Supersize Cruise Craze: "Too Big to Sail? Cruise Ships Face Scrutiny"

This weekend, the New York Times published an article about the "supersize craze" - the increasingly large cruise ships being built by the major cruise lines which are "worrying safety experts, lawmakers and regulators." 

The article quotes my hero- Jim Hall, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTBS): “Cruise ships operate in a void from the standpoint of oversight and enforcement. The industry has been very fortunate until now." 

Oasis Class Evacuation ChuteThe article discusses the capsizing of the Costa Concordia and the fires aboard the Carnival Triumph & Splendor and the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas, and concludes that larger cruise ships pose larger problems when things go wrong.

The article also quotes Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, who testified at a Senate hearing in July which I attended. He said that the recent cruise ship fires “highlight serious questions about the design, maintenance and operation of fire safety equipment on board these vessels, as well as their companies’ safety management cultures.”

The New York Times addressed the potential problems of evacuating Royal Caribbean two mega-ships, the Allure and the Oasis. There are not enough life boats for the crew. The 2,300 crew members on each of these cruise ships will have to jump down 60 foot evacuation chutes into life rafts.

You can see our article about this problem here - Titanic Redux? Can Royal Caribbean Safely Evacuate 8,500 Passengers & Crew from the Oasis of the Seas? Be sure to watch the video at the end of the article.

Captain William H. Doherty, a former captain at Norwegian Cruise Lines, explained the problem in simple terms to the New York Times: “The simple problem is they are building them too big and putting too many people aboard.”

 

Image Credit: Viking / Royal Catibbean 

NBC News Discusses Cruise Ship Crime Statistics and Overboard Passengers

Today a local NBC station in South Florida posted a video of the recent disclosure of cruise ship crime statistics.

You can read the article here.

The video (below) includes an interview with me about the provisions of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 (CVSSA) which permitted cruise ship crimes and man-overboard incidents to be concealed from the public. Only incidents which were reported to the FBI and then the FBI closed the investigation could be disclosed to the public.  

The cruise lines were successful in inserting language to this effect into the CVSSA in order to conceal the vast majority of alleged crimes and overboards from the public.

 

Cruise Line "Voluntary" Crime & Man-Overboard Disclosures: Royal Caribbean's Data Is Incomplete and Misleading

Senator RockefellerYesterday Royal Caribbean and a couple of other cruise lines "voluntarily" posted a limited amount of data on their websites regarding cruise crimes and disappearances of people from cruise ships.

Of course there was nothing remotely "voluntary" about the cruise lines' conduct.

Last week Senator Rockefeller convened a hearing where he introduced legislation intended to compel, under penalty of law, all of the CLIA cruise lines to divulge incidents of disappearances from cruise ships and theft, homicide and sexual assault on ships. On the day of the hearing, the president of Royal Caribbean, Adam Goldstein, announced that his cruise line, as well as Carnival and NCL, would agree to post crime data without the necessity of legislation.  Cruise executive Goldstein said that his cruise line would begin posting the crime and man overboard information on August 1st.

The cruise lines have been resisting and dodging disclosing truthful crime statistics over the course of the last 7 Congressional hearings I have attended. Cruise CEO Goldstein's new promises of transparency were made for PR purposes to try and stave off the tough legislation introduced by Senator Rockefeller. 

Senator Rockefeller is skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted to self-report accurate crime statistics. The Associated Press quoted Senator Rockefeller stating: “If we’re really going to make a difference for consumers, I believe it’s going to take legislative action to make sure this industry is required to give customers the information they need and deserve when they’re making a decision about taking a cruise."

The CEO of the International Cruise Victims organization, Ken Carver, is also skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted, The AP quoted Mr. Carver's belief that crimes reported by cruise lines are vastly lower than reality, because the initial investigations are handled by cruise line security personnel rather than law enforcement officials.

The skepticism by Senator Rockefeller and cruise victim advocate Carver is well founded. There is a well documented history of the cruise lines providing incomplete and misleading crime data to Congress and the American people. In some instances the information released by the major cruise lines is patently false.

In January 2007, the LA Times published an article looking into the problem of crime on cruise ships, entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters." The article points out that Congressman Shays previously called for Congressional hearings where he requested crime statistics from the cruise industry. The cruise lines resisted the legislation arguing that it can be trusted to provide honest information. At several points in the hearings, when cruise line representatives extolled their safety statistics, Congressman Shays seemed skeptical. "I do not think we have all of the statistics," he told representatives of major cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean informed Congressman Shays that 66 sexual assaults occurred over a three year Adam Goldstein Senate Hearrng Cruise Ship Crimeperiod on its cruise ships. However, in a case we handled against Royal Caribbean involving 12-year-old twins who alleged that a crew member molested them, the cruise line was forced to hand over the internal records requested by our firm after a judge threatened to fine it $1,000 a day if it failed to comply. 

The Royal Caribbean data revealed not just 66 incidents, but 273 reports from passengers who said they were victims of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period. The LA Times quoted me saying that Royal Caribbean "redefined things and in the process, magically, poof, what used to be a crime no longer existed. Then they served up these numbers and thought they could get away with it."

So with this history in mind, let's take a look at what Royal Caribbean just posted yesterday as part of its "voluntary" disclosure on its website.

It disclosed just three persons overboard for the time period beginning October 2010 through the end of June 2013. There is no information regarding these incidents on the cruise line's skimpy website chart. There is no way a consumer can understand what happened. One of the three incidents involved a young woman who went overboard in September 2012. You can read about in detail on our website here, here and here

What's even more troubling is that Royal Caribbean did not reveal that 8 other people went overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships and the ships operated by its subsidiary Celebrity Cruises for the time period in question. Consider  the following man overboard incidents which occurred in the Royal Caribbean / Celebrity fleet:

January 2011 - Passenger disappeared from the Liberty of the Seas

March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Grandeur of the Seas. 

March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Constellation.

May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Eclipse

May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Millennium (see cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's database)

December 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Summit

January 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Monarch of the Seas. 

February 2012 - Passenger disappeared from the Allure of the Seas. 

September 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas.

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

Royal Caribbean's website indicates that the cruise line intends to reveal only those overboard situations involving U.S. citizens. But there is no reason to hide man overboard incidents involving passengers of other nationalities and crew members. Disney Cruise Line, for example, discloses overboard cases involving non-U.S. citizens.

The truth is that at least 11 people went overboard for the time period in question. But Royal Caribbean disclosed only 3 incidents. That's only around 27% of the true number.  If a cruise ship is a floating city, why exclude all of the crew members and non-U.S. citizens who are members of the city? Royal Caribbean includes crew members and non-U.S. passengers as part of its population in determining crime ratios, Allure of the Sea Crime Statisticsbut then excludes crew members and non U.S. citizens when they are victims. That manipulation of the data distorts the true crime ratios. 

The only explanation for doing this is that the cruise line wants to present an image that is markedly different from the truth. 

Royal Caribbean's "voluntary" disclosure reveals exactly why the cruise industry cannot be trusted. Senator Rockefeller, like Congressman Shays long ago, has every reason not to believe the cruise lines' "voluntary" statistics.

The American people and citizens of countries around the world deserve to know the truth about crime and overboard cruise passengers and crew members. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean like to keep the public in the dark.

A well drafted law with stiff penalties is the only way to shed light on what really happens on cruise ships far out at sea. 

Cruise Lines Depend on U.S. Coast Guard for Safety & Security But Pay Nothing

Coast Guard - Cruise Line - TaxesToday I read a press release by the U.S. Coast Guard about a maritime safety exercise conducted in the waters of Freeport Grand Bahamas.

U.S. Coast Guard crew members from the Coast Guard Cutter Diamondback conducted a safety exercise with Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas on April 2, 2013. The exercise was called "Black Swan" and was described as "a joint offshore emergency exercise" coordinated by the Coast Guard, the cruise line industry and the Bahamian government.

You can see from the photos, taken Chris Todd, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, that multiple Coast Guard vessels were involved.

The cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International association (CLIA) touted the exercise as part of the cruise industry's commitment to safety.  CLIA CEO Chritine Duffy said the exercise:

" . . . further strengthens the cruise industry's unwavering commitment to emergency preparedness in coordination with the Coast Guard and other government authorities . . . (and) underscores the focus we maintain on our No. 1 priority: the safety and comfort of our guests.” 

What CLIA does not mention is that the cruise industry does not pay for the Coast Guard services even though the cruise lines collect over $35,000,000,000 (billion) a year but pay less than 1% a year in local, state, federal and international taxes a year. 

The Coast Guard is severely under-funded but receives absolutely no reimbursement from the cruise lines. The cruise industry then uses the exercises (paid for by U.S. taxpayers) as part of its marketing to sell cruise tickets to the tax-paying public.  

The cruise lines have rightfully been criticized for not reimbursing the Coast Guard for rescuing vessel at sea.  But there are many, many other expenses which the Coast Guard incurs which the cruise lines do not reimburse, such as daily Coast Guard escorts into and out of U.S. ports, safety exercises, and medevac airlifts of ill crew members and passengers.

At a time of financial crisis in the U.S., it is obscene that the cruise industry gets a free ride from our federal government for services like this.  A friend just emailed me about this PR exercise by the cruise lines: "what a gross waste of money by US taxpayers in support of an industry that is so arrogant and exploitative of US resources." 

Coast Guard - Cruise Ship - Payment of Expenses

Best of Cruise Line Hate Mail: Holland America Line Wins the Award

My blog Cruise Law News (CLN) is one of the few places where you can read about all of the problems the cruise lines don't want you to know about.  Like sexual assault of women, molestation of children, pollution of the water and air, and cruise line cover-ups of disappearances on the high seas.

CLN has a wide, loyal and growing readership. It's the ninth most popular law blog in the U.S. This month alone, my articles have been quoted on CNN and Fox News and cited in articles or documentaries by ABC's 20/20, the American Bar Association Journal, Associated Press, CNBC, Daily Mail, Miami Herald, Newsday, Reuters, Seattle Times, Sun Sentinel, Canadian television stations and the largest radio networks in Montreal, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Vancouver and Miami.  

HAL - Holland America Line Hate MailAfter my opinion piece for CNN What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know, I received a number of emails and telephone calls congratulating me and thanking me for being a safety advocate and watchdog of the cruise lines.

But I also received the usual hate mail from people who like the cruise industry status quo exactly the way it is. Over the three and one-half years CLN has been on line, I have received more than my fair share of hateful emails and insulting comments left on my voice mail at work.

Winston Churchill said this: "You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

The most abusive comments usually come from people who work for the cruise lines. I'm not talking about crew members, but corporate types ashore in the cruise line corporate headquarters. These people try and stay anonymous. I call them cruise cowards. I keep a folder with the most hateful comments to read one day when I retire.  Some of the hate mail consists of boring one or two line rants. Minor trash talking, very disappointing. I could do much better.

But some are works of art.  

Last week, I received the email below. Quite well written, except for one typo, with lots of juicy adjectives. It was written as a comment to my article Carnival Triumph Passengers Happy to Be Home

"And you are surely the happiest of all, uncle Jim. Like a maggot on road kill. You've got this gravy train leaching blood out of successful and responsible businesses under a phony bullshit cover. Behind that smiling cardboard cutout is a weasel scanning for the next meal. You are a helluva good example for kids thinking about a law career, buddy. You'd be a good prototype for a cartoon character that distills into one face the essence of what people hate about people in your profession. Take the low road to sucess (sic), find an easy prey, start sucking and don't let go. That's the Jim Walker way."

The comment was ironic because I already stated that we would not be filing any lawsuits arising out of the Triumph engine room fire, just like we stated that no one should file suit following the Carnival Splendor cruise ship fire in 2010 either.

But the author of this comment obviously has some deep personal animosity that existed long before the latest Carnival cruise ship caught fire. I wondered who and where the person was. So I took a look.

HAL Holland America Line Hate MailWhen someone leaves a comment on this blog, I have software that permits me to track the internet provider (IP) address. I can't see who reads the blog, but I can find out information if someone leaves a comment because the comment section tracks the IP addresses of those people who leave comments.

So I tracked the IP address.  It tracked directly to Holland America Line (HAL) in Seattle Washington. I emailed the person back and said thanks. I would post an article that the hate mail was the best I had seen.  The next email I sent resulted in a response coming back that there was no such email. Looks like the HAL cruise coward de-activated the email address and is probably hiding under a desk at HAL's headquarters in Seattle.        

This is how the cruise lines work.  HAL is not the only cruise line to send anonymous hate mail, unknowingly leave a IP address in the process, and then scamper down a hole when confronted. I have caught Carnival and Royal Caribbean doing it as well.

So why the hard feelings from the Carnival-owned-HAL?  

I have only one matter right now with HAL.  I represent the family of a man who disappeared from the Eurodam.  I wrote HAL a standard letter and asked for a copy of the video camera images, a copy of the reports to the FBI, Sheriff's office and flag state, and a list of witnesses with information. This is the very basic information we request in all passenger overboard cases to help families try and find out what happened to their loved ones who disappear at sea. 

But HAL decided to stonewall our request. It provided us with nothing but threats and insults. HAL stated that it would not even consider cooperating unless the widow first agreed to state whether her missing husband had life insurance. HAL demanded that the widow agreed to provide HAL's lawyers with her husband's employment information, all confidential medical records, and any psychological records.  

Cruise lines like HAL are all smiley faces when they sell you a cruise. But if your loved one disappears on the high seas, the cruise lines will stab you in the back to conceal the truth.  And if you hire a lawyer, they may send anonymous hate mail from their corporate headquarters.  

 

Credits:

Hate Mail Art: protectportelos.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 3 2012 Update:

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

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

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

Rest in Peace Jackie Kastrinelis.

February 4 2013 Update:

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

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

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

Jackie Kastrinelis

 

Cruise CEO Fain Bails On Royal Caribbean Stock For Over $11,500,000

Barron's reports that Royal Caribbean Cruises' top executive recently bailed out on a large block of cruise line stock just before the cruise line's shares touched a new 52-week intra-day high.

On December 13th Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Fain sold 143,140 shares of RCL stock for $4,964,095, an average of $34.68 each. Barron's says that Fain followed up by exercising options and selling 188,443 shares for $6,535,203. 

The RCL stock is down over a point since CEO Fain bailed on the stock. Fain still holds 1,049,064 shares directly and 421,412 shares indirectly.

The last time we wrote about RCL's CEO was when he and other executives at the cruise line were sued for fraud for allegedly making false and misleading statements about the company's fourth quarter results for 2010. In January 2011, the day after touting the financial strength of the cruise line, CEO Fain sold 200,000 shares at a price of $46.63 for what the lawsuit alleges were total illicit proceeds of $9,326,000.  

Big bucks and cruise CEO's go hand in hand, irrespective of how the cruise industry is actually faring. A couple of weeks ago we wrote about Carniva's Micky Arison paying himself a bonus of $90,000,000 after what he describes as one of the one most challenging years for the cruise lines yet. 

Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain

January 4 2013 Update: The issue of cruise line executive compensation made our list of top ten stories for last year:

2012 was reportedly a difficult financial year for the cruise lines but you would never know it by looking at the huge sums of money, bonuses and stock options which the cruise line CEO's pay themselves. In contrast Fain' with his regular multi-million-dollar salary and the $11,500,000 from stock sales, Royal Caribbean's bar-servers were paid only $50 a month and required to work for tips carrying a dozen tropical drinks around the pool deck while balancing a bottle of rum on their heads

 

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal Smart Money / by Jeffrey Salter / Redux 

Pregnancy & Cruising: What To Expect If You Are Expecting

The Washington Post published an interesting article about what pregnant women should expect when they go on a cruise. Written by Christopher Elliott, the article is entitled "What to Expect if You're Expecting to Cruise.

Different cruise lines have different policies when it comes to when a pregnant woman is no longer welcome on a cruise ship. Some cruise lines prohibit women who are 24 weeks pregnant to cruise. The theory, I suppose, is that the risk of something going wrong with the pregnancy, such as premature birth, increases once the pregnancy enters her third trimester?

As Mr. Elliott points out, just two weeks a go a pregnant woman aboard a Disney cruise ship had to be Cruise Ship Pregnancy Policymedevaced after developing complications shortly after the ship left Galveston. You can watch the dramatic hoisting of the passenger up to the Coast Guard helicopter here.    

Of course neither cruise lines nor pregnant passengers want to have to summons the Coast Guard to conduct a rescue on the high seas late at night. Once the ship is a few hundred miles away from port, no helicopter will arrive to save the day.

So everyone seems to be on the same page that cruise pregnancy policies are a good idea.  But the problem is - what happens when a pregnant customer does not read the fine print buried in the cruise ticket and is a few days past the cruise line's deadline? What rights does the cruise consumer have in this situation?  

None, it seems.  The Washington Post article correctly points out that the terms of the ticket control. Unfortunately, the cruise line is likely to block a "too pregnant" passenger from boarding while keeping the passenger's cruise fare. No refund. No exceptions. No future credit.

That's a harsh approach, particularly because some people buy cruises up to a eight months to a year in advance. If a baby is conceived after the cruise is purchased, you'd think that the cruise lines would say congratulations and be reasonable. They're not.  Cruise lines seem to take advantage of the situation.   

Mr. Elliott writes that it is almost like the cruise lines want to make an example by barring pregnant women who don't comply with the policy as a motivation for the public to purchase travel insurance which, not coincidentally, is also sold by many of the cruise lines.

The newspaper quoted me, for what that's worth;  Here's my take:

"I don't think it's unreasonable for the cruise lines to adopt pregnancy policies, particularly given the limited nature of the medical facilities on cruise ships and the absence of doctors who are experienced in obstetrics and gynecology," says James Walker . . . specializing in maritime law. "The problem arises when there is a good-faith misunderstanding by the pregnant passenger, and the cruise line takes a rigid attitude and pockets the consumer's money."

 

Photo credit: SheKnows.com 

Why Are Royal Caribbean's "Most Technologically Advanced" Cruise Ships Burning Nasty Bunker Fuel?

A couple of years ago I blogged about the nastiest fuel on the planet - bunker fuel.  It's the dredge at the bottom of oil refineries, a nasty tar like substance which is impossible to be completely burned.  It leaves non-combustible particles that blacken the sky and, if inhaled, cause lung disease, cancer, asthma, emphysema.  Cruise ships burn it because it's cheap.  But it presents long term and costly health issues to people around the world who are forced to breathe the cruise ship emissions.

No one in their right mind would burn this stuff in their house or car and you would call the police if your neighbor did.  But this is the cornerstone of the cruise industry.   

When Royal Caribbean brought the new Genesis class cruise ships on line, the cruise line touted the Oasis of the Seas and its sister ship Allure of the Seas as technological marvels. But this weekend while reading an article Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? in OnEarth magazine ("A Survival Guide for the Planet.") I learned something new.

Although Royal Caribbean touts the Oasis and Allure as "green" cruise ships, they still burn the world's dirtiest fuel - bunker fuel.  The article states that Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas:

" . . . still burns bunker oil, also known as bunker fuel, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. Today, virtually every cruise ship is powered by this cheap, gelatinous sludge, which presents the single biggest hurdle to an industry that wants to call itself sustainable. As long as Allure guzzles this stuff, she will leave a colossal environmental footprint . . . "  

The article goes on to state that every dollar spent to reduce pollution from ships will create as much as $34 in health benefits. "Cleaner ships will translate into fewer asthma emergencies, heart attacks, and lung ailments, especially among children and the elderly."  But don't expect Royal Caribbean to invest a penny into such health concerns. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are neither the stewards of the air nor the protectors of your family's lungs.  

As long as the Oasis and the Allure burn bunker fuel, they are no more technologically advanced than a 1960's tanker.  

Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship - Pollution - Bunker Fuel

 For additional information about cruise ship pollution, read an editorial in the Seattle Times Cruise Industry Should Comply With New Air-Quality Regulation

Cruise Ship Rapist Pleads Guilty and Sentenced to Jail, But the FBI Refuses to Post Crime Data for Public Viewing

Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship RapeOne of the purposes of the new Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Law is to educate the public regarding the sexual assaults and other crimes which occur on cruise ships.

But as we reported in our article Cruise Lines, FBI & Coast Guard Caught Altering Cruise Crime Law, the FBI and Coast Guard - acting to promote the cruise lines' interests - undercut the Congressional purpose of the new cruise crime law. The cruise lines and these two federal agencies changed the language of the law to eliminate most cruise ship crimes from being reported.  

Originally all cruise ship crimes were required to be disclosed to the public.  But with the altered language, cruise crimes not reported to the FBI, or those crimes reported to the FBI and still under investigation, do not need to be disclosed to the public. 

You can read about about this issue in the Washington Post, USA TodayArizona Central and NBC Bay Area.

A good example of how the cruise lines are trying to hide crime statistics is a recent case this year involving a young girl raped on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. We reported on the crime in January.  A fifteen year old girl was lured from a teen club and raped by another teenager and a 20 year old man, Luis Scavone (photo left), on the last night of the cruise. The minor promptly reported the crime after she escaped from the rapists' cabin.

Royal Caribbean allegedly "sealed" off the crime scene and reported the crime to the FBI and the Broward County's Sheriff's Office in the cruise ship's home port. In Florida, local law enforcement also have jurisdiction over crimes on the high seas on cruise ships which return to a port in Florida.    

But rather than preserving evidence of the crime scene, Royal Caribbean unlocked the "sealed" cabin and cleaned the cabin.  It destroyed evidence in the crime scene.  Once the FBI learned of the cruise line's misconduct, it left the cruise ship and declined to prosecute.

The FBI was willing to let the two rapists (from Brazil) walk free after raping a girl. Even more disturbing is that the evidence destruction occurred on a cruise ship supervised by a former top FBI officer, Gary Bald (photo below left), who now heads Royal Caribbean's security department.

The FBI agents should have arrested cruise line employees for the destruction of evidence, but the FBI looked the other way and simply closed its investigation. The cozy relationship between the FBI and its former FBI agents, who are now working for the cruise lines, sometimes leads to the former and present FBI agents scratching each other's backs rather than protecting the public.

The Broward County Sheriff's Department, on the other hand, was not deterred by the cruise line's misconduct and arrested the two Brazilians. The State Attorney's Office for Broward County then prosecuted the two suspects and obtained guilty pleas from both.  The 20 year old Brazilian man pled guilty last week to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in the rape of the girl.  He is now behind bars.   

Royal Caribbean Cruise - Director of Security Gary BaldYou would think that the rape of a child on the world's largest cruise ship would be documented on the online database maintained by the FBI and Coast Guard.  That was the intent of the cruise crime law. But the FBI decided not to report it. Take a look here at the FBI statistics.  There is not a single report of a sexual assault for Royal Caribbean in 2012. In fact, there is not one report of a violent sexual crime against a cruise passenger for the entire cruise industry this year.

In prior years, the FBI reported over 400 crimes on cruises a year.  But now with the altered language in the cruise crime law, the FBI and cruise lines are concealing crimes. The FBI online database lists only 13 sexual crimes for all of last year.   

The bottom line is that even thought the cruise rapist is in jail after pleading guilty to state prosecutors, the FBI refuses to reveal the crime to the U.S. public on the online database required by the cruise crime law.

There is monkey business going on here.

The FBI and the cruise lines who routinely hire FBI agents are in cahoots. Congress needs to investigate how they derailed the law.  And the U.S. public needs to know how a law designed to protect women and children on cruises has been sabotaged to protect the image of the billion dollar cruise industry.     

Tragedy on HAL's Half Moon Cay: A Mother's Perspective

One of the purposes of this blog is to educate the public of dangers of cruising and the legal hurdles passengers face when things go wrong during a cruise.  

One of the first issues I felt compelled to write about when I started this blog over two years ago was the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  DOSHA does not permit cruise passengers to recover pain, suffering, grief, or bereavement if a loved one dies outside of the territorial waters of the U.S.  DOSHA provides only limited financial damages, such as lost wages. 

If a child is killed during a cruise or shore excursion due to the cruise line's negligence, there is no recovery at all because the child is not a wage earner.  I wrote about this in my series of the "ten reasons not to cruise" -  Reason No. 5:  If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless.

Cruise lines love DOSHA.  It eliminates all consequences of their negligence and provides no incentive to act responsibly.  The cruise industry spends millions of dollars lobbying Congress to make certain that DOSHA is not amended to provide reasonable compensation to grieving families.

This weekend, I received the following comments from a Mom who lost her daughter during a  Holland American Line cruise, while on HAL's "private island" Half Moon Cay.          

Holland America Line's "Family Cruise" - Half Moon Cay

"My 3 year-old daughter was killed on Christmas Eve of last year while on a Holland America cruise with her biological father. She drowned in the designated children's swim area of a private island Death On The High Seas Act - Holland America Line -  Cruisein the Bahamas owned by HAL.  This tragedy occurred in plain view of hundreds of people present and right near where a lifeguard SHOULD have been actively on duty.

I would never have considered allowing her on the cruise if I believed for a moment that I was putting her in harm's way.

Imagine what it feels like to receive a phone call on Christmas Day and fully expecting to hear a relative calling with a Christmas greeting.  Instead, you are informed, with no preamble or warning, that your darling daughter is dead.

Holland America has made it perfectly clear to us that they feel they have no responsibility in the matter, and even if they did have any liability, that their interests are fully protected by the Death on the High Seas Act.  Never mind the fact that the children's swim area contained many bright toys to lure children into the water, and deliberately lulls the guests into a false sense of security with signs nearby that say "Paradise -- you'll want to stay forever" (or similar.)  Because the DOHSA does not cover pain and suffering (only loss of a paycheck, and let's face it, my daughter didn't have a steady job), they have informed me that I am entitled to absolutely nothing.

Thanks, Holland America. And a Merry Christmas to you as well.

Be aware of this stance before you go on one of Holland America's "Family Cruises" (one of their employees told me their target market is families for their Christmas Cruises).  Holland America is only too happy to take full advantage of their supposed protection under a law that they themselves have so much as admitted as being archaic.  For some terribly naive reason, I actually had hoped that instead of hiding behind the cover of an inappropriate law to protect themselves from their failures to provide a safe environment for my child, that they would actually be moved to simply do the right thing.  Silly me.

The DOHSA Act was originally passed in 1920 to cover scenarios of a fisherman (read: breadwinner) lost at sea.  The intent of the law was certainly never to cover the loss of a child on a cruise, but the cruise industry is taking full advantage of its existence and has opposed efforts to change this law.

The lesson that Holland America has taught me with their brush-off treatment of my complaint is loud and clear: pain and suffering are worthless.  I can't even bring myself to contemplate what their message communicates with regards to their perceived value of the life of my daughter."


 

Were you on the cruise or at Half Moon Cay at the time of this incident? 

Should DOHSA be amended to provide the same remedies as land based law?

Please leave a comment below . . .

 

For other articles on 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

Arbitration of Cruise Line Crewmember Cases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A frequent topic on Cruise Law News is the danger of sexual assault on cruise ships.  One of the problems we write about frequently is that the cruise lines do not conduct adequate background checks on their employees.  The cruise lines deny this, of course, and claim that they subject their crew members to rigorous pre-employment screening.

Kaloyan Kaloyanov - Carnival Cruise Line - Sexual AssaultWell, Carnival has a lot of explaining to do considering an article published today in the Oakland Tribune entitled "Man Sought Longest on Fremont's "Most Wanted" List Finally Caught."

It turns out that a rape suspect on the "Most Wanted" list of the city of Fremont, California was arrested last week in Mexico aboard a Carnival cruise ship where he worked as the manager of the onboard hair salon. Kaloyan Kaloyanov (photo left), age 36, was a former star athlete from Bulgaria who was wanted by the police for raping a 15 year old child who he coached in gymnastics.  

The article indicates that the former international gymnastics star was placed on Fremont's Most Wanted list in 2002 after he abandoned his wife and daughter and fled the country after the girl informed police that Kaloyanov sexually assaulted her.

The article indicates that Kaloyanov competed in the 1997 and 1998 Aerobic Gymnastics World Championships, and he also participated in several events with his wife (photo below).

The article also indicates that the police interviewed Kaloyanov in 2002, and he admitted to "having sex" with the girl. It is less than clear why the police did not arrest him at that time. After the interview, Kaloyanov fled and has been on the run for eight years. 

The police finally caught up with him when they Googled his name and they found photographs of Kaloyan Kaloyanovhim 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.

Congratulations to the police in Fremont for arresting the bad guy.

Its a shame that Carnival's "rigorous" pre-employment screening does not even include Googling the applicant's name.  The cruise line would have learned that Kaloyanov's photograph is posted on an on line "Most Wanted" criminal database.   

Carnival has issued a statement indicating that Kaloyanov, although a Carnival crew member, was actually hired by Steiner which operates the spa on the cruise ship.  Carnival also stated that Kaloyanov worked with other cruise lines before ending up on a Carnival cruise ship.

Kaloyanov was working on the Carnival Spendour which was sailing from Long Beach, Caifornia.

This means that the U.S. Customs and Immigration officials in California, who are suppose to check the crew and passenger roster everytime 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. 

August 20, 2010 Update:

According to the Oakland Tribune, Kaloyanov was scheduled to appear before an Alameda County judge today to possibly enter a plea and try to persuade a judge to reduce his bail from $500,000, the amount at which it was set earlier this week when he was formally arraigned on two counts of having sex with a minor.

 

Story credit:  Oakland Tribune / Ben Aguirre Jr.  twitter.com/benaguirrejr  

Photo one:  Fremont "Most Wanted" page

Photo two:  San Fransisco Chronicle / Kurt Rogers "Gym-dandies / Sportaerobics champions put Fremont on the map"

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

The death of eleven oil rig workers on the Deepwater Horizon has sparked a debate in Congress about repealing the antiquated and inequitable statute, the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA).  This old law dating back to 1920 does not permit surviving wives and children compensation for their grief and bereavement when they lose a loved one on the high seas whether on a oil rig or cruise ship.

BP Deepwater Horizon - DOHSA - Death On High Seas ActBP and Cruise Lines Connected At The Hip Pocket?

Recently, there have been a number of articles that discuss DOHSA and reveal that the cruise industry will be joining forces with BP to repel any efforts of the grieving family members to repeal DOHSA.  Mother Jones pointed out in "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP's Dirty Work? 

CNN ran an article entitled "My Son's Family Deserves More from BP" explaining that the cruise lines have consistently fought against families trying to change DOSHA.

And AOL's Daily Finance even covered the issue with an interesting article "The Death On The High Seas act Needs Fixing - Just Ask  BP's Widows."  This article points out that prior efforts to reform DOHSA were "sunk" by the vociferous cruise industry's "lobbying muscle" - probably to avoid paying any compensation to the 34 passengers who were lost overboard during cruises from 2003 - 2007 according to an article "Death On The High Seas" in the Guardian newspaper.  

Should Al Qaeda And Terrorist States Be Protected By DOHSA Too? 

But the harsh effects of DOHSA are not limited to the grieving families of cruise victims and dead oil workers. 

Al Qaeda - U.S.S. Cole - Terrorism - DOHSA The families of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen learned about DOHSA when Al Qaeda terrorists killed their loved ones on the U.S.S. Cole.  17 men and women were brutally murdered when suicide bombers rammed their speed boat loaded with explosives into the U.S. navy ship.  56 family members filed suit against the government of Sudan for sponsoring the terrorist organization.  

A Federal District Judge applied DOHSA because the deaths occurred outside of U.S. territorial waters.  He dismissed the claims of 22 of the family members and limited the recovery of the rest to strictly lost wages.  Not one child or surviving spouse received a penny for the mental anguish and misery caused by the horrific criminal act of the terrorists and the complicit renegade country.

The inequity of DOHSA was not lost on the Judge who commented in Rux v. Republic of Sudan, 495 F.Supp.2d 541(E.D. Va. 2007) :

The court sympathizes greatly with plaintiffs, who continue to suffer terribly years after their loved ones died. But the court is bound to follow the legal precedent before it. Congress makes the laws; courts merely interpret them. Whether to amend DOHSA to allow more liberal recovery in cases of death caused by terrorism on the high seas . . is a question for Congress alone.         

Its Time to Act - Repeal the Death On The High Seas Act  

There is a Facebook page created for the families of  the oil workers killed in the BP explosion.  Please click on the link, leave a word of support, and contact your representative in Congress.

As your senator "why should BP, foreign flagged cruise lines and Al Qaeda be protected by DOHSA?"

 

For additional information, please consider reading:

Scranton Time Tribune: "Amend Law On Deaths At Sea"

Cruise Law News: 

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

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

 

Credits:

Deepwater Horizon         U.S. Coast Guard

 

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

My article on Wednesday "And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . ." contained the "usual suspects" - Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Carnival subsidiary Princess Cruises - whose shenanigans have been featured in Cruise Law News over the past year.

But right after publishing the article, I read a story in the Miami Herald's "Action Line" - "Funeral Disrupts Cruise Plans" - which involved another Miami cruise line, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).

The story is straight forward.  A couple from Key Largo, Ms. Boland and Mr. Samuel, purchased a NCL - Norwegian Cruise LineNCL cruise on the Sky leaving from Miami with three other couples.  But Mr. Samuel's brother died, and his funeral was in Georgia on the day the ship sailed.  So the couple notified NCL, asking for a credit on a future cruise.  NCL said no. They then asked for their cruise to be donated to charity (Make-A-Wish).  NCL said no.

Then comes the sick part.  NCL then re-sold the cabin to another couple.  Yep.  NCL got a double profit due to the death of Mr. Samuel's brother.  Really sick.

NCL is active on Twitter @NCLFreestyle, so I tweeted a reference to the Miami Herald article. 

NCL - Andy Stuart - Norwegian Cruise Line No response. 

NCL's "Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Passenger Services," Andy Stuart, is also active on Twitter @nclandy .  So I tweeted him "Double cruise profit for death? Say it aint so Andy!" 

No response. 

NCL should have permitted a child with cancer and his or her parent go on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise.  Or make a small donation in memory of Mr. Samuel's brother.  But to double sell the cabin under these circumstances?

And cruise lines wonder why they have an image problem .  .  . 

 

Credits:

Photographs     Twitter

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

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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")