognize the remarkable efforts of the ICV over the past five years. 

Mr. Frommer acknowledges that "even the travel trade press has failed to take more than the barest notice of proposed legislation in Congress that would require the cruise lines to tighten up safety . . . "

The new maritime laws were passed only after years of resistance and millions of dollars of lobbying by the cruise industry's trade organization - the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) - which is comprised of 16,000 travel agents.  CLIA has a cozy relationship with many travel writers who choose not to offend the CLIA cruise lines by writing anything negative about the foreign flagged cruise industry.  We have touched upon this subject in Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

CLIA unsuccessfully worked behind the scenes lobbying against the SPILL Act in an effort to deny the widows and children of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster from receiving compensation - a disgusting spectacle we reported on in Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families

So it should come as no surprise that most travel writers and the CLIA cruise bloggers chose not to touch these stories.

But it is refreshing to see travel writers with integrity and ethics like Mr. Frommer and Ms. Frommer write about the cruise safety law which will protect the cruising public.   

July 7, 200 Update:

TNOOZ (Talking Trave Tech) has an interesting blog about my blog: "Are Travel Writers Shills For The Cruise Lines?"  A number of travel writers are commenting.

Congress Amends Death On High Seas Act Over Cruise Industry's Objections

John Conyers - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act - BP - Cruise ShipToday, the House of Representatives passed a bill - H.R. 5503 (also known as the SPILL Act)  - which will amend the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).  H.R. 5503 will permit the widows and children of the oil rig workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster to be compensated for their grief, mental anguish and suffering due to the deaths of their husbands and fathers.       

The bill was passed in the House today due to the efforts of the families of the 11 workers who died when the drilling rig exploded two months ago.  The families targeted their efforts on the obscure DOHSA law which does not recognize the suffering of children and spouses who lose loved ones on the high seas. 

The bill was introduced by Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, who chairs the BP - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act - BP - Cruise ShipsU.S. House Judiciary Committee. 

We have reported on the sad death of oil worker Gordon Jones, who left behind a pregnant and loving wife and a young son, and the extraordinary efforts of his father who lobbied to change this unfavorable law. 

BP fought against the families.  So did the notorious Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), who lobbied behind the scenes to try and keep the oil rig wives and children from receiving compensation.

The amendment to DOHSA is also needed for families who have lost loved ones on cruises ships.  Hundreds of passengers have died on cruise ships due to the negligence of the cruise lines.   

Yesterday, we reported on the unconscionable efforts of CLIA.  We posted a letter which CLIA sent to legislators to oppose the efforts of the grieving families suffering from the BP explosion.   

CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas ActToday, the bad guys - BP, Transocean and the cruise lines - lost.  The good guys won.

But the law still needs to be passed in the Senate.  BP, Transocean, and CLIA will be back - like vultures - to walk the halls of our Senate.  Bad companies like this will try and keep this much needed reform of DOHSA from being enacted into law.  

 

 

For additional information about DOHSA, consider reading:

What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common?

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense

Will BP and the Cruise Industry Join Forces to Screw Americans?

The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years

Will BP and the Cruise Industry Join Forces to Screw Americans?

Mother Jones published an interesting article this morning by  Stephanie Mencimer, "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP's Dirty Work?" about how the cruise line lobbyists may join forces with BP to help the oil company dodge liability for the eleven workers killed on the Transocean drilling rig.

BP - Transocean Deepwater Horizon Rig - DOSHAYou see the drilling rig is considered to be a vessel for purposes of maritime law.  And when an employee (or passenger) is killed on a vessel in international waters, the case is governed by the Death on the High Seas Act (DOSHA).  

Enacted in 1920, DOHSA prohibits the families of loved ones lost at sea to recover any compensation for their grief, sadness and bereavement or their children's loss of love, nurture and guidance.  We have written about this outdated and inequitable law before: "The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."  The cruise industry and its trade organization spend millions each year lobbying against efforts to repeal DOHSA.

So when the BP oil well exploded and killed the oil workers, the lawyers for BP undoubtedly began to educate their negligent client that liability for the dead men would be limited under DOHSA solely to the wages they earned.  There is no liability for the dead men's pain and suffering after they were burned and lay dying, or their fear of imminent death, or the mental anguish and suffering of their wives and children.     

Mother Jones points out that one of the rig workers who was killed was single and childless. That means his family would only be entitled to recover funeral expenses under DOHSA.  But because his body was never found after the rig blew up, there is nothing to bury.  BP could get away with paying as little as $1,000 for his death. 

There are representatives in Congress, including Senator Leahy, who will introduce legislation to repeal DOHSA so that families of the oil workers are reasonably compensated.  But the article predicts that:    

"There’s another powerful industry with an interest in doing BP's dirty work to preserve the status quo. That would be cruise line operators - and when it comes to Beltway battles, the Son Michael Pham - Death On High Seas Actcruise lobby is no Love Boat."

The article addressed the sad story of Son Michael Pham (photo right), the vice president of the International Cruise Victims Association. (Mr. Pham is the founder of the non-profit organization Kids Without Borders).

As the article explains: "In 2005, his parents went on a Caribbean cruise and never came back. Carnival Cruise Line, one of the world’s largest cruise operators, never offered any explanation for what had happened, and has refused to discuss the incident with Pham and his family since then. That was how Pham discovered the horrible divide in the way the law treats people killed through negligence at sea. "We couldn't take legal action to get justice," he says. Long before the BP explosion, his group was lobbying Congress for DOHSA to be overhauled . . .

Finally, in 2009, the cruise ship victims succeeded in getting legislation introduced with help from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) that would have updated DOHSA in just the way Leahy has proposed. That change would have allowed families of cruise ship victims to sue for non-economic damages - a huge deal for cruise-goers, because so many are retired and have no salaries that would provide the basis of a legal award under the current law . . .

Mr. Hue Pham - Mrs. Hue Tran - DOHSABut the cruise industry spent $2.2 million fighting these changes. The Carnival cruise line company alone has donated more than $400,000 since 2007 to members of Congress from both parties, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The offending provision was eventually removed from the cruise-ship safety bill.

The Cruise Lines International Association did not return requests for comment. But Pham says he has no doubt that the DOHSA revision will not slip by without the lobbyists’ notice. "Cruise lines absolutely didn’t want DOHSA to be part of that [2009 bill] at all," he says, noting that the industry would suddenly become liable for all sorts of incidents that it's currently able to dodge legal responsibility for - everything from on-board murders to rapes to mysterious disappearances like that of Pham’s parents. "It’s an industry that self-polices. When there’s an incident on board, there’s nobody but themselves investigating themselves. You're not going to turn yourself in."

 

What do you think of DOHSA?  Please leave a comment below. 

Are you a travel agent or cruise specialists who is a member of CLIA?  Do you think that CLIA should spend millions of dollars a year lobbying to make certain that families on cruise ships lose their rights under DOHSA? 

 

Credits:

Deepwater Horizon Explosion          U.S. Coast Guard

Cruise Lines Often Don't Report Crimes

A local ABC affiliate in Boston WCVB TV5 recently aired a special investigation into the issue of cruise ship crime: "Crimes On Cruise Ships Often Not Reported - Local Victims Hope Laws At Sea Change."

The ABC affiliate accurately concludes that cruise lines are not required to report crimes on cruise ships in international waters.  The consequences of having no legal obligation to report a crime means that there is no consequence when the cruise line does not report the crime - such as in the case of Merrian Carver.  

Ms. Carver "disappeared" from the Mercury cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's subsidiary Celebrity Cruises.  But Royal Caribbean did not report her missing and tried to cover the incident up.  ABC PrimeTime aired a special on this disturbing case "Cruise Cover Up - Cruise Line Doesn't Notify Anyone When Woman Disappears On Second Day of Tour."  

We have written many articles about the cover up by Royal Caribbean, and the fight by Ms. Carver's Angela Orlich - Sexual Assault - Cruise Victimfather Ken Carver who continues to advocate for the safety of cruise passengers and demand transparency by the foreign flagged cruise industry.     

The ABC TV5 investigation also focused on the story of our firm client, cruise passenger Angela Orlich, who was sexually assaulted during a diving excursion while on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  The program also touches upon the well known case of George Smith IV who died during his honeymoon cruise on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas.  We represented Mr. Smith's widow, Jennifer Hagel.

After the story aired, the cruise industry's trade group, the notorious Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), complained on the station's web page that the story was "inaccurate."  CLIA George Smith IV - Missing - Cruise Victimclaimed that the story misled the public because U.S. law allegedly "requires cruise lines to report allegations of crime involving U.S. citizens no matter where the ship is in the world."  This is not true.  CLIA has no credibility and earned a reputation for bogus statements like this long ago.  Take a moment and read "Cruise Line Pravda" or learn about CLIA's dubious cast of characters here

In truth, there is absolutely no law requiring cruise lines to report crimes outside of 12 miles from shore.  

It also telling that CLIA took the time to complain about the news program, but didn't bother to apologize to Ms. Orlich or express sympathy to the parents of Ms. Carver and Mr. Smith who lost a child during a CLIA cruise. 

Unfortunately, such dishonesty and insensitivity characterizes CLIA and the cruise industry. 

 

 

 

 

Credits:

Video           ABC affiliate in Boston WCVB TV5

And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . .

A handful of recent stories have shed light unwanted light on the image-conscious cruise industry.  Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to paint pictures of care free vacations.  But here are some stories published in the last few days which make you realize that the fun-filled family cruise may a bit different than advertised.

Wedding Disaster on Carnival's Sensation - WKMG, a local television station from Orlando, Cruise PR - Cruise Public Relations reports on the disastrous wedding of a young couple on Carnival's Sensation cruise ship.  Initially delayed by a bomb scare, the wedding party was promised that the ceremony would go forward as planned.  But after arriving three hours late to the cruise ship, they find other passengers wandering into their pre-wedding buffet.  The ship's Captain then wanted them off the ship in thirty minutes.  So they quickly exchanged vows and headed to the reception buffet, which was interrupted by a muster station drill where other passengers arrived wearing life jackets and helped themselves to the buffet.  When the bride wanted to call Carnival's headquarters, the ship told her a per minute telephone charge would apply.  Watch the video, its a disaster.

The Death of Carnival Cruise Passenger Carol Olson - The Baltimore Sun covered the tragic death of a cruise passenger during a snorkeling excursion sold by Carnival which by all accounts was haphazard and disorganized.  Reporter Frank Roylance's wrote a blockbuster article entitled "Pleasure Cruises Bring Risks, Too - Families Say Tragedies Expose Cruise Lines' Limited Liability."  He touches upon an issue which the cruise lines like to keep secret - namely that cruise lines have insulated themselves from liability when the negligence of "independent contractors" like excursion companies and ship doctors ends up killing passengers. Roylance discusses cruise fires, drownings, disappearances, and crime.  

Date Rape Drugs on Princess Cruises -  The International Cruise Victims website just published a story "Cruise From Hell" where parents recount the terror of their daughter who goes to a teen center on Princess Cruises' Grand Princess only to end up missing.  According to the article, the daughter is eventually found semi-conscious by a stairwell.  The family reports that they endured the indignity of a security guard telling their daughter "where have you been, you little slut?"  Although the ship initially confirmed the involvement of a date rape drug, the cruise line later wrote the family a letter, saying that nothing happened.  Princess denied that any of the surveillance tapes showed anything - a tale we have heard before.

Royal Caribbean No Help To Passengers From the Tar Heel State - In a story we touched upon yesterday,  ABC affiliate WTVD News11 in North Carolina aired a story yesterday about a number of families who traveled to Miami only to find that Royal Caribbean's policies regarding the use of birth certificates as identification were inconsistent and confusing. The cruise line refused to permit passengers to board who had their original certificates from the hospitals where they were born, but let others aboard who had  facsimile copies from the clerk's office.  The $15,000,000,000 Cruise PR - Cruise Industry Reputationcorporation would not let any of the frantic passengers use their machines at the port.  Many frustrated customers spent $1,5000 each for a family vacation, only to be turned away from the ship.  Watch the video.

Carnival Terrorizes Passengers, Then Calls Their Stories "Ridiculous" -  Two weeks ago, the Carnival Ecstasy cruise ship was sailing across the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico when it suddenly and unexpectedly made a 90 degree turn which emptied the pool, ripped tables bolted to the deck loose, injured 60 passengers, and terrorized hundreds more.  Carnival claimed that the ship turned to port and listed around 12 degrees to avoid what Carnival called a "loose" buoy. 40 passengers left comments on our blog, stating that the ship actually turned to starboard, listed as much as 30 degrees, and may have been trying to avoid a fixed buoy marking small islands later documented on a maritime chart.  Carnival's PR spokesperson mocked the passengers, called their claims "ridiculous," and refused to apologize.       

The cruise industry's dubious reputation has never recovered after the Department of Justice caught Carnival and Royal Caribbean engaging in wide spread dumping, falsification of log books, and lying and fined them a total of $45,000,000 ten years ago.   

Stories like these suggest that cruise lines still have a hard time telling the truth or treating their customers fairly and squarely.  And the cruise industry wonders why it has an image problem . . .    

 

Like this article?  Then we suggest reading:

Cruise Lines and Social Media - P & O Cruises Hits A Home Run

Advertising Age - Royal Caribbean Blasted for Continuing Stops in Haiti - Despite Generous Efforts, PR Pros Say Cruise Line Has Damaged Reputation With Its Response

Or read a puff piece by a traveler writer regarding the cruise industry's reputation: Bad Rap: Why the News Media's Cruise Reporting Goes Negative

Have you subscribed to Cruise Law News (CLN)?  Just enter your email in the box at the left or sign up for a RSS feed. 

Have a suggestion for an article?  Let us hear from you in the contact box, above left. 

 

Credits:

Cruise ship and waiters               Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Injured Carnival Ecstasy passenger          Brandy and Ashley Vickery (via ABC13 "Sixty Passengers Hurt on Galveston-Based Cruise Ship")  

Cruise Industry Spent $400,000 Last Quarter Lobbying Against Safety & Environmental Regulations

Cruise Line International Association - CLIA - Lobbying Today Business Week published an article "Cruise Trade Group Spends $400K on 4Q Lobbying" which is re-printed, unedited, as follows:

"Cruise Lines International Association spent almost $400,000 in the fourth quarter to lobby on security and environmental issues along with other matters, according to a recent disclosure report.

The trade group that represents cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival also lobbied the federal government on legislation related to seaport inspections, customs matters, sanitation and health laws, quarantine procedures, international health requirements and crime reporting.

In the October-through-December period, the trade group, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., lobbied both chambers of Congress, along with the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control Cruise Line International Association - CLIA - Eric Ruff - Washington Insiderand Prevention, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Transportation Security Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a disclosure report filed in January with the House clerk's office."

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is the organization which promotes the interests of the cruise industry and lobbies Congress and federal agencies to avoid as much Federal regulation as possible. 

The $400,000 from CLIA is in addition to the millions of dollars spent in lobbying by the individual cruise lines.  For example cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein reports that Royal Caribbean alone spent over $3,000,000 for lobbyists for the last three years.  

The lawyers here at Cruise Law have attended five Congressional hearings where CLIA fought against safety laws and resisted reporting cruise crimes to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the U.S. Coast Guard.  

CLIA has a strange group of bedfellows:  

CLIA's Vice President of Communications is Eric Ruff (photograph above, far left with glasses) who was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's spokesperson who helped sell the U.S. on the war against Iraq.  He is now responsible for CLIA's "public policy."  Mr. Ruff is using his experience gained at Cruise Line International Association - CLIA - Terry Dale  the Department of Defense to fight the war against cruise crime regulations and environmental restrictions which may require the cruise industry to spend some of its tax free money to protect passengers and public waters.    

CLIA's President is Terry Dale (photograph left) who had the unenviable job of appearing before Congress and testifying against cruise line rape victims.  His half-hearted and ultimately losing argument, that cruising is safe and there is no need to report crimes, failed to convince Congress and further tarnished the cruise line's already battered and dubious public image.       

Another Vice President is Michael Crye (photograph below right).  As down to earth as a Brooks-Brothers-suit-with-extra-starch, Mr. Crye's title involves "technical and regulatory affairs," but he  routinely shows up at Congressional cruise crime hearings to belittle crime victims.  He is most infamous for accusing missing Royal Caribbean passenger George Smith of being responsible for his own "disappearance" during his 2005 honeymoon cruise.   

There is a lot at stake for the cruise industry.  The CLIA cruise lines, like Carnival, Norwegian and Cruise Line International Association - CLIA - Michael Crye Royal Caribbean, collect around $35,000,000,000 (billion) a year from mostly U.S. tax-paying citizens yet the cruise lines pay no U.S. taxes. Because of Congressional loopholes, U.S. based cruise companies - which register their businesses and flag their cruise ships in foreign countries - can avoid all U.S. taxes and safety and labor laws.

CLIA and the cruise lines are spending millions a year to make certain that Congress doesn't touch their tax free status and they can continue to skirt U.S. laws.  

In contrast to the cruise industry's multi-million dollar lobbying machine full of Washington insiders - Americans across the U.S. volunteering for the non-profit, grass roots organization International Cruise Victims (ICV) have traveled to Washington D.C. to keep the cruise industry accountable for crimes on cruise ships.  To see what an unfunded but dedicated group of victims can accomplish, consider reading:

Congress Passes Cruise Crime Law 

Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4

Ken Carver Fights for Cruise Ship Safety  

International Cruise Victims - ICV - Ron and Sue DiPieroThe photograph (left) shows Ron and Sue DiPiero of Ohio, who lost their son Daniel on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, outside their Congressman's office in Washington D.C.       

The DiPieros are fighting for a reform of the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) which provides no recovery for the emotional injuries sustained by grieving families who have lost a loved one on a cruise ship in international waters. 

The cruise industry has spent millions of dollars to make certain that families like the DiPieros are deprived of their rights:

The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years  

Cruise Industry Tries to Kill Amendment to Death on the High Seas Act    

 

For additional information regarding cruise industry lobbying, please read:

Lobbying Congress - Dirty Waters: The Politics of Ocean Pollution.  

 

Credits:

Eric Ruff     AP via politico.com

Terry Dale    cruiselaw's Flickr photostream

Michael Crye    seatrade-global.com

@CruiseFacts - Cruise Line Pravda

When I was in high school in the early 1970's, my prep school provided students with an opportunity to read the English version of the Russia newspaper Pravda.  The thought was that we Pravda - Cruise Line Propagandashould be reading every perspective to develop a complete understanding of international issues.

Officially referred to as the "Organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU)," Pravda was the Soviet's propaganda machine disguised as a newspaper.  As the only source of information for the Soviet people, Pravda was a carefully crafted state owned one-side-of-the-story propaganda mill during the Cold War.  

Only those "facts" approved by the Soviet leaders were permitted to be included for mandatory reading by the Soviet masses.

I was fascinated by the absurdity of Pravda's stories.  Along with National Lampoon, Pravda became one of my favorite reads, for no other reason than it made me instantly disbelieve what was written and wonder what the true facts really were.  But unlike National Lampoon, Pravda was oh so serious - which just made it even more ludicrous.

Cruise Facts - Pravda  In mid-September of this year, the  Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") launched a web site called "CruiseIndustryFacts.com."  It is full of "facts" carefully selected by CLIA for your reading. 

CLIA also has a twitter page @CruiseFacts which occasionally tweets "facts" like "cruise line industry generated $40 billion to the U.S. economy in 2008!" 

Every time I click on CLIA's "fact" pages I feel that I am reading a copy of Pravda:  "We assign the same priorities to keeping guests and crew healthy, safe and secure, and to protect the environment as we do to our other critical business matters . . ."   

Pravda.  I love it.    

   

Photo credit:   vyoos.com     "From Russia With Crud"  

Cruise Industry Tries to Kill Amendment to Death on the High Seas Act

Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) has introduced an amendment to the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA") to permit families to recover reasonable compensation when a loved one dies in international waters.

DOHSA Is Unfair to Passengers

As matters now stand, a cruise line is the only place in the world where a child or a retired passenger's life is of absolutely no consequence in the eyes of the law. We have written about this in the past.  Our last blog is entitled " The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

DOHSA is an ancient law and needs to be changed.

CLIA Loves DOHSA 

The Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") is trying to kill the amendment.  CLIA has dispatched a small army of lawyers and lobbyists to Congress to kill the amendment.  CLIA doesn't explain to its 13,000,000 cruise customers or 16,000 travel agents that cruise passengers have few rights when they die during a cruise.  CLIA is working hard behind the scenes to make certain that the amendment does not come up for a vote tomorrow.

If CLIA kills the DOHSA amendment, the multi-billion dollar, non-tax paying cruise lines and their rich insurance companies will be very, very happy.  

Lawyers USA Article Regarding Cruise Ship Litigation Features Firm, Clients & Friends

Lawyers USA (@LawyersUSA) just published an interesting article entitled  "Federal Cruise Ship Bill Pending in Congress but Plaintiff's Lawyers Say Measure doesn't Hold Water."  Written by Sylvia Hsieh, the article discusses what's new in the specialized field of cruise ship litigation. 

The article features our firm and our clients and friends.  

Cruise Crime

The article first mentions the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009 which will require peep holes on passenger doors, technology for overboard passengers, mandatory reporting of shipboard crimes, and training for crime scene preservation in light of the large number of shipboard rapes on cruise ships. 

Firm client Laurie Dishman, friend Ken Carver, and the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") organization are credited for spearheading the legislation.  Ms. Dishman and Mr. Carver were victimized by cruise line giant Royal Caribbean in separate cruise incidents. Ms. Dishman was a victim of sexual assault on Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship in 2006.  Mr. Carver's daughter Merrian disappeared in 2004 during a cruise aboard the Mercury, operated by Royal Caribbean's subsidiary Celebrity Cruises.

In both cases, the cruise line tried to cover the incidents up and treated Ms. Dishman and Mr. Carver dreadfully.  In response, Mr. Carver created the ICV which advocates safety for passengers on cruise ships.  Ms. Dishman is on the ICV's Board of Directors. 

The cruise safety bill should be voted on by the House of Representatives as early as next week. 

The article points out that the proposed legislation falls short in a number of areas.  The bill originally included an amendment to the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), which currently deprives damages to family members of passengers or crew members who die in international waters.  I have written about DOHSA in a previous blog entitled "The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years." 

The cruise industry's trade organization Cruise Line International Association (@CruiseFacts) killed the amendment after spending millions of its tax-free-money to lobby Congress. The article refers to CLIA lawyer Michael Crye, who admits the cruise industry opposes amending DOHSA "but he could not provide a reason for the opposition."

This is typical of CLIA's lack of candor.  The cruise industry opposes amending DOHSA because families will finally be fairly compensated when a loved one is killed on a cruise.  Cruise lines simply wish to avoid paying the compensation.

The article quotes Los Angeles attorney Michael Ehline, a good friend of the firm, that foreign flagged cruise ships consider themselves to be countries unto themselves.

"Arbitration" of Crew Member Cases

A hot topic in the world of cruise law is arbitration of claims involving injured crew members, who comprise over 98% of the cruise industry shipboard work force. All cruise lines are now forcing crew members to pursue their claims in arbitration, where the crew members lose the right to a jury trial. Some cruise lines are requiring the arbitration to take place in either the country of the flag of the cruise ship or the crew member's home country.   

This is pretty much a joke, and some cruise line defense lawyers agree privately.  This is why the article states that "attorneys for Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines did not return calls seeking comment for this article."  

The Court of Appeal for the 11th Circuit recently held that, in certain circumstances, cruise lines may compel the crew member to arbitration outside of the U.S.  However, they cannot take away all of the crew member's rights by trying to apply foreign law.

Injuries and Death of Cruise Passengers During Cruise Sponsored Excursions 

The article also addresses injuries to passengers during excursions.  The law requires cruise lines to exercise reasonable care in selecting shore excursions for its passengers.  Cruise lines are required to properly investigate whether the excursion companies have a good safety record and operate the excursions responsibly.

We have handed a wide variety of "excursion cases," including cases where passengers have been sexually assaulted ashore and even during snorkeling and diving excursions.

CLIA's lawyer Mr. Crye is quoted as gleefully saying that it is  a “difficult stretch to attempt to hold a cruise line liable for activity that occurs on an excursion operated by a different company in a foreign country.” However, cruise ships collect hundreds of millions of dollars promoting cruise excursions.  Cruise lines face accountability when dangerous excursions kill or seriously injure passengers.

The article also refers to cruise line lawyer Darren Friedman, a partner with Miami's Maltzman Foreman law firm, which represents numerous cruise lines. His firm defended Royal Caribbean in the high profile cases involving Ms. Dishman and Mr. Carver.

Whenever we see Mr. Friedman or his firm involved in a case, the cruise line is usually guilty as hell. 

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

The Clinical Infectious Disease Journal issued a report yesterday after studying why norovirus infection outbreaks occur frequently on cruise ships. 

The results were quite telling. Cruise lines always blame the passengers whenever a norovirus outbreak sickens a cruise ship. Some cruise lines know when they have a "sick ship" on their hands. Yet, the cruise line's PR department or sales team will issue a report, exculpating the vessel and crew, but blaming some poor bastard who had the misfortune of buying a cruise ticket and sitting on a dirty toilet seat on the cruise ship.

Well finally we have a credible report.  Not some pile of propaganda from the PR people at the Cruise Line International Association, whose "facts" are usually dubious, but from highly trained health care professionals. The medical and hygiene experts covertly evaluated the thoroughness of disinfection cleaning on fifty-six (56) cruise ships over the last three years

The professionals (Philip C. Carling, Lou Ann Bruno‚ÄźMurtha, and Jeffrey K. Griffiths) are tops in their fields.  They are from highly respected universities, including Boston University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Tufts University Schools of Medicine, Nutrition, and Engineering.

These experts secretly tested whether objects with high potential for fecal contamination, such as toilet seats in cruise ship public restrooms, could be a cause of norovirus breakouts.

The experts' objective tests revealed that only 37% of selected toilet area objects on cruise ships were cleaned on a daily basis. Such low scores may explain why certain cruise ships are prone to infect passengers with norovirus. 

The experts' recommendation?  "Enhanced public restroom cleaning." 

Let's keep it simple, stop blaming the passengers - and clean the damn toilets! 

 

Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato

In an article in today's Miami Herald entitled "Carnival's Plan to Switch Port of Call Upsets Antigua," the newspaper reports that Carnival has dropped Antigua and Barbuda from its regular seven night Southern Caribbean cruise itinerary.

Antigua's tourism minister, John Maginley, told the Herald that Carnival informed him of their decision via e-mail:

There was no discussion, none,'' Maginely said. ``We're supposed to be partners in this thing, and all we got was an e-mail sent to the agent in Antigua that Carnival is pulling its boat. 

This will cost Antigua, which is dependent on tourism, more than $40 million annually.

This should serve as a wake up call for all ports of call which are dependent on cruise lines.  Carnival holds all of the cards in situations like this.  The notion that a sovereign country like Antigua is an equal "partner" to an 800 pound gorilla like Carnival is fanciful.  If a cruise line can make a better deal with an island next door, which charges a lower head tax, has fewer environmental restrictions, or is willing to foot the bill for a larger dock, then its "see ya later" as far as the cruise line goes. 

The cruise industry likes to promote the image that it is a responsible "partner" with the ports and their local business. Today the cruise line trade organization CLIA posted a link on Twitter @CruiseFacts to a video promoting the cruise industry in Portland Maine. CLIA suggests that its cruise line members are interested in developing and sustaining long term relationships with places like Portland and the "mom & pop" stores in its port. 

But Carnival's quick pull out of Antigua should be a warning to Portland and other small ports which bet their economic future on the cruise industry.

Cruise lines like Carnival are fickle lovers.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  Just ask the tourism minister in Antigua.  He received his "Dear John" letter that his country lost $40,000,000 via email.     

 

Polluting Cruise Industry Files Lawsuit to Avoid Alaskan Tax

KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage Alaska reports that the cruise industry has filed suit to avoid paying Alaska's head count tax.  In an article entitled "Sources: Cruise Ship Industry Files Suit Over Head Tax," Channel 2 reports that cruise lines are trying to avoid the $46 infrastructure tax levied at Alaska ports which the cruise ships use. The cruise industry will undoubtedly argue that the State of Alaska does not have the authority to levy taxes against foreign flagged cruise ships. 

The lawsuit has been a long time coming.  For the past year, Mickey Arison has been threatening to use Carnival's army of lawyers to sue Alaska to avoid the tax.  There is a tradition in the Arison family of avoiding taxes.  His father, Ted Arison, earned billions running his cruise empire from Miami.  After retirement, the senior Arison denounced his U.S. citizenship and returned to Israel to try and prevent the United States from collecting estate and inheritance taxes.  

The timing of the lawsuit in Alaska is odd.  Yesterday, an environmental organization called the Friends of the Earth issued what they are calling the Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card.  The report card grades the cruise lines' impact on the air and water.  I first learned of the report in an article entitled which cruise lines are the biggest polluters? written by travel expert Anita Dunham - Potter. Carnival received a "D-" and Royal Caribbean received a "F."      

The tar-like bunker fuels these cruise ships burn are nasty.  And the sewage and waste waters discharged  into the water are gross.  Unlike Florida which is beholden to the cruise industry with its anything goes mentality, states like Alaska and California have demonstrated an environmental commitment to the quality of the air and water in their states' jurisdiction.  The cruise industry already does not pay U.S. taxes because they register their companies and flag their cruise ships in places like Liberia and Panama.  To quibble over a nominal tax designed to protect Alaska and its infrastructure is just the same old greed that this industry is known for.       

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) responded to the bad grades of its members by attacking the environmental group.  In its new PR website called "Cruise Industry Facts," CLIA proclaimed: "fortunately, Friends of the Earth has no authority in the matter."

That pretty much sums up the cruise industry's attitude.  Environmental group - no authority.  We scoff at the notion that you can monitor or grade us.  State of Alaska - no authority.  You can't tax us.  You can't control us.  We will use the tax-free $30 billion we collect from U.S. tax-paying passengers each year to sue to avoid your measly tax, and then we will crap in your pristine waters.      

 

Photo credit      Friends of the Earth, via @ExpertCruiser 

 

"Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea

For the past many years, I have watched cruise lines respond to each disappearance at sea by blaming the passenger.

Selling Dreams of Carefree Vacations

Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to create the illusion of carefree vacation getaways where hard working Americans can relax, let their guard down, and forget the worries of city life. Passenger "disappearances" are inconsistent with the cruise industry’s marketing image which sells tickets.

When a passenger "disappears," there are a number of possible explanations.  Was foul play involved?  Did the passenger act carelessly due to alcohol?  Was the intoxication due to the cruise line's negligence in over-serving the passenger to make the targeted profits for the cruise?  Or was the disappearance due to a plan by the passenger to end his or her life?   

The possibilities are many but the cruise lines' conclusions are few. Cruise ships are quick to attack the passengers’ character and to steer blame away from themselves when a passenger goes overboard.

Merrian Carver - Royal Caribbean Cover Up, Stonewalling, and the Big Lie

When 40 year old Boston resident Merrian Carver "disappeared" from the cruise ship Mercury operated by Royal Caribbean’s subsidiary brand Celebrity Cruises, the cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up. It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, even though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. Merrian’s Dad, insurance executive Ken Carver, began a serious investigation. Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence.  Mr. Carver didn’t go away and the story went public.  The The Arizona Republic published an excellently researched and written story.  In response, the cruise line reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out a good excuse: " . . . there is very little a cruise line, a resort or a hotel can do to prevent someone from committing suicide." 

Aside of the speculation fueled by the cruise line's lawyers and PR team, there was no competent evidence whatsoever for Royal Caribbean's self serving announcement to the media. If it was a suicide, why did Royal Caribbean work so hard to cover the incident up and lie to Mr. Carver?  Indeed, there is now an issue whether a crew member was involved in Merrian's death.  

George Smith IV - Attack the Victim

I witnessed the same type of corporate thuggery while representing Jennifer Hagel whose husband George Smith of Greenwich Connecticut disappeared under suspicious circumstances during the couple’s honeymoon cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. For months the Hagel and Smith families patiently waited for information explaining the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the healthy and handsome 26 year old man.

But when their frustration forced them to the press for answers, the cruise industry’s response was quick and brutal. Michael Crye, representing the International Council of Cruise Lines ( the predecessor to today’s Cruise Line International Association - "CLIA") told an AP reporter investigating the story " . . . its difficult if someone chooses to do harm to themselves . . ."

Carefully Planned Hit and Run Attacks By Cruise Line PR Departments 

These type of statements are not random or insensitive rants from low level employees. The cruise lines' PR departments carefully craft the announcements and issue them only after being run through their legal departments. The Merrian Carver "suicide" theory was issued by the Royal Caribbean corporate communications director only after being reviewed by the cruise line’s outside legal counsel. When the cruise industry faced embarrassment over Royal Caribbean's mis-handling of George Smith’s death, out trotted Mr. Crye - the vice president of the cruise trade organization and himself a lawyer. Mr. Crye issued the he-did-it-to-himself statement on behalf of the entire cruise industry (CLIA's motto is "one industry - one voice"), without a shred of evidence justifying such a conclusion.

Amber Malkuch - Holland America Lines' Attack Is Business as Usual  

The recent disappearance of Washington resident Amber Malkuch shows that little has changed. Amber was 45 when she sailed on the Holland America Line ("HAL") cruise ship Zaandam. On August 3, 2009, Amber disappeared. The usual protocol when a passenger disappears should be for the FBI or the state law enforcement authorities to board the vessel at the next port and to conduct an investigation. The period of time leading up to the cruise ship's arrival at the next port is critical because the cruise line controls the scene of the disappearance, the witnesses and all of the evidence. Before the authorities can conclude whether the "disappearance" resulted from an accident (due to the ship's negligence, or the passenger's carelessness or intoxication, or a combination of factors), foul play or suicide, they must first review the evidence and interview passengers and crew members.

But on August 4, 2009, before the Alaskan State Troopers concluded their investigation, a member of HAL's PR department and CLIA's PR team, Sally Andrews, announced to the media that Amber probably took her own life. The "suicide" conclusion was picked up by all of the major news outlets and reported prominently on FOX News and other news stations.

This surprised not only Amber’s friends and family, but it dumbfounded the Alaskan State Troopers who had yet to review photographs and video, conduct interviews or analyze toxicology reports. The Anchorage Daily News reported "Troopers Miffed at Cruise Line’s Rush to Judgment." The Seattle Post Intelligencer quoted a representative of the Alaskan State Troopers saying:

We’re the people actually looking into the exact cause of death . . . We’re the ones doing the interviews and looking at the evidence . . . And if we haven’t been able to make a determination, how can the cruise line who isn’t trained?"

Who Do You Trust?  The Alaskan State Troopers or the Cruise Line?

Does Holland America Line care about what the evidence reveals?  In the world of cruise line PR (perception vs. reality), what matters most to the cruise lines seems to be the public’s perception that cruise ships are safe rather than the reality that perhaps they are not.

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

 

Photo credits:

Kendall Carver - photo of Merrian Carver

Kevin Wolf (AP) - photo of Maureen Smith, Michaeil Crye, Jennifer Hagel

Seattle Post Intelligencer - photo of Amber Malkuch

CruiseLaw Announces "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award

Over the course of 26 years practicing maritime law, I have seen some remarkably bad conduct by cruise lines. Covering up crimes, abandoning injured passengers in foreign ports, or quickly concluding that "missing passengers" committed "suicide" are just a few examples.  I have kept a list of what I consider the most outrageous moments in cruise line history.  The lying and scheming I have witnessed over the years is pretty impressive.

Much of the trouble lies with the foundation of the cruise industry.  All of the cruise lines incorporate their businesses in foreign countries, like Liberia - a lawless and unstable African country where a civil war rages every few years and the rebels take their AK-47's to the streets. They also register their vessels in places like the Bahamas or Panama where the "regulatory" authorities are more than willing to look the other way as long as the cruise lines fill their coffers with U.S. dollars. The cruise line mentality of avoiding U.S. taxes, U.S labor and wage laws, and U.S. safety regulations often leads to reckless and inexcusable behavior.

I have always thought that some cruise line shenanigans were so outrageous that they should earn a trophy.

One evening while watching MSNBC TV personality Keith Olbermann announce the "Worst Person in the World," an idea popped into my head. Why not recognize the cruise line demonstrating the worst in gross negligence and indifference towards passenger and crew member health and safety?

So with apologies to Mr. Olbermann and the MSNBC show "Countdown," CruiseLaw announces the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award. There are 24 cruise lines who are members of the Cruise Line International Association. Several companies in this group are consistently strong contenders for the award. I will include some of the smaller lines who have done some terrible things as well.

The award is not limited just to the cruise lines, but will include cruise trade groups, cruise executives, cruise communities, and other individuals in the cruise industry.  We will consider nominations from passengers, crew members and the general public.  If you suffered a bad experience on a cruise ship which deserves special mention, send us your cruise line nominee. We will announce the winner once a month. 

Hopefully, some months we won't have a reason to award anyone.

The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years

If you are retired or a child and die on a cruise ship due to the cruise ship's negligence, the cruise line will consider your life to be worthless under current maritime law.

Your family will face a law called the Death on the High Seas Act, commonly known as "DOHSA." In 1920, Congress passed DOHSA to provide for limited recovery when a seaman died at sea. Congress did not want widows to become destitute when their husbands died in international waters. So they passed DOHSA which provides that a widow can recover her husband’s wages and, perhaps, some money to bury him if his body was found.

DOHSA Provides No Recovery for Pain, Suffering, Grief, or Bereavement if You or Your Loved One Dies at Sea

Applied to cruise lines, DOHSA provides no recovery at all in many circumstances. Surviving family members may potentially recover only limited financial damages after proving the cruise line’s negligence caused the death. However, there is no recovery for the deceased passenger’s pain, agony and suffering before he dies. The surviving family members’ grief and bereavement are irrelevant. The children’s loss of their parent’s love, guidance and nurturing are of no consequence.

All of these damages may be recoverable if you die in a car accident or airplane accident en route to the port. But on the high seas, only financial losses such as lost wages or burial/funeral expenses are permitted.

For this reason, there is no basis for any recovery if the missing passenger is a retiree or a child. If the body of a retired passenger is not recovered, and there are no burial expenses, the family receives nothing. This is a hard pill for a grieving family to swallow. Most people who contact our office are dumbfounded when they learn this.

Cruise Lines Love DOHSA

Unlike companies ashore, cruise lines face virtually no financial exposure when their guests are killed or disappear. Even if the cruise line is clearly negligent or acts maliciously, DOHSA provides no recovery when the victim is a retiree or a child.  Cruise lines and their insurance companies profit greatly due to this ancient law.

Historically, DOHSA was applied to aviation disasters when airplanes crashed in international waters. The families of dead children or elderly (retired) parents were excluded from any recovery by virtue of DOHSA. But following the crash of a jet in the Atlantic full of US citizens (TWA flight 800), the American public became outraged by this injustice. In response, Congress excluded air travel from DOHSA. The same thing needs to happen with cruise travel.

Victims Fight for A Change

The International Cruise Victims organization ("ICV") has been trying to amend DOHSA to permit the recovery of fair compensation when passengers die during cruises. A cruise safety bill pending before Congress originally contained a provision to amend DOHSA so that there is no difference if an American citizen dies ashore or at sea. The cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress to eliminate the amendment. Ultimately, the cruise lines’ big bucks and PR machine won out.

As far as deaths on ships go, DOHSA is just the way it existed in 1920 – 89 years ago. In 1920, relatively few passengers cruised a year. Now the number is around 13,000,000. Congress never envisioned that DOHSA would bar all recovery for any of the million of retired passengers and children who cruise annually. The Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") doesn’t tell its 13,000,000 customers or 16,000 travel agents that it lobbies each year to make certain that DOHSA remains in place.

A cruise line is the only place in the world where a child or retired passenger’s life is of absolutely no consequence in the eyes of the law. Die on a cruise ship due to bad medical care or disappear under mysterious circumstances? The cruise lines have spent millions of dollars to make certain that your loved ones don’t get a dime.